If the Lakers somehow take their season and flip it around, using their 3-10 start as fuel for some unlikely triumph, a brutally honest film session could take on almost mythical importance.
The team, gathered Saturday in the theater room of their practice facility in El Segundo, couldn’t let the stench of their second five-game losing streak in a month go on. They needed to get clean. They needed to tell the truth.
They needed to be better.
“Just laying out everything on the table,” forward Anthony Davis said of the film session that proceeded their win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. “Trying to get a win. We had conversations that a team that was 2-10 should have, you know? About what each player can do better, what we were gonna do better collectively. Coaching staff. Medical staff. Everybody. We just want to figure this thing out.”
“It was just like, ‘Come on man,’ ” coach Darvin Ham said Wednesday. “Like, I’m looking in the room and I’m seeing talent. Everyone talks about the roster and all that, but we have enough talent to compete at a high level. Shots weren’t falling early but we damn sure were defending at a playoff level.
“We just have to get back to the simple things, and that’s what we did. We said we were going to focus on just making things simple and being more consistent at the two or three things that we want to get done on both sides of the ball.”
This team has looked long on problems and short on solutions, an imbalanced roster with so much money spent at the top and so many question marks on the bottom.
But Saturday’s truth-telling session seemed important enough for Beverley to bring it up after Sunday’s game and for Davis and Ham to speak extensively about it. Westbrook, who was more close-to-the-vest about it, did say, “It was a great film session and I thought it was a beneficial to everyone.”
The Lakers returned to full practice Wednesday ahead of Friday’s home game with the Detroit Pistons.
They’re getting healthier. James took part in the non-contact portions of Wednesday’s work after straining his adductor muscle last week against the Clippers. And forward Thomas Bryant and guard Dennis Schroder, neither whom has played this season because of surgery, were back on the floor for a team scrimmage. That meant everyone was at practice except for forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, who is day to day with back soreness, and rookie Max Christie, who entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
The biggest gains the Lakers can hope to make are in terms of chemistry. These aren’t concerns winning teams have. But the Lakers, even after a strong win Sunday over the scuffling and short-handed Nets, still are far from a winning team.
“When we were 10-2, 10-3, we didn’t have [any] of those conversations. We didn’t have to,” Davis said. “We didn’t need to have no truth-telling. It’s different when you’re 2-10. … But like I said, it’s us trying to figure it out. We’re not dwelling on the past, like, ‘Aww man, we could’ve won this game.’ It’s, ‘All right, what can we do now? How can we make this better? How can we improve our defense that slipped the last three to four games. How can we do that?’ “
There’s optimism. A healthier team with more time together paired with an easier schedule after a considerable break — that’s a good recipe for better basketball.
“Things are moving in the right direction,” Westbrook said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
For Ham, who has spoken about wanting the Lakers to be accountable, that film session was a big moment. Everyone was “engaged” and working to find solutions.
At a time when the film can be ugly and the frustrations from losing high, moments like this aren’t easily constructed.
“You have to be careful, because passion can slip into being emotional. You wanna be passionate. You want to be emotional. But you tend to take things personal when you’re more emotional,” Ham said. “But just being passionate about what we’re supposed to do, controlling what we can control. And not making self-inflicted mistakes.”
Seemingly, the Lakers got Sunday right against the Nets because they got Saturday’s film session right.
And if they start stacking wins, their open, honest dialogue might get credit for that too.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.