Earlier than you’ll be able to escape the fumes from the coach buses idling within the Ball Area loading dock, an indication above reminds you what your lungs already know.
“The Mile High City,” the welcome signal reads. “Elevation 5,280 feet.”
Heading into Wednesday’s sport with the Nuggets, individuals across the Lakers group had been nonetheless attempting their finest to view their staff from that form of distance — the deal with the final rules and the large image nonetheless outweighing the grisly particulars. However with every passing sport, every misfired jumper and every wince, the stress to readjust that focus solely builds.
With Russell Westbrook on the bench injured, the staff bought to make a number of the modifications so many followers and pundits have clamored for … and nothing actually appeared that completely different.
The edges nonetheless appeared to shrink each time the Lakers took a shot, the expertise disparity appeared to tilt too far within the opponent’s favor, and for good measure, Anthony Davis winced and reached down at his decrease again as Denver started to drag away.
The Nuggets beat the Lakers 110-99, the staff dropping for the fourth straight time to start the yr. Solely the Orlando Magic and the Sacramento Kings additionally stay winless.
The Lakers had been higher from three-point vary, although they wanted to warmth as much as 26.7%. And their protection, which had stored them in video games towards the Clippers and Path Blazers, unraveled within the third quarter as Denver pushed their result in double digits.
That they had an opportunity to chop the Nuggets lead, which climbed to 18 within the third, down to 5 within the fourth quarter however LeBron James missed a layup and Denver responded with a 3 to return up 10.
Later within the fourth, with James complaining a few no-call, Ham stormed onto the courtroom and was referred to as for a technical.
The Lakers play once more on Friday in Minnesota.
Westbrook did take part calmly within the staff’s shootaround Wednesday morning in Denver, capturing free throws and three-point photographs earlier than Ham formally dominated him out pregame.
“We talked about it over the course of the couple of days and how to approach it, what would be the best strategy to use.” Ham mentioned of Westbrook’s hamstring. “We all came to the conclusion that it’s early in the season and there’s no reason to stretch it out or put him in a vulnerable position and just take it day to day. We all decided that he’d be out today.”
Ham and the Lakers began Austin Reaves in his place.
“It’s another basketball game,” Reaves mentioned. “Try to play the game the right way regardless of starting, not starting. I just try to help the team be successful.”
Ham had toyed with Westbrook coming off the bench within the staff’s preseason finale — Reaves was within the beginning lineup that sport — however the experiment ended after 5 minutes when Westbrook exited with a hamstring harm.
Westbrook later mentioned the change in routine by coming off the bench contributed to the previous MVP tweaking his left hamstring.
Westbrook performed properly within the staff’s season opener earlier than struggling offensively within the second and third video games of the season, solely turning up the amount on his awkward state of affairs throughout the group and amongst Lakers followers.
Davis spoke out in assist of Westbrook on Tuesday, and on the staff’s shootaround Wednesday, former Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson referred to as Westbrook one among his finest teammates ever.
“Before I met Russ, I didn’t really like Russ. And I think a lot of people have that type of lens about Russ just because he’s so competitive. From the little time that I’ve known Russ — and I’ve had some hell of … I’ve had some great teammates — Russ is probably in my top five, top three teammates I’ve ever had,” he mentioned. “He’s an amazing teammate and an amazing person. And at the end of the day, I played overseas for five years before I made it to the NBA so I kind of have a [broad view]. I can differentiate between NBA life and real life. Like, he’s not perfect. He’s a human being. And I think people forget that.
“Or people think, ‘Oh, you make all this money and you play this professional sport, you should be numb to these things.’ When in actuality, that’s not true.”
At minimal, Wednesday’s efficiency in Denver was a reminder that the Lakers’ issues lengthen past Westbrook, who has been one piece of a staff that, as a gaggle, continues to be struggling badly.