Lakers Loaded With Talent, Skill & A Whole Lot Of Experience

Carmelo Anthony laughs every time he sees a new reminder – and there are plenty of them – that the Los Angeles Lakers, by typical NBA standards, are really, really old.

LeBron James didn’t always find it funny, the jokes and the memes and the mocked-up photos of gray beards and walking sticks, but he does now. He’s giggling too, or so he says.

As the NBA campaign tips off and one of the primary talking points is about how the Lakers are stacked with guys who are, ahem, no longer in youth’s first flush, the squad’s blueprint is coming into firm focus.

They’re going to hear all the humor, listen to all the reasons why a squad with an average age above 31 is both rare and remarkable, and laugh off all the suggestions that having five of the league’s 12 oldest players, nine guys over 30 and 28-year-old Anthony Davis as the roster’s second-youngest healthy member is going to torpedo their chances.

“I kind of laugh at it,” James told reporters. “I actually do really laugh. I’m not just saying that.”
 
The reason the Lakers seem like they have an old roster is because they do. James is 37, so is Anthony. Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard are 36, Rajon Rondo is 35, while comparatively-spritely 33-year-olds Russell Westbrook and DeAndre Jordan wouldn’t even crack the starting lineup if it was arranged purely by seniority.

The methodology for entirely rebuilding a roster after Los Angeles left itself with only James, Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker from last season’s crew has been simple. Adding Westbrook cost a fortune, so the remainder of the group had to be padded out with players who would accept a lower salary in exchange for a shot at a title and the L.A. lifestyle.

One by one they rolled in, each seemingly older than the last, to the point where it is entirely feasible that this version of the Lakers could end up being the oldest team in NBA history, depending on how you measure such things.
 
According to The Ringer, only eight NBA teams over the past 70 years have had an average age of 31-or-over. With minutes played taken into account, the oldest ever was the 1997-98 Houston Rockets at 32.0, with the trio of Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler forming the backbone of the group.

If Ariza sees meaningful minutes when he returns from injury, and contributors like Howard, Rondo and Wayne Ellington can prove to be productive, the odd, old record could be in jeopardy.

Anthony, however, doesn’t see it as a negative., figuring that in NBA circles anyway, it’s not rude to ask about someone’s age.

“I like when people talk about the age,” he said. “I think it gives a better story. You got to have that experience. I think that’s what we bring at this point in time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.”
 
The Lakers begin their campaign against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday and are in the mix as title contenders. FOX Bet lists the Lakers at +400 odds, the second best odds to win it all, behind the Brooklyn Nets but ahead of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.

The Western Conference threatens to be a minefield, with the Warriors back to something approaching full strength, the Phoenix Suns remaining young and hungry, the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets hoping to make a splash and the Los Angeles Clippers wishing to finally live up to their potential.

In the East, the biggest storyline has been about someone who is not going to play, at least for now, with Kyrie Irving sidelined by the Nets over his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

As always, the Lakers are going to be the most talked-about team in the league, and James the most talked-about player, because that’s just how things are. This time around, operating with a batch of players thrown together and no one any wiser as to whether Westbrook’s signing was a masterstroke or a recipe for disaster, it is a telenovela that shouldn’t be missed.

“They’re the greatest chemistry experiment we’ve seen in recent NBA history,” FS1’s Chris Broussard said on “First Things First.” “I know I said similar things about the Nets last year, but the Nets look like a simple tic-tac-toe design compared to what the Lakers are going to be.”
 
The Lakers were horrible in the preseason, going 0-6, but that doesn’t mean much of anything. Last year’s finalists, the Bucks and the Suns, both came up empty in warmup games. More relevant is that James and company have 12 of their first 15 games at home, and how they fare in the initial running will be closely scrutinized.

The Lakers core has been around long enough to know the critics will be circling if things fall awry and the easiest dagger of all will be the question, in times of struggle, if they’re just too darn old.

The answer to that remains to be seen, but for now the Lakers have a plan to combat it.

Chuckle along, do their thing – and get the last laugh.
 
Here’s what others have said …

Melissa Rohlin, FOX Sports: “The Lakers believe it will come together. The pieces are all there. It’s just a question of when.”

Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed: “It’s going to take longer than I thought for them to come together and be a fined oiled machine. Franky V’s got his work cut out to find the perfect mix.”

Joy Taylor, FOX Sports: “As long as LeBron is on the Lakers, I’m going to say they are contenders.”

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