NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 23: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks with LeBron James #23 of … [+]
The best team in the Western Conference looked pretty darn close to perfect Thursday night in knocking down a season-high 19 3-pointers and getting yet another triple-double from LeBron James in a 128-113 victory in Brooklyn.
But perfection is elusive, if not unattainable, and perfection does NOT define the team sitting atop the Western Conference standings.
That according to a guy who should know, the only defending champion wearing purple and gold.
“There are one of two things that are big imperfections, but I’;m not juyst going to put those things out there for everyone to know,” said Danny Green, the Lakers starting shooting guard. “There are things that the guys in this locker room know we need to work on, and we’ll leave it at that.”
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 22: Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before the game … [+]
Lakers Nation has been treated to a mixed bag ofd treats on their team’s trip to the Eastern Seaboard, which included their most lopsided loss of the season, 139-107 to the Boston Celtics, before bounce-back victories on back-to-back nights against the putrid Knicks and the reeling Nets.
So the trip to New York was no measuring stick aside from taking a reading on how many Lakers fans were able to get their hands on Knicks and Nets tickets (quite a few) and how impressed former president Bill Clinton was as he sat courtside in Kings County for the second consecutive Brooklyn home game.
Hillary, speaking of imperfections, was not in attendance.
The NBA trade deadline is drawing near (it is Thursday, Feb. 6 this year), and few expect any activity from a team that got its business taken care off in the offseason by adding Green, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and Jared Dudley to a core that included James, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 22: Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call … [+]
But one thing is always certain as trading deadline nears: You never know.
And when there are imperfections, that can usually be corrected. With the Lakers, however, it is most likely that they will be shoppers in February free agency after the deadline has passed and veterans on bad teams seek buyouts.
And in the meantime, they march toward the playoffs with a sizable lead over the Nuggets, Jazz and Clippers in the top half of the West standings.
“I think at times we get stagnant offensively playing too slow, and I think sometimes Anthony Davis needs to pick up his energy,” Dudley said. “We play at a fast pace when LeBron and him are attacking, but when we get slow and we get lazy and have bad possessions, when you play the Clippers, Boston, Philly or Milwaukee, you can’t have that. You can’t have empty possessions.
“You just hope that for us when you get to the playoffs you turn it up to a whole different level. I don’t think we need changes,” Dudley said. “36-9? Could you add someone better? Yeah, but who do you get rid of? I’m not saying it would be foolish to make a trade, but we have the second-best record in the NBA and we haven’t hit our ceiling yet.”
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 23: Jared Dudley #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after … [+]
This is Year 2 of the LeBron Era in Los Angeles and Year 1 of him teaming with Davis, and after the washout that was last season — when half of the NBA expected David to be dealt from New Orleans to Los Angeles, which didn’t happen in February but eventually transpired in July.
James missed a significant potion of last season with injuries, and it was a throwaway season for both him and the Lakers franchise … although hindsight shows that is was a necessary evil for that franchise to get to where it is today.
The Lakers lead the league in blocks – -a tribute to their devotion to defense — and have an offense that is at its best when James (who leads the NBA in assists) is doing the bulk of the playmaking chores. Davis still appears at times as though he was sleepwaking through games, but that is more of a testament to his demeanor than it is to his will and desire to play hard and succeed.
Los Angeles, with a $123.1 million payroll that ranks 19th in the 30-team NBA, has Dudley on a one-year deal and Troy Daniels on an expiring deal, and their salaries put together along with DeMarcus Cousins’ $3.5 million could bring in a player making $8.08 million.
But chemistry is as delicate as imprecation is common, and first-place teams almost never make in-season trades. Again, more likely is a fine-tuning through February free agency, or by bringing in an extra body from the Chinese Basketball Association after that league’s regular season ends in early March.
In the meantime, first place is first place, imperfections or not.