Lakers having fun, move on from past

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
12:06
AM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ONTARIO, Calif. -- It's easy looking back now to say we should've known something was wrong back then. When the Los Angeles Lakers have a three-hour practice before a road exhibition game in Ontario, and Steve Nash of all people admits postgame he has never done anything like that before in his long NBA career. Or when the Lakers play their starters heavy minutes and they still get worked eight straight times by other team's third-stringers. There was something to all that.

"Our starters were getting a lot of minutes and we were still losing. After a while it was like, 'What's going on?'" Lakers forward Jordan Hill said of the team's winless preseason in 2012. "Everybody thought, we even thought, that we had a championship team. But we didn't even win one preseason game.

[+] EnlargeLos Angeles Lakers
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesHalf the Lakers' players now weren't even on the roster last season, making it easier to move on and have more fun, like Saturday's preason win over the Warriors.
"That's when everybody started putting their heads down and blaming others."

You know how the rest of the story goes. After the winless preseason, the Lakers lost four of their first five regular-season games, Nash broke his leg on a freak play in Portland the second game of the season, Steve Blake tore an abdominal muscle and coach Mike Brown was on his way out the door before the season was two weeks old.

It all started to fall apart remarkably quick last season. And then it got worse.

"We thought we were fine, even though we were 0-8. It was the preseason," Blake said. "But it never really turned around."

So what exactly does all that mean for Saturday night's 104-95 win over Golden State in the exhibition opener for both teams?

Maybe nothing. Maybe something. You never really can tell in the preseason.

After 10 straight preseason losses, it felt good to win one finally.

After a nightmare season in 2012-13, it was nice to start anew with a victory.

But mostly what you can take away from this first win, is the same thing you take away from the first week of camp: This really does feel different.

Whatever expectations the Lakers entered last season with are completely gone. Whatever pressure they felt, whatever negativity was already bubbling up has all been swept out of town.

The Lakers' locker room is a very different place already. Half the team wasn't here last season. Those who remain seem as if they've tried to expel last season from their memories.

"Last year," Hill said, "was awful."

And this year?

"Totally different," he said. "It's a fun team. Everybody's clicking. There's no negativity."

By now you've probably read a half-dozen quotes like that already. It's one of the recurring themes coming out of the first week of training camp. As messages go, it's a solid one to project to a fan base that's still scarred from last season.

The question is how much having fun again is going to matter once the regular season gets here.

Not having much fun mattered quite a bit last year. Is the reverse true?

Xavier Henry wasn't a part of the team last season. He only has heard how bad it was last year. But he says he thinks there's something to this chemistry thing.

"If you're teammates are unselfish and everybody's happy for everybody, we all shine," said Henry, who led the Lakers with 29 points in 26 minutes off the bench on Saturday.

There also seems to be something to actually running coach Mike D'Antoni's offense. Four players scored in double figures Saturday. Henry had 29 points, Nick Young had 17, Chris Kaman had 10 points and 10 rebounds and new-old Laker Jordan Farmar had 12 points and seven assists in 28 minutes.

"We never really ran the system last year, so how can you say it doesn't work?" Blake said. "I think everyone wants to play in the system and enjoys it."

Hmm …

The insinuation isn't hard to decode. But moving on … or so the Lakers hope.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2