“I did this off the bench stuff already in two years with OKC,” Schroder said of his time with the Thunder. “I think I try to move forward and I think with AD and LeBron I can be helpful as a starter in the [point guard] position.”
Well, OK then. That’s a big question down. Schroder plans to start with Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
One of the true dramas of the upcoming three weeks or so of the NBA preseason was going to be the Lakers’ starting lineup.
But what Schroder said — and how he said it — should once again remind everyone that the Lakers are about to embark on a season where “usually” and “regular” aren’t going to apply that frequently.
Speaking to reporters from a cellphone camera while the team prepares to host a round of individual workouts before team practices can commence, the specter of pandemic play is never too hidden.
Starter or not — and it’s best to assume that his declaration Monday had the backing of all affected parties including coach Frank Vogel and James because if not, there is a problem — one of the biggest reasons the Lakers went out and got players like Schroder and Montrezl Harrell is because of the unknowns that lie ahead.
In making his case for a starting spot, Schroder described the scenario that Lakers’ critics repeated throughout last season. His presence can move James off the ball and ease the burden of initiating the offense.
“I can bring it up, call a set play or whatever and put him in a position to score,” Schroder said. “I think him to play off-the-court … off-the-ball, I mean, is I think great. I think that’s the reason why they brought me in.”
Maybe it’s because Schroder spoke two days after the NBA unloaded nearly 140 pages of protocols for the upcoming season, but it’s easy to see how he’ll be an important weapon as the Lakers move into a season where it seems almost assured that players will miss games because of COVID-19 or through contact tracing.
Those critics who wanted to see James do less a year ago were also concerned with the Lakers’ lack of players able to create shots, concerned that too much fell onto the team’s stars and their plates. It worked, of course, James led the NBA in assists and certainly won’t cede too much to anyone else this season.
But in the Lakers’ postseason run, the emergence of Rajon Rondo as an alternate playmaker breathed a new dimension into the team. And this year, with Schroder around full time, it’s reasonable to expect him to do the same.
While Rondo acted as a courier for others, Schroder will look for his own points, and with the potential of James or Davis missing time, whether because of the virus or because of the condensed season schedule, having another scorer should be valuable.
Though he’s just 27, Schroder has spent the last two seasons surrounded by superstars, playing with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and then Chris Paul, in Oklahoma City. Before that, he got to see how different James looks in two playoff sweeps while in Atlanta.
“It's pretty big to play against LeBron in the regular season, but after the season, in the playoffs, just to see ... I learned so much. I learned LeBron, when we played him, the respect was there always but he had a different meaning. He played completely different in the playoffs. To see that at a young age … was pretty big.”
Now that he’s in Los Angeles, Schroder, who is a free agent after next season, wants to start games alongside James and Davis, potentially positioning himself as a long-term piece in the Lakers’ quest to repeatedly contend for championships.
“My agent is handling everything. I think he had conversations with Rob Pelinka already," Schroder said of the Lakers' general manager. "End of the day, I just try to focus on this year. But like I said, if it's a fair deal and everything goes right, then, of course, I think long term. But I just try to lock in now for this season, take it day by day and let's see if we come to an agreement on that.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.