Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results

EL SEGUNDO — The nicknames started rolling immediately after free agency. JaVale McGee even said in an interview that he liked “the Meme Team.”

There’s been a lot of colorful ways to describe new Lakers additions McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, a veritable rogue’s gallery in NBA circles. But LeBron James gave the most telling label on Instagram with the acronym “M.U.D.”

Misunderstood. Underappreciated. Determined.

If that’s true about the unconventional cast members of the Lakers, then this season, the inaugural year of James’ tenure, could be truly special, and the team might just not return to the playoffs for the first time in five years – they might actually contend. But many NBA observers see the Lakers roster as it is currently constructed – with James, a group of one-year contract veterans and a corps of young returners meshed together – as an unlit fuse.

Will it spark? Or will it succeed?

The Lakers, who suddenly have high aspirations, argue that the connectivity is being built already during the preseason. With a pass-first, up-tempo mentality, they need trust to operate.

“It’s all working,” Coach Luke Walton said after the second preseason game. “They’re coming together as a group. They’re trusting each other. You saw the amount of passing that was happening on some of those possessions last night, and that’s about trust.”

So it seems the Lakers have gotten off on the right foot. The better question might be if the trust can hold together.

It’s easy to think of the upcoming season as a holdover year: Although they had massive salary cap space, the Lakers couldn’t swing a deal this summer for a second max-contract All-Star alongside James when Paul George re-upped in Oklahoma City and Kawhi Leonard was traded to Toronto. They ended up filling space with one-year contracts that will give them space to make an impact signing next summer, when Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins are expected to be on the market along with roughly half of the NBA’s current players.

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Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results

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Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results

Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results

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Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results

Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results

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Lakers’ Chemistry Experiment Could Yield Unpredictable Results