Detroit coach Dwane Casey smiled as soon he heard a reporter mention Bojan Bogdanovic’s name.
It’s one, of course, that was spoken plenty here in Los Angeles and around the NBA this summer regarding the Lakers. It wasn’t much of a secret that the veteran wing was on the Lakers’ wish list as they considered possible trades for Russell Westbrook this offseason.
The Pistons, though, surprised many around the league (and some in the Lakers’ front office) by snatching Bogdanovic in a trade with the Utah Jazz.
So when Casey heard his name uttered before Friday’s game, he had to interrupt.
“Can’t have him,” he quickly said with a laugh.
Of course, Bogdanovic opened the game by making his first four shots.
If pregame was a reminder of what this roster could’ve been this season, the game itself made it clear that any of the Lakers’ construction problems weren’t going to be ironed out with a handful of days off.
Playing for the first time since they beat the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, the Lakers and coach Darvin Ham spoke frequently about using the time off to get back to defending the way they did in the first few weeks of the season.
They responded, though, poorly, giving up 37 points to the Pistons in the first quarter at Crypto.com Arena — an offense fueled by the Lakers’ poor decision-making and lapses in intensity.
Though the defense improved in the second quarter, similar mistakes returned early in the second half, highlighting the Lakers’ consistency issues, though they rallied for a 128-121 victory behind 38 points and 16 rebounds from Anthony Davis.
And with the wins coming infrequently, the “how” shouldn’t be much of a concern.
“I’ll go back to it again, [it’s] the self-inflicted mistakes,” Ham said before the game. “If you’re not able to get an offensive rebound or you’re turning the ball over or you’re fouling, those things are going to severely impact your defense in a negative way.
“So just watching film, making sure we’re more involved, more active — not just on the ball but everywhere else around the ball, and making sure we’re not leaking out when the shot goes up, we’re getting good contests. And also making sure that we rebound.
“And so, yes, addressing those things is our top priority. It’s one thing to prepare for different teams, but you have to make sure, you have to do your own wellness check.”
And well, the Lakers weren’t as healthy as they wanted to be — in more ways than one.
The team was still without LeBron James, his groin injury not progressing enough Friday to get him back on the court.
James made his way to the bench shortly after start of the first quarter, the team officially ruling him out at the last possible moment.
It’s the third straight game James has sat out because of a strained adductor injury in his left leg.
The Lakers had been cautiously hopeful that with the extended rest between games that James could play. He was a participant in the noncontact portions of practice Thursday and was listed as questionable before the game with the Pistons.
Juan Toscano-Anderson (back) and rookie Max Christie (health and safety protocols) were also unavailable against the Pistons, who were without starters Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart.
The Lakers did get back Dennis Schroder and Thomas Bryant, both of whom sat out the Lakers’ first 13 games this season after having thumb surgeries in the preseason.
Bryant, in particular, made an impact in the first half, playing with physicality and urgency as he had eight quick first-half points.