Fresh off of an offseason that was both monumental and anxiety-inducing, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers can finally exhale and rejoice.
The team accomplished what it set out to do this summer when they inked LeBron James to four-year (player option in the fourth year) deal worth a reported $154 million, ensuring the the services of a star player they’ve pursued and struck out on in their most recent attempts.
Surrounding James this season, the Lakers will deploy a newly re-upped and talented young core, a crop of mustache-twirling veterans and one Isaac Bonga. If nothing else, this season is going to be entertaining.
Yet with James also comes a certain level of expectations. With significant turnover, and the meshing of the aforementioned eccentric personalities, there will be rough patches this season — possibly as early game one.
The Lakers’ inaugural contest will be against the team who has beaten them 15 straight times — the Portland Trailblazers. Dawning back to the 2014 season, the Blazers undeniably have had the Lakers’ number.
Despite the daunting losing streak, the two teams had fantastic and closely contested games last season in which two of their three matchups were decided by only three points. Of those, one culminated in a dagger three by Damian Lillard, whose name recently was in some Lakers news.
The Blazers, especially their top shelf talent, are mostly the same from last season.
With that said, the team did lose a pair of underrated, and productive, pieces of their bench rotation in former Laker big Ed Davis, and guard Shabazz Napier. In terms of additions, the Blazers added Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas to boost what was already the 11th-best 3-point shooting team in the league last season.
On the Lakers’ side, Luke Walton continues to be coy about who will be his starters come game time, but recent practices may be an indication towards which five he is leaning towards.
At the end of Monday’s practice, Luke Walton is taking what is likely the second unit for Thursday’s opener through some sets. Lonzo, Hart, Lance and Kuz (plus Zubac if they go big). Presume that Rondo-KCP-Ingram-LeBron-JaVale start vs. Portland, but nothing official yet. pic.twitter.com/sUVXxTvk91— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 15, 2018
While Rajon Rondo getting the nod over Lonzo Ball may be irritating or concerning for some, contextually Ball is still regaining his conditioning and has yet to get proper court time with the other four projected starters.
It is also worth noting that almost no team sticks with the original starting lineup they roll out in game one for all 82.
When the Lakers and Blazers do tip off, not only will the Lakers’ 15-game-losing steak be on the line, but as Silver Screen and Roll’s Editor in Chief, Harrison Faigen astutely points out, there is another interesting stake to be aware of:
If LeBron and the Lakers win tomorrow night, it will be the first time he's won his first game with a new team. He lost his rookie debut with the Cavs, first game in Miami and his first game back in Cleveland.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 17, 2018
Here’s to hoping the Lakers snap both streaks when the final buzzer sounds, and start what is expected to be a memorable season off the right way.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
Statistics provided by NBA.com. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.