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Lakers vs. Nets Preview: Opening game in China can provide insight into L.A.’s regular season starting lineup... if it even happens

If the preseason China games are played according to schedule, they’ll give us another look at how the Lakers will surround Anthony Davis and LeBron James on the court during the regular season.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

With tensions growing between China and the NBA, the chances of actually seeing the Los Angeles Lakers face the Brooklyn Nets are seemingly growing slimmer by the hour. Still, as things stand right now, the two teams are still slated to open the NBA China Games 2019 on Thursday in Shanghai.

The certainty of Thursday’s game — and Saturday’s as well — is more questionable after the NBA addressed the backlash that came from Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey tweeting a message of support for protestors in Hong Kong. With the recent news that CCTV and Tencent would not be broadcasting the NBA China games within the country out of dissatisfaction with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s statement, the Lakers and Nets two-game preseason series seems to be hanging by a thread.

But if Thursday’s game is played, the focus should shift to the Lakers’ starting lineup, and more specifically, those who surround Anthony Davis and LeBron James. On Saturday, 18 rebounds (13 from Javale McGee), 16 points, and two assists came from the other three players in the starting lineup who weren’t named Davis or James.

While the Lakers obviously aren’t counting on the other three guys in their starting lineup to light up the box score, this is still a good time for Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel to experiment with different starting combinations. Avery Bradley was the first player to fill the point-guard-sized slot in the starting lineup — even though James was nominally listed as the point guard — but was held scoreless in his first start, and beyond some full-court defense on Stephen Curry only provided one rebound and three personal fouls in 12 minutes.

Bradley isn’t playing for his scoring, but with plenty of other players who could in theory slot in at point guard alongside LeBron among the starters, it will be interesting to see if Rajon Rondo, Troy Daniels, Alex Caruso or Quinn Cook get some more reps with the projected members of the regular season rotation in the Lakers’ next preseason game.

If the game continues as scheduled, the Lakers will be facing a Kevin-Durant-less Nets team in Shanghai, which doesn’t completely deplete the talent on a team that also added Kyrie Irving over the summer. Last week, it was reported that Irving was expected to play in China, although that is obviously pending on whether or not the game happens.

By facing some of the best guards in the league early on — first Steph Curry, and now possibly Irving — the Lakers can get a look at their various supporting options at point guard for James and Davis, and make the adjustments they need to start the regular season on the right foot.

As has hopefully been made fully clear throughout this preview, whether game two of the preseason will even happen remains uncertain for the Lakers, but as of publishing time, tip-off is still set for 4:30 a.m. PST on Spectrum SportsNet (and NBA TV, nationally) from the Mercedes-Benz Arena Shanghai on Thursday. We’ll keep you updated on whether or not that changes.

Update as of 5:54 on Wednesday — It looks like the game will be played.

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