Lakers head coach Frank Vogel strongly hinted after Sunday’s game that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would likely suit up for the team’s final two preseason games, and after practice on Tuesday, he confirmed that they’ll at least play in the first half on Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns. It sounds like the only player that is all-but-certain to not be joining them is Alex Caruso, who has been dealing with a hip flexor strain.
“The only one that will be out for tomorrow’s game, or I should say doubtful, is Caruso. Caruso is still doubtful, still has some soreness in his hip flexor,” Vogel said. “He’ll be listed as doubtful. I do plan on playing AD and LeBron some first half minutes just to kind of get their feet wet, and as of right now I think everybody else will be available.”
How did the Lakers decide that James and Davis would make their debut for this game? According to Vogel, it was “a collaboration” between a bunch of parts of the organization.
“We meet with the medical staff, they have sort of a build-up plan of what is best, (then) the coaching staff meets and feels out how much work they need to get integrated with their new teammates and whatnot, and feedback from the players themselves. (You ask) ‘How do you feel like you want to manage these preseason games to be ready for opening night?’” Vogel said. “You factor in all of those conversations and opinions and you land in the spot that’s comfortable for everyone.”
The other Lakers out on Sunday were two-way players Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo, who were listed with an “excused absence” by the team under the league’s health and safety protocols. Vogel confirmed that they are back.
“They have been cleared from the health and safety protocols of the league and are clear to return,” Vogel said.
And while Vogel would not get into any specifics on what led Antetokounmpo and Cacok to be declared out and brought back so quickly, he did offer a few, broader specifics on what he thinks his team (and others) will have to do to avoid such absences.
“It’s what every team is talking about. We have to follow the protocols as closely as possible. That’s the only way to try and reduce it,” Vogel said. “We’re at the mercy of the virus and the protocols. I can’t really get into any more detail about what happened this weekend and why they’re back so quickly, but definitely following protocols as closely as we can in some circumstances could potentially reduce it.”
With James and Davis back, expect Talen Horton-Tucker to have his usage reduced, and this game may serve as an opportunity to see how he could fit in more normal lineups for this team. It will also be, you know, our first chance to see two of the best players in the league play basketball since they won the 2020 NBA championship, and how some of the other new players the organization added this offseason fit around them.
So get ready to overreact to like 15 minutes of preseason basketball, because the stars are finally back. The Lakers and Suns will tip off at 6:00 p.m. PT.