After missing the first two preseason games the Los Angeles Lakers have played to get ready for the shortest turnaround after a championship in NBA history, LeBron James will make his exhibition debut against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
In that game, his goals will be simple, but not only in the cliche “just stay healthy” kind of way. James has been watching the Lakers’ last two games, and he likes what he’s seen from his teammates both new and old in them.
“I want to just continue what the ball club has been doing. They’ve been sharing the ball, moving the ball, playing at a really good pace and trying to defend and rebound,” James said after practice on Tuesday, right before rushing off to catch the team’s flight to Phoenix. “We just want to pick up back where we left off in the bubble, but also enhance that with the new guys.”
Some of those new guys have looked impressive, most notably Marc Gasol and Talen Horton-Tucker so far (yes, we are counting the latter as a new guy because he barely played last year). Kyle Kuzma has also looked much smoother and more comfortable, and should be the beneficiary of a lot of the post-passing IQ Gasol brings to the team, giving this loaded team yet another weapon.
None of this is to say that James should come off the bench or take on a significantly reduced role, but it’s easy to see why he may have seen things that make him feel like he won’t have to necessarily be as hands-on this year, a positive development given that he’ll turn 36 by the end of this month. And getting James on the floor will give Lakers head coach Frank Vogel his first look at how these new contributors fit in around him and Anthony Davis, even if it sounds like Vogel’s hopes for the game are a little simpler.
“With LeBron and AD, I just want to see them go out and try to get a rhythm. Go out and try and get comfortable with some of their new teammates and try to get their legs under them a little bit,” Vogel said.
The Lakers have been carefully monitoring how much work James and Davis are putting in every day as a result of what Vogel called “the shortest offseason in history,” and Vogel consulted with both his stars as well as the medical team and coaching staff before making the decision to give them first-half minutes in Phoenix.
But however many minutes he plays, we know what to expect from James, both in his preseason debut and moving forward.
“I mean, I’m going to do the same thing. Whatever it takes for our ball club to win, I’m going to bring my game. You guys know what my game provides for this ball club, and I’m going to produce that every night,” James said.
Although with all of their new additions, maybe the Lakers won’t so desperately need him to. We’ll get our first, brief glimpse on Wednesday night.
Notes and Updates
- On the injury front, Alex Caruso is continuing to be nagged by a strained hip pointer, and is “doubtful” for the game against the Suns. Given that it’s preseason, don’t expect him to play.
- In a more positive status development, two-way players Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok have cleared the health and safety protocols that cost them Sunday’s game and are back with the team.
- The urban legend of Talen Horton-Tucker continues to grow, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope saying he’s seen “nothing but greatness” from the 20-year-old, and James adding that he started scouting his young teammate back in high school.
- For his part, Horton-Tucker is at least aware that — despite the hype — only one thing will get him on the floor consistently for this team: Defense. He made progress from Game 1 to Game 2, and we’ll get the next look at his growth process against Phoenix.
The Lakers will tip off against the Suns at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday. You can tune into the game locally on Spectrum SportsNet, and nationally on NBA TV.