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Lakers vs. Warriors Preview: The Big Three make their debut

We’ve had chances to see two of the Lakers’ Big Three together in different preseason games, but we still haven’t seen them all out there at the same time. That changes against the Warriors, as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook will all start.

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2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers Media Day Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

With four games in the books, the Lakers’ preseason is nearly over. The team is still looking for their first win, as Lakers fans and bloggers have already started to exhibit worry and angst before we’ve even reached the regular season. The infamous 2012-13 “Now this is going to be fun” team has even been mentioned by some, never a good sign.

With all that said, those worries could quickly turn into excitement for Lakers fans. In addition to recent injuries (more on that later) that have kept the team from having their full roster available, the Lakers haven’t even had their entire Big Three on the court at the same time. That will change on Tuesday night against the Warriors, however, as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook will all start in the second-to-last preseason game.

This will be a very fun night for fans, with even more fun added if the team comes out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Adding to the fun, Davis starting at center Tuesday night will only be the second game he’s done so in this preseason (granted he did not play in Sunday’s loss against the Suns). It’s still unclear whether or not Davis will start at center during the regular season, but him starting there in the Big Three’s first game together seems to be a good indicator that he will be playing there on opening night next week. After all, Frank Vogel has stated he wants a “consistent” starting lineup when the regular season starts.

Although the Lakers still have one final preseason game after Tuesday’s against the Warriors, Frank Vogel may end up using this game as the one to get his Big Three and supporting role players as much on the same page as they can before the regular season starts. It might behoove him to do so, given the fact that they are playing the Warriors, their opponent for Oct. 19th’s opener. Because even though we know LeBron has nothing to personally learn from the NBA preseason as he enters year 19, the Lakers as a team could get use this as an opportunity to get familiar with the Warriors while they have their three-headed monster with them. If Vogel likes what he sees, some players could sit on Thursday when they play the Sacramento Kings.

The injury bug has bit the Lakers again

Over the past week, we’ve seen multiple Lakers players get sidelined due to injuries they’ve sustained. On Wednesday, the Lakers announced that Trevor Ariza would be re-evaluated in eight weeks after an arthroscopic procedure was done on his right ankle. Another long-term injury was reported today, as Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Talen Horton-Tucker will miss some time after he underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

If Frank Vogel and the Lakers decide to use this game as a warmup for next Tuesday’s opening night, we may get answers as to which players will receive minutes increases in the hopes of replacing those two players’ contributions. Carmelo Anthony seems to be the most likely to take a bulk of Ariza’s minutes, as Anthony and Ariza were probably going to take a lion share of minutes at the 4 this season when LeBron and Davis were not there. There are not many others on the team aside from those four players that can play the power forward position on a regular basis, and even Anthony isn’t best suited to be there for most of the 82 game season.

We may have seen evidence of this increased role for Anthony in Sunday’s game against the Suns, as he joined Kendrick Nunn among the first substitutions of the game. Melo was one of the bright spots in the 123-94 loss, as he scored 17 points (5-7 on 3-pointers) in only 16 minutes played.

As for replacing Talen Horton-Tucker’s minutes, that may be more of a group effort given the likelihood that THT would have probably played point guard, shooting guard and small forward this season. However, this may give rookie Austin Reaves enough movement up Vogel’s rotation to allow him some minutes during the regular season.

With Ariza and Horton-Tucker out for the foreseeable future, that gives the Lakers 12 rotation players, including Reaves, on their regular roster. Those 12 players include Rajon Rondo, who Frank Vogel already pinpointed as a player “who’s not going to play as much” before the preseason started. This strengthens the idea of Reaves getting more playing time over Rondo to fill the void left by THT’s absence. Reaves is also four inches taller than Rondo, and seems more likely to replace THT’s minutes, size-wise and positionally.

Those 12 rotation players also include Malik Monk, who may not play in the Lakers’ opening night game (groin strain), although the Lakers are “hopeful” he’ll be ready by then. Monk will be re-evaluated around next Sunday, and as we all know from watching Anthony Davis’ experience with his groin injury last year, this is an injury that can linger. If Monk has an extended absence that reduces that total of rotation players to 11, expect Reaves to get a decent opportunity to prove he can be the 11th man.

Reaves may be able to ascend even further towards the front of Vogel’s mind when making substitutions if he takes advantage of this opportunity presented to him during the rest of the preseason. He’s done well so far, making 41.2% of his 3-pointers so far while showing more than enough defensive ability for an undrafted rookie at this point.

If he can keep this up, he will certainly have a chance to earn minutes if these injury issues continue.

Notes and Updates

The Lakers and Warriors will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday night. The game will be nationally televised on TNT, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.