Well, the season is doomed. The Lakers had six tries at it, and dropped all six chances to win a preseason game. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook clearly don’t work as a trio, and its time for Los Angeles to blow it up and rebuild around Austin Reaves. The team’s 116-112 loss to the Sacramento Kings to end their exhibition slate on Thursday night was the final nail in the coffin.
Okay, fine, maybe it’s not that bad. Or really even close to it. Because despite their bad record overall (finishing the preseason 0-6) and plenty of scoring lulls tonight, this might have been the team’s most complete effort during these glorified practice sessions, and there was a lot to like from them in this one.
To start, this was easily LeBron’s best game so far, as he racked up 19 points in just 18 first half minutes. After a brief scare when James came up grabbing for his ankle on a drive and called a timeout before limping off the floor, he was able to more than walk if off, finishing with 30 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in his most aggressive game yet.
In a perhaps-not-unrelated development, this was also Westbrook’s best night of the preseason. But this wasn’t simply a rising a LeBron lifting all teammates: Westbrook was active in passing lanes and as a cutter on offense, and pushing the pace in transition to generate shots for himself at the rim and free up outside looks for his teammates.
Westbrook ended the evening with 18 points and 5 assists in 29 minutes.
The other story of the night — and, against all odds, the main story of the preseason — was the continued emergence of undrafted rookie wing Austin Reaves. Throw in all the “it’s just preseason” caveats you want, but all signs are pointing to the idea that this kid can play. And, potentially, given all the Lakers’ injuries, play today.
Reaves finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 30 minutes, and did so by keeping the ball moving on offense, defending hard, and not being afraid to rise and fire off of lasers to the corner from LeBron. He may not play when this team gets healthy, but there is a real argument to be made that he deserves a real look while Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza are sidelined. He played real minutes in a game in which the Lakers just used nine players for the majority of the night, and appears to have a legitimate shot to crack the rotation to start the season.
In short, this team is making real progress, even if it didn’t always feel like it from moment to moment while watching these often-frustrating and clogged-up exhibition games. To show how little the Lakers cared about the result in this one, they benched all their rotation players other than Reaves with just under four minutes to go in a still-winnable game. They clearly aren’t that concerned about all this. Until they are, we probably shouldn’t be, either.
With the preseason over, the Lakers will now return home to Los Angeles and get the next four days to rest before their preseason opener on Tuesday, Oct. 19 against the Golden State Warriors.
We’ve almost made it, everyone. We’ll see you there.