Believe it or not, the Los Angeles Lakers will play an actual NBA game tomorrow, albeit a preseason one. The team will be visited by the Brooklyn Nets in a matchup that may be taking place in June when the NBA Finals come around.
If the timing of all this feels weird, well, it is. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the finish of the 2019-20 season, which then resulted in last year’s campaign lasting only 72 games, but with those 72 games in an extremely condensed schedule. This results in the Lakers starting this year before the one-year anniversary (Oct. 11) of winning their 17th championship in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals.
When running through the timeline of the past year, it continues to show how rushed and chaotic the Lakers’ day-to-day must have been between those final days in the Orlando bubble and where they are now. It also shows how fast things can change in the NBA, as the Lakers only have three players (LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker) who have been with the team for the entire time since that championship.
Because of that, this should be a fun game to tune in to, just to see the new faces alone. However, don’t expect to see the most notable new guy on Sunday afternoon. He and some other older gentlemen won’t be playing in this one.
Russell Westbrook sitting out
I’m sorry, Lakers fans. You’ll have to wait just a little longer to see Russell Westbrook on the court in a Lakers jersey. Westbrook, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Trevor Ariza will all miss Sunday’s game. Frank Vogel indicated the latter three absences are due to rest, and although the same could mostly be said for Ariza, he did miss Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s practices due to a sore foot.
Vogel says that Trevor Ariza's sore ankle is something that started before camp. He's still out for tomorrow.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 2, 2021
That still leaves Anthony Davis active, although Vogel also said he will likely only play the first quarter. Vogel also left open the possibility that other players may be added to that group of people who will be held out.
The LAL-BKN preseason opener is looking lackluster w/ both Big 3s set to rest, save for Anthony Davis who'll play the 1st Q. Why? "AD didn’t finish the season," Vogel said. "He finished in street clothes because of injury. He wants to get out there, so we’ll support him on that"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 2, 2021
There are still plenty of new faces that will be making their debuts, including Wayne Ellington (who has been reported as a likely starter this season), Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, DeAndre Jordan, and rookie Austin Reaves (we’ll also see the return of Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard, although they obviously don’t seem as new as everyone else).
Who will we see from the Brooklyn Nets?
Below is the list of Nets players who will sit out tomorrow’s game. The list is even more extensive than the one that Frank Vogel gave, as the Nets will be without its big three and then some.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Patty Mills, Blake Griffin and James Johnson all will NOT play Sunday against the Lakers per Steve Nash.— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) October 2, 2021
Head coach Steve Nash did not give his starters when telling the media who will be sitting out, but The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer (Nets beat reporter) said that he expects a lineup of LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, DeAndre Bembry, Bruce Brown, and Jevon Carter to start. But whoever the Lakers and Nets have out there at tip-off, these two teams’ starting lineups will be unrecognizable compared to the ones they roll out on their regular season opening nights.
Alex Schiffer also noted that Nash mentioned LaMarcus Aldridge when stating that he doesn’t think anyone on the team will play a ton. Aldridge is returning to the NBA this year after he retired in the middle of last season due to an irregular heartbeat he had.
One Nets player we might see often is none other than former Laker Devontae Cacok, who signed with Brooklyn in the offseason. If your memory is poor, Cacok was a South Bay Lakers staple who was with the team in the Orlando bubble when they won the championship.
The reports of sitting players mean that all eyes will be on Anthony Davis in the first quarter as he is the lone member of both teams’ big threes to actually play in this game. After that, though, it’ll be a battle of the teams’ youth.
Let the young guys have some fun
Given Frank Vogel’s plan to rest three of the oldest players on the team in LeBron, Anthony, and Ariza, it wouldn’t be surprising to see other older players such as Jordan, Howard, and Rondo grab some pine early in the game alongside Davis and the other stars.
That would open the door for large amounts of minutes for the few young players on this roster. Does that mean Sunday, October 3rd will forever go down as the day that we witnessed the debut of “Hillbilly Kobe” a.k.a “HBK” a.k.a. Austin Reaves?
That’s right, the undrafted rookie confirmed on media day that “Hillbilly Kobe” has been his nickname dating back to his initial days as an Oklahoma Sooner, when a graduate assistant started calling him that. A fitting name for a player who grew up on a farm “in the middle of nowhere” in Arkansas.
Coincidentally enough, Reaves will now debut in the same colors that Kobe Bryant debuted in. It has to feel like an immense honor for Reaves who has already been honored with a partially guaranteed contract for the season after initially being signed to the team through a two-way contract.
Expect Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, and Talen Horton-Tucker to also get heavy minutes to allow the old heads some rest. Coming in as the youngest player on the team for the third season in a row, THT may get right back to his preseason high-scoring ways after his insane 33-point game last year against the Clippers.
We’ll see what happens tomorrow, but there should be plenty of reasons to watch, even with few stars set to play meaningful minutes. After a few months away, any Lakers basketball we can get is welcome.
Notes and Updates
- Tip-off of the Lakers’ preseason will be an early one. Make sure you’re ready for the 12:30 p.m. PT start time on Sunday afternoon. The game will be televised nationally on NBA TV, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.