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Lakers vs. Timberwolves Preview: Time to get real

This preseason has already been much more productive for the Lakers than last year’s, and they’ll try to kick it into an even higher gear for the final two games, starting Wednesday against the Timberwolves.

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Although their 1-3 record doesn’t show it, these preseason games for the Los Angeles Lakers have featured much more promising play than what we saw in the 2021-22 season’s exhibition games. The team finished 0-6 in those games before one of the most disastrous seasons in franchise history.

However, there still hasn’t been a lot of play featuring the full Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. LeBron has sat out the past two games, as has Westbrook, while Davis played Sunday against the Warriors after missing the two previous games due to a mix of planned rest and lower back tightness.

Those absences don’t include Patrick Beverley missing the last two contests, Lonnie Walker IV making his debut this past Thursday against the Timberwolves after missing the first two games, Dennis Schröder remaining out until this game due to travel problems with his visa, or Troy Brown Jr. missing all games up to this point.

Long story short... the players that will make up a bulk of the Lakers’ rotation minutes on opening night still haven’t had time to develop cohesion together.

That will seemingly end in Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves, as head coach Darvin Ham indicated Monday that the final two preseason games will be as close to the regular season as it can get in terms of how the Lakers approach things.

Hopefully, in doing so, the Lakers’ best players will build chemistry to be ready for regular season action.

Here’s what else to look out for on Wednesday.

Dennis Schröder’s debut

As I said above, Schröder has missed media day, training camp, and all of the preseason so far due to visa issues in returning to the U.S. from Europe. He was finally able to get back at some point on Sunday, having his first practice with the team on Monday.

And although there’s still probably a little awkwardness surrounding his second stint with the team given the whole ordeal with the contract extension offer near the end of the 2020-21 season, Schröder did not show any attitude problems when he immediately started playing defense across all 94 feet of the court in practice.

Schröder’s arrival throws another variable in the backcourt rotation we’ll see in the regular season. The team already had so many guards to begin with; however, given Ham’s previous relationship with Schröder when they were both with the Atlanta Hawks for five years, he figures to at least get some minutes from the get-go.

AD starting at the five?

Forget about the rotation, Ham has to figure out the starting lineup first. All offseason it’s been believed by many that Damian Jones or Thomas Bryant would start at center to cover for the lack of size on the wings; however, that may not be the case anymore.

Ham has started each of the last three preseason games with small-ball lineups featuring one true big man, and on Monday, he may have shown that’s the direction he’s going to continue to move towards.

Davis started at center Sunday in the team’s first preseason win since the 2020-21 season, but LeBron, Westbrook, and Beverley all missed that game. If Ham is truly giving an AD-at-center starting lineup “heavy consideration”, we’ll probably see it on Wednesday.

But maybe Ham will keep his starting lineup fluid through the first couple of months of the regular season, depending on how certain Lakers are playing as well as who their opponents are. If there was any team to start AD at the four with a traditional big alongside him, it’d be the Timberwolves, who will feature Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in their starting frontcourt this season.

Because of that, try not to draw too many conclusions from Ham’s starters if AD is at the four. However, if Gobert and KAT are playing and Ham still decides to move forward with AD at the starting five, then it may be time to write his name in ink there for the start of the regular season.

Notes and Updates:

  • It was announced two days ago that Troy Brown Jr. (back) would be ruled out for the rest of the preseason as well as the season opener vs. the Warriors. He’s been going through individual workouts prior to these games, but Ham says he hasn’t been able to progress to full contact yet.
  • Unless there are some gameday surprises, no one else should be on the injury report for the Lakers. We’ll be sure to update this post if there are any shockers.
  • The Timberwolves’ injury report is unknown at the time of this publishing. They have been giving Gobert, Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards some random games off over the course of the preseason, and that may continue.
  • Around the league, it was announced on Tuesday that Hornets guard LaMelo Ball would miss some games to start the regular season due to a Grade 2 left ankle sprain he suffered Monday night vs. the Wizards. Luckily, that was the extent of the injury, and it’s nothing extremely long-term.

The Lakers and Timberwolves will tip off at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN while also featuring a local broadcast 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.

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