On Monday, Oct. 3, the Los Angeles Lakers will be playing basketball. It’ll be the first time we’ve seen the purple-and-gold on the floor since April 10, after which we have both been treated to the first offseason with a normal length since the summer of 2019, and tortured all summer with questions of whether or not Russell Westbrook would be traded.
After his combative and toxic exit interview that came a day after that season concluding game in April, it seemed like a near certainty that we had seen the last of Westbrook in a purple-and-gold jersey. But with Rob Pelinka and the team unwilling to trade two first round picks to deal him, the “Big Three” are here again, running it back.
Still, even if the outlook on this team’s championship aspirations may be dreary, there’s still at least some hope for improvement from last season, a campaign that saw the Lakers finish 11th in the Western Conference, on the outside looking in at the play-in tournament. Those improvements will hopefully start sooner rather than later, and as a result, Monday’s game against the Sacramento Kings — and the preseason as a whole — shouldn’t be looked at by the team as mere exhibition games.
Season starts now
However... that was then and this is now. And boy, has a lot changed since those great times.
Now, the Lakers have a three-pronged nucleus involving LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook that has only played in 21 regular season games together despite the fact that they’ll be starting their second campaign as a group on Monday.
The parts of the roster surrounding them are new, as the aging members of the 2021-22 roster have been replaced by youthful, but mostly unproven players as well as a guy that the Big Three is more than familiar with in Patrick Beverley.
On Oct. 18, the Lakers will open the season against the defending champion Warriors before playing potential Western Conference juggernauts in the Clippers, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Timberwolves.
The Lakers figure to be underdogs in every single one of these season-opening games, and given the terrible vibes of last season and this summer that the team will be coming off of, an 0-5 start cannot happen if they are to have a better season than last year.
Because of that, the work starts now.
Head coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers need to build continuity between the parts of their roster more than ever. That may be more important than winning the actual preseason games, however, going 0-6 in these matchups as they did last season also can’t happen.
Creating off-court chemistry may be just as important as on-court chemistry, and to manifest those good vibes in the locker room it’s important to get some wins. LeBron James may realize this just as much as anyone, as he said the other day that he plans to play in more preseason games this year than he did last season (LeBron appeared in three of the six 2021-22 preseason games).
To get off on the right foot, the Lakers will have to first go through the Sacramento Kings. Given the matchup as well as the preseason circumstances, this game won’t be too notable to fans across the Association.
But to Lakers fans, as well as the coaches and players themselves, this may hold just as much weight as the upcoming season opener.
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers released their injury report on Sunday, and Anthony Davis is probable to play despite low back tightness that kept him out of part of the team’s open practice on Saturday.
- Lonnie Walker IV (left ankle sprain) did participate in full-contract practice on Saturday, however, he was limited for most of the first week of training camp, and will sit out on Monday as a result. Troy Brown, Jr. — who was limited to individual drills on Saturday — is also out with low back soreness.
- Dennis Schröder is still outside of the United States as of Saturday due to visa issues happening after his great run in Eurobasket, and as such will not play on Monday either. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that Ham indicated he is expected to join the team later this week.
- There doesn’t seem to be any injury news of note with the Kings. In terms of starters, the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson reported that head coach Mike Brown penciled in De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, and Harrison Barnes as starters for the season.
- Around the league, preseason has already begun! The Warriors and Wizards just got done playing two games across the world in Japan, while the Grizzlies and Bucks played last night. There are three games on Sunday, with five games (including the Lakers’) on Monday which is when the majority of the teams across the league will start getting to their action.
The Lakers and Kings will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Monday. You can watch the game locally on Spectrum SportsNet, and nationally on NBA TV.