The Lakers gave us a glimpse of what they could be this season in their first preseason game on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings. It was a tale of two halves for the purple and gold, who looked like a pretty decent team with their superstars in the first two quarters then transformed into a G League squad in the second half without them.
But even though L.A. lost by 30, there were a couple of positive and negative takeaways from Darvin Ham’s first preseason game — which we may or may not overreact to (you decide!).
First, the biggest breath of fresh air was that the Lakers no longer looked like a team full of old legs. They started the game on a 12-3 run thanks to their defense, transition offense and perimeter shooting. Russell Westbrook was a completely new and improved player (on the offensive end, at least), Kendrick Nunn showed why the Lakers missed him last season while Anthony Davis (who led the team with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two 3-pointers in 16 minutes) seemed healthy and energized on both ends of the floor.
For a good part of the first half, the Lakers’ big three looked decent in their minutes together despite LeBron James shooting 0-7 from the field and scoring just four points. Their productive performance together had a lot to do with the young and defensive-minded teammates they are now surrounded with. The Lakers’ overall rim protection, effort and aggressive on-ball defense were three of the most noticeable improvements that were evident in Monday’s loss. After all, Ham said postgame that’s exactly the team they want and have to be.
But while the Lakers showed signs of Ham’s influence in their performance, it was clear that there’s still a lot of work to do. Their rebounding, lack of shot creation, reliance on iso offense at times, bench production, closeout defense and shooting (particularly in the second half) were potential early signs of weaknesses. The good news is that Ham and the Lakers have enough time to work on their mistakes and improve their chemistry moving forward.
That said, all the positive takeaways and improvements they work on will only be commended if the Lakers start winning games. Yes, it’s the preseason and these games don’t count but ideally, it’s vital that this corresponding group wins a game or two to build their confidence, momentum and winning habits. Because if there’s one thing we learned from last year, it’s that a winless record in the preseason record can carry over to the regular season, and perhaps serve as a bad omen.
Notes and Updates
- Aside from Davis and Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Nunn, Wenyen Gabriel, and Cole Swider also had great debuts. Gabriel in particular racked up 6 points, 10 rebounds, one steal and a game of high four blocks in 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Swider led the Lakers bench with 10 points along with two 3-pointers.
- The Lakers have now lost seven straight preseason games (including last season) in a row. Hopefully they end their drought against the Phoenix Suns in Las Vegas.
- The Lakers will be going up against a Suns team that’s coming off a disappointing loss to the Adelaide 36ers (an Australian professional basketball team, in case you didn’t know, the first overseas team to beat an NBA squad in the preseason since 2015). Devin Booker doesn’t seem pleased with all the flack the Suns received in the past few days, so expect him and his team to come out with vengeance against the Lakers.
- The Lakers haven’t put out their injury report yet, but we will update this post with it when they do.
- Aside from the Lakers and Suns, the Charlotte Hornets will also play the Indiana Pacers, the Boston Celtics will go up against the Toronto Raptors, and the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the Dallas Mavericks as well on Wednesday.
The Lakers and Suns will tip off in Las Vegas at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet, and nationally on NBA TV.