You may have noticed I put quotations around the two teams’ names, as I’m unsure of whether or not the 10 players that initially come out on the court on Friday will actually be full-time members of the Lakers or Thunder, respectively.
After they were held out of Thursday’s game against the Warriors following the team’s official elimination from play-in contention against the Suns on Tuesday, it seems doubtful that we will see LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, or Carmelo Anthony on Friday.
But Frank Vogel did note just before Thursday’s game that Friday is “fan appreciation day” and that those players weren’t officially ruled out for this Thunder game as he wants the fans to “feel appreciated” (I don’t have a joke for this that’s better than that statement at face value).
Meanwhile, the Thunder have been full-on tanking for some weeks now, with their “injury” list on ESPN looking as long as a list that combined the injuries the Lakers have suffered over the past two seasons.
So because I’m sure you’re exhilarated to learn more about this matchup, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s preview this “NBA game” just to see how sad it may be.
As Lakers fans, even without the three highest-paid players active (I’m refusing to even jokingly call them “The Big Three” anymore), there are still plenty of recognizable names that will be wearing the purple-and-gold on Friday.
The same cannot be said for the Thunder.
They’ll be coming off a 137-101 beat down handed to them by the Utah Jazz with their starting lineup including the following players:
Isaiah Roby, Georgios Kalaitzakis, Jaylen Hoard, Vit Krejci, and Zavier Simpson.
You may recognize Zavier Simpson’s name, as he was actually signed by the Lakers as an undrafted free-agent following the 2020 NBA Draft, and was on their summer league team last year. He’s recently gone viral on Twitter since signing a 10-day contract with the Thunder, with his patented hook shot (that’s earned him the nickname “Captain Hook”) getting a lot of retweets and likes.
The Thunder signed Zavier Simpson to a 10 Day contract earlier— (@Three_Cone) April 5, 2022
He’s a 6’0 guard with the best hook shot since Kareem pic.twitter.com/vDKBAIFrRN
But even though die-hard Laker fans may recognize the name, he also turns out to be the best example in just how unknown this current Thunder team is, as NBA’s website doesn’t even have a picture for him. Instead, you’ll just see a black-and-white NBA logo in place of where his face would go.
You’ll see most of the reason why the Thunder have no recognizable names when I lay out their injury report below, but it’s also due in part to the obvious and shameless tanking I mentioned previously. Theo Maledon, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Aaron Wiggins were all active for the team in that Wednesday game against the Jazz, with all three players not playing due to the coach’s decision.
The funniest part about this is that even with the picture of open and blatant tanking these past few weeks that I’ve painted above for the Thunder, they still have more wins since the All-Star break than the Lakers! That’s right! They are 6-16 in that time coming into Friday while the Lakers will enter their Thursday game against the Warriors at 4-18. Even with two of their Big Three (damn I went against what I said earlier) playing nearly every game during that time, the Lakers couldn’t out-do a team in the middle of an obvious tank job.
So yeah... please consider that before you make fun of this unrecognizable NBA team out of Oklahoma City.
Notes and Updates:
- For the game against the Warriors immediately preceding this one, the Lakers were without James (left ankle sprain), Davis (mid-foot sprain), Westbrook (shoulder soreness, eliminated from playoffs), Carmelo Anthony (non-COVID illness), and Kendrick Nunn (bone bruise). Mason Jones was also out while playing in the G League playoffs with the South Bay Lakers.
- The Thunder haven’t submitted their injury report for tomorrow yet. but here were the players listed as out for an assortment of reasons you can find here: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Darius Bazley, Luguentz Dort, Kendrick Williams, Tre Mann, Derrick Favors, Mike Muscala, and Ty Jerome.
As I said above... it’s a long list.
The Lakers and Thunder will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Friday, with the game being televised on Spectrum SportsNet.