Despite an impressive 19-point performance by two-way contract signee Scotty Pippen Jr., the Lakers couldn’t handle the Suns, dropping their first Summer League exhibition game in Las Vegas, 104-84.
.@KingJames helping up @spippenjr after the tough finish pic.twitter.com/w7d8soLgrd— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 9, 2022
Pippen, who also nabbed 3 steals and 4 rebounds, was by far the Lakers’ best player on the court. The 21-year-old rookie from Vanderbilt University carried the scoring load for the purple and gold alongside sharp-shooter (and fellow two-way contract player) Cole Swider, who scored 11 points. Second-round pick Max Christie chipped in 9 points of his own.
Unfortunately, the Suns’ dominant frontcourt consisting of Louis King and Ish Wainright was just too much for Los Angeles. It also didn’t help that Jay Huff — one of the Lakers’ two-way contract players last season — was ruled out for Friday’s game due to health and safety protocols. Huff, who had an incredible run in the two games he played in during the recent California Classic tournament, was significantly missed by this squad, especially on defense and inside the paint. His continued absence might be costly down the road for this summer’s Lakers team.
But the highlight of today’s exhibition game was not the players on the court, but rather those on the sidelines. In what was an unexpected turn of events, LeBron James, Rob Pelinka, Darvin Ham and Russell Westbrook were in attendance to support the Lakers on Friday. So of course all eyes were on James and Westbrook, who went from looking like best buddies during last summer’s exhibition games, to strangers sitting across the arena from each other this time around.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook sitting as far away from each other as possible during the Lakers Summer League game … xoxo, gossip girl pic.twitter.com/Tut4nqFWOK— Natasha Dye (@natashadye) July 9, 2022
It was all good just a summer league ago pic.twitter.com/MrYaz4IZhX— GoldenKnightⒸ (@GoldenKnightGFX) July 9, 2022
https://t.co/DIgf79Je25 pic.twitter.com/61CZXaz7on— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) July 9, 2022
someone didn't tell LeBron that Westbrook was also going to be in attendance pic.twitter.com/r9VMXngoFr— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 9, 2022
BTW, if you’re seeing clips of LeBron greeting multiple Lakers and other NBA figures throughout the game tonight and wondering where the Russ video is — it did not happen. The two sat across the court from each other and never interacted.— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) July 9, 2022
At least Westbrook made his presence positively felt by coaching up the team during timeouts. Meanwhile, James seemed entertained by Pippen Jr.‘s coming-out party from the other side of the court, while Pelinka and Ham looked busy evaluating this year’s summer roster.
But whether it was really as awkward as it appeared or not, those four took the spotlight in Friday’s blowout defeat.
Russ coacheando a los pibes en el tiempo muerto.pic.twitter.com/LQInjPVBz3— NLB (@NBALAKERSBLOG) July 9, 2022
Hopefully the Lakers show more fight when they attempt to bounce back in their next game against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.