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Lakers vs. Nuggets Preview: Big test on Kobe Bryant statue night

On top of celebrating Kobe Bryant, the trade deadline and a rematch against the Nuggets will round up an interesting day for the purple and gold

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In this photo illustration a Los Angeles Lakers team jersey... Photo Illustration by Vincenzo Izzo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Lakers are back home on Thursday for what is expected to be one of the most eventful evenings of the season. On the day they unveil the statue of the late great Kobe Bryant outside of Arena, they will take on the Denver Nuggets for the second time this season.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

When: 7 p.m. PT, Feb. 8.

Where: Arena

Watch: TNT, Spectrum Sportsnet

The next 24 hours are going to be one big emotional roller coaster ride for the purple and gold. As if celebrating Kobe Bryant on the day his statue will be unveiled isn’t enough, the annual trade deadline arrives before that. And oh, the Lakers cap off the night by playing the team that swept them in the Western Conference finals last season.

It’s going to be an interesting and possibly overwhelming day, to say the least, but one the Lakers should be ready for after two days off. They enter Thursday’s game as winners of their last three and coming off their Grammy road trip where they won four of the six games. Hopefully, their momentum and confidence carry over to one of the most anticipated nights of the season.

Here’s what to look out for in the next 24 hours:

The trade deadline

Much has been said about the Lakers’ rumored plans and moves as the trade deadline closes in. Some of the latest intel is that L.A. is operating with a level of restraint at the deadline, which just means that the organization rightfully doesn’t want to panic their way into making a move. That makes a lot of sense, given that the Lakers are unlikely to acquire Dejounte Murray from the Hawks in the coming days.

But the biggest question that still remains is what is going to happen to D’Angelo Russell? Russell, who’s been consistently brought up in trade talks over the last few weeks, made the headlines on Wednesday after Darvin Ham stated that the point guard underwent a tune-up procedure only for that to be corrected hours after as a normal type of treatment. So in short, DLo is expected to suit up on Thursday according to the Lakers’ injury report and baring any trades that involve him.

That said, nobody really knows what the Lakers will do until the clock strikes 12 p.m. PT on Thursday. There might be a surprise move or two or one that will help L.A. shed salary but whatever it is, there’s going to a feeling of relief around this team once the deadline passes.

The unveiling of Kobe Bryant’s statue

This day was set to celebrate Kobe Bryant as early as August. It’s going to go down as one of the most notable days in franchise history just because of how much Bryant means to the organization and its fans. While every Laker fan knew this day was eventually going to arrive, what they’re still wondering about is what Kobe’s statue is going to look like outside of Arena.

Is Bryant’s statue going to be his famous fadeaway signature move? A dunk? The jersey bite? A celebratory statue perhaps? That’s personally what I’m looking forward to finding out most. Although what we know for now is where exactly the statue is going to be located:

To further celebrate Bryant’s legacy, the Lakers will honor him by wearing their Black Mamba jerseys against the Nuggets, the same kits they famously donned in the 2020 NBA Bubble. Remember, the Lakers are 3-1 when they wear the mamba jerseys and as Anthony Davis once said, they never want to lose when they wear them. Well, let’s see if this Lakers team plays like it against the Nuggets on Thursday.

The rematch against the Nuggets

As for the main event, the Lakers will face a Nuggets team that has won seven out of their last 10 games. Denver (35-16) is currently in fourth place in the Western Conference and they’re still arguably the best team in the league, especially when they decide to turn on the switch.

Not much has changed since the Nuggets last faced the Lakers on opening night as what’s clear is that they’re still a matchup problem for the purple and gold. The Lakers’ defense will have to come up big in this one, particularly so with Jarred Vanderbilt out. This game should be a measuring stick for Los Angeles, whether they make a trade or not. The final result will also say a lot about the direction of the team right now.

Hopefully, the Lakers play with a ton of pride and honor Kobe the right way by coming into this game with the desire to exact revenge against the team that has danced on their graves since kicking them out of the playoffs last season and whose home crowd once chanted “who’s your daddy” at them during opening night. It’s time for the Lakers to do what Kobe would’ve done if he were in this scenario: Use all that disrespect and pent-up vengeful energy as motivation to make a statement against the defending champions.

Let’s see if the Lakers can make Kobe Bryant’s statue unveiling night extra sweet with a victory against the Nuggets on Thursday.

Notes and Updates:

  • For the Lakers’ injury report, Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and hip spasms) and LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) are listed as questionable while Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot soreness) Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain) and Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery) are out.
  • The good news about Reddish’s status though is that he was spotted on the floor at practice on Wednesday and will reportedly be evaluated by the team’s doctors on Thursday.
  • As for the Nuggets, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (right hamstring tightness) is questionable while Vlatko Cancar (left knee surgery) won’t be available.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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