Lakers Set to Begin Road Trip
The three stops on the Lakers’ upcoming road trip all have one common factor — an All-Star level big man waiting on the other side.
The Lakers begin by facing DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings on Thursday before visiting Anthony Davis in New Orleans and Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota for back-to-back games this weekend.
With such high-caliber players looming, head coach Luke Walton — three seasons removed from his 10-year playing career as a forward — decided to challenge his bigs with some one-on-one work at the end of practice.
“When Luke came over, he said he was locking down some of the bigs,” Brandon Ingram said. “That’s just some of the fun we have out here — going at each other, being competitive and just having fun in practice.”
Cousins, Davis and Towns are all averaging more than 22 points so far, with Davis putting up 30.4 per night.
The Lakers could be without do-everything power forward Larry Nance Jr., whose defensive presence was notably missing in Tuesday’s loss against a Dallas team that shot 52.4 percent from the field.
Nance passed the first part of his testing for a concussion suffered in Sunday’s win over Phoenix, but Walton said there is still “a lot” of protocol left before determining if he can play. This could leave the Lakers’ frontcourt shorthanded against Cousins and co.
“When you’re playing guys that good, it’s not just on our bigs,” Walton said. “Obviously the first part of our team defense starts with how we can guard them straight up. But with guys like that, it’s a team concept. I think they’ll be a great test for us.”
Walton and Julius Randle each used the same phrase to describe Los Angeles’ first quarter against the Mavericks, saying they “started the game soft.”
Randle — who has played a bit of center in small-ball lineups — expects Cousins to rack up his usually impressive numbers on Thursday, but aims to keep him off the foul line and try to limit the rest of the Kings.
“You gotta take the one-on-one challenges,” Randle said. “It’s a whole team effort, but you just gotta take the challenge.”
Randle certainly took on Walton’s challenge at practice, using a couple of pump-fakes to free himself for an easy look at the rim against his 36-year-old coach.
“I had to bust the old man one time,” Randle said, smiling.
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