Lakers Basketball is back! Alright, not yet in its official capacity. But the new team, behind their new Head Coach, Darvin Ham, hit the floor tonight and experimented with their personnel. And although the lineups were toyed with, the team looked stable in the first half, despite falling to the Sacramento Kings, 105-75.
This is Coach Ham’s first dance as head coach and in his first preseason game he appeared to be incredibly calm. He stood for three quarters, a majority of the time, with his hand in his pockets. But on timeouts or stoppage plays he would counsel his men individually, always ending the conversation with an encouraging pat on the back. Finally, he sat for about a minute and a half to start the fourth and then popped right up to chat with Kendrick Nunn for a moment while the Kings shot a pair of free throws.
After the game, Coach spoke of the team’s first and second quarter performance stating, “That's exactly who we wanna’ be — who we have to be. Everything starts on the defensive end for us,” which is aligned with his mentality since he started with the team. From day one, he’s said that the main priority for the team is defense and specifically to protect the rim. Tonight, Anthony Davis said “say no more.”
Not actually, the big fella didn’t talk too much tonight because he was too busy closing down the paint and grabbing boards,10 of his 11 rebounds were defensive. Davis did the heavy lifting offensively as well during his 16 minutes in the first two quarters. He went 2/4 from three and was the Lakers’ leading scorer for the night with 11 points. LeBron James, who is encroaching on his 20th season and the 10th player in NBA history to do so, played 16 minutes in the first half as well. The King didn’t reign quite like he does in the regular season, most likely because he’s hoping to notch more minutes this preseason, while still being conscience of keeping his legs ready for opening night against the Golden State Warriors on October 18th.
Russell Westbrook, alongside Bron and AD, started the game at point and played confidently for 15 minutes. He was eager to drive through the lane and find his open man under the hoop.
The Lakers starting lineup looked secure, Damian Jones and Nunn joined, Russ, LBJ, and Davis and took the team on a 12-0 run just a few minutes after tip.
And to close out the first quarter, Patrick Beverley took the Lakers floor for his first time. He hit a triple and shortly after lobbed the ball up for Juan Toscano-Anderson, who threw it down and electrified the home crowd.
But the essence of preseason is to understand the depth and identity of the team in order to prepare for the season ahead, so it makes sense why Coach Ham tested out more than seven different rotations. The vets—Bron, AD, Russ, and Pat Bev—observed a slew of younger squads for the second half. And while the lead slipped as a result, the research had to be conducted.
Rookies Max Christie and Cole Swider had notable performances for their first professional minutes. Max had an appetite for throw-down dunks, and nothing deterred him from attempting them, not even a crowded lane.
And Cole Swider shot confidently. He went 2/4 from the arc and 3/7 from the field, grabbing 10 points in total— the second highest on the night.
While the Lakers weren’t successful in terms of grabbing a victory, they did successfully collect some valuable data. Preseason continues in Las Vegas this coming Wednesday when Los Angeles takes on the Phoenix Suns.