Lakers open the season against the champions

The Lakers begin a new season. The good news is that they start undefeated.

It is so good to have men’s professional basketball back. The NBA regular season starts in earnest tonight and the second game of a doubleheader on TNT includes our Los Angeles Lakers pitted against the reigning and defending NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors.

What a tough test right out of the gate.

The Lakers also opened the season against the Dubs last year and fell, 121-114. They’d go on to lose to the Warriors three times out of four, with the lone win coming in at an early March game at home, 124-116. Los Angeles needed every one of LeBron James’ 56 points to get the victory.

The Warriors would go on to win the 2022 NBA Championship while the Lakers went on a freefall, losing 25 of their last 34 games to finish at 33-49. It seems inexplicable on paper for the Lakers to have such a poor season when the team has LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

But we know what happened. Westbrook had trouble fitting in with the team. Davis was only on the court for 40 games. Even James missed some time and played a total of 56 games. And with the team struggling on both sides of the ball, we got a team that was 8 games shy of .500. Hardly what anybody would call a championship contender.

Changes were made in the offseason. Darvin Ham replaced Frank Vogel as coach. Ham was with the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant coach when they won the championship in 2021. He was also an assistant for the Lakers for two years. And now he’s getting his shot as the head man. And what a situation he’s in for.

Westbrook took his $47 million player option; whoever would turn that down would be extremely foolish. It made it much more difficult for the Lakers to hit home runs in the offseason but they did trade away Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson for Patrick Beverley, who was only known as Westbrook’s mortal enemy in the league. Westbrook and PatBev have since said all the right things as teammates; Beverley even went as far as saying they’re best friends on the team. This is a soap opera we all can’t wait to watch. I think.

Beverley will provide some defense the Lakers lacked last year. Lonnie Walker IV will also try to help out in that department. The former Spurs swingman has all the physical tools to be a great defender. But the problem was that he’s just not very good at defense. Still, Walker might be an improvement from that side of the ball.

The rest of the offseason moves didn’t exactly set anything on fire. Juan Toscano-Anderson, coming from the Warriors, provides a lively presence on the court. Troy Brown, Jr. was signed to give them outside shooting (although .353 from the arc doesn’t scream deadeye) but he’s been out due to back injuries.

A trio of players return to the Laker fold. Thomas Bryant is back on the team he started his NBA career with but he’s also working his way back from a devastating knee injury and a left thumb sprain (now said to be out for 3 weeks and he’ll be re-evaluated then). Journeyman Damian Jones gives L.A. a big body should they need it; he played eight games with them in 2020-21. And Dennis Schröder comes back after stints with the Celtics and the Rockets last season.

The main holdovers outside of the Lakers’ stars are Austin Reaves and Kendrick Nunn. Reaves showed a lot of gumption last season, ending the season with an unlikely 31-16-10 triple-double. Nunn didn’t play a single game last year due to a knee ailment but his scoring and playmaking will be a welcome sight to the Lakers. Wenyen Gabriel, who had a cup of coffee with the team last season, also returns to the squad.

I could go on but Brandon Deutsch provided a great recap and outlook of the team for this coming season. This is about the upcoming season opener with the Lakers and the Warriors.

The Lakers are already dealing with injuries as Westbrook hurt his hamstring (he’s available tonight) and Schröder’s finger is messed up (he had surgery and will be kept out for the next 3-4 weeks). And honestly, we’re likely going to see some experimenting on line-ups throughout the season with the Lakers. Are the Lakers going all in on small ball? Will Westbrook be coming off the bench? Will Anthony Davis be really okay with playing the 5? Unless the Lakers get on an extended roll with a certain line-up, expect a lot of line-up tinkering. Westbrook will also be in trade rumors every day but for now, he’s here and I’m not going to speculate on whether he’s staying or going.

The Warriors are dealing with their own drama although they did make sure their future is secure. Jordan Poole, who seems to be the heir apparent to all-world player Stephen Curry, got a lucrative extension. Andrew Wiggins, who blossomed into a deadly two-way all-star, took a paycut to stay with the Warriors (although, let’s face it, he still got a lot of money that we won’t see in 10 lifetimes). Draymond Green, the heart and soul of the team, will be available for the Warriors but we all know what happened between him and Poole.

Of course, the defending champs still have Curry, who can still get 30-footers off in a blink. Klay Thompson figures to be healthier this season and if he returns to his old form, that’s trouble for the rest of the league. The Warriors still have Kevon Looney, who was a monster on the boards last postseason. And the Dubs have their young guns ready to go in James Wiseman (who didn’t play last season), Jonathan Kuminga (ridiculous athleticism), and Moses Moody (who was not fazed in the playoffs). Losing Otto Porter, Jr. (Raptors) and Gary Payton II (Blazers) stung but they did get Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green in the offseason.

Obviously, we watch the Dubs because of Curry’s ridiculous long-distance bombs but where the team really shines is their defense. They were #2 in defensive rating last season (106.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, according to and they figure to be at or near the top again in this campaign.

I won’t make any predictions in these previews. But for the Lakers to get an opening win, they’ll really have to bog down defensively against the Warriors. They really have to stay locked in all 48 minutes. The Lakers could do all the right things and lead by 20 after three but that lead could easily disappear against the champs. The Lakers are likely going to have trouble keeping up with them shot by shot.

And yes, the fortunes of the Lakers largely depend on James, Davis, and Westbrook. We just hope that they can stay healthy for the Lakers to have a puncher’s chance this year. James is playing in his 20th season and while he has been defying Father Time, he’s also 38 years old in December; there’s always worries about his health and inevitable decline. We all know Davis has a massive injury history. While Westbrook only missed four games last year, he hasn’t fit in very well with the team. Maybe that changes this year. I also wish to have a date with Anna Kendrick this year, too.

So we’ve all hit the reset button. Everyone is starting over at 0-0. This first game could very well set the tone for the season. The Lakers could be on their way to recapturing the glory of yesteryear. Or they could have a spectacular car crash to start the campaign. And don’t we all just love car crashes?

Don’t answer that.

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