ANAHEIM, Calif. (Compton Bulletin) – The first impression of the 2023-2024 Los Angeles Lakers is that there is both a youth infusion and a fresher outlook of what is expected of the team. The Lakers made their Southern California 2023 debut at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Playing a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers played the Oct. 11 contest without the services of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jarred Vanderbilt. James, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, sat and watched the game in shorts, a matching sweatshirt, and a cap.
Davis monitored the game next to James in gray sweats and a baseball hat, while Vanderbilt chilled out in a bright green sweatsuit outfit. For Lakers head coach Darvin Ham, the team’s third preseason game was about keeping the ball in motion and sharing the rock so that everyone could get involved in the offense.
“We spoke about pregame, we spoke to them about, you know, just having the right mentality to them and the right mission, and we reiterated that at halftime to some of your young guys of, you know, the level of approach you got to have to play at this level,” Ham said after the Lakers had beaten the Kings, 109-101.”I just thought that everybody embraced the message. Out older guys did immediately, and then a couple of our young guys woke up at halftime and then came out and really took their play to another level.”
Without their Big Two of James and Davis taking the floor, the Lakers left the basketball duties to the inexperienced players and some of the newer faces. The Lakers started the game without four of their five starters.
Only guard D’Angelo Russell started the game. Other than that, Ham let his younger players get the reps, along with Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, and Rui Hachimura. One thing that can be said about this Lakers team is that the squad has a lot more depth and appears to be more stacked in the talent department than last season.
Vincent (18 points) should prove to be a good fit and a perfect compliment to James and Davis with his off-the-ball playmaking ability. Prince (13 points, 7 rebounds) gives the Lakers versatility at the small forward and at the shooting guard position along with his ability to play good perimeter defense.
After a promising season last year, the sky is the limit for Hachimura (13 points, 6 rebounds), who gives the Lakers the flexibility at power forward and small forward. Vincent, Prince, and Hachimura showed a glimpse of their worth against the Kings in the non-regular season game.
Some of what fans expect this season from the Lakers is an excellent pick-and-roll game facilitated by Russell, which he executed to perfection in the third quarter that was finished off with Jaxson Hayes taking the ball authoritatively to the basket.
Another thing they can look out for is the impact of Prince. Prince can run the floor, bust a three (3-pointer) and defend. Vincent gives the Lakers a quality No. 2 or No. 3 shooter from the perimeter that head coach Darvin Ham can count on night in and night out. That step-back jump shot that Vincent will be hard to stop.
One of the best things about the NBA preseason is that fans have an opportunity to see the new faces of the franchise. For the Lakers, the new include Christian Wood and returning player Max Christie. Both players showed flashes of their talent against the Kings. Rookie Maxwell Lewis, whom the Lakers drafted in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft, left quite an impression himself.
The best description of Lewis is that he has a huge upside, Ham said.
“I think that he has like a really, really special gift, in terms of his talents, his athleticism, his physical structure,” Ham said. “He’s quick. He’s athletic. He can play lateral. He can play vertical. He’s just in that stage where he needs to slow down a little bit.”
Mike Brown, the Kings head coach, put Harrison Barnes and D’Aaron Fox on the court to start the game. The dynamic between these two teams is that both made it to the postseason. The Lakers advanced to the Western Finals. The Kings, a team that finished with the third-best record in the Western Conference last season, won their first playoff game since 2006. Sacramento was ousted out of the postseason by the Golden State Warriors.
So, going into this season, the Kings, a fresher spin-off of the Warriors, are expected to duplicate the success that they were able to produce last season. The only problem for Brown and the Kings is that won’t be able to sneak up on teams the way they did last season. Teams will no doubt be ready for the Kings.
With all of the expectations thrown his team’s way for the upcoming season, Brown believes the Kings will be up for the challenge, but he wasn’t too happy with the way his team played defense against the Lakers.
“Defensively, you know, we have to figure out a way to make our opponents feel us,” Brown said. “I thought that defensively, they (Lakers) just played too comfortable most of the game. D-Lo (D’Angelo Russell), he came off of pick-and-rolls and shot the ball like he was playing H-O-R-S-E at times. We have to do a better job of trying to get to the ball and being physical without fouling or sending them to the free throw line.”