The Los Angeles Lakers started their opening game of the 2022 preseason with the Big 3 in the starting lineup despite rumors linking Russell Westbrook with a move away from L.A. throughout the summer.
Head coach Darvin Ham sent Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Damian Jones for tip-off on Monday — before pulling the Big 3 from the game in the second half. The game eventually ended in a 105-75 loss for the Purple and Gold.
Still, the Lakers showed some good defense in the first half, earning them a 46-41 lead at halftime despite their struggles to shoot the ball well. Davis led all Lakers in scoring and rebounding with an 11/11/2 stat line with James and Westbrook chipping in four and five points, respectively.
Overall, Ham liked the effort from his star trio. “I thought it was great,” the head coach said.
“They allowed themselves to help one another. Like I said, we have a three series that involves all three of them. Half-court play call. I think they’re going to thrive. There’s so many different nuances that they can approach out of that set that’s going to enhance all of their games and sort of allow them to share the load, so to speak.
“So, I love it. I love what I saw. It was good. That first half was really, really, really, really, really good. And that, albeit LeBron [James] not having a good shooting night. But we’ll get better. We’ll keep getting better for sure.”
Ham also thought the Big 3 “set the tone defensively” for the Lakers in the first half. “Again, outside of the offensive rebounds, I thought we were phenomenal defensively,” Ham said.
The Lakers shot a poor 31.7% from the field and 23.5% from downtown in the first half against the Kings — before improving their aim after halftime to end up with a 40.8% overall field goal rate. But Ham shrugged off L.A.’s shooting woes against the Kings.
“Some shots that we’ll make normally, you know, we won’t see Bron going 0-for-7 anytime soon,” Ham said. “Again, a lot of people get caught up in the preseason wins and losses; like I just told my team a minute ago, sometimes it’s about wisdom and lessons as you talk about W’s and L’s.
“Like, it’s about wisdom and lessons, and you can pull some good stuff from this game, and you can also have some teachable moments for your younger players in that second half who have to see in these first-ballot Hall of Famers rely on one another to get great plays, great looks at the basket.”
Ham played mostly young Lakers after halftime — including rookies Cole Swider, Scotty Pippen Jr. and Max Christie — with Sacramento outscoring L.A. 64-29 in the second half. But the head coach thinks the second-half slump will be nothing else than a teachable moment for L.A.’s prospects.
“You know, young rookie first, second-year players sometimes they, I don’t want to use the word panic, but they get a little sped up, and they don’t allow plays to materialize, such as the vets,” Ham said.
“Teachable moments for the second half with our young guys, but I’m really, really thrilled at the way we played in that first half. You will see a lot more than for sure.”
James not worried about his shooting in Lakers’ preseason opener
After the game, James said he isn’t worried after ending the preseason opener 0-for-7 from the field. The 37-year-old added he’s only focusing on getting back in game shape during the preseason. “For me, it’s all about just getting in a rhythm and getting my conditioning,” he said.
“These are the easiest games and opportunities to obviously put in the stuff that we’ve been working on this last week, but just also geting my rhythm and getting my conditioning down while I’m on the court.”
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