The Los Angeles Lakers will return to the court to take on the Portland Trail Blazers in their first game following Kobe Bryant‘s death.
Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash. Once the news broke, it immediately felt like the world would just never be the same, especially not the basketball world. The Lakers were slated to play a rivalry game against the Los Angeles Clippers but were simply unable to and asked the league to postpone the game.
The Lakers have been understandably quiet since. The team did not post an official statement until the announcement of the Clippers game being postponed, then waited until the following day to post again. Up until now, not a single player has spoken to the media as only head coach Frank Vogel has done that in a short press conference that showed the world why this team respects him so much.
Now, all eyes will be on Los Angeles as the Lakers play in their first game since a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. And while this game will certainly be an emotional experience, it could be therapeutic for players and fans alike to be all together and feel a hint of a return to normalcy.
It’s unlikely there will be a Lakers game for a long time that feels normal, but nights like this are a good start.
On actual basketball-related news, everyone will be available on the Lakers except for Alex Caruso, who will be a game-time decision.
For the Blazers, Carmelo Anthony will be out due to personal reasons. He joins a host of Blazers players who are unable to play. Outside of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers have struggled to stay healthy. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood are all out with long-term injuries and it’s unclear when any of them will be able to return.
The Lakers and Blazers have played twice already during the 2019-20 NBA with the former winning both fairly easily. And while the Lakers will always be going for the win whenever they step on the court, this game will have added meaning to it beyond basketball.
Tonight will be largely about honoring Bryant, and there’s no doubt the Lakers will find a way to do so at every turn. There’s no player more tied to them than Bryant and while there may never be anything big enough to truly capture what he meant to the Lakers, the purple and gold will continue to try with the help of some Mamba Mentality.
Los Angeles Lakers (36-10) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (21-27)
7:00 P.M. PT, Jan. 31, 2020
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN), 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
Projected Trail Blazers Starting Lineup: