Through all the trials and tribulations, the Los Angeles Lakers now find themselves at the beginning of a new era. The team finished their first training camp at Santa Barbara with a better understanding of the system, which is anxious to begin under head coach Luke Walton.
While many basketball aficionados have hyped up the young core of the Lakers, there are many key offseason acquisitions that provide a cohesive presence. The young core is expected to take a leap in production, but is also going to be monitored and evaluated during the preseason.
The ‘breakfast club’ worked hard throughout the offseason, in order to gel and form a relationship with Walton. The offseason turned into a productive one for the franchise, as they kept their draft pick, signed the coach of the future and secured some solid NBA veterans to aide the team.
After a dismal 2015-16 season, the team now embarks on an official beginning to the 2016-17 season, with expectations increasing. The Tuesday night contest is slated at the Honda Center, as a part of the preseason contests located throughout Southern California.
The Kings proudly boast arguably the best center in the league in DeMarcus Cousins, although their relationship hasn’t always been fluid. Cousins is the anchor of this team, as his fierce competitiveness can either carry the team or have them spiraling. During his last season, the 26-year-old Alabama native averaged a career-high 26.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.
Alongside Cousins will be the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Willie Cauley-Stein. The 7’0″ power forward provided a defensive presence, although he just saw 21.4 minutes per game during his rookie campaign. In 66 games played, he averaged seven points, 5.3 rebounds and one block per game. Cauley-Stein has been improving his offense, working with former King Peja Stojakovic on his jump shot.
Backup center Kosta Koufos will certainly see some action, as new head coach Dave Joerger won’t push Cousins too much in a preseason contest. The physical center will provide some low-post scoring for the kings, while 7’1″ rookie Georgios Papagiannis should make his debut tonight. Papagiannis can space the floor, while providing defensive stability with his 7’6″ wingspan.
The small forward position bolsters two strong veterans of the game, with Rudy Gay garnering the starting spot. Gay has been the center of many trade rumors, as the 10-year veteran is a valuable asset for searching teams.
Matt Barnes, who signed a two-year deal this offseason, backs up Gay. The 13-year veteran and UCLA alumnus provides a feisty defensive presence, along with a high basketball IQ. Anthony Tolliver figures to be third on the depth chart, as the forward also has a little versatility to his game.
Starting point guard Darren Collison will play tonight, although he will not start the regular season. After pleading guilty to a domestic violence incident, he has been suspended for the first eight games without pay.
The Kings seems to be posting a UCLA alumni roster, as back up guard and former Laker Jordan Farmar should see action in the backcourt. Attempting to make a NBA comeback, Farmar is battling fellow guard Ty Lawson for the starting spot during Collison’s suspension.
Lawson signed a one-year contract in the offseason, attempting to increase his value just as Rajon Rondo did a season ago. Fellow offseason acquisition Arron Afflalo, a former UCLA alumnus, joins the backcourt in a battle for playing time with fellow shooting guard Ben McLemore.
McLemore is expected to provide a consistent three-point threat for this team, although he struggled with his 36.2 three-point percentage last season. Afflalo, who provides a more balanced scoring approach, has averaged double-digit scoring his previous six seasons.
Keys To Victory:
Battling the Nerves: While D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram are expected to flourish under Walton, they are still young and have a lot of room to grow. Randle and Russell are entering their second seasons (not counting Randle’s missed first season), and shouldn’t feel the need to produce too much. The preseason is a time to work out the kinks in the offense, while also allowing the borderline players a chance to compete for a victory and roster spot.
Running the Offense: The roster should take this gelling period seriously, as it gives them a chance to fluidly run the new offense. The expected up-tempo style from Walton shouldn’t consist of just pushing the ball up court, but being able to run sets that lead to progression. While preseason games don’t factor into their record, the debut against a team that hasn’t been exposed to the offense in practice should be a stepping-stone.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-0) vs. Sacramento Kings (0-0)
7:00 PM PST, October 4, 2016
Honda Center, Anaheim, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN/ 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Willie Cauley-Stein
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: Kosta Koufos, Matt Barnes, Ty Lawson, Jordan Farmar
Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Larry Nance Jr., Brandon Ingram, Lou Williams, Marcelo Huertas, Yi Jianlian