Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant will get both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys retired Monday night on an evening his old team just so happens to also be playing against the Golden State Warriors. But while the game is a secondary storyline, winning it will still be the primary concern for the Lakers.
After playing the Warriors tight in an overtime loss in their last matchup, they actually look set to have a decent chance to win this time around. Particularly given that Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia have all been declared out.
Brandon Ingram scored a career-high 32 points in the previous meeting with the Warriors, and his rematch with Warriors forward Kevin Durant will be worth the price of admission. Of course, it remains a backdrop for fans in attendance to see Bryant get honored at halftime.
Ingram is making rapid progress this season while averaging 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
And while it’s far too early to start predicting an ascent to the Durant-like levels so many had hoped he’d reach heading into the draft, he’s making those comparisons look at lot less foolish than they did when he was just an overmatched rookie for most of last season.
Lonzo Ball, on the other hand, should be in for an easier night than last time around while not having to check Curry, but worth watching will be whether he gives in to a common rookie tendency to overlook back-ups on defense when starters sit out.
But as long as Ball puts in the requisite effort to avoid getting lit up, the Lakers look set to win the point guard battle on the night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will likely be tasked from keeping Klay Thompson from mimicking any of Bryant’s scoring heroics on the night a player he grew up in Los Angeles watching is honored.
Brook Lopez will have to avoid being outhustled for easy buckets by tireless rookie Jordan Bell, all while the Lakers’ dynamic bench featuring Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma looks to dominate the decimated depth chart of the Warriors, but all of that is sort of secondary on this night.
Win or lose, the Lakers will see a legend honored, and unless Ingram or Ball erupts and shows the rest of the NBA they’ll soon be headed down an adjacent career path, that’s the only thing anyone will remember about this night ten years from now. The game is just gravy.
Los Angeles Lakers (10-17) Vs. Golden State Warriors (23-6):
7:30 P.M. PST, December 18, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart
Projected Warriors Starting Lineup:
PG: Quinn Cook
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Omri Casspi
PF: Kevin Durant
C: Jordan Bell
Key Reserves: Nick Young, Andre Iguodala Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney, David West, JaVale McGee