LOS ANGELES – The Lakers’ new Big Three made their pre-season debut with a 111-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. And while Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ score together on the first trial was another defeat to drop the L.A. record to 0-5 on its opponent’s table, the post-game message the stars chanted was one that demands patience but exudes positivity.
“It will take a minute for us to become the team we know we will be able to achieve,” said James, who has put in 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 possessions and 6 turns. “We’re going to have moments where we’re not quite. We might hold back. But that’s all part of…I think there’s nothing worth living if it isn’t worth working for.”
Westbrook, who made his way to the Lakers in the off-season by persuading the Washington Wizards to seek a deal, looked his best so far in purple and gold — which doesn’t mean much, considering he gathered to shoot a 4-for-19 with 16 spins. In his first two rounds. But his speed on the open field when surrounded by plenty of talent will be a factor this season.
“We had some good jumps,” Westbrook said after finishing the game with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 turns. “Obviously it’s the first match. But there are some good things we can take advantage of…we can cheer them up a bit.”
For James, who is coming into the season looking for a fifth episode that will tie his entire career together with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, the moral victories don’t mean much. However, the 19-year-old veteran has vowed to guide his group through its early stages.
“I, as a leader, my job is not to get frustrated,” he said. “If I don’t get frustrated, I think he’ll pass on to anyone else. I’ve never been someone who wouldn’t agree with me not being excellent. But I understand that things take time too. As long as I keep the main thing the main thing, is to stay equal in everything that happens with Our ball club, then we’ll be fine.”
Davis was more than fine against Golden State, leading the Lakers with 20 points in 7-for-12 rebounds to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was encouraged by his first glimpse of his new L.A. lineup starting at 5, along with James Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazimore.
“We’ve seen some great things with me, Bron and Ross in action,” Davis said. “There are endless possibilities, things we can turn on and we can do…and while there are good things, there are so many things we can do better.”
The Lakers close out their pre-season Thursday on the road against the Sacramento Kings and they have a week until the regular season opens, coming home against the Warriors once again.
There’s a lot of work to be done before the Lakers get any closer to the final product, starting with getting all of their players healthy. Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) is expected to miss at least two months; Tallinn Horton Tucker (thumb surgery) will be sidelined for about a month; Kendrick Nunn (right ankle) and Wayne Ellington (left hamstring) both sat down on Tuesday, along with Malik Munk (groin), who will be out for another week.
“So, if these people don’t play, how do we integrate them now?” Davis said. “So we didn’t have our full squad where we would be able to look at every detail, but it looks good so far.”
With the start of the 82-game season looming for a group that is ultimately only interested in getting 16 wins from April to June, time is on the Lakers’ side.
“It can take all year long to be at our best, and ideally, then to be at our best — play the playoffs,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But we have the mindset to get on the ground and out of the gates really strong with things clicking as best we can. … But it is reasonable to think there will be some bumpy nights early in the season, but we had an expectation coming in two years ago and we jumped out of the gates hard. Great. So, that’s what we hope for.”