The Lebron James LA Era Begins: Lakers Lose To The Nuggets

Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets

(Getty Images) Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets [September 30, 2018]

When it was announced in early July that Lebron James would be joining the Los Angeles Lakers for what could be the final chapter of his illustrious career, the entire sports realm came to a standstill.

Not only did the arrival of James joining the Lakers come as a surprise to NBA fans and analysts. The Lakers signing free agent talent like JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, and the infamous Lance Stephenson also raised eyebrows of basketball enthusiasts around the globe.

The aggressive nature of these individual signees had a lot of critics questioning the ball club’s locker room chemistry which will develop as the season progresses but, Laker executives have high hopes for the talent they’ve chosen to represent the prestigious basketball franchise.

Now, after months of speculation, the new-look Lakers have taken their talents to the professional hardwood in the form of a 124-107 loss in their very first preseason game against the Isaiah Thomas-less Denver Nuggets at the Valley View Casino Arena in San Diego California.

The Lakers Have An Unlimited Number Of Lineup Options

Throughout the off-season, both Luke Walton and  Magic Johnson have been praising their ability to now play positionless basketball. And from the looks of the rapid-fire lineups Walton tested in their first preseason game, the team will have some work to do before their 2018-19 NBA season opener against the Portland Trailblazers on October 18th.

The Los Angeles Lakers began the game with a starting lineup of Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pop at the guard positions, Brandon Ingram and Lebron James at forward, and JaVale McGee anchoring the middle at center. It wasn’t long into the first quarter until Luke Walton decided to call fan-favorite Kyle Kuzma off the bench to mix up things who shot 4/13 from the field for a total of 15 points and three rebounds.

Unfortunately, small ball lineups of Josh Hart, Rajon Rondo, Caldwell-Pope, Lebron James, and Brandon Ingram caused some on-court confusion and dissonance early in the game causing the team to fall behind early in the game. After the initial period, the Lakers trailed 34-29 to the sharp-shooting Denver Nuggets and the Nuggets never looked back.

As the Lakers gel and gain chemistry throughout the season, we’ll see players take on defined roles and become aware of their teammates’ on-court habits, likes, and dislikes to avoid falling into early holes like they did this evening.

The Denver Nuggets Put On A Shooting Clinic

At the halfway mark, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves down 12, 66-54 to the Denver Nuggets. At halftime, the Nuggets had shot 50% from the field and 8-19 from the three-point line, putting on an impressive shooting clinic led by the hot hands of Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangómez (who went 5/8 from three) and Nikola Jokić against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Throughout the first half, the defense of the Lakers appeared lackadaisical. At times, Los Angeles found themselves flat-footed or scrambling to get back to outside shooters and ultimately never found balance on the defensive end of the court.

In the second half, the Lakers picked up their defensive intensity but still struggled to put a stop to the Nuggets shooting runs. Later Los Angeles closed the gap on the scoreboard as the Nuggets led 96-88 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter began with the Nuggets going on an 11-0 run but, Walton remained poised and let his second and third units work out their obstacles on the court despite the game eventually running away from the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers also lost the rebound and turnover battle by not boxing out or taking accountability for their presence in the paint. The elimination of lazy entry passes and battling for rebounds will have to become a part of the Lakers’ culture if they hope to go deep into the ’18-’19 post-season.

Brandon Ingram & JaVale McGee Impress Early on in The Preseason

Many casual basketball fans, were expecting Lebron James to come out with the gate aggressive on both ends of the floor but that wasn’t the case as LBJ went for nine points, three rebounds, and three assists in 15 minutes. It was Brandon Ingram and JaVale McGee who took charge on both ends of the court.

JaVale McGee put in 17 points on 8/10 shooting from the field and provided the Lakers with interior defense and presence inside the paint while gathering seven rebounds. Brandon Ingram displayed a wide variety of on-court abilities with his precision outside shooting, controlled ball handling, and his quick-pivoting interior offensive skillset. He also had some bright defensive moments interrupting a passing lane for a steal and going coast to coast for a layup. Closing out the first NBA preseason, 6’9 forward shot 7/14 from the field for 16 points and gathered four rebounds.

Ultimately, the Denver Nuggets let it be known that they will be competitive in the Western Conference. As Lebron James took on the role of a distributor and team leader and Brandon Ingram sent out a message to the league of his elite capabilities.

Moving forward, there will be a lot of growing pains and positives for both ball clubs as the season develops but only one NBA franchise will be able to raise the Larry O’Brien championship trophy over their heads next summer.