Sports: Warriors take on LeBron and the Lakers.
Vegas exhibition puts James, Warriors through test run of new rivalry
LAS VEGAS >> Just as he did in Game 3 of the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant nailed a 3-pointer over LeBron James.
The context was different though. It was not a dagger shot. It also took place during a preseason game. Hence, James shot down any comparisons between the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals matchups in the past four years, and Wednesday’s preseason game between the Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers at T-Mobile Arena won by the Lakers 123-113.
“It’s exactly the same,” James sarcastically. “Preseason games vs. The Finals — it’s exactly the same.”
It was not exactly the same. But it had the same cast of characters with the Warriors’ Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson against the Lakers’ James. Curry made 3-pointers as always. Durant showed off his footwork, spin moves jumpers and dunking.
James showed off his athleticism and range. On one play, James converted on a reverse layup after Warriors forward Kevon Looney wrapped his arm around him. James then flexed his muscle. On another play, James drained a 34-foot shot before the buzzer to close the first half. He stood still to soak in the moment, just as Curry often does.
Here’s the final reckoning of the major players, none of whom saw action in the fourth quarter.
Durant, whose night ended early as he fouled out in the third quarter, had 18points on 8-of-14
shooting and 12rebounds. Curry popped in 23 points with five assists, two steals and five turnovers in 26 minutes, and Thompson
added 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting and 4-of-9 from 3-point range, with five rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
For the Lakers, Brandon Ingram had the hot hand with 26 points on 5-of-13 shooting and 15-of17 from the free-throw line in 26 minutes, while James scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and five assists in 18 minutes.
The Warriors and Lakers played with the kind of intensity usually reserved for playoffs. But don’t tell James the Warriors and Lakers have a rivalry after he signed with them last summer as a free agent.
“What’s the rivalry,” James asked rhetorically. “I know nothing about it.”
Some on the Warriors respectfully disagree. After growing up a Lakers fan, Warriors coach Steve Kerr argued “it’s great for the league to see LeBron in a Lakers uniform.”
“It ramps up just because there’s a rivalry between NorCal and SoCal,” Thompson said. “There’s talent on both teams. But I don’t think it’ll be the level of us and the Cavs just because we played at the highest level for four straight years.”
The Warriors and Lakers at least offered a sneak preview of the possibilities.
• Another preseason game usually means one thing. Another lineup change. With Draymond Green missing his third consecutive exhibition with a sore left knee, Kerr started second-year forward Jordan Bell at power forward.
The Warriors have carved out a larger role for Bell, but Kerr noted he has “been up and down a little bit.”
“Jordan sometimes try to relies on his athleticism,” Kerr said. “We’re trying to get him to be in the right spot every time.”
Still, Kerr said he remains “very happy” with Bell’s progress on his defensive rotations, passing
and shooting. He devoted his offseason toward improving his mid-range shot, something that Kerr endorses to a degree.
“You know how we operate on this team. Go ahead and shoot if you’re open,” Kerr said. “But if Steph, KD or Klay have a better one, make sure you throw it to them.”
A pretty novel concept. “It took months and months of research to figure that out,” Kerr joked.
• It appears plausible the Warriors could go through their entire training camp without any resolution with Patrick McCaw’s free agency. Yet, Warriors general manager Bob Myers told this publication the team has not wavered in its hopes to re-sign the wing.
“I’ll update you if there’s anything new,” Myers said.
The Warriors plan to finalize their regular-season roster on Saturday after huddling up following the team’s exhibition finale against the Los Angeles Lakers in San Jose. With Myers considering “flexibility” and “positional need” as determining factors in the team’s pending roster construction, training camp invitees Danuel House Jr. or Alfonzo McKinnie appear favored to stay because of McCaw’s absence.
Myers stressed, however, there could be a scenario the Warriors re-sign McCaw even if they do not
agree to a deal before Saturday.
The Warriors currently have 19 players on their roster and plan to trim it to 14 so they have one vacant roster spot to maintain financial flexibility. Myers pointed out the team also has flexibility on various roster considerations until January.
Non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed on Jan. 10, allowing teams to waive players signed to those deals beforehand without any financial consequence. Beginning on Jan. 5, NBA teams can sign players on 10-day contracts. And until Jan. 15, NBA teams can sign players to two-way deals, which would allow them to spend up 45 days with the NBA and the rest of the time with its G-League team.
In other words, the Warriors may be willing to resign McCaw after the calendar year.
“It’s all fluid,” Myers said before referring to the various deadlines in January. “I wouldn’t put any hard deadline on that.”
• It remains undetermined when DeMarcus Cousins can advance to oncourt drills
Despite his ongoing progress with his rehab from a left Achilles tendon that has sidelined him since late January, the Warriors do not yet know when he will participate in contact drills.
“We’re literally taking it week-by-week, but he’s ramping up conditioning aspect of it,” Kerr said. That’s a good sign.”
Thus far, Cousins has advanced to non-contact drills as well as soft contact in games of two-of-two and three-on-three. Cousins has also completed fullcourt non-contact drills to accelerate his conditioning.
“It’s tough enough for anybody to come back from a nine- to 10-month injury, but especially a big guy that carries a lot of size and weight,” Kerr said of the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins. “It’s tough to get that conditioning and movement back. He’s spending a lot of time on that.”
LeBron James is surrounded by Kevin Durant, left, and Andre Iguodala in his first game against the Warriors as a Laker.
Kevin Durant works against the Lakers’ Josh Hart during Wednesday’s exhibition in Las Vegas.
Stephen Curry flips up a shot over former teammate JaVale McGee, now playing for the Lakers.