NBA preseason opener: Lakers vs Nets



Griffin Traylor, Sports Editor

The Los Angeles Lakers opened the NBA preseason against the Brooklyn Nets on Oct. 3. 

With this being a preseason match, both teams decided to sit their starters. Despite this, Lakers fans came out in droves to the Staples Center in anticipation of the new and improved Lakers’ lineup. Los Angeles only retained three players from their previous season: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker. The Lakers also brought back five former players including Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington. 

The first game gave LA fans a chance to see the new and former players back in action without, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza. Malik Monk used this opportunity to show his worth for the Lakers coaching staff as a viable option at shooting guard. Monk ended the game with a Lakers high 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting with 3 of 6 from deep. Although Monk’s defense appeared to need work, his offensive performance was reliable and efficient. 

Anthony Davis was the only Lakers star who retained a starting role in the game playing only 11 minutes, ending his time with 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting. With this being a preseason game, it is hard to fault Davis for his shooting performance coming off a season with considerable time missed due to injury. 

The Brooklyn Nets benched all their stars including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. The Nets lost game 7 of last year’s playoffs in a overtime match with Irving and Harden absent. Durant was last seen in the Tokyo Olympics where he was a major factor in the USA gold medal performance. Despite not having their big three, Nets fans were poised to watch new additions to the team, including Paul Millsap and a returning LaMarcus Aldridge. 

Millsap showed to be a savvy veteran on the court with some of the young stars dropping 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting with 2 of 4 from long distance. Combining that with 10 rebounds, this gave Millsap a double-double midway through the third quarter. Aldridge played a similar game to Anthony Davis dropping 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting. Despite the poor shooting performance, Aldridge showed that he is still capable of contributing in the NBA even after his retirement, when doctors detected an irregular heartbeat in the April 10 loss to these same Lakers at Barclays Center. 

The star of the game was rookie shooting guard, Cam Thomas of the Nets. Thomas dropped 21 points on 7 of 14 shooting and 6 of 7 from the charity stripe in his NBA debut against the Lakers. The Nets picked up Thomas with the 27 pick in the first round of the 2021 draft looking to give a spark to their second team. The young star proved his worth carrying the Nets to a 123-97 blowout over the Lakers in front of 16,000 fans. 

“Cam can score,” said Nets Head Coach Steve Nash. ‘We know he’s a guy that can get to his shot and make shots.”

Thomas did all of this while being primarily defended by Wayne Ellington who is regarded as a solid defensive player. 

“Cam’s a scorer,” Nash said. “He’s got a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do, but he starts with a lot of ability. I’m not surprised. He has that type of talent and game, just got to continue to develop him and teach him and get him up to speed with the NBA game.”

Thomas, who is only two weeks away from turning 20 years old, had both the co-MVP and top scorer in the Las Vegas Summer League, although this was against other draft picks and undrafted players hoping to one day make a roster. Thomas showed out in his first game against seasoned vets, though it was only preseason which is known for almost All-Star level hustle, as players avoid injury, the scoring output from him was something kin to his Summer League performance. 

“Scoring is scoring,” Thomas said after his debut. “I don’t know why people always think stuff can’t translate. Scoring is scoring. If you can score, you can score. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. Me and Kyrie have been talking a lot, talking about little stuff. So I’m trying to take from him as much as I can because it can help me in the long run.”

At LSU, Thomas put up big numbers, averaging 23 points per game. Thomas now holds the fourth-highest scoring average for a first-year player on the LSU team topped only by Pete Maravich as a sophomore in 1967-68 (43.8), Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf as a freshman in 1988-89 (30.2) and Bob Pettit as a sophomore in 1951-52 (25.5). Thomas also proved to be surgical from the free throw line, leading the SEC in free throw percentage at 88.2 percent (194-of-220) and setting an LSU school record with 42 consecutive makes at the free throw line. 

Fans in Los Angeles showed their excitement to be back in Staples Center, staying the entire game despite the obvious loss. 

Chants from fans to beloved Dwight Howard rained through Staples Center, “TWO BLOCKS.” This comes from a social media post by Howard, claiming that star Lebron James made a deal with him, stating that for every two blocks he gets he will be able to take a 3-pointer. Howard is a career 15.9 percent 3-point shooter, explaining the altimatum by James and excitement from a crowd who was watching a blowout. 

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said the loss helped him see new lineups available for the team. Vogel said overall the defensive presence of Howard with rim protection was impressive but claims the 17 assists by the Lakers shows a need to pass for the team. 

Vogel also commended Davis for willing and requesting to play despite the game not counting for the teams regular season record. Speaking again on Howards play, Vogal added that regardless of fouls his presence improves the entire teams physicality. The Lakers overall lost the rebounding battle with the final tally sitting at 54-41 in favor of the Nets. 

“I thought there was a lot of teachable moments you know, a lot of positives we can reinforce and a lot of negatives that need to be cleaned up so it was still a very productive day for us,” said Vogel in his post-game interview. 

Lakers only big-three starter in the game, Anthony Davis, shared his thoughts on the team after playing 11 minutes.  

“We are way behind, getting movement on offense, quality shots, you know defensively talking getting out schemes right, rebounding very huge we are not boxing out,” Davis said. “That was the main takeaway you know, offense will come we are not really to worried about it you know especially when we get Bron, Mello, TA, Russ out there, it was just a first game to see where we are and we have got to do a better job defensively, especially boxing out.”

Even with the loss, the Lakers organization seemed in high spirits for the upcoming season. 

As fans, not much weight can be placed on preseason match-ups for regular-season outcomes. With the Nets and Lakers rosters now almost completely changing, both are set for a preseason focused on secondary players showing there worth to each teams big three lineups.

The preseason is typically a place for role players to help coaching staff set rotations and both are sure to have takeaways from this game. Brooklyn’s Cam Thomas and Lakers Malik Monk both showed an urge to enter a lineup with stars in the near future playing their roles effectively. Regardless of starters, the Nets vs Lakers game was one for fans and coaches to catch a glimpse of players who will most likely be overshadowed in the regular season. 

For those NBA die-hard fans, this postseason will be packed with endless lineup changes and unexpected performances in the drastically different team rosters even outside of LA and Brooklyn. 

The NBA season will officially begin on Oct. 19 when the Brooklyn Nets face off against the defending NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.