The team opened their preseason with a loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 108-99. While the Lakers could not come out with the victory, they did manage to get four players into double figures, with rookie forward Kyle Kuzma leading the way with 19 points.
Point guards Lonzo Ball and Tyler Ennis each contributed eight assists in the contest, but the good ball movement was not enough. This youthful roster will take some time to develop the relationships needed on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.
Games two and three were also losses for the Lakers, this time at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. The second game was played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but the team could still not pull off a win and lost, 113-107.
Kuzma was again the bright spot in this game, coming off the bench and leading his team in scoring with 23 points. Newcomer, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 points from his shooting guard position but his fellow 2017 roster addition, Brook Lopez, sat out for his second straight game.
The third preseason game was slated to have one of the best atmospheres for any preseason game ever. Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California was the site of the game and is only about a 20 minute drive from the Ball’s hometown of Chino Hills, California.
Rarely do exhibition games live up to what they are hyped as and this was no different. Second-overall pick and hometown hero, Ball, did not play due to a sore ankle and the Lakers lost the game, 122-104. The loss marked the third in a row for the team and showed how much work is still ahead of the young and talented team.
Second-year forward Brandon Ingram and recently signed, center Andrew Bogut joined Ball and Lopez on the bench for game three, giving the coaching staff a chance to evaluate some players who had not gotten as much of a look this preseason.
Julius Randle came off the bench in the fourth game and dominated in a 75-69 win over the Sacramento Kings. The fourth year player had 17 points and 10 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Coach Walton has been experimenting with new front-court pairings and it seems like the Larry Nance Jr., Lopez and Randle, Kuzma pairings are working nicely.
Kuzma, again, was right near the top of the Lakers’ score sheet. The former Ute notched 15 points, good enough for second on the team behind Randle. Guard Jordan Clarkson and Lopez also got into double figures.
The team could not keep the momentum rolling as the Utah Jazz came to town and lost the game 105-99. The Lakers had four players score in double-figures and two-way contract player Alex Caruso dished out 10 assists, but it was not enough.
The sixth and final game of the preseason gave people a taste of what opening night would look like in Los Angeles. The Lakers beat the Clippers 111-104 on Friday night and even though 13 players sat out between the two teams, the game still served as a good practice for new teammates.
Lopez, who was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets this off-season, had his best night so far in a Lakers’ uniform. The veteran big-man led the team in scoring with 16 points and hit two of his three-point attempts. Ingram and Randle each chipped in 15 points to help the Lakers finish the preseason strong.
While the team did not want to start the preseason the way that they did this year, they might have found a future start in their 27th overall pick, Kuzma. The rookie, late first-round pick has averaged 17.3 points per game throughout his first preseason after making people take notice by lighting up the Summer League.
What is more important is that the Lakers received the 27th pick from the Nets as part of the trade for Lopez. While the team did have to give up an important asset in D’Angelo Russell, they were able to get back an All-Star center in Lopez and get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s horrific contract in the process.
Even though Kuzma is slotted to be a back up at the three or the four, his versatility and shot-making abilities will make it impossible to deny him minutes. If he continues his ascension, the Lakers’ front office could have gotten the steal of the 2017 draft and their trade looks better each and every day.
Ball, Kuzma and the rest of the Lakers will open their regular season with a home game at Staples Center against the Clippers on Thursday, October 19th at 7:30 PM.