The fans of the Los Angeles Lakers are chomping at the bit like a pack of ravenous, rabid wolves.
First, they got Anthony Davis in a modified version of the trade that former New Orleans general manager Dell Demps refused to trigger last spring.
Now, they’ve gotten to see Davis in action for 18 minutes paired with LeBron James and suddenly the 2019-20 NBA Champion Lakers are going 82-0.
“I can’t see anyone in the league beating this team,” crowed one anonymous fan on social media this morning, hours after the Lakers snuffed the Golden State Warriors, 123-101.
While it’s doubtful the Lakers are going to replace the modern-era Warriors as the Western Conference poster child right away, they showed last night they are going to be a pretty dangerous team when the NBA season kicks off on October 22nd.
James and Davis combined for 37 points in their modest showing; Davis had 22, going nine-for-16, and King James hit for 15 on 50 percent shooting.
The impressive things were how well the team flowed in their first official game together, not just AD and LeBron; but how well they got others involved.
Troy Daniels went for 14, Devontae Cacok – rocking Dwight Howard’s old Laker jersey (#12) – hit for 11 off the deep end of the pre-season roster, and JaVale McGee and Alex Caruso drummed up 10 points each. McGee also snagged 13 rebounds.
Howard – now No. 39 – went nine and nine in 18 minutes.
But, it’s pre-season game No. 1 … and it’s not like the Golden State Warriors are the Golden State Warriors from the last five years.
Gone is Kevin Durant, via free agency. Out is Klay Thompson, until at least the All-Star Break … maybe a tad longer.
Others have departed as well – DeMarcus Cousins tried to hitch a ride on the Lakers’ bandwagon, but got bit by karma, while Quinn Cook did in fact latch onto James’ coattails. Shaun Livingston and his bionic knee have retired, Andre Iguodala is in limbo elsewhere – just not in Memphis, and Jordan Bell will try and find his fortunes in Minnesota, a team Golden State faces this Thursday.
So you have a rebuilt cast of characters debuting in the brand new Chase Center last night.
Stephen Curry put up 18 in his 18 minutes, Jordan Poole chipped in 17 more, and Eric Paschall added 11. I know, I know, I know … it was like watching the Chicago Bulls in the Pete Myers era for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
After watching Curry and D’Angelo Russell hit three after three after three in a shooting practice drill, I was expecting a little bit more from Russell than four points. Maybe someone in the Golden State locker room has a recording of why he tanked so bad in his Warriors debut?
No shows included Draymond Green, Alec Burks, Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein.
But it’s just Game One of the pre-season.
In the end, I think L.A. has a lot more in its tank than just James and Davis. I’ve said for the last few years that LeBron James’ legacy isn’t going to match Michael Jordan’s statistic for statistic, no more than Jordan did Bill Russell’s.
However, from a leadership standpoint, James’ legacy may be that he makes people around him better. He reaches the ears, hearts and minds of the youth, the next generation of cagers. He is an elder statesman, believe it or not.
Never mind that he’s building schools and keeping an open dialogue about societal happenings and leading urban youth to the proper mindset.
The Lakers have a gem, despite the fact that they only won 37 games last year (34 with LeBron as I predicted pre-season a year ago). They have the mentor they need and if all goes well this season, they have their future in Anthony Davis (despite the fact that AD has said he’s playing the free agency market again next summer).
I think he stays in L.A. and that the Lakers finish in the Top Five in the West this year with at least 52 wins.
And dare I say it, they may just best that team across the Staples Center … again … barring injury.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Thursday, October 10th – 7 a.m. EDT – Mercedes Benz Arena – Shanghai, China
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Golden State Warriors
Thursday, October 10th – 10 pm EDT – Chase Center – San Francisco, California
Tracy Graven is a Senior Analyst for BackSportsPage.com. He has written the NBA for the last two decades and is tackling the NFL, NCAA, and pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage. He’s spent time in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City. He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife and five children. Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia
***Watch for my daily NBA column, The Rundown w/T-Money, beginning October 23, 2019***