LOS ANGELES – At the end of his 19th NBA season, Carmelo Anthony belongs to a new team, but he has the same ambitions: to win his first championship. In that regard, he’s not alone on the Los Angeles Lakers, a collection of giants that will be one of the league’s most curious experiments.
“We have a lot more experience to think about this team than anything else,” Anthony said. “But it all takes time.”
After a no-win preseason, the Lakers will officially move on Tuesday night when they play their season opener against the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that has gone about its business in a decidedly different way lately. .
While the Lakers have been a tear-down project — LeBron James, who signed with the team in 2018, is the longest-serving player on the roster — Golden State has been busy remodeling while retaining its not-so-essential core . The distant championship era, all in the hope of staging a revival with the help of some new pieces.
two teams. two perspectives. And an early-season, but much-anticipated, litmus test at the Staples Center on the feasibility of each.
“I think we’ll be ready,” Anthony said. “you can feel it.”
Warrior – remember them? – Driving it back with Stephen Curry, Drummond Green and, eventually, Klay Thompson, whom the team expects to return by the end of December or early January, as he missed the last two seasons with injuries. Thompson tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 final, then tore his right Achilles tendon last November.
“It wouldn’t have worked without kale,” Curry said in an interview last week. “So there’s definitely anticipation. And we think we’ll have three seasons this year: this first chapter until he comes back, reunites him in the fold, and then follows the playoff stretch. So There’s a lot to look forward to.”
Without Thompson – and largely without Curry, who broke his arm and missed all five games – Golden State hibernated through the 2019-20 season, ending with the worst record in the league. Last season, as the team continued to prepare prospects like 2019 first-round draft pick Jordan Poole and G-League exit Juan Toscano-Andersen, the Warriors went 39-33.
Now the Golden State is almost complete. And the team has welcomed the reappearance of a familiar figure: André Iguodala, a lead in the team’s five straight trips to the finals from 2015 to 2019, which produced three championships.
“We’ve built something special here,” said Iguodala, who joined Golden State after spending most of the last two seasons with the Miami Heat.
While Iguodala was gone, the Golden State experienced its share of unrest. But the franchise maintained a sense of stability. Curry and Green were still around. Thompson will be back at some point. And Steve Kerr, now entering his eighth season as coach of the team, was at the helm. The pieces were there. It will take some time for them all to come back together again.
“Our expectations are definitely higher this year than we have been in years past,” said Kerr, whose team was leading 5-0 in the preseason. “It’s a really fun group to coach.”
The Lakers will play under an even brighter spotlight this summer after overhauling their roster (again). They signed Anthony, traded for Russell Westbrook and acquired stalwarts such as Kent Bezmore, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, while most of their personnel were dropped from the previous season. Several role-playing players went from their championship run in 2020: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavius Caldwell-Pope.
The Lakers aren’t big on consistency, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice draft picks and younger players for name-brand stars of a certain vintage. If there is an urgency, it stems largely from the fact that James is 36 and has struggled with injuries in recent years. No athlete can function at the height of their powers forever, not even James. And so the Lakers have now gone about mortgaging their future in search of another championship – if they can create chemistry in short order while avoiding more health problems.
“I think our basketball IQ, our talent and our skill will, for the most part, get us there,” Anthony said, “and then, the harmony of being together and playing together will take us to the top. We understand where we want to be and where we’re going, but we’re not there yet.”
The team has acknowledged that this will be a work in progress. As James said before the start of training camp, “I don’t think it will be like peanut butter and jelly to start the season.”
Any mention of Precision Basketball should come with the disclaimer that the games are pretty much meaningless. But the Lakers went 0-6, which was enough to raise some important questions: Is this a hodgepodge roster? Can such an old team withstand the rigors of an 82-game regular season? And, perhaps most important, can Westbrook and James, the two ball-key players, coexist in a productive way?
Team coach Frank Vogel said he had no such concerns.
“It’s definitely hard to get a 15-plus-year-old vet to be completely serious about precision,” he said.
For his part, James said Monday that he had made a full recovery from the ankle injury that slowed him down at the end of last season — “I didn’t do much basketball for the first two months of the summer,” He said – and he was ready for a fresh start, coming up against an opponent who, unlike the Lakers, hopes to reach his past.