LOS ANGELES — On the cusp of his nineteenth N.B.A. season, Carmelo Anthony belongs to a brand new staff however harbors the identical ambitions: successful his first championship. In that regard, he’s not alone on the Los Angeles Lakers, a group of veterans who will kind one of many league’s most curious experiments.
“We’ve an excessive amount of expertise on this staff to assume something aside from we’ll determine it out,” Anthony mentioned. “But it surely all takes time.”
After a winless preseason, the Lakers will get getting in an official capability on Tuesday evening, once they play their season opener in opposition to the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that has just lately gone about its enterprise in a decidedly completely different method.
Whereas the Lakers have been a tear-down undertaking — LeBron James, who signed with the staff in 2018, is the longest-tenured participant on the roster — Golden State has been busy transforming whereas protecting intact the important core from its not-so-distant championship period, all within the hope of staging a resurrection with the assistance of some new items.
Two groups. Two approaches. And an early-season, however much-anticipated, litmus take a look at at Staples Heart on the viability of every.
“I believe we’ll be prepared,” Anthony mentioned. “You possibly can really feel it.”
The Warriors — keep in mind them? — are operating it again with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and, finally, Klay Thompson, whom the staff expects to return by late December or early January after he missed the previous two seasons with accidents. Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee within the 2019 finals, then ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon final November.
“It doesn’t work with out Klay,” Curry mentioned in an interview final week. “So there’s undoubtedly anticipation. And we really feel like we’ll have three seasons in a single this yr: this primary chapter till he will get again, reintegrating him into the fold, after which the playoff chase down the stretch. So there’s a lot to look forward to.”
With out Thompson — and largely with out Curry, who broke his hand and missed all however 5 video games — Golden State hibernated by means of the 2019-20 season, ending with the worst record in the league. Final season, because the staff continued to groom prospects like Jordan Poole, a first-round draft decide in 2019, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, who got here out of the G League, the Warriors went 39-33.
Now Golden State is sort of entire. And the staff has welcomed the reappearance of a well-recognized determine: Andre Iguodala, a key cog within the staff’s 5 straight journeys to the finals, from 2015 to 2019, which produced three championships.
“We constructed one thing particular right here,” mentioned Iguodala, who has rejoined Golden State after spending many of the previous two seasons with the Miami Warmth.
Whereas Iguodala was gone, Golden State skilled its share of turbulence. However the franchise maintained a way of stability. Curry and Inexperienced have been nonetheless round. Thompson could be again in some unspecified time in the future. And Steve Kerr, now getting into his eighth season because the staff’s coach, was on the helm. The items have been there. It will simply take a while for all of them to coalesce once more.
“Our expectations are undoubtedly increased this yr than they’ve been the final couple of years,” mentioned Kerr, whose staff went 5-0 within the preseason. “It’s a extremely enjoyable group to educate.”
The Lakers will likely be taking part in underneath an excellent brighter highlight after overhauling their roster (once more) this summer time. They signed Anthony, traded for Russell Westbrook and purchased veterans like Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo whereas jettisoning the majority of their personnel from final season. Gone are most of the function gamers from their championship run in 2020: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Lakers will not be large on continuity, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice draft picks and younger gamers for name-brand stars of a sure classic. If there’s urgency, it stems largely from the truth that James is 36 and has struggled with injuries lately. No athlete can function on the top of his powers without end, not even James. And so the Lakers have gone about mortgaging their future in pursuit of one other championship now — if they will create chemistry briefly order whereas avoiding extra well being issues.
“I believe our basketball I.Q., our expertise and our talent will, for probably the most half, get us there,” Anthony mentioned, “after which, the cohesiveness of being collectively and taking part in collectively will take us excessive. We perceive the place we wish to be and the place we’re going to be, however we’re not there but.”
The staff has acknowledged that it will likely be a piece in progress. As James put it earlier than the beginning of coaching camp, “I don’t assume it’s going to be like peanut butter and jelly to begin the season.”
Any point out of preseason basketball ought to come back with the disclaimer that the video games are pretty meaningless. However the Lakers did go 0-6, which was sufficient to boost some essential questions: Is that this a hodgepodge roster? Can a staff this outdated stand up to the trials of an 82-game common season? And, maybe most essential, can Westbrook and James, two ball-dominant gamers, coexist in a productive way?
Frank Vogel, the staff’s coach, mentioned he had no such considerations.
“There’s undoubtedly a willingness for these guys to share and sacrifice,” he mentioned, including, “It’s powerful to get 15-plus-year vets to be utterly severe concerning the preseason.”
For his half, James mentioned Monday that he had totally recovered from the ankle damage that slowed him towards the tip of final season — “I didn’t do a lot basketball for the primary two months of the summer time,” he mentioned — and that he was prepared for a contemporary begin, one that may come in opposition to an opponent that, in contrast to the Lakers, hopes to achieve into its previous.