LeBron James and Anthony Davis will sit out of Friday’s preseason opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, head coach Frank Vogel announced Thursday. The decision isn’t exactly surprising. The Lakers played Game 6 of the NBA Finals less than two months ago, and thanks to the league’s desire to return to its typical schedule, the 30 teams are dealing with the shortest offseason in NBA history. Keeping James and Davis fresh will be paramount as the Lakers try to defend their championship.
Vogel also indicated that final determinations have not yet been made on some of the Lakers’ new players. The team has five new faces this season: Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Wes Matthews Jr., Dennis Schroder and Alfonzo McKinnie. As training camp has just started, it is unclear how far along any of them are in adjusting to the Lakers’ scheme, or how well conditioned they are.
With so many players possibly missing Friday’s game, it could serve as a showcase for some of the younger Lakers fighting for minutes. Second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker is expected to play a bigger role on this year’s roster, and two-way contract returnees Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetkounmpo will both need to spend time with the NBA roster as it copes with the shortened offseason and possible COVID-related absences.
Ultimately, the Lakers simply don’t have much reason to take the preseason seriously. They’re a defending champion led by a former MVP that has won plenty of road playoff games. They can take their time jelling, and even if that costs them wins in the short-term, maintaining the health of their best players maximizes their chances of winning in the long-term.