Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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Five takeaways on the Los Angeles Lakers’ 128-119 road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the season-opener for both teams Thursday.
1. It’s one game, and you can’t get a good feel for anything with such a sliver of a sample size. But the one thing that stood out to me most was this: The Lakers looked were pretty doggone good when LeBron James was in the game … and not very good when he left. That makes them not much different than last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
2. Not to overdo it on the comparisons, but I’d rather have Kevin Love than anyone on the Lakers. At least, I would for this season. Brandon Ingram could be really good. He’s actually good now, a fantastic athlete who can get to the basket. But the young man can’t shoot. In fact, I’m not sure anyone on the Lakers can. They missed their first FIFTEEN 3-pointers, before finishing 7-of-30 for the game. James went 0-of-4 on threes, Ingram went 0-of-4 and Kyle Kuzma was 1-of-7. Clank, clank and triple clank.
3. No team with JaVale McGee as the starting center is going very far. It’s just not. And I write that after McGee (13 points, 5-of-6 shooting) played well. But there’s a reason the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors were more than willing to let him walk in free agency.
4. I can’t help but wonder how long it will take LeBron to get tired of all the youth. He was always OK with a COUPLE of young players in Cleveland, but he likes veterans who have won, or at least have experience in big moments. Rajon Rondo (13 points, 11 assists), Lance Stephenson and even McGee meet that criteria. I honestly believe it’s just a matter of time before the Lakers trade a Kuzma (15 points) or a Josh Hart (20), or both, for an older star.
5. We all know LeBron loves Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, and it’s undoubtedly easy to see why. Lillard came alive when he always does — when his team needs him the most, in the fourth quarter. Lillard overwhelmed Rondo and the Lakers’ younger guards, driving, drawing fouls and scoring 28 points. Unfortunately for James, the Lakers have no one who would interest the Blazers in return for their star. Lillard is a fan favorite and likes playing in Portland. He’s not going anywhere.
Bonus Takeaway: The Lakers are flashier and probably faster, but I see no reason to believe they’re any better than last season’s Cavs. (Or even this season’s Cavs, for that matter.) But if James left for LA to build his brand, then he made the right call. Unlike his time in Cleveland, the national media is already fawning all over him.
Double Bonus Takeaway: It will be interesting to see if the positive narrative stays the same if the Lakers finish sixth or seventh in the West, “at best,” as Charles Barkley predicted on TNT. This isn’t intended to rip LeBron, by the way. He remains an absolute force, scoring 26 points, throwing down a few monster jams and grabbing 12 rebounds. He makes the game a true joy to watch. The Lakers also do have some promise. There is no doubting that. But I still can’t figure out why LeBron decided to end his streak of getting to the Finals. Because as phenomenal as he is, that’s over.