LOS ANGELES — The all-new Big Three of the Lakers made their preseason debut on Tuesday in a 111-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors. And while the result of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first time together in court was another defeat to drop LA’s record to 0-5 in the exhibition schedule, the post-game message echoed by the stars was one that asked for patience but radiated positivity.
“It’s going to take a while before we become the team we know we can be,” said James, who netted 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 6 turnovers. “We’ll have moments where we’re not quite right. We can take steps backwards. But that’s all part of… I think nothing’s worth it if it’s not worth working for.”
Westbrook, who made his way to the Lakers in the off-season by convincing the Washington Wizards to strike a deal, looked the best he’s had yet in purple and gold—which isn’t saying much, considering he’s 4 together. -for- lap. 19 with 16 converting in his first two outings. But his speed on the open field, flanked by so much talent, will make all the difference this season.
“We had some good sprints,” Westbrook said after finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 turnovers. “Obviously it’s the first game. But there are some good things we can take out of it. … We can be encouraged a little bit.”
For James, who goes into the season looking for a fifth ring that would match his career tally with those of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, moral victories mean little. Still, the 19-year veteran vowed to lead his group through the nascent stages.
“As a leader, it’s my job for myself not to get frustrated,” he said. “If I don’t get frustrated I think it seeps through to everyone. I’ve never been one to be okay with not being excellent. But I understand things take time too. The most important thing is to stay calm during whatever comes happens to our ball club, we’ll be fine.”
Davis was more than fine against Golden State, leading the Lakers by 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was encouraged by his first glimpse of LA’s new look lineup with him from the 5, along with James, Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore.
“We’ve seen great things with me, Bron and Russ in action,” Davis said. “There are endless possibilities, the things that we can perform and that we can do. … And while there were good things, there are many things that we can do better.”
The Lakers will wrap up the preseason on Thursday on the road against the Sacramento Kings and have a week until the regular season starts, back at home against the Warriors.
There’s a lot more work to do before the Lakers get close to a finished product, starting with getting all their players healthy. Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) is expected to miss a minimum of two months; Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb operation) is out for about a month; and Kendrick Nunn (right ankle) and Wayne Ellington (left hamstring) were both out on Tuesday, along with Malik Monk (groin), who will be out for about another week.
“So, if these guys aren’t playing, how can we record them?” said Davis. “So we haven’t had our full team where we can look at every detail, but it’s looking good so far.”
With an 82-game season set to begin for a group that ultimately only cares about 16 wins from April to June, time is on the side of the Lakers.
“It could be a whole year before we’re really at our best, and ideally we’re at our best — we’re going into the playoffs,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “But we have the mentality to get off to a quick start and come out of the gates really strong while things click as best we can. … But it’s fair to think there will be some bumpy nights early in the season , but we had the expectation in two years ago and we jumped out of the gates pretty strong. So that’s what we’re hoping for.”