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Nets open up preseason slate against Lakers ... without stars

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Hello, hello! It’s preseason time and all eyes are on the two teams we’ll be watching Sunday. The Brooklyn Nets have huge goals for this season and as they begin action, they will look to iron some things out, keep everyone healthy, and develop the good habits that will get them their first NBA Championship.

The opponent today will be the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Nets, LA is looking pretty different these days after a busy summer. If everything goes right and the television execs have their dreams come true, they and the Nets will be meeting in the NBA Finals. LONG way to go before we get to that point, tho.

Where to follow the game

The game was added to NBA TV schedule on Saturday. YES Network app also has the game. Tip is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Injuries

The Nets will be without seven players: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Joe Harris, Patty Mills and James Johnson. No one is injured, but Nets prioritizing conditioning.

LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza aren’t playing either.

Combined that means the only one of the six players who make up the two teams’ respective “Big Threes” will be on the court: Anthony Davis of L.A. and him for only one quarter.

The game

We’re starting on a somber note. Los Angeles Clippers video assistant Assane Drame passed away on Monday night after a car accident. The tributes poured in as Assane was someone who was loved by everyone who knew and worked with him.

On behalf of all of us here, sending love and light to Assane’s family, friends, loved ones, and colleagues.

The last time the Nets and Lakers played in a preseason game, it was 2019 in China and both teams got caught up in an international controversy thanks to Daryl Morey and his deleted tweet! It’s 2021 and surely there isn’t anything divisive in the news that will take away from the game (pause here for a hearty laugh.)

No, not quite! If Nash hadn’t ruled out Kyrie Irving, he could’ve played in this game as the city of Los Angeles isn’t requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for athletes and entertainers to perform, unlike New York and San Francisco.

Irving, of course, isn’t vaccinated and try as he might, it’s something he and the team will have to deal with all season long, or at least until he’s fully vaccinated. Irving has (rightfully) been getting lit up for not being vaccinated and flying too close to the anti-vax Sun, so I wonder if he’ll be doing any postgame with the media after this one wraps up. The Nets will fly home Sunday and likely practice on Tuesday. Unless he’s unvaccinated, he won’t be able to practice, play in Friday’s home preseason opener vs. Milwaukee or participate in Saturday’s Practice in the Park. (He and his godfather Rod Strickland are running a basketball camp in The Bronx Saturday, per an announcement posted two days ago.)

To their credit, the Lakers are fully vaccinated, even if Kent Bazemore wasn’t feeling the “energy” around it. Whatever works.

After this, the Lakers head to Phoenix to play the Suns. And thankfully, it appears that they’ll be the early game while the Phoenix Mercury rightfully get their home gym for primetime in their playoff matchup against the Las Vegas Aces. It did appear to be in doubt as the Mercury had to move their previous two playoff games to another location. It’s wild that it was even a question if the NBA would move over to accommodate their peers in the WNBA. The NBA can and should do more to support the W.

With it being preseason, we’re not gonna these teams show much. Steve Nash said he expects LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap to play some minutes and Anthony Davis will get one quarter of work before taking the rest of the day off. So expect to see the Nets young players get a lot of burn, starting with Nic Claxton, of course.

Someone who wowed Nets fans in Summer League was Cam Thomas, and he’ll get a good opportunity to get some work in. Thomas is someone who is looking to break through and earn a spot in a crowded Brooklyn rotation. Some strong showings in preseason might help him reach that goal. Expect three other members of the SL team to get look-see minutes: Day’Ron Sharpe, David Duke Jr. and Kessler Edwards, the Nets sole two-way so far. Nash called him “an NBA defender.” Edwards, at a rangy 6’8” is seen as a 3-and-D possibility down the line. He hit 40 percent of his three’s at Pepperdine.

There are other players fighting for jobs as well. One of Brooklyn’s new guys, Sekou Doumbouya, will look to make an impression and break into the rotation. After some rough seasons in Detroit with the Pistons, the third year player will look to break through on the Nets. At 6’8, he gives them some more frontcourt size, which always comes in handy for a team like the Nets that tends to downsize some. Devontae Cacok, similar in size to Doumbouya, played the last two years with the Lakers and is fighting for a two-way. He could get some minutes.

And other the side of the gym, there’ll be DeAndre Jordan, playing his first game since May 8 when Steve Nash benched him. DJ signed for the vets minimum after being first traded to the Pistons, then cut, He says there’s no bitterness between him and the Nets.

“No, I don’t care about that,” he said after Saturday’s practice. “I got a lot of love for those guys over there. So I’m not thinking about ‘Oh, I should’ve stayed.’ I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about where I’m at now and my focus is here with this group of guys.”

Player to watch: Nicolas Claxton

How the Nets manage their frontcourt rotation will be one of the most interesting decisions Steve Nash will make this season. Nash has to figure out how to get Nicolas Claxton, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin the minutes they need so they can all contribute. As the youngest guy out the bunch, Claxton will provide an extra burst of energy and a switchability that may not be present with the other bigs. He had his season derailed a bit last season thanks to a shoulder issue, then a COVID diagnosis. So hopefully he won’t have to deal with that again. With the real games starting in a few weeks, we’ll gradually start to figure out how the coaching staff will figure this out.

Steve Nash has assigned Kyle Korver, the Nets newest basketball development assistant, to work with Clax on both his free throws and outside shooting. Look for success there as well.

The Lakers frontcourt situation is pretty interesting as well. Davis mentioned during Media Day that he’s down to playing center more this season, which can unlock another level for the Lakers. In the past, Davis has stated his preference for playing the power forward, so if he’s all in at being the 5 more often, watch out, NBA. In the meantime, Frank Vogel will look to figure out the rest of the center minutes. Our old friend, DeAndre Jordan is back in LA, except he’s rocking Lakers colors instead of Clippers ones.

From the Vault

High stakes basketball will be taking place today as the WNBA Playoffs roll on. Los Angeles Sparks will see some old friends of theirs in action as Candace Parker will play in the early game with her Chicago Sky against the Connecticut Sun and Chelsea Gray will be with her Las Vegas Aces in the second game as they face the Phoenix Mercury. Once upon a time, they were with the Sparks and made magic happen

More reading: Silver Screen and Roll