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Lakers experiment with lineup in preseason loss to Kings

The Lakers fans who were in their seats before the opening tip knew without any doubt three of the names they’d hear in the starting lineup.

It has been that way since the Lakers’ traded for Russell Westbrook. Health-willing, he’d hear his name called along with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But the other two spots? Not only were they open, they’d offer a serious glimpse into the team’s philosophy for the upcoming season.

In the Lakers’ final preseason game Thursday, those fans cheered for DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore alongside the three stars in what coach Frank Vogel called the team’s “hybrid” lineup.

James led the Lakers with 30 points, Westbrook had 18 and Carmelo Anthony scored 15 off the bench. Davis struggled, scoring 14 points on five-for-18 shooting in the team’s 116-112 loss to the Kings.

Vogel hasn’t made any public declarations about his starting five heading into the season other than saying that he’d like to have a consistent group on the floor to start games.

“We’re likely gonna settle hopefully into a consistent starting lineup, but we just want to give it a few different looks in the preseason,” Vogel said Wednesday, a day after it was Anthony (and not Jordan) with the starters.

None of the groups Vogel used this preseason could score the team a win, though. The team went 0-6, its first winless preseason since 2012. That team got off to a 1-4 start before it made a coaching change.

No one is panicking quite like that this time, everyone seemingly comfortable with the idea that things were going to take a little time.

“We’re looking for cohesion as quickly as possible,” Vogel said pregame. “And we’re pushing our guys to be committed to getting that stuff fast tracked.”

When talking about lineups such as the one he used Thursday against the Kings, Vogel has often referenced the Lakers’ 2019-20 championship season.

Sacramento Kings center Tristan Thompson guards Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.
Sacramento Kings center Tristan Thompson guards Lakers guard Russell Westbrook during the first quarter of a preseason game in Sacramento Thursday. (Randall Benton / Associated Press)

On Thursday, he gave a strong clue that if the Lakers do indeed start a traditional center, it will be Jordan with Dwight Howard off the bench.

“One of the strengths of our team two years ago when Dwight was here was how much he punished backup centers and backup lineups. There’s a lot of smallball with second units now and we really just moved the needle with how effective he was in second units,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game. “And it’s something we liked with this year’s team and DeAndre filling that JaVale [McGee] role of coming in and setting the tone with his lob catching and shot blocking with the first unit.”

In six first-quarter minutes with the starters Thursday, Jordan had six rebounds and a block before sitting for the rest of the half. James scored 19, Davis had 14 and Westbrook scored 13 in the first half of the team’s final dress rehearsal.

Not their Buddy

The Lakers played the Kings for the first time since that wild day during the offseason when the team nearly acquired Sacramento guard Buddy Hield.

The Lakers, of course, eventually ended up with Westbrook.

Hield came off the bench for the Kings on Thursday, with coach Luke Walton starting De’Aaron Fox and Tyreese Haliburton. Hield scored 13 points in 24 minutes.

Notes

The Lakers were again without Kendrick Nunn, Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk because of injuries. Vogel said Monk has continued to go through on-court work as he recovers from a groin injury, and Ellington was able to do strength

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