Star forward Kawhi Leonard waited a quarter-and-half to make his first NBA appearance in more than a year, but he said the wait didn’t bother him.
“It was long but I waited 82 games last year,” Leonard said, via Kyle Goon of the LA Daily News. “So I didn’t think 15 minutes would be that long.”
Leonard finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 21 minutes. That included a big basket near the end to seal the win vs. the rival Lakers.
“My goal was to try to be great in my minutes,” Leonard said. “Have fun, obviously stay healthy and win the basketball game. We did that tonight. Just the first game, though. We’ve got a lot to go.”
- Tyronn Lue improved to 8-0 vs. the Lakers since becoming Clippers coach. He and Lakers star forward LeBron James were together with the Cavaliers, winning the franchise’s lone championship in 2016. Lue was fired less than two years later, after James left for LA as a free agent.
James said he doesn’t intend to “harp” on the Lakers’ struggles with perimeter shooting, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I’m definitely not going to sit here and harp on what we can’t do every single game,” James said, via McMenamin. “That’s not a leader. What I know we can do? We can defend our ass off. We did that (in Thursday’s loss to the Clippers), which gave us an opportunity to win and we just couldn’t make it happen. But, I’m OK with that.”
The Lakers struggled mightily from the outside, with guards Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn combining to go 1-of-25 from the field. Westbrook was 0-of-11 overall and 0-of-6 on 3-pointers.
But James indicated that’s not necessarily the team’s primary concern.
“If we’re reliant on [sufficient outside shooting] every single game, then we’re in trouble,” he said, via McMenamin. “So I’m not worried about that or thinking about that. It’s how hard we play, how aggressive we play, how determined we are to go out and compete every night. And we got to defend. When we defend, we’re going to give ourselves a good chance to win.”
- Coach Darvin Ham added that the Lakers only need to replicate what they do in practice to start having success. “We see these guys making shots in practice and shootaround,” he said, via McMenamin. “They got to do it on the game floor. It’s as simple as that.”
- The Lakers and Westbrook don’t look any better than last season. For the latest column on that, click here.
The Mavericks could use a third ballhandler on the roster and therefore may want to consider a trade for Westbrook, wrote Dalton Trigg of Dallas Basketball.
“If Dallas could find a way to trade Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans and Dwight Powell to the Lakers for Westbrook — and perhaps some LA draft compensation as well — it could potentially help out both teams in the short-term,” Trigg wrote. “Even if Westbrook didn’t pan out for the Mavs, they’d still be getting off Hardaway and Bertans’ long-term money and opening up an opportunity for 20-year-old rookie Jaden Hardy.”