EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason debut fast approaching, the first signs of new coach Darvin Ham’s impact on the team are beginning to reveal themselves.
And, after LA went 0-6 in the preseason last year, with James only appearing in three of those games, we’ll see more of the Lakers star on the court in the ramp up to the regular season.
“Last year was the last year,” James said after practice. “That’s over. It’s about how much work we can put in every day this year and get better. That’s all that matters.”
Nunn’s inclusion in the first unit illustrates how much of a difference a year makes, as the 27-year-old missed all of last season with a bone bruise in his right knee. He seems ready to contribute in the way the Lakers have planned. LA committed its entire taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Nunn in the summer of 2021 as its marquee free agent, filling out the rest of the roster with veteran minimum offers.
“Kendrick killed today,” said a guard Austin Reaves on friday “I don’t think he missed a shot all day.”
Ham said Nunn impressed him during his training sessions during the offseason and it only continued in camp.
“It’s almost like he’s a new player, he’s a free agent for us,” Ham said. “So, I told him he’s going to be a big part of what I’m trying to do and he’s embraced it and you can tell by his play so far.”
Jones, who played with LA in 2020-21 on a series of 10-day contracts, gives the Lakers a new look at center after James, Davis, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard held the position last season.
“Damian is just a really young, athletic big,” Ham said of the 6-11 Jones. “He runs like a deer. He can jump to the ceiling. Really defensive minded. Tries to protect the rim. Sets good screens. Runs hard. Creating a constant threat at the rim. Again, being a presence in the paint defensively.”
Ham will certainly tinker with the free pieces surrounding the Lakers’ franchise players to find the most effective combination. None of it will work unless there is a comfort level established between the cast and James, who will control the action offensively as he always does.
As such, giving James a little more fuel in the exhibition slate — even if he’s 37 years old and entering his 20th season — might be more beneficial than trying to keep him around for the long haul.
“We don’t want to go crazy, but we also, what to have it is enough, where we can establish a rhythm, can be in game mode with a good rhythm going into the regular season,” Ham said of James.
While seeing James play in all six games on the Lakers’ preseason slate is unlikely, the four-time champion and the team are making a course correction from last year’s approach when James only appeared in the Lakers’ third and sixth games on the preseason schedule. . Just how much James will play, however, is still to be figured out.
“More than I played last year,” James said of his expected preseason workload. “More than I played last year.”