After nearly a half a year of waiting, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in action for the 2023-24 season. The Lakers were dubbed one of the winners of free agency after all their impactful signings, but the new-look roster faces a tough challenge as they take on the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets on the road to kick off the season on Tuesday night.
It’ll be an emotional night for the Nuggets and their fans as they raise the franchise’s first championship banner. Los Angeles knows full well what ring night is like for the players, and Denver’s team will get a chance to share that feeling.
The Nuggets retained most of the players that helped them sweep the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, though the focal point for Los Angeles’s defensive game plan is of course Nikola Jokic. Coming off his superb playoff run, the Finals MVP looked great in the preseason and is poised for another monster season.
However, Jokic has to contend with a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who must be itching to prove that they can beat the best team in the Western Conference. The rest of the roster has also heard all the chatter the past few months and probably would like a chance to shut the defending champions up.
D’Angelo Russell certainly has a chip on his shoulder after getting exposed in their series, while Austin Reaves looks to continue his ascent in his third year. Meanwhile, players like Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent, Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes are looking to prove that Los Angeles was right bring them on board.
Unfortunately, the Lakers are a little shorthanded as they are without Jarred Vanderbilt and Jalen Hood-Schifino. Still, Los Angeles has enough depth to cover their losses and make it a competitive game against Denver.
After a strong preseason, Prince has been named the Lakers’ fifth starter in Vanderbilt’s place. The hope is that he will be able to provide the Lakers with the 3-and-D skillset they need on the wing, especially in a matchup like Denver where they have good size across the board.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets are expected to have Michael Porter Jr. in the lineup despite missing most of the preseason with a sprained ankle.
While Porter may not be 100%, he has said that he wouldn’t miss the game where the Nuggets get their rings for the world. And while the Lakers would surely love to spoil the night for the Nuggets, Darvin Ham cautioned to not get too emotional about it as L.A. is in a familiar position having lost to the Golden State Warriors on their right night a year ago.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has already admitted to some friendly trash-talking with his former Lakers teammates though and Davis has not been shy about being motivated by the stuff the Nuggets said after last year’s playoffs, so this certainly should be an interesting matchup between two budding rivals to kick off the season.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-0) vs. Denver Nuggets (0-0)
4:30 p.m. PT, October 24, 2023
Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Gabe Vincent, Max Christie, Rui Hachimura, Jaxson Hayes, Christian Wood
Projected Nuggets Starting Lineup:
PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Michael Porter Jr.
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Jokic
Key Reserves: Reggie Jackson, Christian Bruan, Zeke Nnaji, Justin Holiday, Peyton Watson
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