LOS ANGELES (AP) – LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were on one side. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving sat on top of each other.
Arguably there won’t be a better collection of bench warmers in an NBA game this season.
Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the league’s preseason schedule on Sunday, though they did so largely without their biggest names in the Nets’ 123-97 win.
Anthony Davis started for the Lakers and made the first basket of the preseason. But James, Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony will all be waiting at least one more game before they jump in.
Brooklyn played without its Big Three, with starters Blake Griffin and Joe Harris, as well as newcomers Patty Mills and James Johnson.
Davis played the first quarter and scored six points.
LaMarcus Aldridge started for the Nets after joining the team after retiring last season after experiencing an irregular heartbeat. He scored six points in 15 minutes.
Rookie Cam Thomas led the Nets with 21 points. Bruce Brown added 12 and veteran Paul Millsap, who joined the team in the offseason, had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Malik Monk scored 15 points in his first game for the Lakers. Brooklyn dominated Los Angeles 39-16 in the fourth quarter.
The collection of names made both teams among the favorites for the NBA title. They are set to meet again on the same floor of Staples Center as the highlight of the Christmas program and will be on national television numerous times.
The two had disappointing playoffs while battling injuries. The Nets were beaten by eventual champion Milwaukee in the second round with Irving sidelined and Harden still hampered by a hamstring injury that had cost him a few games in the series. The Lakers fell in the first round to Phoenix, with Davis only making it five minutes into the deciding game after missing all of Game 5 with a groin injury.
This likely caused Nets coach Steve Nash and Lakers’ Frank Vogel – whose team played in the NBA Finals just a year ago at this time – to decide to wait a little longer to face their best players after training camps opened on Tuesday.
Most teams will start on Monday for a nine-game night.
Nash said after the game that he had no update on Irving’s status when the Nets return to Brooklyn for training this week. Players must be vaccinated to play or train in New York and Irving did not join his teammates at Barclays Center for media day Monday before flying to San Diego for training camp. He appeared through Zoom and requested confidentiality when asked about his immunization status.
Dwight Howard, who played on the 2020 Lakers champions and is back in Los Angeles after playing last season for Philadelphia, has had an eventful afternoon. He had 11 points, six rebounds, one technical foul and one glaring foul before committing a foul in 13 minutes. He took a free throw after committing his sixth foul before the referees corrected the error and took the point off the board.
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