Opening night of the 22-23 NBA season saw the defending champion Golden State Warriors receive their rings before playing the Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors would hammer the Lakers, leading by 27 in the third quarter, winning the game 123-109 when it was all said and done. The Lakers got the numbers they expected from their big three with LeBron James putting up 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists, Anthony Davis putting up 27 and six, and Russell Westbrook Putting up 19, 11, and three. Other than that, it felt like no one else was on the court. The other Lakers starters in Patrick Beverly and Lonnie Walker IV struggled, putting up eight points combined.
When it came to the Lakers bench, they were almost invisible. Kendrick Nunn led the Lakers bench with 13 points, the only other player to score more than five points. Several bench players did not score during their time on the court. While the Lakers had their moments on the defensive end, the team struggled on offense. The team shot 25% from the three-point line and turned the ball over 22 times. During the post-game conference, LeBron talked about the team’s shooting:
We’re getting great looks, but it could also be teams giving us great looks. To be completely honest, we’re not a team constructed of great shooting… It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.”
With three-point shooting becoming more and more prominent each season, the Lakers are at an extreme disadvantage if things do not change.
The Lakers already have several issues going into the season including whether to trade Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis’ health, and the lack of moves during the offseason. Westbrook has been in trade rumors constantly over the last season, with a potential trade for Pacers guard Buddy Hield and big man Myles Turner. With GM Rob Pelinka saying that the team will wait until after Thanksgiving to explore trades, the Lakers could be in for a very rough start to their season. If the Lakers do not make a change soon, they could have another disappointing season.
On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets opened at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Nets would end up losing to the Pelicans 130-108. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 32 points, three rebounds, and two assists in 32 minutes. Kyrie Irving finished with 15, two, and five in 34 minutes. Still coming back after missing over a year of action and adjusting to a new role, Ben Simmons with four, five, and five in 23 minutes. The big three got help from fellow starters Royce O’Neal and Nic Claxton, who put in 10 and 13 points, respectively. On the bench, the team did not see much help other than veteran guard Patty Mills, who dropped in another 16 points. The scoring wasn’t enough to stop the Pelicans who had four of the five starters dropping 15 or more points, led by Brandon Ingram’s 28 points.
The Nets did not lead once during the game, with the Pelicans being up by as much as 26 points at one point. Other than Kevin Durant, the Nets struggled on both ends of the court. Brooklyn shot just over 30% from three while not even grabbing half of the offensive rebounds that the Pelicans did, finishing with less than 40 total rebounds compared to New Orleans’ 61 rebounds.
Like the Lakers, the Nets were one of the most talked about and drama-filled teams in the offseason. Facing the possibility of losing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the same offseason, Nets management was able to retain both players. Looking at the 22-23 season, it’s unlikely that Brooklyn’s big three will make it through the entire season, especially with what lies ahead. With Kyrie set to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer and not being able to reach an extension with the Nets this past summer, the chances of the Nets trading Irving this season instead of letting him walk for nothing, are high. If the Nets have another disappointing season, head coach Steve Nash could be gone, and Kevin Durant could request another trade.
This season is ultimately a make-or-break season for the Nets. At the same time, expectations for the team are all over the board. Stephen A. Smith sees the Nets as a championship contender with Kyrie being an MVP contender, while some sports media outlets see the Nets as low as the play-in tournament. The Nets have a difficult schedule for the of October, playing the Raptors, Grizzlies, Bucks, and Mavericks, among other teams. If Brooklyn struggles going into November, it’s possible changes could be before the new year. While it’s just one game for the Nets and the Lakers, both teams have a lot to be concerned about as the intensity of the season will only pick up.