Live coverage: Lakers fall in season opener to Trail Blazers 128-119


LeBron James and the Lakers opened the season on Thursday night in Portland, where they lost to the Trail Blazers for the 16th consecutive game, 128-119 this time. Portland has now won 18 consecutive openers. James finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists as well as six turnovers. Damian Lillard led all scorers with 28 points for the Trail Blazers. Nik Stauskas fueled a couple of Portland rallies and finished with a career-high 24 points. Josh Hart scored 20 off the bench for the Lakers.

Rajon Rondo shows he has plenty of game left for the Lakers

Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo drives for a layup against the Trail Blazers on Oct. 18.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rajon Rondo’s night was done with 16.3 seconds left, the Lakers point guard getting his final foul when he tried to take a charge from Damian Lillard that led to two free throws for the Portland point guard.

Rondo untucked his jersey from his shorts and slowly walked to the Lakers bench after a solid performance Thursday night during a 128-119 loss to the Trail Blazers in both teams’ season openers at the Moda Center.

He recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists. He was six for 13 from the field, one for two from three-point range, and was a plus-seven in the plus-minus category.

“Once I watch the film, I’ll be able to look back and figure what we can do to get better,” Rondo said.

“For me, never too high, never too low,” Rondo said. “Keep our guys poised. It’s a game of runs. That’s how we approach it whether LeBron is on the court or not.”

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LeBron James has preached patience, but that’s a tough sell with this level of talent

LeBron James celebrates with Lakers teammates during their Oct. 18 season operner in Portland.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

LeBron James sat in front of reporters in Los Angeles less than a month ago and said that his definition of success, and therefore the Lakers’ new definition of success, isn’t necessarily measured by championships.

The man who has played in eight consecutive NBA Finals, a man with three championship rings, preached patience. Wait for us. Relax.

“There’s going to be good times. There’s going to be bad times,” he said, tempering expectations for his first season in Los Angeles. “That’s what happens when a team is new.”

But less than nine minutes into his official debut with the Lakers on Thursday night, it was clear that this whole “patience” thing is just not practical. He’s too good and too exciting for results not to matter immediately.

The Lakers and James can try to settle us all down — and they’re not wrong. It’s foolish to expect the Lakers on Oct. 18 to be a finished product, that they won’t need more time to learn one another’s tendencies, their preferences, their style.

You could see all of that in the Lakers’ 128-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in their season opener. But if you’ve followed James, you know this doesn’t mean much.

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VIDEO: LeBron James discusses the Lakers’ loss in Portland

New Lakers superstar LeBron James, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, talks about the 128-119 loss to the Trail Blazers


Lakers would like to keep LeBron James fresh this season; he says not to worry

LeBron James sits on the bench before the start of the season operner in Portland on Oct. 18.
LeBron James sits on the bench before the start of the season operner in Portland on Oct. 18.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

LeBron James seemed amused at the idea.

Thursday morning after shootaround, he was asked how Lakers coach Luke Walton and he would go about managing his playing time in order to keep him fresh for late in the season. At 33, with James entering his 16th year in the NBA, the Lakers want him at his best when the games matter most.

I’m always fresh,” James said, smiling. “All my coaches want to figure out a way of how to lessen my minutes, I keep telling them I’m strong enough to play most minutes, but they won’t listen to me, so it’s OK. I like it.”

Last season James led the league in minutes played. He played in all 82 games for the first time in his career and averaged 36.9 minutes per game.

Walton said James playing all 82 games isn’t out of the question this year. But ever since the Lakers signed James, their front office has talked about preserving his legs and allowing him to do less than he’s had to in the past.

“Rest with me is always kind of, you’ve gotta take it as it comes, see how the season’s going, get to those tough stretches,” Walton said. “Are there nagging injuries happening or not and that’s when you would do it. We’re not gonna just rest somebody just to rest them. Only if the body or mind needs it, in my opinion. … We’re gonna try to keep his minutes at a reasonable number.”

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A new era for the Lakers and LeBron, but the usual result in Portland

LeBron James huddles with Lakers teammates during their season opener in Portland on Oct. 18.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

As he took the ball and eyed his path, the anticipation in the arena grew. Fans gasped in unison at the sight of James dribbling the ball close to mid-court, nobody between him and the basket. Once he made up his mind to take off full speed, there was no doubting how that sequence would end.

Moments later, James rose in the air with one arm extended and his brows furrowed. He slammed the ball through the rim, making the whole apparatus shake, and unleashed a howl. Even in this most hostile arena, where the fans chanted “Beat L.A.” and booed James with the force of a rivalry that’s been one-sided of the last several years, the crowd erupted.

This was LeBron James’ first official score as a Los Angeles Laker.

With a thundering slam dunk, a new era began.

In that new era, though, some things remained familiar. The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Lakers 128-119, extending their winning streak over the Lakers to 16 games. This was also the 18th consecutive home opener Portland has won, which is the longest streak in NBA history.

James finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six turnovers. Josh Hart added 20 points for the Lakers. Damian Lillard scored 28 points for Portland while Nik Stauskas added 24 off the bench on an efficient night in which he made seven of 11 shots.

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Trail Blazers hold off late Lakers rally for a victory

LeBron James looks to challenge a shot by Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum on Thursday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Kyle Kuzma sank a three-point shot in transition to cut the Lakers’ deficit to seven points with 2:06 left in the game but the Trail Blazers never surrendered the lead for a 128-119 victory in the season opener for both team Thursday night in Portland.

The Lakers cut the deficit to five points, 124-119, when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a three-pointer with 31 seconds left, but that was as close as they could get.

Nik Stauskas converted a pair of free throws to protect Portland’s lead with 20 seconds left and Damian Lillard sank two more to seal the win.

LeBron James finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six turnovers. Josh Hart scored 20 points off the bench while Brandon Ingram finished with 16 and Kyle Kuzma with 15. JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo each had 13.

Lillard led all scorers with 28 points for Porltand. Stauskas finished with a career-high 24 points while C.J. McCollum had 21.


Trail Blazers push their advantage to double digits with four minutes left

LeBron James huddles with Lakers teammates during the game Thursday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

C.J. McCollum made a three-pointer from the corner to push Portland’s lead to 117-106 with 4:07 left in the game. He added two more points with a pair of free throws with 3:21 left.

McCollum now has 19 points and has made three of his six long-range shots. He’s scored the Trail Blazers’ last 10 points.


Lakers fall behind 107-100 with 7:23 left in fourth quarter

Lakers guard Josh Hart drives down the lane for a layup Thursday night.
(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

Nik Stauskas, he of the reserve forward role, made another three-point shot to give the Trail Blazers a 107-100 lead with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter.

Stauskas now has 22 points in the game.


Lakers trail 93-91 after three quarters

Rajon Rondo drives to the basket Thursday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Moments after the Lakers took their first lead of the third quarter, the Trail Blazers went on an 8-0 run to surge back into the lead.

Lonzo Ball made a shot for an 82-81 lead with 2:40 left in the quarter and Josh Hart added a three-pointer to reclaim the lead, 85-83, after an Evan Turner basket.

Maurice Harkless gave the Trail Blazers a 91-85 lead with 45 seconds left, but Ball converted a pair of free throws and Hart closed the quarter with another three-pointer to cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to 93-91.


Lakers cut deficit to one point, 79-78, late in third quarter

Lakers forward Brandon Ingram elevates for a jump shot against the Trail Blazers on Thursday night.
(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

Brandon Ingram shook off two missed free throws to make a pair of shots and Kyle Kuzma threw down a dunk off a feed from Josh Hart for a quick six-point run that cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to 79-78 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.

The run forced Portland to call a timeout.


Trail Blazers cling to lead midway through third quarter

Lakers forward LeBron James receives a pass during the game Thursday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Just after the Lakers cut their deficit to one point, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard do what they do best — combined to make three consecutive shots including a three-pointer by each — to increase the Trail Blazers lead to 79-72 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.

Brandon Ingram made three shots and JaVale McGee converted three of four free throws to bring the Lakers to within 71-70 moments after taking a brief 69-67 lead.


Lakers cut double-digit deficit to 65-63 at halftime

LeBron James and Brandon Ingram during the first half Thursday night.
(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

The Lakers continued to control the paint, especially on offense, to cut their once double-digit deficit to two points, 65-63, at halftime.

They scored more than 80% of their first-half points in the paint. Rajon Rondo made driving layups on two late possessions to tie the score at 63.

Evan Turner put back a missed layup by Damian Lillard to give Portland the lead.

LeBron James had a fast start with two early dunks. He has 18 points on six-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists and one steal.

Rondo has 10 points on five-of-eight shooting with six assists.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma contributed nine and eight points off the bench. JaVale McGee has eight points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.

Reserve forward Nik Stauskas leads the Trail Blazers with 16 points on six-of-eight shooting, including four of six from long range.

Lillard has 13 points and center Jusuf Nurkic has 12 for Portland.


JaVale McGee helps rally the Lakers

Lakers center JaVale McGee helped cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to six points, 53-47, with 5:07 left in the second quarter with a pair of dunks and two blocked shots.

LeBron James now has 16 points on five-of-nine shooting. He just missed a free throw not long after missing his only three-point shot.

McGee and Kyle Kuzma each have eight points.

The only other player in double figures is Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard with 13 points. Portland has missed seven consecutive shots.


Trail Blazers open double-digit lead over Lakers midway through second quarter

Lakers forward LeBron James drives between defenders during the first half.
(Steve Dykes / Getty Images)

Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 7:15 left in the second quarter to open a 50-40 lead.

Nic Stauskas made a pair of three-pointers to help Portland increase its three-point lead after the first quarter.

Lakers center JaVale McGee cut the deficit to 50-42 with a layup on a LeBron James feed with 6:30 left before halftime.


Trail Blazers go on 19-6 run to claim lead after first quarter

The Portland Trail Blazers trailed by 10 points midway through the first quarter but used a 19-6 run to claim a 34-31 lead over the Lakers at the end of the first quarter.

LeBron James has 13 points on five-of-six shooting from the field while making all three of his free throws. James also had two thunderous dunks early in the game when the Lakers ran off to a 25-15 lead.

Damian Lillard, who has been driving down the lane at will, also had 13 points on four-of-eight shooting, the makes all layups. He’s also made all five of his free throws.


Lakers open double-digit lead late in first quarter, but Trail Blazers rally

Kyle Kuzma splits two defenders as he tries to power his way to the basket Thursday night.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James all scored inside to help the Lakers stretch their lead to 25-15 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

Rondo drove from the wing for a layup, Kuzma made a nice spinning move along the baseline, and James got an put-back off a miss.

The Trail Blazers cut the deficit quickly to single digits with Damian Lillard making three free throws after he was fouled from long range. He later drove down the lane and for a layup and Portland trailed by only seven.

After some empty possessions by each team, Lillard made another driving shot and Seth Curry scored off an offensive rebound to cut the Lakers’ lead to 29-28 with 2:16 left in the first quarter.


Trail Blazers settle down, but LeBron James and Lakers in control

Lakers forward LeBron James dunks against the Trail Blazers during the first half.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Portland settled down after the early timeout, but LeBron James continues to control the pace and scoring.

After he drew a foul in transition on a drive into the lane, he made two free throws for a 21-13 lead with less than six minutes left in the first quarter.

James has nine points on three-of-four shooting (OK, two dunks and a layup) and has made all three of his free throws.


The fans, ahem, acknowledge LeBron James


They’re off and running, and the Lakers dominate early

After the Trail Blazers missed their first two shots and the Lakers turned the ball over, Rajon Rondo opens the scoring on a reverse layup more than a minute into the game.

After the Trail Blazers evened the score, Brandon Ingram scored in the lane off a LeBron James feed for a 4-2 lead.

After another Portland miss, the Lakers open a 6-2 lead with a JaVale McGree dunk with 9:40 left in the first quarter.

Portland missed another short-range shot, which went out of bounds off a Laker. On the ensuing inbounds play, James stole the pass and broke free for a thunderous dunk.

Damian Lillard answered with hiw own dunk off a drive, but James broke loose in transition and put away his second slam.

That forced Portland to call a timeout with 9:01 left and the Lakers leading 10-4.


Lakers-Trail Blazers tipoff is only minutes away

The Philadelphia 76ers have routed the Chicago Bulls 127-108 in the first game of a nationally televised doubleheader tonight.

The Lakers and Trail Blazers should be tipping off in a matter of minutes to open their seasons.


VIDEO: LeBron James and the Lakers take the court

LeBron James and the Lakers take the court at Moda Center.


Tributes for the Trail Blazers’ late owner Paul Allen

Portland coach Terry Stotts said that when the team honors Paul Allen, the owner of the Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks who died Monday of cancer, he’ll think about how Allen was an “extraordinary man not only in sports but in the world in general.”

“I’ll probably, when we honor him, just be thinking about the impact on the lives that he’s had around the world beyond basketball,” Stotts said. “It was a phenomenal life and it’s really hard to kind of wrap your mind around it.”

Stotts said at times this week it was hard to focus on his job because his mind wandered back to Allen and what he meant to so many people.

“Everybody talks about his philanthropy throughout the years and what he’s done,” Stotts said. “But when people start writing about it and just listing all the things and all his accomplishments and the impact on millions and millions and millions of people and the environment and the earth and everything, I think those are the things that are hard to put into context the magnitude of everything.”

To top it all off for Stotts, his Portland team was playing its first game of the season against the rival Lakers and LeBron James.

“First of all, it would be enough if it was just the Lakers,” Stotts said. “But now you throw LeBron in the mix and the commissioner (Adam Silver) is going to be here and it’s a national television game and the passing of Paul Allen…You name it. It’s kind of involved.”


Lakers’ starting 5: Ingram, James, McGee, KCP and Rondo


Trail Blazers know LeBron James won’t be the only facilitator for the Lakers

As they prepared to face LeBron James with his new Lakers team in the season opener Thursday night at the Moda Center, the Portland Trail Blazers looked at some film of James last season when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said it was done to “see if we could discern anything from those games.”

When he compared what James did in Cleveland with that he did during the exhibition season with the Lakers, Stotts immediately noticed that James didn’t have to dominate the basketball nearly as much.

“I think the one thing with the Lakers is they’ve got a lot more ballhandlers, playmakers than they probably had in Cleveland,” Stotts said. “They relied on him to be the primary ballhandler, playmaker in Cleveland.

“I think with the group they have in [Rajon] Rondo and [Lonzo] Ball and [Brandon] Ingram, they’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays.”


Lakers fans stream into Moda Center


Luke Walton does not discuss starting lineup


Lakers arrive at Moda Center


Meet the 2018-19 Lakers players

Click on the image to see the entire Lakers roster.
(Ryan Menezes and Andrea Roberson / Los Angeles Times)


LeBron James and Damian Lillard ready for the inevitable

Guard Damian Lillard brings the ball up court during a preseason game against the Suns.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Damian Lillard never doubted LeBron James would sign with the Lakers. That didn’t lessen the impact when he did.

“When he did it, I was like, ‘He really did it,’” Lillard, smiling, said after practice Wednesday.

Naturally, Lillard was asked why he automatically assumed James would sign a four-year, $153.3-million deal to join the Lakers and spurn the Cleveland Cavaliers team with which he had spent the last four seasons.

“I mean, why wouldn’t you think it?” Lillard said. “You heard it everywhere: ‘Going to the Lakers!’ And then when it actually happened, I was like, ‘Wow! He signed with the Lakers.’ You know when you think something is going to happen and then when it actually happens, you kind of sit there and say, ‘OK, that’s it.’”

The two have developed a friendship over the years, with Lillard saying he and James are simply “chopping it up like regular people.”

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Trail Blazers do not think they’ll be the odd team out if Lakers make playoffs


Taking a look at the culture of the Lakers


The Times’ sports podcast ‘Arrive Early, Leave Late’ debuts, with plenty of Lakers and LeBron

The Los Angeles Times has debuted its sports podcast “Arrive Early, Leave Late” with Beto Duran as host.

Lakers beat reporter Tania Ganguli and national NBA columnist Dan Woike were the first two guests.

Ganguli had an exclusive one-on-one interview with LeBron James that is can’t-miss listening. Woike discusses what he’s learned so far in his travels to Canada, the Bay Area and Houston.

Bill Plaschke also joined the podcast to discuss baseball, the Dodgers and Kirk Gibson’s missing home run ball.

Click on the tweet below to check it out.


Time to shoot at the shootaround


LeBron James sports some very casual footwear


Luke Walton on LeBron James: ‘He had that locked-in look’

LeBron James talks to the media during the Lakers’ shootaround on Thursday morning in Portland during preparation for the season opener against the Trail Blazers.

At the Lakers’ Thursday morning shootaround in Portland, LeBron James was not much different than usual.

He was serious when the moment called for it. He joked around with his teammates occasionally. But Lakers coach Luke Walton did notice one clear sign that this is when it counts.

“He had that locked-in look,” Walton said.

Later in the day, James will play his first game in a Lakers uniform that actually counts. After the shootaround, he met with a throng of reporters and cameras that engulfed him as he sat waiting, and barely moved when James stood up to have ice taped around his midsection. This type of scene is normal for James these days; it comes naturally with being the game’s biggest star playing for one of the league’s glamour franchises.

The game against the Trail Blazers is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. and will undoubtedly be a special moment for a player who grew up dreaming of one day playing for the Lakers.

As he spoke, though, James didn’t betray that emotion.

“I mean, I’m excited about the game of basketball,” James said. “No matter where I am, I’m always excited about playing the game that I love and this is an opportunity for us to go out and play. So it’s very exciting.”