The reigning champions are probably the last team the Lakers (1-7) need to see, but they’ll have no choice with the San Antonio Spurs (4-3) visiting Staples Center on Friday night.
Point guard Ronnie Price will sit out, suspended by the NBA for a flagrant foul 2 committed on Wednesday in New Orleans against Austin Rivers.
The Lakers are also without Nick Young (thumb), Wayne Ellington (personal matter), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg). Forward Ryan Kelly, who has been nursing a tight hamstring, may return.
The Spurs will play without Marco Belinelli (groin), Patty Mills (shoulder) and Tiago Splitter (calf).
The Spurs are still Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili -- but they’re also Kawhi Leonard, who finished last season as the NBA Finals MVP.
Leonard is a high-level perimeter defender, who is also a capable scoring threat. He represents the Spurs’ future, and is readily stepping into that role.
San Antonio will likely match up Leonard up against Kobe Bryant, looking to slow the NBA’s top scorer.
Bryant’s 27.5 points a night is tops in the league, although he’s shooting a career-worst 38.8%.
Leonard is averaging 13.8 points while shooting 42.6%.
The Lakers have struggled defensively this season. They’ll need to deal with Parker, who is adept at getting to the paint.
Parker’s scoring may be an issue, but the Lakers have trouble defending corner threes. With the Spurs’ system and Parker’s speed, San Antonio is going to take advantage with his penetration and playmaking.
The Lakers are particularly short at guard on Friday, with Price suspended and Ellington on leave.
Jeremy Lin will need to play big and efficient minutes on both ends of the floor.
Jordan Clarkson may also get the call from Byron Scott, a nice opportunity for the rookie guard -- although the Spurs are a tough, tough opponent.
The Lakers have done a lot right through their seven losses, but they haven’t been able to put enough of a 48-minute game together to win more than a game.
Drawing the Spurs isn’t exactly the solution, but an unlikely win would certainly be a boost for the team’s wavering confidence.