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Lakers veterans give up good seats, but not starting spots

Lakers forward LeBron James sits along the baseline, appearing to meditate, during the exhibition game against the Warriors on Friday.
Lakers forward LeBron James sits along the baseline, appearing to meditate, during the exhibition game against the Warriors on Friday.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

NBA teams can have up to 20 players during the offseason before trimming their rosters to 15 for the regular season. That means the bench area can become a crowded place. Often the players at the bottom of the team’s totem pole wind up sitting on the floor while their more prominent teammates get spots on the bench — whether they’re playing or not.

That’s what made one scene Friday night during an exhibition game against Golden State in San Francisco so amusing.

Five players sat on the ground behind the baseline, with their knees bent or legs crossed, watching the game.

Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, Talen Horton-Tucker and Quinn Cook.

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None of them were playing in the Lakers’ exhibition finale against the Warriors, and they left the comfortable chairs to the rest of their teammates. It was a final night off before a season heavy with expectation was set to begin.

“Productive,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said when asked about the preseason. “I think we’re working through the obstacle that was the China trip and the fatigue that goes along with that. And we still have a long way to go. But I’m happy with where we are in terms of implementing our system. We’re a couple days away from opening night; let’s give it a go.”

Vogel was coy on whom he intended to start opening night against the Clippers, but has offered hints during the past month. In their first practice of training camp his starting group was James, Davis, Green, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee.

He altered that lineup slightly in the first exhibition game and on Wednesday, which was the last in which most of his veterans played. James, Davis, McGee and Green were joined by Avery Bradley to start those games.

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Novell’s moment

Twice against the Warriors, Zach Norvell Jr. made a dribble move that knocked Golden State guard Jordan Poole off his feet and onto the court.

The first happened during Monday’s game. Afterward, Norvell became an internet sensation.

Then Norvell did it again Friday.

“Oh man! We were screaming like we were fans,” Jared Dudley said. “The thing was, he got him again. The same guy, different type of move, he just countered with it. And it’s an and one. Any time you get LeBron reacting like that you know it’s going to be top five on SportsCenter and it’ll be all over social media.”

Undrafted rookie Devontae Cacok and 21-year-old Kostas Antetokounmpo see plenty of playing time in the Lakers’ 124-103 exhibition loss to the Warriors.

Norvell is one of the Lakers’ two-way players this season, along with Kostas Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Two-way players split their time between an NBA team and that team’s G League affiliate. They are allowed to spend 45 days in the NBA until after their team is out of the G League playoffs.

Alex Caruso was a two-way player for the Lakers for the last two seasons and saw heavy minutes during a rash of point guard injuries last season.

“We expect him to do big things, not only in the G League, when he gets called up and gets his opportunity,” Dudley said of Norvell. “You guys know, 82-game year, I don’t think coach should have any problem putting him in if guys miss time.”

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Etc.

Caruso bruised his pelvis during the first half of Friday’s game. Caruso started for the Lakers at point guard but didn’t finish the game. X-rays taken at the Chase Center were negative, and the Lakers planned further testing in Los Angeles. … The Lakers waived Marcus Allen on Saturday after signing him Thursday. Allen is expected to be part of the South Bay Lakers’ roster this season.


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