Lakers ride Big 3 in opener, but struggle from deep in loss to Warriors

Golden State Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo defends against Lakers forward LeBron James.
Golden State Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo defends against Lakers forward LeBron James during the first half in San Francisco on Tuesday.
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

Before the Lakers took the court to open their season, before the Golden State Warriors put the cap on their 2022 championship by receiving their rings, the first defining decision of the Lakers’ season came via a tweet from the team.

With the normally open coach Darvin Ham holding his cards close for the previous 24 hours, there was legitimate mystery as to what the team would do with Russell Westbrook.

At 6:30 Tuesday night, 30 minutes before the scheduled tip-off of the team’s first game, the Lakers and their new coach made it clear — they’re riding with Westbrook as a starter.


What the Lakers are doing and eventually will do with Westbrook has been the team’s dominant storyline since last year’s debacle. But after another rough preseason and an opening 123-109 loss to the Warriors, the Lakers’ problems definitely extend beyond their point guard.

They missed jump shots. They turned the ball over. And if trying to guard the Warriors was being “thrown into the deep end,” as Ham described, they spent large chunks of the night totally submerged.

Russell Westbrook said he didn’t know how to handle coming off the bench in the Lakers’ preseason finale and it ‘absolutely’ led to his groin injury.

Oct. 19, 2022

The Lakers trailed by as many as 27, a push in the fourth quarter cutting the deficit to 12, but by then, the mistakes already were too damaging.

LeBron James scored 31 points with 14 rebounds and eight assists, Anthony Davis added 27 points and Westbrook had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 33 points.

At minimum, the Lakers answered the first round of questions pertaining to Westbrook.

After bringing him off the bench for their final preseason game Friday, an experiment that lasted all of five minutes before he injured a hamstring, Ham reinserted Westbrook with the first five — a role he’s held for all but the first 17 games of his career.

Westbrook said after Tuesday’s game that his hamstring injury was a result of the Lakers’ bringing him off the bench Friday.


“Absolutely,” Westbrook said when asked about the role change. “I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight. Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose. For me, obviously the way I play the game, it’s fast-paced, quick, stop-and-go. And I just happened to, when I subbed in, I felt something. Thought it was... didn’t know what it was, but I wasn’t going to risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. But that’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to.”

Westbrook had been listed as probable to play, but after committing to him as a starter in training camp, Ham held off on making his opening-night starters public.

Coming off the bench has long been considered an option for Westbrook, whom the Lakers have included in trade discussions. Ham and the former most valuable player even discussed the option during the offseason.

Asked before the game about his conversations with Westbrook this summer, Ham said he connected with the guard’s honesty while telling him he understood that last season’s failings shouldn’t fall squarely on his shoulders.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry compete for possession of the ball.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) compete for possession of the ball during the second half in San Francisco on Tuesday.
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

“Me telling him and communicating with him that I do understand the circumstances under which you were playing last year, but I also want you to understand that we’re gonna do what we need to do to be successful,” Ham said. “And however we need to play you — and you’re definitely going to play — but however we need to play you, it’s for the team. And you can’t look at it as a demotion or you being punished.


“Again, sacrificing meaning diversifying your game, maybe doing some things you’re not accustomed to to doing or maybe haven’t done a lot of. It’s a little different from the way you’re normally impacting the game. But all of those things just require you to be a total basketball player, and that’s what I challenged him to do.”

Westbrook responded with a strong first half — he scored 11 points to go with six rebounds and three assists. He started with James, Davis, Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV.

But despite effective play from Westbrook, the Lakers’ outside shooting woes from the preseason carried over into the game, as they made just 10 of 40 three-pointers.

The team also had to deal with losing another possible piece of its rotation, Thomas Bryant, to yet another thumb surgery. The Lakers announced Bryant would be reevaluated in three weeks after having the same procedure that guard Dennis Schroder had Monday.

At least one Laker was guaranteed to have a good day no matter the result.

Reserve Juan Toscano-Anderson received his Warriors championship ring prior to the game, joining his teammates from last season as they raised the 2021-22 banner.

Oft-injured Lakers star Anthony Davis says he doesn’t care about the nickname given to him by Charles Barkley, but he does want to be there for his team.

Oct. 18, 2022

A native of Oakland, Toscano-Anderson said he secured more than 25 tickets for friends and family, including a courtside seat for his mother.


“When I first started playing basketball, we were going through a tough time,” Toscano-Anderson said at Tuesday’s shootaround. “So it’s kind of like now I get to put this hardware on my hand and for everybody who is a Warriors fan. Like, I was a Warriors fan and I was sitting in these stands. Not exactly here, but I was in Oracle [Arena] when I was a kid cheering this team on when tickets were free. And I dreamed of this.

“So, just to see it all come to fruition, I don’t really take that lightly. Because life is hard for everybody. For you guys, for me. It’s not very often that you get to achieve your ultimate goal and your dream. So I hope people look at me as an inspiration, seeing that everything is possible.”