The Golden State Warriors will take a glance at the new-look Los Angeles Lakers when the Pacific Division rivals meet Saturday night in San Francisco.
The head-to-head is the second of the season between teams separated by three wins in the current duel for lower-end playoff spots or play-in berths in the Western Conference, but the first since LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the No. 1 spot on the all-time scoring list.
James won’t play against the Warriors. however. The Lakers said Saturday he will miss the game as he continues to deal with left ankle soreness. He had 31 points when the Lakers lost 123-109 in San Francisco in the second game of the season.
He scored 38 to break the scoring record on Tuesday night against Oklahoma City. His total stands at 38,390, three more than Abdul-Jabbar.
The 38-year-old James sat out Thursday’s 115-106 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with the sore ankle, but the Lakers will need him as they quickly attempt to fold new players into a run at the playoffs over the final 26 games of the regular season.
The Lakers added D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba at the trade deadline, having already picked up Rui Hachimura earlier.
Surely, the club didn’t make the type of impact the Phoenix Suns accomplished with the acquisition of Kevin Durant, but Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham assured the goal remains the same: to win a championship.
“I think it’s a huge shot in the arm for the Western Conference,” he said of the Suns’ addition of Durant, “but make no mistake about it, we don’t fear anyone.”
That would include the Warriors, the defending champs who thought they brought back a key contributor to their 2022 title run when they traded for Gary Payton II from the Portland Trail Blazers in a four-team deal that saw Golden State send James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons.
The trade is pending, however. News broke Friday that Payton failed the physical, with The Athletic reporting the Warriors were unaware of a core muscle injury. The Warriors have the right to void the trade and have until Sunday afternoon to do so.
Payton left the Warriors in the offseason for a more lucrative offer from the Trail Blazers. But after having core-muscle surgery and missing the first 35 games of the season, then averaging just 4.1 in 15 games, Portland was willing to cash him in for five second-round picks and Atlanta Hawks export Kevin Knox.
“I’m excited about this move,” Warriors defensive leader Draymond Green said of the Payton acquisition, before the trade was left up in the air. “We’ve really struggled on the defensive end, and bringing GP back, we all know what GP is capable of on the defensive end. Can plug GP right in, and he knows the system like the back of his hand.”
The Warriors have won their past four home games.
Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole have led the way in the injury absence of Stephen Curry. Thompson had 12 3-pointers in a 42-point explosion in Golden State’s most recent home contest, a 141-114 win over Oklahoma City, and Poole had 38 in the Warriors’ last outing, a 125-112 loss at Portland on Wednesday night.
–Field Level Media