The Los Angeles Lakers are an aging team with recently added young pieces that are looking to secure their place in the rotation. The Sacramento Kings are a young franchise that has made key changes during the 2013 NBA offseason.
Tonight the two California teams will meet in a preseason battle. Here's how you can watch it all transpire.
Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers
Experience: 4th Season
2012-13 Season Averages
7.65 PER, 12.5 MPG, 3.9 PPG, 1.8 APG, 36.4% 3PT
When the Lakers expressed interest in shooting guard Xavier Henry this offseason, I published an article outlining why this is the perfect opportunity for him to turn his career around. Through three preseason games, Henry is averaging 17.0 points for L.A.
It's safe to say the turnaround has begun. The question is will it continue?
Henry has been following in the footsteps of former teammate Brian Roberts, who carved out a quality role after a string of strong preseason performances in 2012-13. With Kobe Bryant still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and Nick Young serving as an inconsistent sixth man, Henry's role could be large.
It all comes down to how effective he can be during the preseason.
Henry has the opportunity to shine against Ben McLemore and the Kings on Thursday, Oct. 10. Still only 22, Henry has time to remove the bust label, and going toe-to-toe with a fellow scoring guard is the perfect platform for him to begin that process.
If he shines, L.A. may need to rethink its second-unit rotation.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
Position: Point Guard
Experience: 3rd Season
2012-13 Season Averages
17.58 PER, 26.9 MPG, 13.9 PPG, 4.0 APG, 2.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG
The Kings have made drastic adjustments to their roster, with the most notable moves including the additions of Ben McLemore and Greivis Vasquez and the departure of Tyreke Evans. McLemore and Vasquez would form a very strong offensive backcourt, but we shouldn't jump the gun.
Isaiah Thomas is one of the most respected players in the locker room and has been an infectious energy player since entering the league as Mr. Irrelevant—the final pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
During Sacramento's preseason opener, Thomas was 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-4 from three-point range. He finished with 15 points, six assists, three rebounds and a steal in a losing effort against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
Vasquez is the superior offensive player from a facilitating perspective, but he's also a career 32.5 percent shooter from three-point range and a defensive liability. That's bad news if Thomas continues playing this well.
The issue for Thomas, 5'9", is that Vasquez, 6'6", possesses valuable size at the point guard position. While he may not be much to marvel on defense, Vasquez averaged 9.0 assists per game in 2012-13 with a rather underwhelming New Orleans Hornets—now Pelicans—roster.
In Sacramento, Vasquez would have McLemore, DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton as high-caliber scorers that he can turn to.
Against the Lakers, Thomas will have the opportunity to prove that he can remain the guiding force on offense. Vasquez is sidelined until Monday, Oct. 14, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, and Thomas has already stepped up in the preseason.
Keep in mind, Thomas averaged 17.3 points and 5.4 assists on a slash line of .451/.413/.897 after the 2013 All-Star break.
Whenever the Kings and Lakers meet, whether it's the preseason or the playoffs, tensions are high. The rivalry between these two sides is well-established and whenever one can earn an edge over the other, bragging rights are utilized.
Tonight, expect the Kings to take home a big win for team confidence.
The trio of Cousins, McLemore and Thomas is as promising a unit as you can find across the NBA. All three are dangerous scorers who, whether they're playing along the perimeter or the interior, can torch a defense.
The Lakers have Pau Gasol and Steve Nash as counters, but when it comes down to it, relying heavily upon Nick Young and Henry just isn't a proven approach.
The Kings will take this one and help to create momentum for what should be an interesting season in Sacramento. Head coach Mike Malone has one of the best offensive systems in basketball and the personnel to put up points in a hurry.
The Lakers, meanwhile, will continue to mold their rotation during a preseason that's more about finding answers than winning games.
Sacramento Kings 88, Los Angeles Lakers 81
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