LeBron James Scores 9 Points in Debut as Lakers Lose to Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) grabs a rebound over Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Gregory Bull/Associated Press

LeBron James made his first appearance for the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, but the Denver Nuggets spoiled his debut with a 124-107 preseason victory.

The 14-time All-Star played 15 minutes in the preseason opener and finished with nine points, three assists and three rebounds at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.

Denver had seven players reach double figures in its win, led by Juan Hernangomez with 19 points. Nikola Jokic had 14 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

       

LeBron James Flashes Glimpse of Exciting Season Ahead for Lakers

Lakers fans and NBA junkies have been waiting all summer to see LeBron in the purple and gold, and when the moment finally arrived, he didn't disappoint.

The numbers were relatively pedestrian, but he showed the skill set that we have come to expect from the four-time MVP.

James was money from deep while shooting 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, and he already showed impressive chemistry with Brandon Ingram and the rest of his new teammates.

Considering his timing should only get better as we get closer to the regular season, there was a lot to like from this first appearance.

Meanwhile, there is simply a different energy when James is involved, and this isn't likely to die off any time soon.

The fans were excited about the iconic chalk toss (although Sunday's version was pretty tame):

When he was on the floor, the crowd got louder and his teammates seemed more focused.

This type of impact was seen throughout LeBron's career in Cleveland and Miami, and it should continue in Los Angeles, even with a city that has seen its fair share of stars.

     

New Additions Could Help Transform Lakers Offense

The James' signing certainly got the most attention this offseason, but the Lakers added a wide variety of notable veterans, and many of them showed Sunday why they can make a significant impact in 2018-19.

JaVale McGee finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Rajon Rondo looked like his usual self with 11 assists.

Even Lance Stephenson got in on the action with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a few nice individual plays:

While the production is nice, the encouraging sign is how they played together.

James helped the team move quickly in a smaller lineup, as Mike Trudell of the team's official site noted:

Rondo also made quick passes throughout the day, including right after the opening tip:

While it was just one basket in a preseason game, the play looked a lot like what we have seen from the Golden State Warriors over the past few years.

Head coach Luke Walton likes to push the tempo, and the Lakers finished last year ranked second in the league in pace, per Basketball Reference. However, the team also ranked just 23rd in offensive efficiency.

The experienced players could help run the offense as it's meant to be run while also getting the most out of young stars like Ingram (16 points) and Kyle Kuzma (15 points).

Even in a loss, Sunday's game showed the blueprint is there for the Lakers to have a big offensive season.

       

What's Next?

These two teams will take the court against each other again in two days, although Tuesday's matchup will be at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Lakers will hope to get Lonzo Ball on the floor as he recovers from his offseason knee surgery.

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