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Lakers News: Latest on Lonzo Ball's Debut, Warriors Rivalry and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 10, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball #2 and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry #30 in an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Los Angeles. Golden State Warriors won 127-123 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are quickly approaching full strength as the 2018-19 NBA season nears its starting point.

Soon, all the offseason chatter, speculation and predictions will give way to tangible results—and a new round of chatter, speculation and predictions about what those results really mean.

In other words, it's buckle-up time for the Purple and Gold. There might be more talented teams in the Association, but none can match this level of interest.

                       

Lonzo Ball Will Debut Wednesday

EL SEGUNDO, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Lonzo Ball #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers pose for a portrait during media day at UCLA Health Training Center on September 24, 2018 in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Lonzo Ball and LeBron James is finally happening. The pair will play together for the first time Wednesday night when Ball returns to action after being absent since March 28, per ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk.

"Feels like a long time," Ball told reporters Tuesday. "So I am very happy to get back on the floor finally, and it all starts with tomorrow."

A left knee injury cost Ball the final eight games of his rookie campaign. He later received platelet-rich plasma injections in the knee then eventually had an arthroscopic procedure in mid-July.

Ball told reporters he will come off the bench Wednesday when the Lakers lock horns with the defending champion Golden State Warriors in Las Vegas. The sophomore point guard also said he's put on about 15 to 20 pounds—extra bulk that might make it easier for him to share the floor with fellow playmaker Rajon Rondo.

While Ball struggled with his shooting as a freshman (36.0/30.5/45.1 slash line), he also became only the fourth NBA player to average at least 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first season. It will be interesting to see how he's able to adjust his game to his new supporting cast, since he'll likely spend more time off the ball with James and Rondo chipping in with the distributing duties.

                            

Budding California Rivalry

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 22:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors looks to put a move on Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on December 22, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User exp
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Of all the great city rivalries in professional sports, Los Angeles vs. San Francisco sits right near the top. For the first time maybe ever, the Warriors and Lakers will add a new layer to the competition.

"This is probably the first time it's lined up," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "I'm sure the Lakers never really looked at is as a rivalry all those years when they were dominating, but this will be fun.

"We're in the same division, obviously both teams have a lot of talent and the atmosphere is going to be great. Even in the preseason, I think people are going to be really looking forward to it."

While the Warriors have mostly ran roughshod over the rest of the league the past four seasons, James is the one person who could qualify as their rival. He met them in the Finals all four years—as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers—and captured the 2016 Finals MVP award when he helped the Cavs become the first team to claw out of a 3-1 hole in the championship round.

"Well, the times we've seen [James], he's always been at the top of the East during the Finals," Klay Thompson said. "And those games are always intense. I expect him to greatly improve the Lakers and they've obviously got a bunch of guys who are proven now. So I just expect it to be intense."

Adding another layer of intrigue here, this season's Warriors are aiming to become the NBA's first three-peat champion since the Lakers pulled off the feat between 2000 and 2002.

                     

Brandon Ingram's All-Star Aspirations

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 4: Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Sacramento Kings during a pre-season game on October 4, 2018 at Staples Center, in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

From Brandon Ingram's impossibly long 6'9" frame to his improving-across-the-board game, the former No. 2 pick looks like a budding hoops star.

That's precisely how he sees himself, too.

"I want to be an All-Star," Ingram told The Athletic's Bill Oram. "I want to be an All-Star this year."

That might sound like quite an ambitious claim from the seemingly soft-spoken swingman. But suffice it to say, confidence is no issue.

"I stay humble," Ingram told B/R Mag's Mirin Fader. "But in the back of my head, I think what keeps me going is, I know that I'm going to kill you."

An aggressive Ingram could well be a lethal Ingram. His career stats may not show that (12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists), but there have been stretches that suggest he's headed toward a superstar's future.

He has attempted 16-plus shots in 19 games. During those contests, he's averaged 20 points on 46.9 percent shooting, 6.6 rebounds and 3.8 rebounds.

For context, only four players cleared those marks last season. Three made the All-NBA first or second teams (LeBron, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant), and the other probably would have if not for a season-ending injury (DeMarcus Cousins).

In other words, an All-Star nod for Ingram might not be as far-fetched as it may seem.

                        

Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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