LeBron James and Stephen Curry Test Different Paths Back to N.B.A. Peak


LOS ANGELES — On the cusp of his nineteenth N.B.A. season, Carmelo Anthony belongs to a brand new staff however harbors the identical ambitions: profitable his first championship. In that regard, he’s not alone on the Los Angeles Lakers, a group of veterans who will kind one of many league’s most curious experiments.

“We have too much experience on this team to think anything other than we’ll figure it out,” Anthony stated. “But it all takes time.”

After a winless preseason, the Lakers will get getting in an official capability on Tuesday night time, after they play their season opener in opposition to the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that has just lately gone about its enterprise in a decidedly totally different approach.

While the Lakers have been a tear-down venture — LeBron James, who signed with the staff in 2018, is the longest-tenured participant on the roster — Golden State has been busy transforming whereas retaining intact the important core from its not-so-distant championship period, all within the hope of staging a resurrection with the assistance of some new items.

Two groups. Two approaches. And an early-season, however much-anticipated, litmus check at Staples Center on the viability of every.

“I think we’ll be ready,” Anthony stated. “You can feel it.”

The Warriors — bear in mind them? — are working it again with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and, ultimately, Klay Thompson, whom the staff expects to return by late December or early January after he missed the previous two seasons with accidents. Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee within the 2019 finals, then ruptured his proper Achilles’ tendon final November.

“It doesn’t work without Klay,” Curry stated in an interview final week. “So there’s definitely anticipation. And we feel like we’ll have three seasons in one this year: this first chapter until he gets back, reintegrating him into the fold, and then the playoff chase down the stretch. So there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Without Thompson — and largely with out Curry, who broke his hand and missed all however 5 video games — Golden State hibernated by means of the 2019-20 season, ending with the worst document within the league. Last season, because the staff continued to groom prospects like Jordan Poole, a first-round draft decide in 2019, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, who got here out of the G League, the Warriors went 39-33.

Now Golden State is almost complete. And the staff has welcomed the reappearance of a well-known determine: Andre Iguodala, a key cog within the staff’s 5 straight journeys to the finals, from 2015 to 2019, which produced three championships.

“We built something special here,” stated Iguodala, who has rejoined Golden State after spending many of the previous two seasons with the Miami Heat.

While Iguodala was gone, Golden State skilled its share of turbulence. But the franchise maintained a way of stability. Curry and Green had been nonetheless round. Thompson can be again in some unspecified time in the future. And Steve Kerr, now coming into his eighth season because the staff’s coach, was on the helm. The items had been there. It would simply take a while for all of them to coalesce once more.

“Our expectations are definitely higher this year than they have been the last couple of years,” stated Kerr, whose staff went 5-0 within the preseason. “It’s a really fun group to coach.”

The Lakers might be enjoying below a fair brighter highlight after overhauling their roster (once more) this summer season. They signed Anthony, traded for Russell Westbrook and acquired veterans like Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo whereas jettisoning the majority of their personnel from final season. Gone are lots of the position gamers from their championship run in 2020: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The Lakers will not be huge on continuity, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice draft picks and younger gamers for name-brand stars of a sure classic. If there’s urgency, it stems largely from the truth that James is 36 and has struggled with accidents lately. No athlete can function on the peak of his powers perpetually, not even James. And so the Lakers have gone about mortgaging their future in pursuit of one other championship now — if they’ll create chemistry briefly order whereas avoiding extra well being issues.

“I think our basketball I.Q., our talent and our skill will, for the most part, get us there,” Anthony stated, “and then, the cohesiveness of being together and playing together will take us over the top. We understand where we want to be and where we’re going to be, but we’re not there yet.”

The staff has acknowledged that it will likely be a piece in progress. As James put it earlier than the beginning of coaching camp, “I don’t think it’s going to be like peanut butter and jelly to start the season.”

Any point out of preseason basketball ought to include the disclaimer that the video games are pretty meaningless. But the Lakers did go 0-6, which was sufficient to increase some essential questions: Is this a hodgepodge roster? Can a staff this outdated stand up to the trials of an 82-game common season? And, maybe most essential, can Westbrook and James, two ball-dominant gamers, coexist in a productive approach?

Frank Vogel, the staff’s coach, stated he had no such considerations.

“There’s definitely a willingness for those guys to share and sacrifice,” he stated, including, “It’s tough to get 15-plus-year vets to be completely serious about the preseason.”

For his half, James stated Monday that he had absolutely recovered from the ankle harm that slowed him towards the top of final season — “I didn’t do much basketball for the first two months of the summer,” he stated — and that he was prepared for a contemporary begin, one that may come in opposition to an opponent that, not like the Lakers, hopes to attain into its previous.