• The Lakers’ Alex Caruso drives to the basket as the Clippers’ Paul George defends during Friday night’s preseason opener at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and the Lakers’ Kostas Antetokounmpo go after a rebound during Fridasy night’s preseason opener at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Wesley Matthews #9 shoots as the Clippers Paul George #2 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James #23 during their NBA preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Thew Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell #15 and the Clippers’ Serge Ibaka #9 tip the ball off to start their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma #0 shoots as the Clippers Nicolas Batum #33 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James #23 during their NBA preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James #23 rubs his face after taking off a facial covering during their NBA preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker #5 drives to the hoop as the Clippers Reggie Jackson #1 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Quinn Cook #2 lays the ball up as the Clippers Patrick Patterson #54 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard #2 lays the ball up during their NBA preseason game against the Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker #5 passes the ball around the Clippers Reggie Jackson #1 during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Alex Caruso #4 looks to pass as the Clippers Kawhi Leonard #2 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Devontae Cacok #12 dunks the ball during their NBA preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • New Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue talks to his Patrick Beverley, center, and some of players during Friday night’s preseason opener against the Lakers at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Dennis Schroder #17 shoots as the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley #21 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell dunks during Friday’s NBA preseason game against the Clippers at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell #15 dunks the ball during their NBA preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Clippers’ Paul George #13 lays the ball up during their NBA preseason game against the Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Devontae Cacok #12 dunks the ball during their NBA preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue during their NBA preseason game against the Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker #5 drives to the hoop as the Clippers Reggie Jackson #1 defends during their NBA preseason game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, December 11, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyrone Lue watches Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson shoot a free throw during the first half of the team’s NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Montrezl Harrell dunks during the first half of the team’s NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyrone Lue during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers center Serge Ibaka, right, defends on a shot by Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, left, celebrates his basket with forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of the team’s NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams, right, tries to steal the ball from Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Matthews during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, and forward Anthony Davis wear masks watch their teammates play during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, right, wins a rebound against Los Angeles Lakers forward Kostas Antetokounmpo during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel talks to players during the first half of the team’s NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers warms up before a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers laughs as he warms up before a preseason game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he warms up before a preseason game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: The court is cleaned before a preseason game between the LA Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — In the minutes before tip-off, Montrezl Harrell ambled over to the opposing side where his old team was shooting. Patrick Beverley met him near midcourt with a hug, and the former brothers-in-arms shared a moment of warmth.

But once the game started on Friday, the two settled into their respective trenches. Harrell, the biggest-name free agent the Lakers landed during the shortened offseason, lined up for tip-off. Beverley walked by him, not saying a word, but as Harrell backpedaled on defense, Beverley gave him a healthy bump with his shoulder.

Let the games begin.

The Clippers and Lakers opened the preseason on Friday night at Staples Center, a venue that hadn’t hosted a basketball game since March 10 when the Lakers lost to the Brooklyn Nets. The two rivals who share a building but little else had last played two days before – since then, the Clippers have restructured after a postseason disappointment, while the Lakers won their 17th NBA championship in the Orlando bubble.

Harrell’s switching of allegiances – going from one of the most outspoken members of the Clippers to joining the defending champs, was one of the many notable differences. What hadn’t changed was Harrell’s dogged energy: By halftime, he had nine hard-earned points to go with 10 rebounds and had already drawn a charge while guarding Serge Ibaka, his Clippers replacement. He finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds in an 87-81 victory that had the characteristic sloppiness of the preseason (42 combined turnovers).

“This wasn’t a (time to) come out, ‘Hey how you guys doing?’ and laugh it up,” Harrell said. “Nah, I have a job. I had the mindset where I came to do it.”

Harrell was last seen as a drag in the Clippers’ losing effort against the Denver Nuggets, playing well below his typical standard as his team blew a 3-1 series lead in the second round of the playoffs. On Friday, he showed an aggressiveness, perhaps rooted in motivation to show the Clippers why they should have tried to bring him back in the offseason.

The Clippers responded in kind. While Beverley retweeted a video of his embrace with Harrell afterward with the caption “always love,” he also leaped out of his seat to clap when Harrell missed a third-quarter jump shot. Harrell waved it off: Pat being Pat.

“It’s not anything different than who I knew, or what I knew Pat brought to the table,” he said. “But it doesn’t faze me.”

There was a comforting familiarity to certain Staples Center trappings, from the warm golden glow of the Lakers’ home court to the baritone of public address announcer Lawrence Tanter, who lingered on his syllables as he introduced the home team as “the defending world champions.”

But in a mostly empty arena, the Lakers’ starting lineup featured very few of those defending champions: Harrell, Dennis Schröder and Wesley Matthews all made their Lakers debuts. The other two starters were Kyle Kuzma, who played off the bench last postseason, and Talen Horton-Tucker, who had few appearances at all as a rookie last season.

Horton-Tucker had 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in 37 minutes to pace the Lakers. Kuzma had 18 points in 38 minutes, and Schröder added 10 points in 24 minutes.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris all sat out as a precaution, working on their conditioning after an abbreviated two-month offseason. All donned purple warm-ups as if they could rush the court at any moment. But they saved their energy for celebrations, particularly relishing the night by the 20-year-old Horton-Tucker who drove to the basket with veteran confidence.

“He didn’t even finish well tonight at the rim – he’s still getting his legs under him a little bit,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “But still had 19 and nine, and great performance. Good start.”

Even before the game, Vogel expressed how different he knew it would be. Typically on his L.A. commute, he said, he gets excited to play in front of a crowd. In the preseason opener, the pre-recorded crowd noise was the only element remaining of a live audience. So far, neither the Lakers nor Clippers have plans to bring in fans, particularly as Los Angeles maintains a stay-at-home order.

But even being back on their old court felt like a partial restoration of normalcy, particularly the row of championship banners hanging on the wall – the Lakers will raise their 2020 edition before long.

“This building still has a ton of meaning to all of us,” Vogel said. “I think it’s going to be fun for our staff and players to be here. And hopefully fun for our fans to see it on TV.”

LIONEL HOLLINS RETURNS TO SIDELINE

In the Lakers’ run through the bubble, there were a few key contributors missing: One of them was 67-year-old assistant coach Lionel Hollins, a veteran voice on the staff and a two-time head coach. Hollins did not attend the Walt Disney World Campus out of concern for his medical risk as one of the older assistants in the league.

But in the Lakers’ first preseason game, Hollins joined the rest of the staff on the sideline, wearing a mask and sitting in socially distanced fashion along with the rest of the team.

Hollins was not immediately available for comment on Friday night, but Vogel mentioned it was Hollins’ choice to resume his normal game duties, despite the expectation that this NBA season will have increased risk due to travel outside of a bubble environment.

“I know he wanted to be part of it, he wanted to be part of the bubble,” Vogel said. “As to why he feels safer doing it, that’s really a question for him, but … my lens on it is that he saw the NBA is taking great care to keep everyone safe: protocols, wearing a mask, keeping distance. All those type of things, just leads to reason to believe that he can do his job and be safe.”

###

By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *