Preview: Lakers begin championship defense against Clippers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 11: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts with his MVP trophy after winning the 2020 NBA Championship over the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

It’s been 71 days since game six of the NBA Finals. 71 days since the Los Angeles Lakers were crowned champions of the league’s most bizarre season to date. It’s also the day that the Lakers begin their campaign to defend the 17th trophy in franchise history.

On Tuesday, the Lakers host the LA Clippers, their alleged rivals, and get to flaunt their new hardware, their new banner, and their new pieces, including one that switched sides in the Staples Center, before tipping off to start the 2020-21 season. It’s the shortest break between Finals and opening day in NBA history, giving the purple and gold the opportunity to show how hungry they are for a repeat almost immediately after their win.

And who’s a more perfect opponent to get the most out of them than their crosstown rivals? The Lakers noticed the Clippers trash-talking all of last year, and struck back once it was clear the two sides wouldn’t meet in the postseason. You know, because the Clippers lost a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the second round.

The Clippers will be hungry for revenge. The Lakers may exude a delicious sense of arrogance toward their little brothers. It’ll be a fun time.

As for the game itself, the Lakers will finally have all their new pieces on the court together alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of their returning champions. Dennis Schröder, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol will be eager to show out in a competitive setting.

The Clippers also have a new look. Tyronn Lue has taken over for Doc Rivers on the sideline. JaMychal Green and Harrell are gone and have been replaced by Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka. They will want a statement win to tell everyone they’re not the same discombobulated team as last year. Meanwhile, most sports books have them as the slight underdogs against the Lakers on opening night. (Marcus Morris, who re-signed with the Clippers this offseason will be out with a sore knee injury).

We expect to see some growing pains out of the Lakers to start the year as they build chemistry with new, prominent pieces. Hell, we don’t even know what starting lineup Frank Vogel will trot out to start the title defense. But with even more newer faces last season, they jumped out to a 24-3 start to the season so it’s best not to downplay James and Davis anymore.

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