Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel liked what he saw from LeBron James in the NBA superstar’s brief appearance in a pre-season victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Vogel had said he wanted to give James and Davis a chance to “get their feet wet” in their first on-court action since leading the Lakers to the NBA title in the quarantine bubble in Orlando barely two months ago.
James missed his first four shots but finished with 11 points, two rebounds and two assists in 15 first-half minutes in Phoenix.
“He anticipated feeling a little bit rusty on the first stretch,” said Vogel, whose team improved to 3-0 in pre-season exhibition play with the 112-107 win. “I thought that played out. And once he got his second wind, I think he settled in and looked great again.”
Davis added 10 points with four rebounds in 18 minutes and like James sat out the second half.
“I felt great, honestly,” Davis said. “Coming in, I thought I was going to feel a little winded. You can try to get in shape all you want, but there’s nothing like getting in basketball shape, game shape.
“I was kind of hesitant about that, but I felt fine. I could have played more, and probably will play more Friday. But I felt physically fine.”
The quick turnaround from the end of the NBA Finals in the pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 season to the start of the 2020-21 campaign on Tuesday has prompted speculation that James and Davis will be played sparingly in the early going.
But Vogel said last week that when the Lakers tip off against the Los Angeles Clippers on opening night the star duo will be “ready to go.”
“We’ve been trying to strike that balance of easing them in enough while at the same time making sure they’re working to be ready for the beginning of the season,” Vogel said.
Meanwhile the Lakers have used the pre-season to get a good look at other players, including new acquisition Marc Gasol of Spain, and Kyle Kuzma, who has averaged 21.5 points per pre-season game.
It remains unclear just what Kuzma’s role will be once James and Davis are at full strength.
“Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, is still to be determined,” Vogel said.
In fact, Vogel said after Wednesday’s win that he still hadn’t settled on a starting rotation.
“There’s a lot of different ways we could do, but nothing really solidified for me tonight,” he said. “It’s just going to take time.”