Preseason games don’t normally matter. More than anything else, they provide opportunities for coaches to try out different personnel combinations, substitution patterns they wouldn’t otherwise employ, and plays seemingly more suited for the Globetrotters. Still, they’ve become must-see fare of late, showing fans glimpses of the coming campaign. And, needless to say, some stand to be more interesting than others, headlined as they are by marquee names who, even with controlled exposure, remain motivated by winning.
Today’s match between the Warriors and the Lakers is a prime example of a one transcending circumstance, never mind that there’s no rivalry to speak of. For all the storied history of the National Basketball Association’s premier glamour franchise, the focus has shifted to the Bay Area in recent memory; the dynastic predilections of Steve Kerr’s charges are no more apparent than in their three titles over the last four years, as well as in their preeminent position heading into the 2018-19 season.
Don’t tell that to the Lakers, though. Bolstered by their acquisition of acknowledged best of the best LeBron James in free agency, they’ve begun to look forward to not just making the playoffs for the first time in six years; they’re actually keen on going deep, their insistence on tempering expectations notwithstanding. Which is why they’re psyched for today’s contest with the Warriors. There’s nothing like going up against the National Basketball Association’s gold standard to gauge progress, or lack thereof.
Certainly, the outcome of an exhibition match in which as many as 26 players are bound to see action won’t matter in the long haul. Today, though, followers of the pro scene will be intent on minding the trees more than the forest. How well will James play with Lonzo Ball in the court, and vice versa? Will there be extra motivation for him to face the Warriors in purple and gold? Meanwhile, will the defending champions be moved to put him in his place? Bragging rights are, after all, important currency in the league.
Little wonder, then, that the Warriors-Lakers tiff has hogged headlines. The usual suspects have seen fit to provide the media with quotable quotes on the eve of the encounter, further fueling anticipation. Important to the bottom line? Nope. Far from worthless, though, as the stars themselves have shown.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.