Warriors

LeBron to LA? Why Warriors must now consider worrying about Lakers

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AP

LeBron to LA? Why Warriors must now consider worrying about Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers just made next year very interesting for the Golden State Warriors. Or more to the point, LeBron James just inserted himself into the Warriors’ longer-term plans.

The stunning Isaiah Thomas trade/banishment that will end up clearing enough cap space for the Lakers to make their offseason run at James gives the Warriors a new team to concern themselves with, to go along with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder.

That is, of course, if all the ifs ands and buts gets crossed and dotted in the proper order and James comes west. For the Lakers, it can only mean that, for Thomas is almost surely deflated by the way his career has been crushed by a bad hip, a bad trade and now a bad political choice.

In other words, James wins, if he wants to be a Laker rather than a Sixer. Dan Gilbert wins, in that he sheds himself of his two most troublesome employees. And Thomas, once the hero of Boston, is now an ex-Cav and soon to be an ex-Laker, all in less than a year. Cash out? Barely conceivable now.

But the Warriors? They have been unconcerned by all teams save their own, and will hold to that through the remainder of this season. They will worry about 2019 when it’s time to worry about 2019.

But in fairness, to the same degree that they would worry about Houston and Oklahoma City and the ever-present spectre of San Antonio, they now must consider worrying about the Los Angeles Lakers.

If anything else, it makes the Western Conference more intriguing than ever, if the Warriors aren’t intriguing enough for you on their own.

Of course, James is like every other player ever, in that age is lurking at the perimeter. He is 33, but more importantly he has played more than 50,000 minutes of basketball when you include the postseason. Moments like Wednesday’s are fewer and farther between. He is an extraordinary player whose days are shortening.

In other words, the Lakers’ window for troubling the Warriors is narrower than the Warriors’ own window. Again, at least we think so.

But barring the JaVale McGee trade that may not happen, this is the biggest thing to happen to the Warriors all day, and that’s not scheduled to start concerning them until June.

In other words, that’s your NBA deadline day, localized for your amusement.

LeBron James says young Lakers are 'hungry for knowledge'

LeBron James says young Lakers are 'hungry for knowledge'

LeBron James is no longer surrounded by veterans that have been around the block a few times.

Now on the Lakers, the four-time NBA MVP is running with a bunch of young pups with a sprinkle of veteran role players. The goal is still to get to the NBA Finals, but this might be LeBron's toughest task yet. He may spend quite a bit of time mentoring all the wide-eyed potential stars on the Lakers roster.

But that's not something LeBron is worried about. In fact, his early observation is that the youngster want to learn.

“I think more importantly than what I need to share with the younger guys," LeBron told China's CCTV5 recently. "I think what a lot of people are missing is how hungry for knowledge that the young guys have."

“[Kyle Kuzma] and [Lonzo Ball] and Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, [Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk] and Moe Wagner, we have young guys that are extremely excited not only about playing the game, but also learning the game. That’s going to help out even more because those guys are just hungry for knowledge, so I’m looking forward to that," LeBron said.

As for getting to a ninth straight NBA Finals, LeBron knows who he has to beat to achieve the goal.

"That's the goal with the new team, young team. We're very new to each other," LeBron said. "That's the goal, but we know the road goes through Golden State. We understand that. The whole NBA understands that. But that is always the goal. Each year, you train and prepare to try to get to another NBA Finals, so that is my preparation."

The Warriors will see LeBron four times now that he's in the Pacific Division, rather than the two times when he was in the East. The two teams will meet on Christmas Day in Oakland, Jan. 21 in Los Angeles, Feb. 2 in Oakland and April 4 in Los Angeles.

Jacob Evans III: Warriors training camp profile

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AP

Jacob Evans III: Warriors training camp profile

The Bulls did it twice, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way. The Lakers accomplished it once, behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the 42 seasons since the NBA-ABA merger, those are the only franchises to win three consecutive NBA Finals.

When the Warriors come together for training camp on Sept. 25, their goal is to become the third.

Here is a look at those players with guaranteed roster spots.

EIGHTH IN A SERIES

Player: Jacob Evans III
Position: Guard/wing
Height/weight: 6-6, 200
College: Cincinnati
Age: 21
Salary: $1.64M (first year of a two-year rookie deal worth $3.57M per Spotrac.)
NBA 2K Player Rating: 72

2017-18 in review: As a junior last season, Evans started every game for the second consecutive season and led Cincinnati in scoring and assists, while adding 4.7 rebounds. Bearcats coach Mick Cronin described Evans as an “elite” defender, while opposing coaches marveled over his versatility, composure and basketball IQ. The Warriors were impressed enough to select him in the first round of the draft, 28th overall.

Key stats: 36 games (36 starts), averaging 13.0 points (42.7 percent FG, 32.7 3p, 75.4 percent FT), 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

Season highs: Points (24), rebounds (eight, twice), assists (seven), steals (five), blocks (four).

2018-19 outlook: Despite displaying a strong feel for the game and court awareness, Evans did not dazzle during Summer League. His jump shot was errant often enough to leave some within the organization wondering if a mechanical adjustment might be needed. Evans told NBC Sports Bay Area in August that he’s not concerned and that his confidence remains high. There will be growing pains, and the Warriors will be pleased as long as there is actual growth within the pain. They can afford to be patient because an immediate impact is not needed.