As the Phoenix Suns prepare for their final preseason appearance tonight, their sights are set on the upcoming season opener in San Francisco. They will square off against their long-standing rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The stage for this matchup is Palm Springs, situated just a couple of hours away from Los Angeles. As the day unfolds and the game progresses, here are some intriguing storylines to follow:
Both Lakers coach Darvin Ham and Suns head coach Frank Vogel have expressed their intent to field their full roster for tonight’s matchup. If this holds, it will mark the first time Kevin Durant and LeBron James have shared the court since 2018. The clash between these star-studded teams, featuring talents like Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, promises to be captivating.
However, it’s essential to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone. Suns fans should stay updated on the official injury report, which could be released at any point during the day. If the star players are absent, it provides an opportunity for role players to refine their skills within Vogel’s new defensive system and compete for spots in the regular season rotation.
Both the Suns and Lakers are highly regarded as contenders in the Western Conference, although some analysts place them behind the Denver Nuggets. These two teams are also considered top-five contenders in the league for distinctive reasons. While both boast star-studded lineups, the Lakers are renowned for their defensive prowess, while the Suns are known for their high-octane offense.
The collision of these differing styles and star power promises to deliver compelling basketball matchups throughout the season. Fans will get their first taste of this rivalry in regular season action next Thursday during the primetime TNT slot. If both teams field their complete lineups tonight, it could offer a preview of what to expect in next week’s showdown. This might be a somewhat understated headline, but it’s certainly one worth following.
In an interesting twist, Frank Vogel was let go by the Lakers after a challenging 33-49 season in 2021-22. Many viewed Vogel as a scapegoat for the franchise’s struggles in the two years leading up to his dismissal. Despite the initial decision to part ways with Vogel, the Lakers ultimately reversed their course by hiring Darvin Ham, a former NBA player and seasoned assistant coach. Ham is known for his offensive-minded approach and drew inspiration from Mike Budenholzer when implementing an offensive system in Los Angeles.
The Lakers had a bumpy start to the previous season, beginning with a 2-12 record. However, a series of well-timed trades, coupled with the return of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to full health, propelled them into the postseason. They also had the good fortune of facing less formidable opponents in the Western Conference playoffs, ultimately reaching the conference finals before being swept by the eventual champions, the Denver Nuggets.
On the other hand, the Suns opted to part ways with Monty Williams after another disappointing playoff exit at the hands of Denver. Three weeks later, they selected Frank Vogel as the new leader of the team. Vogel has made a positive impression during his brief time in the valley, building a strong coaching staff and forming meaningful connections within the locker room.
This coaching battle between Ham and Vogel adds an intriguing dimension, with Ham leading a defense-focused team while Vogel takes charge of an offensive-minded squad. Vogel also aims to prove his critics wrong, following his time with the Lakers, which notably resulted in an NBA championship.