The Golden State Warriors get an opportunity to congratulate the NBA’s new scoring king, welcome back an old friend and take a glance at the new-look Los Angeles Lakers all at the same time when the Pacific Division rivals meet Saturday night in San Francisco.
The head-to-head is the second of the season between teams separated by three wins in the current duel for lower-end playoff spots or play-in berths in the Western Conference, but the first since LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the No. 1 spot on the all-time scoring list.
“He’s just a machine, he’s healthy and a physical force night after night,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr gushed earlier this week. “I also appreciate the fact that he’s for most of his career been more of a point forward than a scoring wing. So it’s ironic that the all-time leading scorer is a guy more known at least for much of his career as a passer, so it shows how great he is and how versatile he is.”
James had 31 points when the Lakers lost 123-109 in San Francisco in the second game of the season.
He scored 38 to break the scoring record on Tuesday night against Oklahoma City. His total stands at 38,390, three more than Abdul-Jabbar.
The 38-year-old James sat out Thursday’s 115-106 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with a sore ankle, but likely will return against the Warriors as the Lakers quickly attempt to fold new players into a run at the playoffs over the final 26 games of the regular season.
The Lakers added D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba at the trade deadline, having already picked up Rui Hachimura earlier.
Surely, the club didn’t make the type of impact the Phoenix Suns accomplished with the acquisition of Kevin Durant, but Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham assured the goal remains the same: to win a championship.
“I think it’s a huge shot in the arm for the Western Conference,” he said of the Suns’ addition of Durant, “but make no mistake about it, we don’t fear anyone.”
That would include the Warriors, the defending champs who brought back a key contributor to their 2022 title run when they reacquired Gary Payton II from the Portland Trail Blazers in a four-team deal that saw Golden State send James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons.
Payton left the Warriors in the offseason for a more lucrative offer from the Trail Blazers. But after having core-muscle surgery and missing the first 35 games of the season, then averaging just 4.1 in 15 games, Portland was willing to cash him in for five second-round picks and Atlanta Hawks export Kevin Knox.
“I’m excited about this move,” Warriors defensive leader Draymond Green said of the Payton acquisition. “We’ve really struggled on the defensive end, and bringing GP back, we all know what GP is capable of on the defensive end. Can plug GP right in, and he knows the system like the back of his hand.”
Payton joins a Warriors team that has won its last four home games.
Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole have led the way in the injury absence of Stephen Curry. Thompson had 12 3-pointers in a 42-point explosion in Golden State’s most recent home contest, a 141-114 win over Oklahoma City, and Poole had 38 in the Warriors’ last outing, a 125-112 loss at Portland on Wednesday night.
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