LOS ANGELES LAKERS AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Wednesday, Feb. 14 (7 p.m.)
Why it’s on the list
Year 1 of the post-Kobe Bryant era was a major downer for the Lakers, with Los Angeles posting its fourth consecutive poor record (26-56), even after an encouraging start to the regular season (7-5 through Nov. 15). Although expectations still aren’t exactly through the roof entering 2017-18, hope and excitement have returned in the form of the much-anticipated selection of No. 2 overall draft pick Lonzo Ball, who flourished in summer league, earning MVP honors. The NBA’s TV partners clearly don’t see the Lakers as just a bad team struggling to get out of the bottom tier of the standings, scheduling L.A.’s marquee franchise to appear on national broadcasts a total of 35 times (including 11 times apiece on TNT and ESPN). No one knows for sure if the Big Baller will be able to make a huge impact in the win column immediately for the Lakers, but one thing’s certain: basketball fans will be watching.
Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
Most notably, the Valentine’s Day home game vs. the Lakers is the Pelicans’ final game prior to the All-Star break (coincidentally, Los Angeles’ Staples Center is hosting the All-Star Game Feb. 18). Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will be trying to extend their All-Star appearance streaks to five and four, respectively. Immediately prior to the Feb. 14 first-half finale, New Orleans embarks on a three-game road trip to Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Detroit, which likely will feature a bus trip from the City of Brotherly Love to the Big Apple.
What’s new in Los Angeles
Ball received the lion’s share of attention among Lakers additions this summer, but he was far from the only significant roster upgrade. Los Angeles also acquired center Brook Lopez (Brooklyn) in a multi-player trade, giving the offense a proven veteran scorer, then signed two-way shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Detroit) to a lucrative one-way deal. Ball is joined in a promising Lakers draft class by forward Kyle Kuzma – who was excellent in summer league – and guard Josh Hart, an NCAA champion in 2016 at Villanova. No objective observer is expecting the Lakers to end a postseason drought that stretches back to ’13, but they should be a more competitive and entertaining team.
Other 2017-18 games between these two teams
Sunday, Oct. 22, New Orleans at L.A. Lakers
Thursday, March 22, L.A. Lakers at New Orleans