Deprived of the injured Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking at different player combinations when they face the Golden State Warriors in Beijing on Tuesday.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Monday he hopes to be able to start thinking about starting lineups following the Beijing game and another one Friday in Shanghai.
"We’ve got to keep improving. I’m watching guys who play well together so we can start thinking about starting lineups and stuff like that," D’Antoni said at a Monday practice session at the western Beijing arena where the teams will play.
"And we have guys competing for jobs. They’re trying to earn jobs. So it’s a hard time for these players but they’re doing well."
Although he made the trip to China, Bryant is expected to be out for much of the season with a torn Achilles tendon and sore right knee.
The trip to China is part of the NBA’s Global Games, part of efforts to promote the league’s global brand that also offers a break from the monotony of training camp and a chance to build camaraderie.
Pau Gasol said the team has the offensive tools to make up for Bryant’s absence. But he said the most important thing was just for everyone to stay healthy.
"It’s just a matter of having everybody else healthy so we have as many guys as possible to be able to make up for Kobe’s absence," Gasol said.
Golden State guard Stephen Curry said Gasol and veteran guard Steve Nash will be the Lakers’ main threats.
"They don’t have Kobe and probably won’t for a little bit, but they’ve still got a lot of talent," Curry said.
Bryant is easily one of the most popular NBA players in China and was the focus of local media attention at Monday’s practice. Amid questions about his latest signature shoe design and his teammates’ special skills, he looked back to last season when the Lakers struggled with injuries and were swept by San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs.
"I think it was an unfortunate year. We got so many injuries, decimated with injuries, but … we’re looking forward to getting back out there this year and making up for lost time," Bryant said.
The NBA played its first international game when Washington visited Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel in 1978. By the end of this season, the league will have played nearly 150 of them, including 18 during the regular season.