EL SEGUNDO — Luke Walton on Friday was focused on implementing defensive schemes and the long list of things he had been unable to get to during the Lakers’ truncated training camp. The preseason game that awaited his team the next day was not yet his focus.
Nor was the circus that awaits the rookie sensation he plans to start at point guard. The fervor surrounding Lonzo Ball, after all, comes with hope that the Lakers are on the cusp of a return to legitimacy.
“I’m sure when we get there tomorrow I’ll have some excitement about that,” Walton said.
Saturday’s preseason opener against Minnesota at Honda Center will mark Ball’s professional debut – not counting, of course, his Most Valuable Player performance during summer league in Las Vegas – and give fans their first glimpse at the most highly anticipated Lakers rookie since, perhaps, Magic Johnson.
On Thursday, Ball said he did not expect to have to battle nerves when he first stepped on the court.
From a practical standpoint, the first of six preseason contests gives the Lakers coaching staff more information to evaluate what – and who – is working on the court. Walton said he expects Saturday’s game to be “pretty sloppy,” much like the early scrimmages of training camp.
“I’m excited,” first-year Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “I hope my teammates are excited as well. I think it’s going to be great to go out and play against someone else besides our team and move forward from there.”
Starting small forward Brandon Ingram agreed.
“It gives us a chance to see where we are,” he said. “We’ve been practicing and playing a lot the last two days of training camp, so we get to see how we match up against other guys and how we can play.”
The preseason opener is sold out, much of which can likely be traced to the excitement for Ball, a Chino Hills native who starred at UCLA for one season.
Ball continued to shine in training camp, leading a team with Ingram,…