Lakers' young and new put on show for the stars in their preseason opener

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Brooklyn Nets forward Devontae Cacok, left, goes after a loose ball.
Brooklyn Nets forward Devontae Cacok goes after a loose ball in front of Lakers guard Chaundee Brown during the second half Sunday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin — the stars were truly out Sunday for the Lakers’ preseason opener.

Really. None of them played.

Anthony Davis was the only big name to log court time, playing 11 minutes in the first quarter of a 123-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center.

Malik Monk led the Lakers with 15 points and Cam Thomas led the Nets with 21, things almost guaranteed to not happen whenever the teams meet again this season, and perhaps in the NBA Finals.

But even a preseason opener without the biggest names had some of the excitement that will come when, health-willing, they’re all on the court for the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 19.

The crowd erupted for a Talen Horton-Tucker one-handed slam. The fans buzzed as Monk got hot and as DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard swatted away shots at the rim. And they roared when Davis looked healthy scoring his first points.

There were other crumbs of normalcy — the Laker girls were back, there were no capacity restrictions, the courtside seats were filled and Howard fouled everybody.

“It was great to just come out the tunnel and you see fans right there and you're smacking their hands again,” Davis said. “Like, it's just the little things. It was really good to be back out there and see fans cheering us on.”

Howard left the game to a huge roar, fouling out late in the third quarter in a sequence so confusing that he ended up making a free throw that had to be erased — he already had been disqualified with six fouls. For good measure, he added a technical and a flagrant, leaving the court to huge cheers and a laughing hug from Jordan.

“I was too excited,” Howard acknowledged with a grin.

The game was mostly competitive except for the fourth quarter when the deep end of the Lakers’ bench was outscored 39-16.

Davis, who ended last year injured with groin and knee injuries after dealing with an Achilles problem all season, looked healthy in his limited run, scoring the Lakers’ first points on an explosive drive to the basket. He scored six points.

“I just wanted to play,” Davis said. “I didn't play much last season from the injuries. I just wanted to get back and get in rhythm.”

Monk was the biggest revelation, showing the instant offense that has teammates calling him “Microwave” in the first week of training camp.

“It fits well,” he said of the nickname. “Perfect.”

Wayne Ellington and Howard each added 11 points and Horton-Tucker scored 10 for the Lakers, who play again Wednesday in Phoenix.

Eventually, the Lakers will have Westbrook, James and Davis on the court together, though coach Frank Vogel isn’t in a rush.

“We're all eager to see it,” Vogel said before the game. “But I've been watching it in practice the last few days. So I already know what it looks like.

“I don't have any intention of overdoing the preseason. We have to take it for what it is. It's an opportunity for a lot of guys to get reps. I really want our main guys to play only as much as they need to to get ready for opening night and nothing more. So I'm eager to see it, but not today.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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