James and Ball will both be held out for rest in Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Lakers coach Luke Walton, but will “most likely” both play Wednesday in Las Vegas against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
“That’s one of the things I still need to see that we haven’t had is what lineups look like when both of those guys are playing,” Walton said. “I’m excited and hopeful, but again, we’re going to take it day by day. If any setbacks or whatnot, then we won’t rush it, again. But I would expect Wednesday that happens.”
Ball is recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee and has yet to make his preseason debut, sitting out the Lakers’ 1-2 start. James had played around 15 minutes in the first half of all three of those games, and was given the Clippers game off.
“We haven’t had a day since we started,” Walton said. “I think it’s been going on 11-12 days with a double day in there. And he’s been great. So it’s more of just, look, we got to be ready for the regular season. … Just making sure that when the regular season starts, we’re peaking.”
James will likely sit out the preseason finale Friday in San Jose against the Warriors, multiple sources told ESPN, giving the 16-year veteran a full week’s rest without a game before the Lakers open the regular season on Oct. 18 on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.
As for Ball, the second-year point guard has been cleared to play and participated in full-court 4-on-4 with contact this week, but the team is remaining cautious with his reintegration to the lineup.
“He’s close. He’s close,” Walton said. “And again, it’s just us playing it safe right now. … So it just felt like the right thing to do. So, he’s getting real close.”
Walton added that the Lakers will have a day off Sunday, so Ball will be able to get treatment, followed by two days of practice heading into the Warriors game.
“We got a nice chance to really get him where we want him and it just felt right to not try to make it happen tonight,” Walton said.
Walton said the Lakers will start Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee against the Clippers.