Harden, Houston visit new-look Los Angeles
No one’s expecting the Lakers to make major waves as soon as 2016-17. With Luke Walton at the helm, though, the franchise hopes it’s pinpointed the man to turn things around.
Having previously played at the Staples Center, Walton returns to the venue tonight as Los Angeles’ new coach. The host squad begins the season against Houston at 10:30 p.m. ET. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the Rockets odds of -195 to claim the win. Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle & Co. are regarded as +235 underdogs.
Walton, who served as Steve Kerr’s primary understudy a season ago, replaces Byron Scott on the West Coast. The 36-year-old inherits a talented, albeit uber-raw, roster that included premium draft picks like Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell. Now that Kobe Bryant’s no longer orchestrating the show, however, Walton needs to find consistent scoring – and leadership.
Filling up the bucket’s rarely an issue for James Harden, who hopes to lead Houston back to relevance in the Southwest Division. The Rockets also boast a fresh figure on the sideline: Mike D’Antoni. He may not have the athleticism of those early-decade glory days with the Suns, but general manager Daryl Morey assembled a group of complementary parts for Harden. Dwight Howard left for Atlanta, while Eric Gordon and Nene came aboard.
Los Angeles should stick around for a half or so, but it’s still operating at a severe disadvantage. An abundance of garbage-time points seems inevitable, so we’re intrigued by the points here. In the end, though, expect H-Town to grab that initial victory.
WEDNESDAY NBA FREE PICK: ROCKETS/LAKERS UNDER 224 POINTS