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SAN FRANCISCO -- The year was 2018. The pandemic was still two years away. "Black Panther" was the No. 1 movie in the country. And LeBron James had just received a fresh batch of teammates following a flurry of activity from the Cleveland Cavaliers prior to the trade deadline.

A 121-99 thumping of the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in the team's first game following the addition of Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, George Hill and Larry Nance Jr. prompted James to exclaim afterward, "We've got a f---ing squad now!"

Five years later, he didn't quite go that far after a 109-103 road win by the new-look Los Angeles Lakers over the Golden State Warriors -- but James, who did not play in the game due to an ankle injury but was on the sideline cheering on his new teammates, was certainly impressed.

"When I was out [of the game], Bron made a comment: 'You know, we're gonna be really good,'" Lakers forward Anthony Davis said after Saturday night's win.

Indeed there was a lot to like about the first outing from recently acquired D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, whose names were scribbled in Sharpie on pieces of athletic tape over their lockers because Lakers name plates had yet to be crafted -- actually Vanderbilt's read JARRED VANERBILT, accidentally omitting the "D" that the 6-8 forward certainly brought on the court.

As Davis put it, the trio went out there and "did what we thought they were gonna do," with Russell bringing scoring and playmaking (15 points, six assists), Vanderbilt providing energy, defense and rebounding (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists), and, despite missing all six of his 3-point attempts, Beasley's mere presence opening up the lane for driving teammates.

Not bad for a group that was missing LeBron and had all of a single 80-minute practice at the University of San Francisco to try to get on the same page.

"We talked about it before the game -- three words we use are energy, effort and urgency," Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. "That's what we played with tonight against a very, very, very great ball club in Golden State."

There were missteps, of course. The Lakers were treated early to a cold spell from Beasley, a career 39 percent 3-point shooter. Russell showed some of his defensive shortcomings, getting caught leaking out while Klay Thompson relocated for a wide-open 3-pointer early in the first quarter.

And Vanderbilt -- well, surely Vanderbilt did something wrong in what looked like a perfect game from the stands.

Overall, it was exactly the boost the Lakers needed, and that's partly due to Ham and his coaching staff looking at plenty of film of the incoming players, and contacting them to go over team concepts and their individual likes and dislikes.

"[Ham] was excited for me to come out here and shoot the ball," Beasley told CBS Sports before the game. "He wants the floor to be spaced a little more. So now I'm gonna do my job and do that."

The pieces also worked together on the defensive side of the floor -- an impressive feat for a group that has never played together against a Warriors offense unlike any other in the league. Some of the NBA's best and most contiguous defenses have been ripped to shreds by Golden State's quick-hitting, read-and-react system -- even without Steph Curry -- yet the Lakers looked solid in holding them to 103 points, including just seven in the final six minutes of the game.

Anchored in the middle by Davis, who finished with three blocks, the Lakers defense showcased a versatility and toughness that has Ham excited for the future.

"I think we can be elite [defensively]," Ham said after the win. "Vandy, the way he rebounds, his activity, he can block shots. Wenyen [Gabriel] had some moments, changing up shots, rebounding. Obviously AD, that's what he does."

That's not even including former Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba, another Lakers trade deadline acquisition who did not suit up on Saturday because he's still serving a four-game suspension for an altercation with Minnesota Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers. Owning a record-setting 7-foot-9 wingspan, Bamba has blocked 2.7 shots per 36 minutes in his five-year career.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks the Lakers' new players aren't going to make them better. The front office accomplished its mission of putting a capable roster around James, giving them a puncher's chance to make some noise in the playoffs -- if they can get there.

As of Saturday night, the Lakers sat at 26-31, good for 13th in the Western Conference. The jam-packed nature of the West this season means that they're only four games out of fourth place in the loss column, but it's still going to take an abrupt turnaround for a Lakers team that has yet to play consistent winning basketball this season.

With just 25 games remaining, they have to go 15-10 down the stretch if they're even going to get to .500. A potential play-in berth could require wins in two elimination games before even getting into the postseason. You never want to count out a team led by James and Davis, which now appears to have a solid cast of role players, but that's still asking a lot considering that only Denver and Memphis are playing .600 ball in the West.

While other teams in the conference have been building continuity all season, the Lakers have to essentially start from scratch with their new group, and hope they can coalesce in an extremely short amount of time. Saturday was a good step, but there's still a mountain to climb and work to do.

"We've got a few games left, it's not like we've got the whole season ahead of us," Russell said after the game. "So, making every moment count, and I think communication's gonna smooth out that process and make it efficient."