There’s only 11 days until opening night but the Lakers (0-4) have yet to scratch a W in exhibition games. The way things are going so far, Laker fans might see Dwight Howard suited on the floor before seeing the Lakers get the slippery win.
If you’re one of those who thinks Time Warner Cable also controls Lakers news and don’t bother getting on the internet until that highly-anticipated deal with every other carrier pushes through, the Lakers are already teasing their fans by mentioning that Sunday’s game against these same Sacramento Kings (2-1) just might be Howard’s debut in purple and gold.
Then again, according to ESPN, the Lakers are already picturing Lebron James playing alongside Howard in a Lakers jersey…in 2014.
I’m just hoping we don’t have to wait that long before we see the Lakers win.
As I hinted to earlier, the Lakers are facing the Kings for the first time this year tonight at their annual pre-season get-together at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Last time these 2 teams were in this building in 2010, the Lakers got a 98-95 win thanks to Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace splitting a 36-point scoring night between them. Those two probably won’t score that much tonight considering the difference in situation for the team these days compared to 2 years ago.
The Lakers are no longer the 2-time defending champs and no longer running Phil Jackson‘s Triangle. This team is now trying to get back to the top of the NBA and utilizing whatever time they have left before Kobe Bryant calls it a career to add at least 2 more banners up in the rafters of Staples Center.
So far, the Lakers aren’t impressing much in team defense and are clearly still a work in progress in their technical executions of the Princeton offense despite having one of the best point guards to ever play the game.
But it’s unfair to gauge or even judge a team when the parts of its sum are absent.
We know things will be different once Howard is on the floor and Jordan Hill back on the bench. We just don’t know how much the Lakers will improve on both sides of the floor or how long it will take for them to adjust having both guys back.
Looking back at how this team struggled learning the Triangle in 1999, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. But unlike that team, these Lakers have a future Hall-of-Famer to run the offense and grow with them at the same time.
This is one side of Steve Nash in his first season with the Lakers that not a whole lot of people are taking into account in regards to his leadership and role in this team. He knows he’s going to be the director on offense and his ability to make plays for his teammates in every way only he knows how will dictate the success for the Lakers this year.
Sometimes, that kind of responsibility can sharpen even a player as good as Nash. He’s already one of the smartest and toughest competitor in the history of the NBA. Imagine how much better he can become running this team.
But first thing’s first. The Lakers have to be patient while being as concise as possible as to what areas of their overall game they need to concentrate on between now and later. There will be plenty of time to re-examine this team.
As Kobe have said before, “we’re taking it one game at a time”.
Matchup of the Game
Tyreke Evans vs. Metta World Peace: This is the most interesting matchup of the game. Stats for both guys are close (TE: 9.3 PPG/4 RPG/24 MPG. MWP: 9.5 PPG/3.8 RPG/25 MPG.) but each can give one another fits defensively. Evans can score from anywhere and is the quicker of the two. But Peace is the brute who had just gotten himself into shape so he can defend guys like Evans better than before.
Look Out For
KINGS: DeMarcus Cousins: He may have shot 2-out-of-8 in their loss to the Golden State Warriors last Wednesday, but Cousins has been averaging 16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 3 games for the Kings coming in. That includes a 20+ scoring barrage in his first 2 pre-season games. With Howard still out, he could be the number one reason for loss #5 for the Lakers tonight.
LAKERS: Steve Nash: Yeah, he stunk it up a little against the Utah Jazz in Anaheim. So maybe he’ll come out with dead-set eyes tonight. And we know how dangerous he is just passing the ball to his teammates.
Keys for the Game
> Team Defense: This is getting old, I know. But until the Lakers starts heading into the right direction on that side of the court, expect more and more teams to do as they please on offense.
> Attack Cousins: One of DeMarcus’ weaknesses in his game is his lack of discipline on defense. He’s led the league in personal fouls the past 2 seasons averaging 4.1 fouls per game. Ouch! And when nothing is working for him defensively, his offensive game goes downhill as well.
> Fast Start: It’s easier to compensate for all of the bad intangibles the Lakers are having at this moment when the opposition has to make up a lot of points just to get into the driver’s seat. We’ll see how the starters attack the Kings defense from the get-go.
Tonight vs. Sacramento Kings
Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
LAKERS: Earl Clark (left groin), Jordan Hill (herniated disk) and Dwight Howard (conditioning – back).