Thoughts Through Three

Kurt —  October 14, 2008

UPDATE: Sasha Vujacic is not going to be playing much if any before the season starts. The Lakers officially shut him down for the next couple of weeks due to a avulsion fracture, which, Web MD is “ligament or tendon to tear off (avulse) a small piece of a bone to which it is attached.” (Web MD, good for more than just baseball!) Two weeks off would get him playing right about the start of the season, and expect him to work his way back in slowly.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled post, already in progress…..

I wrote a few paragraphs for NBA Fanhuse recently (part of the Pacific Division preview) and said something along these lines: “If your biggest preseason problem is where to fit in a 14 and 10 guy who is 6-10 and can run the floor, play inside and out, you’re in pretty good shape.”

Sometimes we need to remember that. And sometimes we need to remember that A+B does not always equal C.

Lamar Odom came off the bench in the third preseason game. Odom had his best game of the preseason. Ergo….. not so fast, my friend. (Oh crap, I just quoted Lee Corso, I could have my blogger’s license suspended for that. I promise it won’t happen again, and you can be sure I’ll never quote Herbstreet.)

Odom did play his best game of the preseason Sunday night, showing aggression on the boards, really pushing the ball up on the break and just generally looking more comfortable than he did in the first two meaningless games. Bottom line, whether you were in the “start Odom” or “sixth man Odom” camp, you came out of that game with some fuel.

On one hand, Lamar had his best game in one where he came off the bench, plus he and Jordan Farmar showed some chemistry together.

On the other, by far the best play we have seen this preseason came from a lineup of Fish, Kobe, Ariza, Odom and Gasol to start the third (and kept going when Bynum subbed out Gasol midway through the quarter). The play was good because the defense was the best we have seen so far, with aggression on the ball and pretty good closeouts. With those five starters on the floor, the Lakers started to look like the kind of team you should fear.

Of course, right now that is not the starting five. Apparently Phil likes Radmanovic in as a starter, and on offense you can see why. He had seven first quarter points and two assists, stretched the defense and generally looked solid. His defense isn’t as bad as its reputation (although good would not be a word I’d use either). When Bynum and Gasol are on the floor, Radman is a good option because of his sweet shot and the open looks he should get.

When you think about Odom’s versatility and what a match up nightmare he is, there is no doubt he will get key minutes. Which all comes back to, defense and matchups. I trust Phil to find the measure there. And I don’t expect him to have the answer after three preseason games.

Just a few other thoughts, because I’d like to talk about something other than Odom (he’s just the big issue now).

• Happy birthday John Wooden!

• As a fan I’m not that concerned yet about all the Lakers turnovers, it’s preseason. If I were a coach, I’d be talking about it constantly to the team.

• One of the more interesting columns we’ve seen in a while is from former Daily News guy Ross Siler, talking about how to improve the preseason.

Start with location: Spring training has the benefit of being in two places – – Arizona and Florida – – where fans want to vacation. I proposed having the NBA gather all its Western Conference teams in Las Vegas and Eastern Conference teams in Miami for a tournament….

There’s no league that does it, but a preseason tournament could generate interest. It’d be sort of like a big-time D-League showcase and might even give coaches a reason to bring back the starters in the fourth quarter of an exhibition game.

The NBA also should borrow a page from spring training and increase access for fans. Teams should be required to hold practice outside their facility at least once during the preseason. Go to a small gym and let fans get as close as they can to the action…..

I’ve seen firsthand just how people can be drawn to watching these guys whenever they hold shoot around at some college or health club. They’re so big and so athletic that they can’t help but draw a crowd just doing full-court drills.

There also should be no ticket to any NBA preseason game that costs more than $25. I know that’s a hit in Larry Miller’s pocket, but I think it would send a message to fans. Upper deck tickets should be $5 and general admission seating.

Anyone else have some ideas?