Two games, two nights, and I think we are learning some things.
Looks like the Lakers have a rotation. At least for now (nothing is ever what it seems with Phil). Fisher, Kobe, Radmanovic, Gasol and Bynum starting with Odom, Farmar and Ariza the first guys off the bench. Preseason wins don’t matter, but the reason the Lakers got two in the last two nights is because of how well those units are playing together. The energy and pace that those three guys bring off the bench (along with Walton and Sasha when healthy) can’t be matched by any bench in the NBA I can think of right now. We could see the Lakers pull away at the end of the first and third quarters from a lot of teams this season.
• Seriously, this was sick!
• Here’s what is really important — that first five is also playing good defense, I think in part due to their length causing difficulties for the opposition. Odom comes in for Pau and they don’t miss a beat. Then with Farmar and Ariza, the defensive pressure steps up, as does the pace, with the second unit.
Also, as they were doing early last year, you can see Lakers guards jumping passing lanes on the perimeter, willing to take risks because they feel like they have a backstop.
• This happens all the time here and on other Lakers sites, and I don’t think it’s fair any more — people say “Vlad and Luke’s oversized contracts….” They both are getting the midlevel. But if Radmanovic is playing like he did this weekend or did at the end of last year — starting, spreading the floor with his threes, working well in the offense and playing decent defense, he is well worth the money he is making. There will be games where Ariza gets more time at the three, especially down the stretch, because of the need for a stopper at the three. But Radmanovic is a good fit in this offense and on this team. I think what he makes about suits the skills (in the crazy NBA economy).
• All that above said, Trevor Ariza hit a couple of nice jumpers, one from the right baseline one a straightaway three against Toronto. If he keeps that up it is going to be hard not to play him a lot.
• Andrew Bynum is starting to find the spaces in the triangle he did last year, diving to the basket when Kobe and now Pau draw a double team. He had a few of his easy baskets underneath that way against the Raptors. If he keeps that up when it matters, he’ll score plenty. Bchamp said the same things in the comments:
Bynum and Gasol looked much better together in tonight’s game. It seemed like anytime the Lakers ran a Kobe/Gasol pick n roll Kobe got doubled and he’d flip the ball over to Pau in the high post area. The natural inclination is for the opposing center to rotate over and cover Pau but of course this leads to a wide open Bynum sitting underneath the rim. I see lots of possibilities here going forward.
• Bynum and Pau also both did a good job of getting down the floor fast and getting deep position before the defense could really set. There are six to 10 points a night to be had that way.
• Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus put together a list of players who should have breakout years (based on a statistical method of analysis). Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza make the list.
• New Lakers blog with some notes after every game over at examiner.com, check it out.
• New News: Brandon Heath has been waived. This was expected, but we hope he lands on his feet somewhere and soon.