Preview & Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Kurt —  December 12, 2008

Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles
Records: Lakers 18-3 (1st in West) Kings 6-16 (12th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (3rd in league) Kings 104.4 (21st in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.6 (4th in league) Kings 112.5 (29th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Kings Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, Brad Miller

Lakers Christmas Shopping: What do you get the Lakers fan who has everything? Well, Collin at the Examiner has some ideas via eBay:

Lakers Small Dog Jersey Shirt – at least this best friend will agree with you that the Lakers shouldn’t have signed Andrew Bynum to that extension.

Lakers Christmas Santa Hat – if Santa was a Laker, he’d definitely wear this hat…and he would let the elves get to the basket at will despite a considerable height advantage.

Lakers Reusable Grocery Bag – because everybody who’s buying Hot Pockets at 3 for $5.00 wants to be reminded that Chris Mihm is making $2.5 million this season.

Lakers Mr. Potato Head — I hate to say it, but this bears a striking resemblance to Lamar Odom.

Brandon Jennings in Europe: You remember Jennings, he was Sonny Vacarro’s wet dream, a gifted player who blew off the one-and-done college year to play in Europe. Slam Magazine’s Lang Whitaker was there and made a great point:

While I initially thought Brandon going to Europe might be a bad idea, he’s found a team that’s giving him playing time and letting him learn on the fly. If he’d gotten into a US college or gone to a junior college, he’d probably be allowed to shoot as much as he wants, go up against zone defenses, have a coach catering to him and not be expected to defend the opposing team’s best guards. But now he’s getting a one year crash course in defending pick-and-rolls, handling the travel and the attention, keeping his teammates and coaches happy — basically, what it’s going to be like for him next year in the NBA.

Lakers Notes: Two comments today on the Lakers and their recent play. The first is from arguably the smartest hoops writer out there, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, who talks about the team and Mark Jackson in his most recent piece:

…while we probably got too excited about the Lakers’ strong start (consider me guilty as charged), nor is the team as bad off as it appears right now. One of Jackson’s hallmarks as a coach is his willingness to let his team flounder at times as a teaching tool, and to some extent we may be seeing just that. The Lakers don’t need to be an elite defensive team right now; they need to reach that level in May and June, and one way or another this stretch will help Jackson determine whether the strong-side trap can be a part of that.

What really irked me about the commentary from Pasch and Jackson (and even Lakers legend Magic Johnson, during his in-game interview with sideline reporter Nancy Lieberman) is the notion that this rough patch defensively is indicative of some inherent shortcoming of this Lakers squad, that it doesn’t have a quote-unquote “defensive mentality.” At one point, they called the Lakers out for rarely practicing defense, which–without putting too fine a point on it–is pretty much exactly opposite what was reported by the people who actually covered the team during training camp. It’s an example of the worst of sports coverage in terms of drawing a conclusion and picking facts to support it instead of coming to a conclusion based on the facts.

Along those same lines, thoughts from Darius lifted from the comments.

Every team must bring their best in order to win the title. They must also hope that their best is better than what their opponents bring in that Final moment or Championship series. Boston will need that same great performance to make the Finals and win that they gave and had last year. The Lakers will also need their best. So, I don’t care about very good in December, I care about the best in June. And that’s the reason that I’m not too upset with where we are as a team right now. Could we be playing better? Of course. And if the playoffs started next week, I’d have legitimate concerns. But this isn’t football season with 3 games left to play. This is the NBA and we aren’t even at the All-Star break yet. We haven’t even passed the trade deadline. There is so much season left to play that we literally have 2 college length regular seasons left in our season. So far we’ve won 86% of our games…I’m cool with where we are.

The Kings Coming In: What’s new with them since Tuesday> Well, Sheldon Williams married Candice Parker? (Hopefully their kids get her skills, she’s more polished than he is.)

Aside that, not much, they are still basking in the glow of the Lakers win the other night. They also will still be without Kevin Martin tonight.

You should be reading and asking Tom Ziller any questions about Sacramento, not me.

The last meeting: Despite some Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind efforts, I think we all recall that game vividly. I’m not going to rehash it here.

Keys To The Game: For all my talk about not reading too much into early regular season games, I think this is one game where we do learn something about the Lakers. It’s not if they blow Sacramento out of the water — the Kings are a team that simply matches up well with the Lakers — but it’s about the effort. The intensity. Do they come out wanting to avenge their bruised pride, or do they stay in coasting mode on defense?

Bynum has gotten some ribbing from Phil about his defense, but tonight poses a real problem for Bynum. He’s supposed to protect the paint, but you have to come out on Brad Miller, probably the best shooting center at 15-18 feet in the league (still). Hawes poses some of the same issues for Gasol. The Lakers have been slow to make counter-adjustments to what teams are doing to the new trapping defense, I’m curious if we will see any tonight, the Lakers need to find an answer. As yesterday was just a film day, no practice for the team, I would guess we see no big strategy changes.

One other thing, the first two meetings the Lakers turned the ball over a lot, they need to limit that tonight.

Where you can watch: This is a Fox Sports night, with the rest of the nation scrambling.