Pre-Season Lakers vs. T’Wolves: Preview & Chat

Darius Soriano —  October 4, 2010

Mar. 20, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, EE.UU - LOS ANGELES (USA), 19/03/2010.- Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol (L) tries to score in presence of Minnesota Timberwolves' Darko Milicic, during their NBA basketball match at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California (USA), 19 March 2010. Lakers won 104-96.

Today actual Lakers basketball returns to us.  Well, if you define “actual” as “pre-season hoops against one of the lesser teams in the NBA last season that happens to be taking place in London”.  Anyways, this is what we’ve all been waiting for – an NBA game, involving the Lakers where we can begin to look at what this team will play like in a real setting.  This isn’t summer league with a hodge-podge of rookies and vets looking for a camp invite (though there are still some of those players).  And while it’s not a regular season game, it’s a game nonetheless so we’re taking this chance to really evaluate the team.  This isn’t to say that I’m taking the results seriously (I’m not), nor is it to say that how the Lakers play today is indicative of what they’ll play like when the season opens at the end of this month.  However, as Phillip mentioned yesterday, there are some things to look for and this is our chance to do so.

The first thing I’ll be looking at is how Kobe looks from a physical standpoint.  He’s been working hard to rehab his knee and by all accounts he’s been recovering nicely.  And while I expect there to be a certain amount of rust and for there to be some missed shots that would likely go in were this April (and not October), I do want to see how he moves around the court and how much spring he has in his legs.  Kobe has said that he’ll look to give the fans of Europe a show while also looking out for his knee, so I’m interested in how he balances those desires.

Another sub-plot of this game is that the Lakers are playing the only other team that actually runs the Triangle Offense.  Although Kurt Rambis has had his hurdles implementing those sets into a team that didn’t quite have all the pieces to run it smoothly, he is trying to create a culture of offensive fluidity and, in turn, get his team to play winning basketball.  But this is taking time.  In a way, the Lakers are going through this same process with their second unit.  The Lakers have added 5 new players to this team and I would not doubt that you see at least 4 of those guys on the floor together at the same time (and maybe even all five if Phil goes with both Barnes and Ebanks on the wing).  This will create opportunities for the newest Lakers to get their feet wet in real game action and run the sets they’ve been going over in practice and in the film room.  As commenter Harold astutely pointed out in the comments:

It’d be interesting to see which team understands the Triangle better once the subs come out to play…

From a strict game preview standpoint, here are few other things that I’ll be looking for:

*Rebounding will be key (as it is in every game) and I’m interested in seeing if/how the Lakers control the boards.  Kevin Love is one of two players in this game (Odom being the other) that has actually been playing competitive basketball this summer.  This means that Love will be in game shape and will have his timing down low when chasing the ball and crashing the glass.  Will Pau/LO be able to keep him off the glass?

*The Lakers are a veteran team but with the integration of new players the chemistry may not be there.  This may result in miscommunications on passes, cuts, etc.  So, I think we’ll see our fair share of these types of mistakes.  However, the Lakers are also a team that drills fundamentals a lot in their training camp.  They repeatedly go over the correct passing angles, what hand to use when passing, ball handling, etc, etc.  So, while I understand there will be some sloppiness, I also hope to see some good fundamentals executed with a focus on the little things being done correctly.

*Keeping up with the little things, one thing to watch for on both sides is spacing.  Since both teams run the same system, both teams should be focussed on getting the appropriate spacing in their half court sets in order to set up their post play and off ball movement.  The Lakers have been running these sets for many years now, so I expect to see them operate a bit better than their counterparts.

*Speaking of spacing, setting this up properly is, at times, dependent on shooting.  As Phillip mentioned yesterday, both Ron and Fisher had up and down years from behind the arc.  Kobe did as well.  So, I’m interested in seeing if their strokes look improved at all.  Again, I’m not necessarily looking for a bunch of made 3’s (though that’d be nice) and even if the shots did fall there’s this thing called “sample size” that I’m pretty aware of.  What I’m really looking at is the release of the shot and how the guys are using their legs.  I’m looking for any hesitation (Ron) and I’m looking for shots coming in rhythm (all of the above).

In the end, this is only game one in the pre-season.  So while there are things to glean from this game, it should not be taken too seriously.  The path to repeating is starting, but not necessarily today.  These are the baby steps.  Scratch that, these are the first crawls or even “tummy time” for the Lakers.  But I’m still excited.

Where you can watch: NBA TV at 12 noon (Pacific Time) and on ESPN Radio 710am.  KCAL will replay the game at 7pm (Pacific Time).  – on a side note, I’ll be watching the game live and commenting both here at FB&G and on twitter.

Darius Soriano

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39 responses to Pre-Season Lakers vs. T’Wolves: Preview & Chat

  1. Would you like to know how big of a Lakers fan I am? I dreamed about the first pre season game last night. If you must know my subconscious predicts the Lakers after three consecutive Character offensive rebounds leading to a Matt Barnes three pointer with 6 seconds left go up by two points. I can’t remember what happens after that.

    In case you don’t have espn insider here is Jon Hollingers take on the players that will fill out the Lakers weakest spot on the floor….

    Derek Fisher:
    • Tough, smart defender with superior strength and penchant for taking charges.
    • Likes to shoot high lefty jumper off catch or on pull-up in transition.
    • Rarely drives to basket and a very poor finisher. Easily beaten by quick guards.

    Fisher found his shot in the playoffs, redeeming himself in the eyes of both Laker Nation and the Lakers’ front office, but the disturbing fact remains that he was left wide open for 82 games and shot 38.0 percent. Fisher was a nonentity on many nights — most notably Nov. 4 against Houston, when he played 34 minutes and finished with 0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists — but the most troubling part was his failure in the role of long-distance sniper.

    Used as an off-the-ball floor spacer more than a traditional point guard, we can expect Fisher to have low per-game stats. But the percentages need to be better. His 49.9 TS percentage ranked 55th out of 71 points guards and made only 34.8 percent of his 3s despite shooting unmolested off the catch on nearly all of them. Fisher also remains among the worst at-the-basket finishers in captivity. He shot 37.0 percent in the basket area for a second straight season, although he lacked enough attempts to take up his usual perch in my “worst basket-area shooters” chart this season.

    While Fisher played better in the playoffs, this is partly a result of lowered expectations — every point felt like gravy. His game shouldn’t decline much due to age since he relies mostly on strength and shooting ability, but the fact is he needs to incline to have much value. The fact he enters the season as the starter is mostly a testament to L.A. not wanting to ruffle any feathers, but I’m dubious he can keep the gig all season.

    Steve Blake:
    • Low-mistake point guard who won’t force action. Can hit open 3s.
    • Good passer but rarely attacks rim or penetrates and hardly draws fouls.
    • Long defender but has thin frame and average agility.

    The classic just-don’t-kill-us point guard, Blake mostly stays out of the way until he’s called upon to hit a catch-and-shoot 3. He took more than half his shots from beyond the arc last season but ranked 63rd out of 71 points guards in usage rate. As for going to the basket, forget it — he was 69th in free throw attempts per field goal attempt, attempting just 48 free throws the entire season.

    Because he never gets to the line and is a poor shooter inside the arc (44.1 percent last season, 42.7 percent the year before), Blake’s TS percentage ends up being mighty unimpressive for a low-usage 3-point specialist. Blake will hit the 3 — he’s at 39.3 percent for his career — and unlike his teammates he’ll actually throw the ball in to Gasol once in a while. But just as in Portland, he’s more of a stopgap than a solution.

    One feather in his cap, however, came in the final game of the regular season against his new teammates. While the Clippers were beating the Lakers’ subs 107-91, Blake recorded one of the most unlikely triple-doubles in NBA history with 23 points, 11 assists and 10 boards. It was his first double-figure rebound game since 2004.

  2. Surreal! After the Summer of the cHEAT, time for real business to get down.

  3. Looks like the game is blacked out on NBAtv in the LA area. Will have to wait for the KCAL replay in the evening.

  4. MICHAEL ZARABI aka ZERB October 4, 2010 at 11:47 am

    im at work and i wanna watch on my computer … anyone have a link for me?

    hopefully its on espn3 but i highly doubt it

  5. another good one (will need Veetle though):

    http://veetle.com/index.php/channel/view#4ca9e8c439bd2

  6. MICHAEL ZARABI aka ZERB October 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    thanks

  7. OT–we’ve got just 3 more spots open for a laker fan roto league. please join if you’re interested and competitive.

    Link: http://games.espn.go.com/fba/tools/join?leagueId=51625
    Password: queensbridge

  8. Kobe’s jumper looks flat early, but then again his jumper usually does look flat. He does seem to have a good bounce in his step, though.

  9. ShanWOW doing what he does best, throwing it down

  10. i bet hollinger didn’t/doesn’t know that steve blake tested out as the top scorer in the lakers’ own, in house, “athletic test”. he is going to surprise this year and from watching some laker scrimmage clips, he’s reached a good read with LO already.

  11. its an exibition game zebras geez put the whistles away

  12. #11. namotuman,
    I too have noticed the connection between Blake and Odom. With LO’s strong off-ball movement/slashing and Blake’s pass first mentality and above average court vision, there’s a natural chemistry between the two guys.

  13. The games being blacked out for a long time is a real concern for fans who subscribe to DISH Network. It’s in a spat with Fox and has dropped the regional stations from its lineup, like Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket.

    If they don’t get this resolved in the next couple of weeks, fans like me will be finding a new TV service. The Lakers are the main reason I pay for satellite; if my provider can’t show their games, time to get a new provider.

  14. Wow… Our Lakers look as flat as pancakes. Thank goodness this is only preseason.

  15. Living at the FT line in the 2nd half of this quarter. (And missing a lot of them!)

  16. The Lakers defense did not travel with them to London. Give credit to the Wolves as they’ve been on fire and made the looks that have been available to them – especially Beasley and Webster.

  17. Odom should not be leading the Lakers in minutes played in the first pre-season game after he played in the FIBA World Championships

  18. Welcome back everyone, and let the game(s) begin! No, I’m not watching…but I’m there in spirit. It’s about time we play some roundball, even if it’s in London and the pre-season.

    While it doesn’t look the the final line was anything to boast about…at least I’m reading an NBA box score. Funny to see the only + in the +/- was Caracter at +2; a sign of good things to come, I hope! ; ) Is it opening day yet?

    Here’s to another one like the last!

  19. So much for going undefeated.

  20. Press the panic button.

  21. Hi all
    I’m a longtime reader from London who used to live in LA – never posted before (because of the time difference, by the time I see the game the next day everything that needs to be said in the comments already has been).
    Just went to the game today – the atmosphere was electric in the first 5/6 mins, almost like a regular season game. That quickly calmed down after Kobe came out though.

    Was exactly what I was expecting from a preseason game, although Odom did seem on form (although I’d like to see him playing less after a busy summer). Barnes made a couple of nice threes, and I’m hopeful that will carry over into the season. Blake played steadily and didn’t try to force anything, just what we want in a point guard right now. Caracter showed flashes of what he is capable of – I thought he looked in good shape and don’t see any signs of the weight troubles that were reported. Sasha and Shannon got a lot of time on court. Nothing spectacular really – only a Shannon jam really got the crowd off their feet.

    The t-wolves shot well, Love was solid. Beasley really impressed – I have a feeling he’ll have a resurgence during his time in Minnesota.

    Overall it’s just nice to have basketball back (and in my home town), even if it was just a preseason game.

    Only thing that really annoyed me was the incessant chanting for Kobe to come back on. The tickets weren’t cheap I’ll admit, but it seemed like a lot of people were expecting something like a regular season game. At the end of the day, it was just a preseason game and it’s obviously not worth the injury risk – would’ve been nice to see more Kobe though!

    I’ll take a loss in the preseason anyday – can’t wait for the regular season! Threepeat here we come!
    Go Lakers

  22. Caracter looked pretty good. Worked hard on the boards and seemed to have decent timing on offense. Effort was there on defense, if not the execution.

  23. Even though games like this amount to nothing more than a scrimmage, I can visualize our 2nd unit being a Problem (in a Good way). Between Blake, Barnes, Brown (Da Killa Bees) and L.O. , they all can get out & run and use their Athleticism to create easy baskets for us. It’s going to be real interesting to see how Phil rotates the BIGS (Pau & Drew) because I believe the aforementioned 4, along with Pau, would be a unit that would definitely stretch leads & sure as hell wouldn’t give them up. On another note, loved what I saw from Old Man Theo. Like Kobe said, he definitely doesn’t look 37 yrs of age out there & as our 4th BIG, if he can remain Healthy, he’ll be an upgrade from what we had last season.

  24. Just from the little bit I saw today I can predict we’re going to be very happy with Steve Blake. What a difference from Farmar–a point guard that looks to run the offense and set up his teammates but will knock down the open jumper when open. Blake is a much better fit.

  25. Aaron – what does Hollinger think of the Laker’s strongest spot on the floor?

  26. Ian,
    It must have been great to see the game in London, regardless of it being preseason. I was struck by the crowd energy in the leadup to tipoff – seemed like a totally fun atmosphere.

  27. Wasnt able to watch game, I had to work late on the east coast. Does anybody know if NBATV is replaying the game? All I have seen are
    training camp replays, should have set the DVR.

  28. Chris J @ 29 – I checked the link and all I can think is – this has got to be a joke, right?

    Actually – if not a put on – I like it.

    Anything that puts added pressure on the “three me egos” is a very good thing, from the Laker fan perspective.

  29. Actually, the Heat Index is a neat marketing decision. I’m sure I’m going to look at it, especially since Arnovitz seems to be part of it as well.

    I’m also very curious to see what becomes of it when it becomes obvious before the all-star break that they’re not going to break 72.

  30. they should get some cavs season ticket holders to join the heat index, in the name of unbiased reporting and all…

  31. Looks like ESPN is the secret PR firm of the HEAT…

    Guys, the pre-season doesn’t mean anything, and we even see the Lakers sleepwalking through some regular season games, what more during pre-season?! the only thing i’m concerned about this pre-seasons set of games is how Blake, Barnes, Ratliff, Caracter and Ebanks can fit in the rotation, find ways to be comfortable and become effective contributors for the team. Other than that, I couldn’t care less if our core guys play 2mins and shoot 0-20. they are seasoned vets and are just going thru the motions

  32. @Dave M
    Yeah it was a totally fun atmosphere – we’re starved for real NBA basketball here.
    At least the Nets and Raptors will be here in March for the first ever regular season game in Europe…

  33. I don’t begrudge ESPN for trying to maximize the viewers/readers by milking any and all stories around the Heat. When I tire of it, I don’t click the link or I just turn the channel – easy as that. I know that this site is affiliated with that network, but in the end I know that they’re all about taking a story and running with it as far as it can go until it has no more legs and then they move onto the next thing. Whether that’s Favre, Tiger, the Cowboys, Yankees, the Lakers (it’s not like the team we follow hasn’t had it’s share of overexposure at times), or whatever else out there.

    As far as the Heat Index, all they’ve done is created a blog about the team. The whole press release deal is solely because they’ve put some real talent on board there and that’s something worth mentioning. I read nearly everything that Arnovitz puts out and Windhorst is a great beat guy that had any and all relevant information on the Cavs during his time at the Plain Dealer. So, while I don’t root for the Heat nor do I want to see them win anything at the expense of the Lakers, I think what ESPN has done here is put talented, smart people in place to write about a team that many fans want to read about. If you’re not one of them, then don’t read. Really, it is that simple. There’s plenty of other places to get your sports information and I’d frequent those places if you’re turned off by the coverage in South Beach.

  34. R,
    Hollinger (or should I say Hollinger’s scouts) likes every other rotation player on the Lakers. They think the Lakers are by far the 2nd best team in the NBA and if not for an all world team in Miami would again win the championship

  35. Aaron, that’s interesting; I’m tempted to subscribe to Insider.

  36. Aaron,

    Wasn’t hollinger wrong last year?

  37. Ray,
    Wrong about what? Nobody is right 100% of the time. He did pick the Lakers to beat the Celtics. The money is on the Heat this year… they are the favorites… us Laker fans are going to have to accept we don’t have the most talent anymore. I am hoping one of the Heats three gets hurts for the Finals.