From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Our long local nightmare has finally ended, as the Lakers are no longer oh-for-the-preseason following a 98-95 win over Sacramento on Wednesday night in Vegas (baby!). As is generally the case during the exhibition season, the quality of play was inconsistent, as coach Phil Jackson worked a lot of players through the lineup in a variety of combinations, and the game grew a lot tighter than expected in the fourth. Still, it was undoubtedly a better effort than anything the Lakers put forth in London and Barcelona. Ron Artest led the way with 18 points (including 4-of-5 from three-point range), four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block, plus some typically solid work defensively. Pau Gasol was his typically productive self, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: 1. Kobe Bryant doesn’t shoot well, but still shows improvement: This will forever be the most important thing to monitor until the pre-season games end. And what did we learn? Well, Bryant’s seven-point performance on two in 10 shooting in 19 minutes confirmed Phil Jackson’s assessment this week that Bryant’s not game ready, but that doesn’t mean Bryant didn’t make progress. He appeared to have more movement and made an effort to contribute to make up for his poor shooting numbers. Nonetheless, It’s good Jackson just about kept to his pledge that he’d play Bryant between 16 and 18 minutes and that the Black Mamba didn’t force himself to play more. With 8:50 left in the fourth quarter, he already had his knees iced and called it a night. Bryant, who didn’t wear a sleeve on his right knee, continued to lack the necessary lift and bounce to look back in form and it’s probably going to take all of pre-season for it to come back.
From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: The Lakers are exactly 13 days away from the start of the regular season, but Coach Phil Jackson insists he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet. “No thoughts,” Jackson said, smiling. “We’re aware of it, but it’s out there in some distance.” That’s because the Lakers still have six remaining preseason games, including one Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas against the Sacramento Kings. It’s an interesting concept for the league to cram in that many games for the Lakers in 13 days. Then again, so is spending a week-and-half in London and Barcelona, Spain, for two games filled with plenty of publicity appearances. As I’ve said numerous times, the results don’t matter for the next two weeks. But there are still things the Lakers will want to see sharpened before receiving their championship ring in the season opener against the Houston Rockets. I outline those factors after the jump.
From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPNLA: It may be mid-October with the Lakers in Las Vegas for their third preseason game, but it’s never too early to flip the calendar ahead. All the way to Christmas Day, and the Miami Heat. Before the Lakers played the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked if excitement was building toward what could, by the time it rolls around, become the most anticipated regular season game in NBA history. If nothing else, Jackson noted, participating in such an event is well-worn territory for the back-to-back champs.
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: In the crazy, chaotic world that is the Los Angeles Lakers organization, Pau Gasol is the one person everyone can look at without a single ounce of concern or doubt. He is a superstar, possibly the best player at his position in the league. He has no problems with ego, no issue with the fact that, despite his pedigree, his ranking on this squad is clearly #2. And, surrounded by a team full of problems related to health, age, and over-obligation, the best part of thinking about Pau Gasol is to realize that he’s healthy, well-rested, and still in his prime. All of these signs point to the possibility that Pau Gasol will perform better than ever in the upcoming season. More importantly, the Lakers may very well need him to play better than ever if they are to keep the pace with the Eastern powers early in the season.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: For those of us in the business of writing about the Lakers, one of the hardest tasks we face is finding something new to say about Kobe Bryant. It’s like finding something new to say about air, or water, or the sun. Kobe isn’t merely a name on the Lakers’ roster. He’s more than just one of 12 players we watch and root for over the course of a season. Kobe is a basic condition of our existence. His presence and greatness have become accepted facts by which we organize our view of the world. As the years tick by and the championships pile up and his trade from the Charlotte Hornets recedes further into the past, it becomes harder and harder to imagine a Laker organization sans Kobe Bryant. There are kids in junior high who weren’t born the last time the Lakers began a season without him.