Opening Night Preview and Chat

Darius Soriano —  October 26, 2010 — 74 Comments

Laker's Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 block a shot by Rocket Luis Scola #4 in the third quarter as the Lakers beat the Rockets 89-70 during game seven of a Western Conference semi-final playoff basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Sunday May 17, 2009 in Los Angeles Photo via Newscom

Our long, long wait is over.  Basketball is back, opening night is here, and the Lakers are headlining the night as they face off against the Rockets.  Banner #16 will be raised and big diamonds will be passed out to all the players as a reminder of what last year’s team accomplished and as a reinforcement for what this year’s team chases.  The quest for a third straight title begins tonight and I’m absolutely giddy.

So as those long term goals are crystallized with all the pregame pageantry, the short term goal is to get a win tonight to start the season off on the right foot.  And in order to accomplish that, the Lakers must come out of the gate firing on all cylinders and maintain their focus on what can be, admittedly, a pretty distracting night.  I have a feeling, though, that the Rockets are just the team to keep the Lakers’ attention tonight.  They are one of the few teams that have played the Lakers tough in the past three seasons regardless of the make up of their roster and tonight they bring in a fully healthy team for the first time in what seems like ages.  If the Lakers are to get the win tonight, it will take a great effort and strong execution.

And it starts on defense.  The Rockets will have Yao Ming back in the line up and so things must start with him.  Regardless of his minutes restriction, Yao is the focal point of the Rockets offense and slowing Houston down on that side of the ball means containing their great Center.  First and foremost that means testing the limits for how recovered Yao is and what type of shape he’s in.  This entails battling him for position, racing with him in the open court, and challenging his every motion around the floor.  By making the big man work the Lakers get to test Yao’s endurance (never one of his strongest traits) and see how much polish he has in his first game action in well over a year.  As usual, Yao’s favorite spot is the left low block where he has a great turn around jumper to the baseline, a turn and face jumper, or a very good strong drive to the middle with is dominant hand.  As mentioned, the key is to push him out on the floor to make him have to initiate his moves from 16-18 feet in order to minimize his effectiveness.

The other key weapon for the Rockets is Kevin Martin.  The perpetual motion man is back healthy to start this campaign and slowing down his well rounded offensive game will be a must for whichever Lakers’ defender matches up with him.  I expect Ron Artest to get the first shot at Martin, with Barnes and Kobe also taking turns on the slender shooting guard.  The key to slowing him down, though, will be chasing him around the litany of screens that he’ll use to get open and then being disciplined in closing out so as to not give up too many uncontested jumpers.  All while still being able to guard against his forays into the paint where he loves to draw fouls.  No one said it would be easy.

Offensively, the Lakers must use their advantages where they exist.  And while that typically lies with Kobe Bryant, that’s not the case with #24 not yet 100%.  And when you combine Kobe not yet all the way healthy with the Rockets throwing out Shane Battier and crew to slow him down, the Lakers may want to explore other options.  So, I hope to see the team go into Pau early and often.  Gasol has a quickness advantage against Yao and can work on him from either the high post or short wing in isolation situations by facing up and shooting his jumper or driving by him if Yao plays too closely.  Plus, Pau’s passing acumen is well documented, so he will create easy shots for his mates if the Rockets get too aggressive with double teams or if they shade defenders in his direction. 

The other player that I hope gets involved early is Ron Artest.  Ron has had a very good pre-season and his jumper looks better than it did at any point last season.  When you couple that with his better understanding of the offense, I think Ron can have a successful night by being aggressive on both the wing and in the post against either Kevin Martin or Shane Battier.  I especially think Ron can be effective on the block when Yao is out and the Rockets either play Brad Miller or Chuck Hayes at back up Center.  Neither of these players are shot blockers so Ron will not have to worry about weak side defenders crashing down on him when he seals his man.  If the Lakers can successfully move the ball from the wing to the top of the key when Ron is in the post, he should be plenty of chances to finish right at the front of the rim against defenders that can’t match his physicality.

Moving off the individual match ups and on the team level, two factors will be critical tonight if the Lakers want to start the season one and oh.  First is containing dribble penetration.  I have not yet mentioned Aaron Brooks, but he’s a player that has given the Lakers fits over the past few seasons.  As we’ve discussed many times in the past, though, slowing a player like Brooks is a shared responsibility and does not just fall on the shoulders of Fisher and/or Blake.  The Lakers big men must sprint back in transition and show/recover on the pick and roll in order to cut down driving lanes.  Fisher and Blake must also guide Brooks to where the help is and give him different looks coming off screens in order to disrupt his rhythm when coming off picks.  The second key to the game is controlling the pace.  I’ve mentioned Brooks, but the Lakers should try to give the Rockets some of their own medicine by pushing the ball back at them and making their big men run.  Neither Yao or Scola (or back up big Miller) have good wheels, whereas Odom and Gasol do.  Tonight would be an excellent game for Odom to be aggressive changing ends after securing defensive rebounds by pushing the ball and looking for running mates.  If Pau gets out and runs, he could send Yao to the bench winded, in foul trouble (or both) and the Lakers go back to having the size AND speed advantage that they held over the Rockets last season.

All that said, this game is more about just getting the win.  As I mentioned earlier, tonight is one of the best nights of the year (opening night) especially for a Lakers fan.  Watching the banner go up and seeing the faces of the players as they collect their rings will be special.  So, set your DVR’s and cherish this moment.  Only one franchise is doing what the Lakers are tonight, so enjoy it.

For The Rockets Perspective:  Go check out the excellent Rockets site Red94 or the always solid The Dream Shake.

Where you can watch:  7:30PM start in the West on TNT (which, I hope starts on time).  Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.  UPDATE – To be safe, I’d tune in around 7pm to see if you can catch the rign ceremony.

Darius Soriano

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74 responses to Opening Night Preview and Chat

  1. For a good way to burn some time before the action gets started tonight, check out the podcast from Lakers Nation that has spots by Kevin Ding (OC Register), Mark Medina (LA Times), Eric Pincus (HoopsWorld), Kurt Helin (Pro Basketball Talk), Chris Clark (Silver Screen & Roll), and some guy named Darius.

  2. almost looking forward to Miami-Celtics game as much as ours, who to root for??
    Also did you their will be 13! former all stars in that game

  3. If anyone else may have been slightly concerned, as I was, about potential legal trouble for our new Laker, it looks like we’ll be ok. Matt Barnes won’t be charged for the domestic violence arrest he faced. Today the charges were tossed due to lack of evidence from the September incident.

    Keep the good vibes coming. Countdown, less than 5 hours!

  4. Since there’s a bunch of food people on here too, any suggestions for what to drink/eat for the ring ceremony and game?

    I’m going to be dvr’ing it and can’t watch with friends. I’m thinking just something simple like a good beer or scotch or tequila. Maybe a chunk of good cheese to go with it. Overall I’m thinking something classy and enduring like our beloved Lakers.

    I o’d on junk/bar food the last couple of days and need something outside those food groups.

  5. @James,

    I am also very amped about that Celtics/Heat game. I really want to see Miami lose. Of course, that means Boston would win. For that game my emotions will be in the twilight zone. It is a weird place where both teams lose badly and there is no winner.

    I look forward to the ring ceremony. But the Lakers have to take care of business. I remember Utah beating the Lakers on ring night on opening day back in 2000. Can’t have anything like that tonight.

  6. Only a few more hours!! I’m really looking for Kobe to rack up the assists until his knee is 100%…regardless of his health he will absolutely garner attention from the defense and I expect him to be quick with the pass. I also expect a lot out of Pau/LO tandem tonight. Their chemistry when playing together is nearly unmatched and with the way LO has been playing, I just don’t see Scola staying with him.

    Here’s hoping for our first W…man it’s good to have basketball back! Go Lakers!

  7. Yao meeds to be toppled like King Kong. It’s that simple. He takes up too much space and sometimes when he gets confused and angry, he starts playing real good and we can’t have that. I say we chop him off at the knees.

  8. I can’t believe it’s finally here!! Will be in my car en route in exactly 80 minutes!

    (the telling thing is that I only live about 25 minutes away….)

  9. I won’t be surprised to see the Lakers start slowly this season and then a host of posts and articles about how they are too old and Kobe’s lost it, they’re not hungry, etc. (and, of course, Darius pulling his hair out and shouting – “calm down, it’s a long season….”)

    But provided they are all (relatively) healthy at the end of the season, I see them picking up steam. And come June, I do not see anyone taking the crown from them this year.

  10. FYI, we’ll be chatting live during the game tonight. You’ll see the post a bit later, but the shenanigans will begin at 7pm sharp.

  11. For now, let’s see what the SuperFriends can do on the court.

  12. i have a midterm i should study for, but i’ve waited too long for the nba season to start again

  13. 3 years after the Houston opener with Kobe pending to be traded, the Black Mamba now has 2 rings within that span. How things quickly change.

  14. Great atmosphere in this Miami-Boston game. Feels like the playoffs.

  15. wow rondo with an awesome start

  16. How do you get TNT Overtime to just show a normal camera view? I don’t want this action cam or backboard cam or mosaic crap, just a normal TV feed – is there a way to do that?

    If not, does anyone have a good online feed?

  17. Snoopy,
    Do you have Veetle? If not, it’s worth the download and I’m nearly positive that there will be a good, high quality feed there.

  18. Boston v. Miami, who to root for?

    Why, it’s simple. Root against both.

    Now, I don’t wish injury upon any of those players regardless of how much I dislike their teams, but I *do* wish some ill chemistry and a lot of me-me-me’s during the game 😉

    Here’s to hoping that James pulls a Pippen and walks out of the last time out or something, while Shaq pulls a Shaq and demands the ball from KG while Rondo shoots free throws.

  19. C’s and Heat both look a little tight after one quater. I have a feeling it will come down to the last couple minutes of the fourth. Please tell me the ring ceromony won’t begin before the end of the Miami/Boston game?

  20. Chris Bosh reminds me of a supermodel’s belly button — firmly entrenched between what fans actually care to see, yet utterly convinced that people find him just as interesting as what surrounds him.

    There’s no Big Three in Miami.

    (And I’ll let others determine which body part best describes LeBron in my analogy above. There’s probably more than one correct answer.)

  21. T.Rogers – I am so with you. We DO NOT want overtime, or even a close, slow-down 4th quarter. I don’t want my Ring Ceremony missed to stay with a game between the 2 Axis of Evil teams!

  22. It’s TNT; it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll miss the ring ceremony.

  23. you can really tell the Heat haven’t played much together

  24. I can’t wait till tonight’s game. Glad the season is finally here and we can play actual games instead of reading annoying pieces on some team that has already been annointed championships of the decade. Go Lakers. Let’s have a great HEALTHY season.

    Anyone watching that other game that’s going on right now? I’m watching the box score and it looks to me like the heat with all their offensive powers are having a little bit of a hard time scoring. Is ther a chemistry issue? There’s only 3 assists? What’s going on?

  25. I wonder if anyone who commenter on Kobe’s FG% in game 7 is now wondering about LBJ/Wade/Bosh currently 6 of 26…

  26. Chris Bosh is absolutely choking. In other news, Miami’s halfcourt offense is terrible. Like, Cleveland circa 2007 terrible.

    Spoelstra, while being the only Miami guy I feel sorry for, goes small with Bosh guarding Shaq. What is HE thinking?

  27. I mean, Shaq might’ve declined, but not to the point where he can’t take Bosh 1-on-1 with ease.

  28. Darius, if you wanna start the chat early, I can hold down the fort during the Miami-Boston game.

  29. hahahaha – I hope Bosh plays all year in the middle.

    He’ll have to – what else are they gonna do, play Haslem at center?

    By the way, if you want to get called all kinds of nasty names, post on “Hot Hot Hoops” with even the most gentle critique of the “King”.

  30. The Heat haven’t played together much, but they shouldn’t be down as much and score 2 points less than Miami’s first-half worst last season.

  31. Once again, it’s on. The best sport in the World returns tonite and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time (considerin’ the fact that my Yankees were knocked off and my Vikings are just ’bout done). Looking forward to seeing how this years Championship Rings look. Figuring they’ll be hard pressed to Top last years. Anyway, here are some of my predictions for this season.

    East: Heat, Magic, Celtics, Bulls, Hawks, Bucks, Bobcats and Knicks

    West: Lakers, Mavs, Thunder, Rockets, Spurs, Jazz, Blazers and Suns

    Celtics over Heat n the ECF and the Lakers over the Mavs n the WCF.

    2011 NBA Finals: Lakers over the Celtics in 7

  32. This Miami team is going to seriously miss Mike Miller. Who is going to space the floor for them?

  33. Joel, that won’t be a problem until they manage to find a way to penetrate. You have to go inside before you can be efficient from outside. Right now, the three penetrators can’t seem to even step in the lane.

  34. This game’s high entertainment – Shaq Van Winkle!

  35. 34

    True, but having a major outside threat will at least draw some of Boston’s attention away from the paint.

  36. Darius – Just installed it, it’s not working yet for some reason. Probably a weird firewall setting I’ll have to mess with later. Simonoid – thanks for the link, good quality.

    This game got dull fast. I’m just waiting for our ring ceremony and the chance to see our new players in action.

  37. I think the heat will be similar to the Cavs of two years ago when they had an amazing record except against the elite teams. Their sheer talent is going to absolutely overwhelm the lesser teams. Complete teams with tough D will give them trouble, Boston and the Lakers being two of them (not sure about Orlando at this point).

  38. I’ll be missing the ring ceremony whether or not TNT pulls any shenanigans. Will anyone else post the link to the video online?

  39. Snoopy, you get Veetle, use your browser and go here:

    Super quality.

  40. 38 year old Shaq is dominating the crap out of 25 year old Bosh.

  41. I think Miami is going to copy our motto.

    It’s too early to panic.

    Anyway, I don’t think that the shellacking should instill doubts in the minds of Heaters, but it sure will serve as ammo for the haters.

    Hope we don’t look as rusty, though I am not really looking forward to Pau having to guard Yao who is probably going to go all-out since he’s limited to 24 minutes.

  42. What were the fans chanting after the refs messed up that call?

  43. “BS” if I heard correctly.

  44. This Miami-Boston game has turned into a Cleveland-Boston game.

  45. Wow LeBron.

  46. Well, the last few minutes of that quarter didn’t help my dreams of an early finish that doesn’t eat into Ring Ceremony time…

  47. Zephid, it’s because LeBron is most effective on the floor with shooters to space it for him, not with Wade and Bosh. With House, Jones, and Ilgauskas, it’s exactly as if he’s playing with the Cavs.

    They space it out for him, and the Heat is forced to stay (relatively) home on the shooters. Not exactly Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson in terms of accuracy, but with LeBron, a little space on the floor is all he needs.

  48. lebron has no help!

    i kid, i kid

  49. Looking at their surge, I think it may be best for the Heat to use LeBron as a 6th man in reality.

    Wade-Bosh will do just fine, and change of tempo with LeBron & bench would annihilate any opposing benches…

  50. Harold, try telling LeEgo to swallow that.

  51. Cant wait to start this title run
    We will be the first team to 3peat 3 times.

  52. And once Bosh checks in, it’s again take turns isolating him and James.

  53. is the veetle livestream freezing up for anyone else?

  54. Simonoid, yeah, that’s why I put ‘in reality’ there. Make him start, play him 6 minutes or so, rest him and put him back in as Wade and Bosh rest…

    And really, not sure if it would be easier for Wade and Bosh to swallow, since it basically means that they’re getting in the way of LeBron 😉

  55. I see, Harold. It’s funny, Wade has essentially been sitting the last 12 minutes. I wonder when he’s planning to check back in. ROFL.

  56. kehntangibles – it’s just you. Working for me just fine.

    Are you using the ATDHE one?

  57. Take out the turnovers, and the game’s Miami’s.

  58. Simonoid – yes I am, and it’d worked fine before when I’d watch NFL. Re-downloading it now to see if that fixes anything.

  59. Check your internet. Ping google, see if you get <100 ms (you should).

  60. eta: veetle runs fine for 5 seconds and then gives up – kinda like watching Farmar try to execute the triangle. Let’s just hope other atdhe links can show me the Laker game, I guess.

  61. kehntangibles, ouch, ouch, ouch. That reminds me, maybe I should watch Farmar’s debut game…

  62. Wade trying to be Kobe-esque and just failed dramatically.

  63. Our chat is now live! We’re talking the end of Celtics/Heat and going right into Lakers/Rockets.

  64. @simonoid – I’m at 72 ms, so my internets is fine. At any rate, seems to work ok for me and it’s time to tune into the ring ceremony 🙂

  65. That’s probably because of your connection. Have you pinged google?

    So basically one player showed up for Miami today. And they trail by about 10. Damn.

  66. There you go! 🙂 The banner is hung up. Time to get another one!

  67. Does anybody else get really bad sound quality from TNT and KCAL for games?

    It’s like everything except the commentary is turned way up.

  68. Got home from the football game, watched the recorded Celtics-Heat game and felt dirty that I was happy to see the Celtics win. Then watched the recorded Lakers ring ceremony and was happy to see a team of players who genuinely like and care about each other.

    I’m not going to watch the Laker game. And avoid all sports related websites like the plague. I will not get the ending spoiled!

  69. Well, I quite like Steve Blake.

    Nice back to back 3’s to end the third only down 5.

  70. That was the epitome of a team win. I won’t say it was a good win, but a good one to have. Ring night, a lot of minutes for new players and no ‘Drew. I’ll take it. About the team though. Blake, two big threes to get us close at the end of the third, one at the end of the game. ShanWow, doing his best Kobe there for a while. LO and Ron, taking charge early. Kobe and Pau putting up decent numbers. And the effort from Mr. Barnes. That truly was great to see so many contribute at a high level tonight. Far from perfect, but good enough for today.

    And as I said back in August/September, and Darius has echoed, these Rockets are good. I still slate them as the potential #3 out West.

    Is it Game 2 yet? This is the best sport ever.

  71. well, we also saw what you get with 16+ minutes of Ratliff – nada. (and Character was -8 in two(2) minutes.)

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