The compacted pre-season comes to a close tonight with the Lakers again facing the rejuvinated Clippers. We’ve had plenty to say about the first game so there’s little point in going into a big strategy session about what the Lakers need to do to win this game. In fact, whether they win or lose isn’t even that important.
What is important is that the Lakers escape healthy with no more nicks and bruises accumulated and that they continue to fine tune their comfort level with their offensive and defensive schemes. It’d be nice if they played better – hitting a few more outside shots, playing some better P&R D would be nice first steps – but if that doesn’t lead to a win, it’s not the end of the world. The real games start Sunday and we have a long season – though in a compressed time frame – to get on track.
With that in mind, here are 5 things I’ll be looking at in tonight’s match up:
- How does Derek Fisher look? This will be Fish’s lone pre-season work and it will be interesting to see how he fares. PG is the obvious weakness of this team but Brown has made a commitment to Fish as the starter so it’s fairly important that he shows he’s in game shape and is ready to go once the season starts. Normally I wouldn’t worry about Derek’s conditioning (and I’m still not worried, per se, though I am curious), but he spent most of his summer in negotiating sessions and that surely limited how much gym time he could put in.
- Can Darius Morris provide an encore? The rookie turned some heads with his ability to push the ball and create shots in the half court. In his 20 odd minutes he certainly showed that he belonged. But what rookies learn quickly is that maintaining a level of performance under the rigors of an NBA schedule is quite difficult. His young legs shouldn’t be too tested by a second game in 3 nights, but I wonder how he’ll respond mentally after receiving some praise in the press and if he’ll show if he’s learned anything in the past couple of days. The kid has promise but turning that into real, consistent production is always the real test.
- Will MWP show anything on offense? His oh-fer performance didn’t do much to alleviate the skepticism he could be the “go to guy” for the second unit. His jumper was erratic and he did little, if any, work inside 15 feet all night. Considering he has a history of being a pretty good all court player, I’d like to see some glimmer of that talent. To be fair, I liked that he took mostly good shots in the rhythm of the offense. But, to be a threat some of those shots must fall.
- Will Pau rebound better? One of the reasons the Lakers struggled as a defensive rebounding team last year was that they relied more and more on their length to corral caroms, rather than doing the work to secure the ball. Gasol showed those same habits on Monday and they’re ones he’ll need to break against teams with equally long (or athletically superior) front court players like the Clippers. I don’t expet Pau to bully players, but I would like to see the effort to but a body on a man and then go after the ball. It’s the way rebounding is taught from the infant stages of basketball development. Pau knows better. I want to see him show it.
- Will sets on both sides of the ball be any more crisp? Monday revealed a team still learning their schemes and each other. Defensive rotations were a step slow. The ball was held for an extra beat before a pass was made. I don’t expect this to go away in one night. After all, comfort levels often increase with time. That said, Sunday will be here soon and even the most incremental progress will be welcomed tonight. Here’s hoping we see some.
With all that, enjoy the game. You can watch, locally on KCAL and listen live at ESPN Radio 710AM.