Archives For December 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA’s signature team and generate a plethora of interest given their elite status. In addition, with the franchise being located in one of the biggest markets in the country, it’s only natural that the team gets an incredible amount of media coverage.

Whether it’s a trade, a non-trade, a trade demand, a free agent signing, an exhibition game win or even a loss; the Lakers always dominate the headlines. There is no escaping that.

Indeed, when the trade that brought Chris Paul to the Lakers was essentially rescinded (or blocked, depending on the explanation du jour), journalists from around the country all had an opinion on the matter. The collateral damage of the failed transaction was Lamar Odom (the swap would have made Odom a Hornets player); who requested to be traded and got his wish and relocated to Dallas to play for the defending champions.

This prompted the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Ric Bucher to proclaim that Kobe Bryant was not only livid at Jim Buss and the organization, but that the mercurial guard would soon request to be traded. Once again, water under the bridge in Lakerland.

Head coach Mike Brown is now learning the added pressure that comes with coaching the Lakers. Indeed, after an exhibition game loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, Brown responded to a question about Kobe’s play. His statement:

“Kobe is going to be fine offensively. But defensively, Kobe was just as guilty as everybody else at not contesting shots and so he as well as the rest of the guys have to make sure that they focus in on that area of the floor.”

The statement in itself is quite harmless. Brown didn’t really call out his superstar; it was more so about a head coach sharing his insights on the play of the best player on the team. It may have caused some to raise their eyebrows because the former Cavs coach never really made such statements about LeBron James; but then again perhaps Brown now wants things done a little bit differently given his experiences in Cleveland.

Nonetheless, the statement flooded the airwaves and many were quick to direct their attention to Kobe just to observe his reaction. Bryant gave his head coach the vote of confidence and the issue pretty much died.

On this front, Brown hasn’t yet been through the fire much like Phil Jackson has; thus he is learning how things function in Los Angeles. Consequently, one would expect the head coach to perhaps choose his words a bit more carefully next time around to make sure he does not stir something up that’s not actually there.

For all the talks about small versus big markets, rarely is it mentioned that players and coaches that play for glamorous teams often get a huge amount of criticism thrown their way whereas small market teams can occasionally escape them (Exhibit A: no one ever blasts Manu Ginobili for his atrocious foul on Dirk Nowitzki in Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals. Exhibit B: Everyone remembers the Patrick Ewing finger roll).

Erik Spoelestra went through the inferno last season and may in fact be a better head coach for it when this season gets underway. The Heat head coach had to deal with questions about LeBron bumping into him, the team’s inability to defeat the top teams in the league and Crygate. Those situations had nothing to do with basketball per se and yet could have derailed Miami’s 2010-11 regular season.

Much like his counterpart in Miami, Brown will surely face other situations throughout the course of the upcoming campaign that may in fact threaten the chemistry in the Lakers’ locker room. Thus, Brown will have to evolve as a head coach during the season to ensure he is more than capable of handling whatever is sent his way.

Ultimately, the manner in which Brown handles the ever growing demands of being the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers will determine what type of unit he has by season’s end.

L.A. is where it’s at and Mike Brown is clearly not in Cleveland anymore.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  December 23, 2011

Our shortened preseason fades from view, Christmas is two days away. The start of the regular season no longer seems farfetched but the dark days are not so distant. In mid-November, I resorted to a fictional holiday miracle to pass the time. Sometimes the stories don’t come easily – it may simply be my own perception but it almost seems like a hiccup in Lakers ink, this close to the blessed event. There’s certainly no shortage of Clippers articles. Is this how it feels, to be beneath the underdog? I doubt it. From Kobe’s mind-over-matter to Blake’s emergence to Metta’s misfires, here’s some stuff to read on a Friday morning.

Matt Moore, Eye On Basketball: Most people would be out a few weeks with this injury. Kobe Bryant is not most people. But there are larger questions in play here. Can the Lakers win without Bryant? It’s possible. The Bulls game may be a loss, but that was questionable from the start what with Derek Rose being guarded by Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. The larger problem isn’t Bryant’s absence, though he is imperative to any Lakers gameplan. It’s that Andrew Bynum is serving a five-game suspension starting Sunday for a flagrant foul on J.J. Barea in last year’s playoffs. The Laker can survive without Kobe Bryant for a few games. Surviving without Bryant and Bynum becomes a much tougher trick.

Kevin Ding, the OC Register: Mike Brown told his designated bench spark Metta World Peace after his 0-for-8 shooting outing in the exhibition opener Monday night: “If you’re going to shoot that much, you’ve got to make ‘em.” World Peace was still cold in the next game Wednesday night, but he rallied a bit to finish 4 for 13 from the field. Brown said World Peace is adjusting to finding his shooting rhythm coming off the bench, but the plan remains for World Peace to do a lot of shooting and posting up with the Lakers’ second unit this season “I have faith in him,” Brown said.

Andy Kamenetzky, The Land O’Lakers: “I should be fine,” said Kobe when asked about his availability for the Christmas Day season opener against the Bulls. Of course, “fine” isn’t necessarily quite sunshine and lollipops. Kobe described his wrist as “swollen and painful,” and I’m guessing that won’t change by the time Sunday rolls around. The Mamba has a famously absurd tolerance for pain, but I have a hard time believing lacing ’em up on Sunday won’t entail enduring an exceptional amount of discomfort. There’s also the question of the effects the injury will have on Bryant as a player. After all, right-handed players tend to use their right wrists a decent amount of time over the course of a basketball game. Plus, that wrist is connected to a hand with some jacked up fingers. It’s not really going to heal,” Bryant conceded. “I mean, it’s gone. The ligament is gone.”

Ben Bolch, the L.A. Times: Steve Blake is making more shots in part because the misses no longer bother him as much. “Being with these guys for a while,” the veteran guard said of his Lakers teammates, “when you miss a shot you’re not as hard on yourself anymore.” There was no need for self-doubt Wednesday night at Staples Center after Blake capped a strong preseason with some steady shooting during his team’s 108-103 loss to the Clippers. Blake made six of nine shots, including five of seven three-pointers, on the way to 20 points. In two exhibition games, he made six of 10 (60%) of his three-pointers.

Mark Medina, L.A. Times Lakers blog: Cast Matt Barnes as one of the few not exactly enthralled with the “Lob City” Clippers. After seeing them throw up down numerous dunks during their preseason win Wednesday over the Lakers, Barnes maintained the team’s apparent excessive celebrations prompted him to push Clippers forward Blake Griffin to the floor with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter. “It’s a preseason game,” Barnes said after Thursday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Yeah, they’re catching lobs and dunking. But it’s just a preseason game. Let’s just play basketball. If you make a dunk, act like you’ve done it before. He’s got hundreds of them. There’s no need for the hoorah after every single dunk. It’s unnecessary.”

Emile Avanessian, Hardwood Hype: Sure it’s been a rough few months in Lakerland- a humiliating effort against the Mavericks, the departure of Phil Jackson, the emergence of Jimmy Buss, getting Stern’d on a seemingly successful trade for Chris Paul, dumping Lamar Odom for next to nothing in the immediate aftermath, and now a new injury for Kobe to make a mockery of but the doomsday predictions are a bit overdone. Is it so hard to believe that when healthy, a team led by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (yeah, yeah) and a collection of capable NBAers, a team with the capacity to add another $8.9 million player via trade, could win three out of every five games? It’ll be close and I wouldn’t go into debt to wager on it, but bet against this team at your own peril.

Matt Scribbins, Magic Basketball: I’m starting to feel like we are approaching an experiment in the NBA that should never be conducted again. Eventually, there will be a rule in place to limit the number of obstacles all-time greats can endure towards the end of their career, and it will probably be called “The Kobe Bryant No Dumping Rule.” The man has solidified his status among basketball’s greatest players by leading the league in competitive drive and determination every season. Right or wrong, he did it his way, and his way has resulted in a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame birth. His way has provided fans with fifteen straight seasons of thrills, and he has been rewarded with fifteen straight seasons of boos. I was starting to think fans may soften their stance on Kobe as his rank among NBA players slowly falls and his career comes to an end, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. He is once again in the spotlight, and the league is antsy for the opportunity to jeer and watch him fail.

A lull before the storm, may only be a gathering breath. The current state of the Lakers, did not begin or end with CP3 and David Stern’s heavy-handed interference . Yes, that qualified as one of the year’s major sports stories but it also shared space with last season’s shocking collapse in the second round, with the exit stage left of a coaching legend, with the firing of anyone connected with him, save Jeanie Buss. It came when the league should have been healing rifts, not creating them. Nonetheless, the Lakers organization has created a restore point. It may not be the new look that everyone wanted but as villagers collect their torches and tar, the team itself seems simply ready to play.

– Dave Murphy

The Los Angeles Lakers took the court last night and faced the Clippers for their second game of the exhibition season. With Kobe Bryant nursing an injured wrist, the purple and gold changed up their strategy a little and essentially ran what could be characterized as the twin towers offense.

The Lakers showed a lot in last night’s game; let’s have a look at some observations:

  • Andrew Bynum’s activity level in this second exhibition game was quite impressive. With Kobe missing the game, Bynum was probably excited at the prospect of being the focal point of the offense and it showed. The young center was energetic and quick to get to his spots on offense. He displayed good footwork as well as some solid post moves against the Clippers big men. Indeed, even on his misses, it was rather evident that Bynum has the required tools to carry the team on offense for stretches. The majority of his shots came directly at the rim as a result of post ups, put backs or lob passes he caught from his teammates.  Although his 26 points and 11 rebounds were impressive, one could not help but notice how invested the Lakers starting center looked in the offense even when he wasn’t directly involved. For instance, the purple and gold repeatedly tried to post up Gasol against Griffin but had Bynum hang around the top of the key; which led to DeAndre Jordan sagging down (Jordan was defending Bynum) in the lane to double team the Spaniard before the ball got there. Instead of simply watching the action unfold, Bynum set screens for perimeter players around the free throw line to help free up shooters since Jordan was down in the lane helping out on Gasol and thus unable to participate in defending against the players coming off screens. When Bryant returns, this screen action may free him up for some easy jumpers should teams continue to defend the Lakers this way.
  • There was some trepidation going into last night’s game on how Metta World Peace would perform after failing to contribute in the team’s first game against the Clippers. MWP was active on offense, cutting to the basket and looking for post up opportunities. With that said, he still drifted to the perimeter and took some questionable shots, but was still able to convert a pair of 3-point field goals which could be characterized as fool’s gold. Nonetheless, he was able to produce on offense and give the team some kind of spark from the bench to help out his teammates.
  • In recent seasons, fans came to expect that the Lakers would coast during games and only occasionally show some interest in certain regular season match ups; but this year could be different. Although the Lakers lost their second exhibition game, they clearly seemed invested in this contest. There was a bit of trash talk between the teams, a few shoves as well as some hard fouls. If the Lakers are going to give this type of effort prior to the start of the season, one can only hope that it translates to the regular season.
  • For the second game in a row, Pau Gasol’s defense gave Blake Griffin fits. Granted, the Clippers power forward scored 30 points, but none of his baskets against Pau came easily; as the Lakers power forward made things hard for Blake by moving his feet and contesting his shots. On offense though, Gasol was limited to a mere seven shot attempts. The Clippers double teamed him and thus forced the Lakers to beat them from deep, where they converted 12-of-24 shots. And although they were able to make the most of their attempts from 3-point range, there still needs to be an adjustment to help Gasol get more scoring opportunities given his efficiency on the low block.
  • Steve Blake was assertive on offense last night, looking to create opportunities for himself by running out in transition and taking shots where available within the flow of the offense. The end result was a 20-point night on ­nine field goal attempts. The back up point guard made five-of-seven 3-point shots and converted all of his free throws for an almost perfect night.
  • Although it’s only the preseason, one has to worry about the Lakers chemistry as well as their ability to play together currently. After turning the ball over 21 times on Monday night, they turned the ball over 21 times again last night which essentially completely nullified their 44-27 rebounding advantage. The purple and gold will unquestionably have to address their ball security going forward in order to maintain any type of semblance of efficiency on offense. Also, given their ability to control the boards, as long as they do not give the ball away to the other team, they should be able to score at a high rate.

The Lakers have some work to do but they still managed to hang in a tight (and entertaining) game despite the absence of their closer. Their energy level was much better this time around and this bodes well for the Christmas day game against the Chicago Bulls.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  December 21, 2011

The epic two-day Lakers preseason schedule commenced Monday evening and concludes tonight. The package is fairly convenient – a mini-hallway series against the Clippers and an ironic way to introduce Chris Paul to Los Angeles. While there’s plenty of sound first impressions, don’t expect much from me. I thought there was some decent flow in the first half, the third quarter was just a mess and the starters came back in the fourth and attempted to restore order. As expected, there’s a fair amount of observation in the press about Mike Brown’s methodology and embryonic relationship with his new group. It’s just one of the storylines that will play out all season long:

Brian Kamenetzky from ESPN’s Land O’Lakers writes about Coach Brown’s willingness to jump on Kobe’s lapses, right off the bat. He also points out that Kobe doesn’t seem to mind.

Brian follows up with a piece about Gilbert Arenas, to which I can only say “just stop that. Right now.”

Mark Medina from the L.A. Times Lakers blog steers the conversation back to terra firma with more Brown and Bryant. The coach took a straight-forward approach with the media, “If I was afraid to coach this team, then I shouldn’t be here. It’s as simple as that.”

Dave McMenamin points out the bright spot of Darius Morris in his McTen piece (and Mike Brown’s “feast or famine” comment was pretty excellent by the way).

Janis Carr & Kevin Ding at the OC Register also cover Brown’s critique of Kobe’s defense, along with the Mamba’s relief to find that he’s not dealing with “a pushover”.

Wondahbap at Silver Screen and Roll went a different route, jumping on back court liabilities – an All-World legend, a 37 year old defensive liability, a current free agent bust, a one-dimensional shooter whose never clocked meaningful minutes for a good team, a 2nd-Round rookie, and three guys who’ll get cut. Ouch!

This links post wouldn’t be complete without some words about the other half of the preseason equation:  Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop writes about the oddities of the new Clippers respect and the simple essential ingredient of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin wreaking havoc with the pick and roll.

Tonight could well give us the first game-time appearance of Derek Fisher this season and I just want to voice appreciation for his long hours and unflappable presence during the lockout. It was an untenable position and now he gets to go back into battle, fighting for minutes at what’s certainly the weakest position on the Lakers squad. Get ready for the end of preseason – the Christmas day countdown is now only five days away.

– Dave Murphy

Let me get this out of the way right now, I didn’t think the Lakers played particularly well last night. They struggled mightily in the 3rd quarter and had lapses in execution throughout the game. I’ll touch on a lot things I saw (both good and bad) in a second but it should be clear that the Lakers have some growing to do as a team.

That said, those trying to ascribe too much value to last night’s game are reaching. This was a pre-season game and the first time a lot of these guys played NBA caliber basketball in months. Many Lakers looked rusty and more than a few looked fatigued, never catching their second wind in a game that had a decent pace and flow to it. So while I would have liked to have seen the team play better, I’m also not going so far as to say that this game  is somehow indicative of how this team will play long term. We’ll get a much better idea of who this team is over the course of the season; making definitive judgments now isn’t in anyone’s best interests.

Now, on to my scattered thoughts from last night:

  • Kobe’s offense already looks season ready. He had good lift on his jumper and showed nice burst turning the corner in pick and rolls. He also showed a nice first step out of his triple threat arsenal. He had 22 points on only 10 shots and went to the FT line 15 times with a 66.3 TS%. These numbers are very good on any night, but for the first game out of the box they’re a testament to where he’s at. Where he continued to struggle was in his penchant for giving the ball away, comitting one third of the Lakers 21 turnovers all on his own. Some of these were ball handling gaffes – which will seemingly be a concern for the rest of his career due to his multiple hand injuries. However, he also left his feet far too often without a plan and found himself airborn without an outlet. I can live with some of the ball handling issues but he must be sharper about when he leaves his feet and play a more controlled game.
  • The Lakers bigs were mixed bag. Both Bynum and Gasol showed that their size still mattered as they did a pretty good job of walling off the paint when they were paired together. Bynum rebounded well but fatigue obviously affected his ability to finish inside (as did a challenging DeAndre Jordan) as he missed a few point blank shots that are normally made baskets. As for Pau, I would have liked to have seen him rebound better (especially on the offensive end) by going after the ball with more vigor. I also wonder where his jump hook has gone as he often shot turnaround jumpers even when his positioning implied he could have taken a hook instead. However, his defense was pretty strong on Blake Griffin as he took away driving lanes and challenged both jumpers and shots going to the rim. Blake only shot 6 FT’s and missed 7 of his 11 FGA’s. A lot of that had to do with Pau’s approach on defense.
  • As a whole, the Lakers offense offered both positives and negatives all night. On the positive front, there seemed to be ample player movement on the weak side to occupy defenders and free guys up. Kobe worked off stagger screens to open him up on the wing and down screens to get him the ball at the top of the circle. The big men took advantage of duck in opportunities on the weak side and used this action to get several paint touches that turned into solid looks at the hoop. These are the types of sets that the Lakers can use as foundation for their offense moving forward. On the negative side, there were a lot of tentative passes and too much dribbling by guys thinking about the next option rather than reacting to what the defense was providing. After the game Brent Barry – who played in this system with the Spurs – mentioned that this offense has a lot of reads in it and that it will take some time for all the players to find a comfort level both with the system and with each other within it. That comment rang true for me as I rewatched some of the decision making in the half court last night.
  • Building on that point, this Lakers team – outside of the starting group – didn’t look like they new each other that well. The bench had little chemistry and when the Clips broke the game open in the third quarter there were turnovers and miscommunications on D that gave them too many chances to get easy baskets. One can only think this will get better with time but last night it was obvious that the chemistry isn’t quite there between a lot of the guys that either haven’t been here very long and/or aren’t used to playing together.
  • Defensively, the Lakers showed they’re going to be a “hard hedge” team and step out to slow the ball handler in P&R sets. Last night showed they’re not quite there yet, though Chris Paul had a lot to do with that. I thought Bynum did a better job than Pau of getting wide and stopping the dribbler and then racing back to the paint but overall both players’ effectiveness executing this technique suffered as the game advanced. Again, this could be due to fatigue but I also chalk it up to a change in scheme from what the Lakers have done in year’s past.
  • I’m not sure if the Lakers are actually going to find one, but a combo guard that could handle the ball and back up Kobe sure would be nice. At one point the Lakers went with Walton, MWP, and Kapono with Morris and Bynum and that unit did absolutely nothing on offense save for Morris hitting some off-balance J’s at the end of the clock. Luke, Ron, and Jason are all natural SF’s and all have limitations in how they can attack a defense. Last night this was all too clear when they shared the floor.
  • Speaking Morris, he showed he has pro-level skill but with a lot of rookie tendencies. He over dribbled. He often tried to blow by his man off the bounce only to find that he’s not in the Big 10 anymore and he can’t just race by his man. Even when he did get by his man he saw the recovery speed of NBA defenders and the size that steps up to meet you in the paint at this level. All in all he flashed his feel for the game, his ability to push the ball, and some late clock creating skills, and for that he gets a solid score in his first NBA action.
  • McRoberts also had a good night and brought the game that was advertised to us upon his signing. He went hard all the time, hit the glass, made some good passes, got a nice dunk, and looked lost on a post touch where he had to create for himself. If we see less of the latter and more of the former when he’s in the game his addition looks to be a good net positive overall.

In the end, this game was hyped but the result on the scoreboard means much less than the results that are on tape that can be used as teaching tools moving forward. Brown expressed his displeasure with the team’s defense and I can’t blame him as there were a lot of late rotations to shooters and some late help on P&R’s where the back line defender needed to step over and cover a penetrating ball handler. I’d certainly like to see a better effort to clean up some of the mistakes on Wednesday even if the end result (a loss) is the same.


The end result of the game may not have counted in the standings, but the effort and strategy sure will once the season gets started.

With Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom no longer part of the organization, there was a lot of anticipation coming into this game to see what these new Lakers would look like.

On offense, the purple and gold did a good job of keeping the offense flowing and having players move off the ball. Consequently, offensive possessions rarely seemed forced; instead we were treated to a Lakers team that consistently took high percentage shots.

Mike Brown’s offense called for Kobe Bryant to go through a series of screens courtesy of his big men to shake free around the elbow area for open shots; but the offense also used Bryant as a screener on the likes of Bynum and Gasol. With Kobe involved as the man setting the pick, the defense occasionally lost track of him and allowed him to catch the ball at the top of the key and go to work.

The off the ball movement in the offense typically provided the Lakes three main scorers the luxury of single coverage.

As a result, the Lakers managed to score 50 points in the first half on 44.7 percent field goal shooting. Although the shooting figures weren’t impressive, the purple and gold shared the ball to the tune of 11 assists and attempted 20 free throws in the first 24 minutes.

The second half on the other hand brought an entirely different look.

The Clippers ramped up their defensive intensity and dared the Lakers to beat them off the dribble. Lob City’s pressure defense generated nine turnovers in the third quarter and also forced a host of contested shots that had the Lakers looking at a 91-67 deficit after three quarters.

The offense looked better in the fourth, but Brown had some of his starters play against some of the Clippers second and third stringers.

On defense, the home team did a terrific job of guarding the post; thwarting every Blake Griffin post up opportunity by pushing him out of his comfort zone or simply forcing him towards the help.

In pick and roll coverage, Brown’s philosophy for this game was to send his big men out to hedge hard out on ballhandlers and recover back to their initial assignment.

Against most teams, the strategy has the potential to stymie an offense; but against Chris Paul it did little to negate his playmaking ability. Indeed, Paul was able to either split the trap, isolate his man or just find his teammate during the split second he was open for a terrific look at the basket.

Also, the inability to limit the Clippers guard play resulted in several open looks from 3-point range (the Clips converted 13-of-28 from deep), an area in which the Lakers excelled at defensively last season.

Furthermore, the Lakers’ 21 turnovers led to a multitude of transition opportunities for the Clippers; who also happened to be the quicker and more athletic team.

The purple and gold’s interior defense was solid throughout, however it was awfully tough to notice given how the Clippers’ starting backcourt shredded their defenders (40 points, 12 assists, 11-for-17 field goal shooting) and then set up their big people for some sensational finishes.

With that said, this game was a learning opportunity for Mike Brown and his team. The trio of Bryant, Bynum and Gasol probably performed as expected, combining for 53 points and 22 rebounds on 48.4 percent field goal shooting, but some other players turned heads as well.

Darius Morris came off the bench to score 11 points and Josh McRoberts did a good job of running the floor and finding his teammates. The former Duke player did have three turnovers, but once he gets some familiarity with the team, one would expect the amount of miscues to drop.

Coach Brown will have to make a few adjustments to avoid mistakes against ball pressure to ensure his team maximizes their possessions. Indeed, the Lakers still managed to run off 23 fast break points, attempted a total of 41 free throws and won the rebounding battle.

Let’s see if these positives translate into the next preseason game and then the regular season.

Records (Last season): Lakers 57-25 (2n in West), Clippers 32-50 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.0 (6th in NBA), Clippers 105.3 (22nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.3 (6th in NBA), Clippers 108.7 (18th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan

The Lakers Coming In: The moves the Lakers have made, and the moves the Lakers have attempted to make this offseason aren’t a secret. Lamar Odom is gone while we’re going to have to have to get used to seeing Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy clad in the Forum Blue and Gold.

We’re also going to have to get used to seeing Mike Brown on the sidelines. So much so that I forget to add this little nugget when I initially wrote this preview. We’re no longer going to see the Zen Master stoically sitting on the Lakers bench in his high chair, but instead the more energetic Brown who has promised to shape up this Lakers defense and run the offense through the post. Strange times indeed.

Lastly, this is the first time in three years that the Lakers aren’t entering the season coming off a trip to the NBA Finals as they were swept by the Mavericks in the Western Conference Semis. Even with all of the changes, with the embarrassing playoff exit and the lack of a big signing, the Lakers are still entering this season with a hell of a team. Kobe is seemingly as healthy as he’s going to be, the ankle is fine and he under went a unique knee surgery. Even with LO gone, the Lakers still have one of the league’s premier front-courts.

These may not be the most ideal circumstances headed into the new year, but this is where the Lakers currently stand.

The Clippers Coming In: For the first time in years, the other team in Los Angeles has a legitimate reason to be optimistic about their future. With Blake Griffin emerging as one of the most exciting young ball players and DeAndre Jordan finally coming into his own, it seemed as if they only needed to get healthy and a veteran presence to bring everything together.

The health issue still remains to be seen, but the veteran presences was answered when they acquired Caron Butler, then Chanucey Billups, then Chris Paul. While Butler and Paul have both had health issues of their own, Butler gives the Clippers a huge boost at the small forward position, where the Clippers struggled most last year, and the point guard spot, where adding Chris Paul to any team would be a positive.

Now with one of the better emerging frontcourts paired with two of the better decision makers handling the ball for the Clippers, the franchise has gone from being the laughing stock of the NBA to now being dubbed “Lob City” before even playing a game together. Suffice to say, exciting things will be coming from the Lakers Staples roommates, but the question remains: are these additions enough for the Clippers to contend for a championship. As they’re currently built, it’s hard to say yes, but we’re definitely looking at a much improved — and a much more competitive Clippers team.

Clippers Blogs: Make sure you guys give Clipper Blog a look for all news about the other team in Los Angeles.

Keys to the Game: With tonight being the first pre-season game of the year, it’s important to remember that this is by no means a measuring stick to see how the Lakers compare to the new-look Clippers, nor one to see whether or not the Clippers can compete with the perennial contending Lakers.

What we should really be paying attention to is how some of the newer players work with guys who have been here a while. We should be looking seeing what kind of sets the Lakers are running on the offensive end of the floor and the changes new Head Coach Mike Brown has made to the defense. I’m particularly going to be interested to see if either Kapono or Murphy can stretch the floor enough to give guys like Kobe, Pau, and Bynum room to operate inside.

I’ll also be paying close attention to watching how Kobe moves. This is his first NBA action since the knee surgery. I’ll be looking at the fluidity of his jump shot, how often he penetrates versus settling for contested jumpers and how active he is on the defensive end.

Tonight isn’t a night to expect perfection. Tonight is nothing more than a first look at the Lakers against another NBA team, and nothing more. With a shortened off-season, they’ve had little time for the guys to learn the new system and even a smaller amount of time to integrate new players with the old.

Enjoy tonight, as it’s been much too long since we’ve had any hoops.

Where to watch: You can watch locally on FSW or nationally on NBATV.