Basketball is back!
Yes, it’s only preseason. And, no, the Lakers won’t yet have their full roster playing together after their stupendous summer of high profile acquisitions. Still, the team will be taking the floor in a real basketball game where we get to see them compete against another NBA team. Good times.
First, some housekeeping. Dwight Howard will not play as he’s not yet been cleared to participate in games by his doctors nor the Lakers’ trainers. In his place, one of the two Lakers’ rookie big men — Robert Sacre or Greg Somogyi — will start at center with Pau Gasol playing his normal power forward slot. The other questionable Laker, Kobe, is likely to play tonight — though for how long, is a different question — after returning to practice on Saturday due to a sore foot that kept him out of both Friday sessions.
The rest of the starting lineup should look exactly as you’d expect with Nash joining Kobe in the back-court and Ron-Ron flanking Pau and rookie big man X in the front-court. As with Kobe, the question is how much these guys will play, but it will be nice to see how they work together on offense in the new Princeton sets and if there are any marked differences in the defensive schemes from last season.
While it’s understandable the starters draw most of the interest, I’m actually looking forward to getting a better look at all the reserves the Lakers have on their camp roster. In practices, Jamison has been getting some run at small forward, Ebanks at shooting guard, and there’s been some competition at point guard between Blake and Chris Duhon. How all these guys play tonight, in roles they’re not necessarily used to playing, will be something to watch for.
I’ll also be keeping a close eye on Jodie Meeks, who’s not yet found a clear spot as Kobe’s backup in this first week of camp. I’d like to see him get some run and flash some of what made him a key acquisition. Along with Meeks, I’m also interested in seeing how much run, if any, Reeves Nelson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Darius Johnson-Odom get as wing options just to see how they perform in live action. All three have a lot of work to do to make the team, but showing some promise in game action should catch the coaches eye.
Lastly, second year vets Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock are guys worth paying attention to. Both should see some run and both have something to prove coming into their second seasons. Morris, by all accounts, has had a very good summer both in terms of improving his body and working on his game. He could very well be competing for point guard minutes once the season starts and it will be nice to see if his hard work can translate to the court. As for Goudelock, his contract is not guaranteed making him the only returning player in legitimate danger of not making the roster. Has his game grown? Can he play point guard? Can he defend better than he showed last year? These are vital questions for him.
As for the Lakers opponents, the Warriors are literally a brand new team. Last season’s acquisition of Andrew Bogut (in the Monta Ellis trade) is already paying dividends for the Dubs as his fiery, defensive style is starting to wear off on his teammates. They’ve also added veterans Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, both who promise to add toughness to a lineup that can desperately use some.
Beyond the new vets, the Dubs also bring in several quality rookies — Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli — all of whom are capable of playing minutes in this league. Barnes is likely to get heavy minutes at SF for this team, but Green is a nice combo forward and Ezeli a rugged big man that can also prove worthy back ups for the Dubs.
All in all, the Warriors are a very nice team and have been rebuilt with talented players at multiple positions who are now added to a roster that already had some very good players. This team hopes to finally break through this season and they look to have a much more competitive roster to make that happen.
Of course, with all the above being said, nothing will be determined tonight. The result, whether a win or a loss, doesn’t really mean much. The bigger goal is to begin to build a foundation and use the contest as a teaching moment for the players. If nothing else, tonight will offer some tape for the coaches of both teams to study and to take back to the players with some positives that can continue to be refined and some negatives that need to be cleaned up.
But for the fans, it will be our first basketball in some time. And for that, get excited. The NBA is back and we get to talk about actual games.