It’s been a long time coming, but the Lakers take the floor tonight for their first preseason game against the Golden State Warriors. Who they face, however, isn’t really that important. The simple fact that we get actual NBA basketball — or as much as you can describe a preseason tilt as “actual” basketball — is great. It means the wait is over and we’re inching closer to the start of the real season.
The opponent is also of little import simply because what happens on the floor isn’t really opponent specific. There is no game plan in place to defeat the Dubs, there’s simply a plan to try and work on the things the team has been going over in practices and to get a look at the players in a competitive setting against guys who aren’t wearing “Lakers” on the front of their jerseys. Don’t get me wrong, I want the team to win — especially after they failed to get a single W in last season’s train wreck of an exhibition season — but I’m more interested in seeing how some of the guys look in a real game environment.
That’s especially true tonight since both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol aren’t expected to suit up (Nick Young should play even though he sprained his ankle a few days ago). This in addition to Kobe also missing the game with his reported trip to Germany for a medical procedure. So, the Lakers are essentially fielding a team of role players, the guys competing for the final roster spots, and camp bodies.
And while it’s difficult to get a full grasp of what these players are fully capable of when they don’t have the team’s best players to lean on to bail them out or be the centerpiece(s) of the offense, we’re still going to get a full game’s worth of information on them. What they did and didn’t do well; how they handle specific parts of the offense and defensive schemes; what kind of chemistry they exhibit. These are all important things that can be built on and getting an early look at what stage of the learning curve they’re at and how comfortable they are matters.
On that note, here are a few guys and themes I’ll be looking at/watching for tonight:
*How does Jordan Farmar look? Is he making plays for himself or others? Can he hit his outside shot? What’s his floor generalship like? I think we all have high hopes for Farmar in his second stint with the team and getting a nice long look at him tonight should give us a good start on any initial evaluation.
*Who looks best as a stretch PF? Shawne Williams, Marcus Landry, and Elias Harris all have some perimeter skills and are good fits as potential stretch 4′s. Seeing their different games in this environment — even if they will likely see time with guys like Robert Sacre and Dan Gadzuric at C — will, like with Farmar, provide a good place to start our evaluation. All three have some solid skills that would help this team down the line, seeing which, if any, can shine should be fun.
*Can Wes Johnson’s practice ability translate to the game? Back when he was a Laker, Sasha Vujacic got a rep as someone who would do really well in practice only for that caliber of play to not carry over to the games when it mattered. Johnson has earned some rave reviews in the opening days of camp and now is a good chance for him to show that he can bring a similar level against an opposing team.
*Is there a plan on defense? Last season it was hard to discern exactly what the Lakers’ plan of attack was defensively. Sometimes they’d hedge and recover on the P&R. Other times they’d hang back behind the pick. Sometimes they’d ICE sideline P&R’s (send them baseline). Other times they’d let the ball handler get to the middle. You could never really tell if there was a consistent plan from play to play or from game to game. In summer league, however, the Lakers had a clear plan of attack on D. They trapped the P&R and pressured ball handlers. They funneled penetration to the baseline and jumped passing lanes when teams tried to beat them with cross court passes. Tonight, will the D resemble last year’s regular season or will it be closer to what we saw in the summer?
Again, I’m excited to have there be an actual Lakers’ game to watch tonight. Enjoy the action, folks.
Where you can watch: 7:00 pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also watch in NBA TV nationally.