The Lakers played their last preseason game in the U.S. for a little while on Thursday, losing to the Kings 104-86 in a pretty uneven performance on both sides of the ball. The first half offered some positives offensively, some struggles defensively, and some pretty good individual performances. The second half offered a decline in all facets on both sides and included Steve Nash going to the locker room with a sore ankle. The end result was a blowout loss, but the players and coaches took it all in stride and seemed to brush it off as another brick in path towards the season.
A season that is fast approaching, by the way. Tip off for the first game that counts is a mere 18 days away. Less than 3 calendar weeks to get the house in order and present the best group they can to compete when the contests really matter. How good this team will be seems to be a question with an evolving answer — there’s hope inside the locker room that improved chemistry and upgrades in athleticism will make a real difference. On the outside, however, the prognosticators still aren’t convinced. Thing is, though, is that all the words spoken by the players and coaches or those written by scribes who cover this team (both from afar and who see them every day) doesn’t change the fact that the results will be determined on the floor. In the end, the words don’t matter. Only the actions on the floor do.
The big story of the night was, as mentioned, Nash’s sore ankle. Over at Land O’ Lakers, Brian Kamenetzky notes that Nash’s hedging on how much of an issue his ankle may be down the line is a cloud over what has been some optimism about this team.
At ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin also reports on Nash’s bum wheel and notes that his head coach thinks Nash may be in and out of the lineup all year. Some of that is simply based off age and the fact that the team may find ways to rest him more throughout the season. However, after injuries derailed Nash’s season last year, it’s also not the most inspiring quote.
While on the topic of the head coach, the fine folks at Silver Screen & Roll discuss what they think the biggest change will be by the head coach this year, considering he has a full training camp. Interesting answers all around, there. From my perspective, one thing that is clear through the first four preseason games is that this group looks much more organized defensively. The results are still mixed — something that will occur when you have some average to below average individual defenders while also playing several deep reserves — but you can at least tell from play to play what they’re trying to accomplish. Based on this alone, it’s fair to say that D’Antoni really is taking defense seriously this camp.
Shifting to the Kings’ game, here’s a good take on all that occurred during the contest, good and bad, to contribute to the result.
One of the good things, of course, was the continued good play of Pau Gasol. Over at the LA Times, Ben Bolch notes that the Spaniard is playing well, especially in relation to his developing chemistry with Chris Kaman.
Speaking of Kaman, he had some interesting (and informative) quotes — as he usually does — about the Lakers’ trip to China in this piece.
The trip to China should provide more answers to questions we have heading into the season, but that would true whether the team wasn’t going halfway across the globe to play basketball and promote the league (and the sport at large). We hope, soon, to get a clearer picture of when Kobe may return, whether the Pau/Kaman pairing really is an answer, if the team will finally see all it’s players healthy enough to suit up for the same game (minus Kobe, of course), and if the space between the fringe players continues to define itself so we can get a better understanding of who will and won’t be on the final roster.
All of those questions will be answered in time. In fact, it will only be 18 days.