Wednesday Storylines

Darius Soriano —  October 23, 2013

After Tuesday’s win over the Jazz, the Lakers only have a single preseason game remaining before the regular season begins. One more game to evaluate players, try personnel combinations, switch up rotations. One more game before the final roster is cut down. One more game where the reasoning of it’s only the preseason applies.

In a way, the win over the Jazz perfectly summed up what could be — and in a way, what I’m sure some people hope will be –provided by the Lakers during the regular season.

Some of the bench and role players looked very good. Jordan Farmar had an excellent night, buoyed by his furious 2nd half where he scored all of his team high 20 points. Wes Johnson finally brought his practice performance to the actual game, scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 rebounds while flashing the length and athleticism that were a key reason for his signing. Jordan Hill looked solid as a back up C, working the glass in his typical fashion, contesting shots at the rim, and even showing nice ability to occupy defenders (and score) when diving to the cup out of the pick and roll. Add in Xavier Henry’s continued aggressiveness and some good all around work by Shawne Williams on both sides of the ball and there is a sense that this is the type of performance the team thinks it can get from these guys.

On the other hand, this game also offered a reminder of some of the things that can bring the Lakers down over the course of the year. Chris Kaman, while ill and not technically injured, missed the game — something that will probably happen on more than one occasion considering he hasn’t played in all 82 games since his rookie season. Steve Nash played through an issue with his neck in the first half, but sat out the second half as a precautionary measure. Steve Blake started the game at SG and played his typically scrappy style, but had issues defending the bigger (and very skilled) Gordon Hayward which, at times, compromised the team’s defensive integrity. This team will have it’s down moments simply because the individuals that make up the rotation all have their flaws.

The hope, of course, is that the roster is constructed in a way that allows for some of those players to have their down moments and that the teammates who stand next to them will pick up the slack. Against the Jazz, that happened. Kaman sat, but Hill played well in his stead. Nash sat out the 2nd half, but Farmar exploded for 20 points and ran the offense competently. As the night went on, players found ways to help the team in ways that contributed to a win. The Jazz aren’t some powerhouse that will challenge for a playoff seed (quite the opposite, actually), but the Lakers, as a team, still did what was needed of them to pull away and win the game.

The regular season will need more of that. We’ll see if the way this team fits together allows it to be possible over the long grind of the regular season. Now, on to the news of the day:

Actually, before we get to today’s reads, check this out:

If you’re wondering why Xavier Henry will make this team, this play in transition is just one example. In the last few seasons, the Lakers haven’t had too many guys that would make this play. Henry still has holes in his game, but what he does bring on a consistent basis — energy, an attack mentality, and athleticism — are all needed on this team.

Speaking of athleticism and an attack mentality, Jordan Farmar is another Laker who possesses those traits. Mark Medina writes how Farmar is using both, mixed with more patience, to be a better player.

Farmar will need to continue to grow as a player, especially with Pau Gasol dropping quotes like this one after the Jazz game:

I have tempered hopes for Nash and believe he can resemble the player he was last year when healthy — that player was a walking 13 and 7 with shooting percentages of 50/40/90 in roughly 30 minutes a night. But, let’s face it, Nash is pushing 40 and the lingering nicks and bruises will likely be a part of the remainder of his Lakers’ career. How he can play through them will be an important story all season.

Shifting from point guards to centers, Ben Rosales of Silver Screen & Roll writes that it’s the Lakers’ men in the pivot who will have to carry the team this year.

At ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin writes that Mike D’Antoni plans to go deep in his rotation this season, especially while Kobe is out recovering from his achilles injury. A key passage:

Just how many guys will actually play consistently is up in the air, but even when Bryant returns — and especially when Bryant is out — the Lakers look to be playing with a deep, deep bench. How deep? D’Antoni said over the summer he would try to employ an 11-man rotation. When reminded of that statement this week, he said that 10 is more likely, although when Bryant is back in the mix there would be 11 players deserving once again. D’Antoni also has unexpectedly had to dole out about 15 minutes per game from Steve Nash’s minutes, as the 39-year-old point guard has been limited by injuries all preseason, the latest being discomfort in his neck keeping him out of the second half. On Tuesday, D’Antoni gave 10 players 15 minutes or more of playing time and it paid off, as L.A.’s bench produced 74 points, including four players in double digits in Jordan Farmar (20 points), Jodie Meeks (15), Wesley Johnson (14) and Jordan Hill (10). D’Antoni is going out of his comfort zone a bit as he has kept a short bench in the past (the Lakers basically played only eight guys as they made their playoff push a season ago), but the coach has his reasons. He said that the dropoff between the eighth guy and the ninth guy on those previous teams was precipitous, whereas on this season’s Lakers, he has legitimate horses in his stable. However, there can be a lot of upheaval on a team if a roster keeps getting shuffled and minute totals spike up and down from night to night, which is apt to happen with more roles trying to be created. “One thing I don’t want to do is meander around all over the place,” D’Antoni said. “I like to go with some people and you go with them, unless they play their way out. … I just don’t like to grasp straws and all that.”

Speaking of Mike D’Antoni, if there’s one thing he can do as good as the best of them it’s drop a gem of a quote. At ProBasketball Talk, Kurt Helin relays a great one liner from the Lakers’ head man.

A good read on Dennis Rodman and his relationship with Scottie Pippen that also touches on his brief stint with the Lakers.

Lastly, at ESPN, I was part of a 5-on-5 panel about the Lakers prospects this season. We talked Kobe, gave grades on the team’s off-season, predicted how far this team would go, and offered a bold predictions on the team.

The Lakers open their season in six days. Even though we know a lot more about this team than we did a month ago, questions still remain. We don’t yet know when Kobe will play or how well he’ll do so when he does return. We don’t yet know if this team’s style will be more half court or if they’ll run more. We don’t know how the rotations will really shake out.

What we do know is that this team will play hard and that, besides Dwight Howard’s departure, the team has gotten more athletic with every acquisition they’ve made. We know that, at this point in the season compared to last year, the team looks more organized on both sides of the ball. We know that, even if it will frustrate at times, this team will play an entertaining brand of ball. Until we can learn more, that may need to be enough.

Darius Soriano

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22 responses to Wednesday Storylines

  1. darius: based on your assessment(s), the positive to all this is that the 2nd unit provides stark contrast to the starters; who pretty much are living up to their current agedness rather than their reputations.

    the trick would be when to and how long part or all of the 2nd unit should be inserted into the game as the season progresses. and as you mentioned, when and how kobe will be utilized when he comes back to join the team. and of course, we know he will. that is, at least he better or the questions of the team’s fate this season as far as making the playoffs will continue to spiral.

    did catch part of the 2nd half after missing the 2nd quarter because boredom set in watching the 1st quarter. wes johnson looked good, someone, something lit a fire under farmar’s you know what and even meeks made an appearance (his one in 7 games or so quota). all in all, youth served us well in last night’s victory over the hapless jazz.

    just the opposite can happen in preseason’s finale in a couple of days. can’t argue with who knows.

    always like what you bring to the table, Darius. keep it up, we count on it.

    Go lakers

  2. Its best for the team for Nash be the second unit. Jordan Farmar is better equipped to defend the elite point guards and push back at them with penetration. Jordan has everything to prove, and he seems on track to prove it.

    What expectations are realistic for a 40 yr old NBA PG?

    Certainly can’t expect Nash to stay healthy.

  3. Hey Darius, why can’t I post comments using my PC? I had to post this comment using my phone.

  4. 14, 10, 22, 6, 10, 13, 16 are teams offensive rebound numbers this preseason. Lacking in size we should continue to see teams average around 13 off. rebounds a game. I’m not sure of a way to combat this because even if players are in position (which most haven’t been this preseason) all it takes is an overstretched arm from Favors or hip ump from Kanter to get a rebound.

    80%, 72%, 76.5%, 80%, 72.7%, 73.9%, 89.7%. 78% are the Lakers ft numbers every game this preseason. Long gone are the time we see sub 60% a few times a week.

    X. Henry 9-11, 7-9, 5-6, 0-0 (10 min), 2-4, 4-5, 2-2 ft attempts this preseason. 5.2 ft attempts per game on 21 minutes a game. He should make the team based off his aggressiveness this preseason. He looks like he can be a valuable piece in the 10-11 man rotation.

    J. Farmar also has been getting to the line in the games he’s played. 6 ft attempts per game

  5. Gary,
    I’m not sure what the problem is. Try from your computer again and let me know if it gets through.

  6. If we could only play Utah every game…We will beat teams like Utah(less talent then us) and struggles with the elite teams….41 wins….

  7. Darius: I am actually optimistic about this years’ Lakers. The team last year was decimated by injuries the first half of the season, and had very little depth to speak of. The lack of quality bench players magnified the Lakers defensive deficiencis late in games, as the starters struggled to make stops down the stretch due the their lack of rest.

    The offseason pickups by the Lakers give them something they did not have last year which is fresh, athletic legs off the bench. Johnson, Young, and Henry may all be viewed as underachievers to this point in their careers, but all three have identifiable talent, which in all do respect to Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, and Devin Ebanks, is something the Lakers had very little of from their bench players last year. At the very least, the young guys (and Farmar, Kaman) whom the Lakers signed in free agency, all have the ability to generate offense, and all have the ability to be serviceable on defense for stretches of games.

    A final thing that I think has been overlooked by many, is the fact that without Dwight here to monopolize the lower block, Pau will now be able to alternate between receiving his touches in the high post, as well as the low post, whereas last year his low post skills often times went unused, due to Dwight’s constant occupying of the paint. Kaman will give Dwight a suitable big man to work the high low post two man game in which Pau and Dwight started to be able to execute down the stretch last year.

    Obviously a lot hinges on Kobe, but since we don’t know that he has lost anything from last season, I will wait until I see that he has before I downgrade him as a player, especially since he was brilliant last year, in a season in which the “experts” pegged as being an inevitable year of decline for the Mamba.

    I look forward to this years team exceeding the lackluster expectations that the “experts” set forth for them, even though many of them saw no more than a handful of their games last season.

  8. Nostradamus walks among us.

  9. Eventually…

    Jordan Farmar will have to learn to start and thrive in the 1st unit.

    Xavier Henry would need to be aggressive against REAL competition and not just the likes of Gordon Hayward. Lets see if he can bring that athleticism and swagger against Lebron and Harden.

    Nick Young should learn to pick the best possible shot for himself. 10 per game and make 5. Thats all we could ask. If you’re hot then go shoot 10 more.

    Steve Nash would just get older. That means he would have to relinquish alot of his efficacy in favor of the younger generation. Shoot more please.

    Pau Gasol would have to get stronger or get traded. I can already think of 4 possible destinations.

    Jordan Hill deserves more minutes. He might be a zero offense guy but his athleticism, defense and the snarly rebounder he is is just so valuable.

  10. That dunk by Henry was very reminiscent of the dunk by MWP right before his meltdown elbow against Harden.

  11. Kobe: 6 days away from our 1st game. Status? Questionable? Doubtful? Out? 5-9 months?
    Joe: “exceeding the lackluster expectations that the “experts” set forth for them” The experts predicted 12th in the West. Does this mean you are predicting 11th? : )
    Nash: “Pau said he is a little concerned about Nash’s health” What is the over/under on games that Nash plays this year?
    Heat: It appears as though 75% of the leagues GM’s are predicting a three-peat. So where exactly does this put our odds of signing LBJ? I am thinking less than 5%. Aaron please give me an update to tell me I am wrong. Tell me Riles just bought a nightclub in LA; Tell me LBJ has deposit on a place in Malibu. Tell me something other that the Lakers are tanking : )

  12. For such a storied franchise, the Lakers TV announcers are really mediocre. Bill MacDonald is so casual in his approach, and Stu is just going through the motions, same old jokes and lines over and over again. Yes, the game is going long, Stu wants to go home, so sick of that. I’m a longtime Laker fan (since ’69), and really think it’s time for Stu to hang it up. Wish the radio was in sync with the TV, much prefer John Ireland and M.T.

  13. Warren Wee Lim,

    I fully agree with your assessment on Jordan Hill. Last night Hill had 10 pts. (on 4-6 shooting), 5 rebounds (1 offensive board), 1 steal and a lot of activity on the defensive end in just 17 minutes. If this is any indication, then he could possibly be on the road back from very serious hip surgery last year.

    If my math is correct, his numbers would project out to 21 pts. and 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. And this wasn’t even one of his better rebounding games. I firmly believe that Jordan Hill could lead the league in rebounding if he were given the chance.

    Now, I realize that this is only one measly Pre-season game against lesser competition. And I also realize that Hill has been inconsistent over the last 7 Pre-season games (the result, I believe, of his still recovering from hip surgery). But I’ve seen several efforts from Hill of this quality over the last 2-3 years (including a monster game against Charlotte when he was still with Houston just prior to getting traded to the Lakers) that lead me to think that maybe Hill just needs a head coach who believes in him and will give him a chance to play. He’s also our best big-man defender–by far.

    Will Jordan Hill be held to 17 minutes a game again? Let’s hope not. Once he rounds into shape, I firmly believe that he can help this team. In fact, I think he could help any team.

  14. Rusty Shackleford October 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Derrick Rose doesn’t look more explosive but his shooting stroke looks really good. Quick and compact like Ray Allen.

  15. Alright thanks Darius. I just got home and it looks like I can post comments now. It must have been something wrong with my computer.

  16. Looking forward to improved relationship on the ownership level. Until the Buss family can agree on the direction the franchise is heading, the team will only be spinning it’s wheels. :-(.

  17. Mid-Wilshire,

    I think it has something to do with Hill’s inefficiency in offense that would cause him to log in lesser minutes that we all would want him to. Esp with a not-so-explosive power forward beside him. We all know he is most effective as a small-ball center rather than the PF we want him to be.

    Its been rumored that the Nuggets are shopping Kenneth Fareid and I’d like for us to find a way to get him. My worry is that we don’t have any parameter of a deal to send Denver because Pau Gasol is paid too much (salary difference is too big) and we have no youngster to entice them to any possible deal. Getting Fareid and Hill on the same team with an explosive, offensive-minded 1-2-3 would be a thing of beauty to watch under MDA.

  18. for those who believe in numerology:

    #2 (the number idiots have picked kobe bryant as being the 2nd best shooting guard in the nba this season).

    #12 (the number the other idiots picked the lakers to finish this year in the western conference).

    #25 (the number kobe bryant was picked as the 25th best nba player this season).

    #2450 (for purposes of numerology: the number derived by multiplying 2 x 1225).

    #24 (the number we all know and love).

    #5 (the number we all know is particulary significant to kobe bryant)

    #0 ( NOT A NUMBER).

    can hardly wait for #24 to make and share his thoughts via his #1225 hastag.

    just a matter of time, nba.

    Go Lakers !

  19. I was able to get Kobe in the 4th round of my fantasy draft…. super happy.

    Here’s hoping he is back better than ever.

  20. Now the news is that even Eric Bledsoe is about to be extended (along with Hayward) … guess only Greg Monroe is left.

  21. I hope Kaman is ready for the next game,so that we can see all the guys that will be in the rotation to start the season. Defense and rebounding will be an ongoing challenge.

  22. lets hope so bigcitysid. I don’t think it’s really any better yet.