10 Thoughts From the Lakers’ Preseason Opener

Darius Soriano —  October 5, 2016

The Lakers returned to the court to play an actual…uh…preseason basketball game on Tuesday night and, what do you know, they won! Luke Walton for President! This team is a juggernaut! Break up the Lakers. BREAK UP THE LAKERS.

In all seriousness, it was nice to see these guys back on the floor and showing off some of the new things they have been working on in training camp. They were far from perfect and the overall flow of the game was shoddy for a lot of the night. The starters especially looked like they were having a hard time finding a rhythm and never quite found a good footing.

However, the team did pull away in the 2nd half. As we noted in our preview, I don’t think there are any real takeaways to latch onto after this contest — other than, maybe, the Lakers in spots 6-12 look to be better than the Kings in spots 6-12. That does not mean we do not have some thoughts from the game, however. In fact, here’s 10 of them:

  • I am not quite sure how I felt about Lou Williams getting the start over Jordan Clarkson. Luke Walton explained his reasoning pre-game (he wanted another veteran in the starting group while also wanting more youth and athleticism with a specific reserve lineup), which was reasonable enough. Walton also said this isn’t a permanent thing and that he is using the preseason to learn his players, trying different combinations, and experimenting with lineups. Again, totally reasonable. However, even though I currently project Clarkson’s best long term fit on a good team to be a super 6th man, I think doing that in favor of Lou Williams doesn’t actually make your starting group much better even if it does have its benefits for the bench. We’ll see how this plays out over time.
  • The starters, in general, were quite sloppy on both ends of the floor. On offense they had too many turnovers and on defense they fouled too much. Each guy showed some flashes which was nice to see. I appreciated Mozgov’s defensive presence in the paint. Luol Deng was as advertised as a “knows exactly where to be at all times” player. Still, though, as a group they looked rusty.
  • Randle especially looked off. He wasn’t catching the ball cleanly and was loose with his dribble too often. He did show great confidence in his jumper, however, and that was great to see. His first basket came on a spot up jumper in early transition where he pulled the trigger without hesitating at all. It’s nice to see the work he’s putting in translate into his approach during games.
  • Russell ended the game with 5 turnovers, but several of those game from him hunting fouls that did not come. Often times he barreled his way into the paint and drew some contact, but then lost the ball without a foul to show for his efforts. He’ll learn about balancing his game out when the whistle doesn’t favor him with continued experience, but last night was not that time. Russell’s jumper was also off. He missed several open long J’s that he knocked down during the summer and, even, last season.
  • Brandon Ingram’s jumper was also off. He missed all 5 of his shots and 4 of those were from behind the arc. He impacted the game in other ways, however. He had a couple of blocked shots, moved the ball well offensively, and played good position defense. He also showed his trademark poise, though, if only a minor critique, I wish he would have kept his dribble longer when working in the P&R as a ball-handler. Too often he picked up the ball after the pick and made himself less a threat.
  • Tarik Black can play in this league. Maybe he’s no more than a backup at this point, but his game just works. He hits the glass hard, attacks the rim with purpose offensively, and shows good feet and instincts defensively. I know we’re not making any long term decisions off one game, but he looks like the backup C right now.
  • Yi Jianlian did not have a good night. Right when he came in the game to close the 1st half the Kings went on a run and the one jumper he got missed badly. His release on that jumper was also quite slow which was sort of odd to see. When he caught the ball he was wide open out of a pick-and-pop, but by the time he released the shot, the defense had rotated to him to get a good challenge. I should note I am not blaming Yi for the run the Kings made, but he didn’t help matters as a defensive presence while playing C.
  • Larry Nance is good. He just knows how to play and has a high enough skill level where he can do a variety of things on the floor without becoming a liability. Against the Kings he defended well, hit the glass, ran the floor to get easy baskets, set good screens, moved the ball, and hit a three pointer. I really, really like his game.
  • Lou Williams still knows how to draw fouls. I mean, he really knows how to draw fouls. It’s like he has a special mind control over defenders to get them to reach in and then he has another type of mind control to get the refs to see it every time.
  • The battle at backup PG is going to be interesting. Marcelo Huertas is a such a good passer and has such a great feel for rewarding players who move well off the ball, he’s a fine candidate to get minutes nightly. However, when the Lakers made their 2nd half push, it was Jose Calderon who showed the value of his shooting and how his NBA experience can translate into getting guys organized offensively. Neither defended very well, but Calderon’s superior size seemed to help him more on that end against Ty Lawson.

Ultimately, I liked the energy the Lakers played with and saw some encouraging signs with regards to the systems they were using on both ends of the floor. Defensively their attention to detail and communication looked good, even though multiple players still got beat individually or too ball conscious when defending weak side and allowed back cuts.

Offensively, it looked like several of the young players were still very much trying to run the sets as scripted, which looked as though they were still “thinking” on the floor a lot. Over time, the general comfort level with what the coaches want will improve and guys will get a feel for the different cuts and find ways to improvise more (especially Russell).

For a first game, though, I thought things went relatively well. The caveats of it being the preseason and the Kings not playing some of their key guys in the 2nd half notwithstanding.

Darius Soriano

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to 10 Thoughts From the Lakers’ Preseason Opener

  1. Good breakdown Darius.  Both the O and the D looked better last night than they did last year, but the team was very obviously still figuring out how to play together.  I agree that the young guys, Dlo and Randle in particular, looked like they were thinking their way through the offense.  Randle’s jump shot looks better but I still want to seem him take a couple with confidence and in rhythm from 3.  If he is going to be a starter long-term the defense has to believe that he will take and make that shot; otherwise Nance fills the starting role better.  Clarkson’s defense was very encouraging; his work ethic is his greatest strength and will enable him to keep exceeding expectations.

    That shot Yi took looked really bad.  I’m not sure how much he will be able to stretch the floor when it takes so long for him to get the shot off that the D can help off of him and recover without consequence.  The defense is bigger and faster in the NBA than in China and I just don’t see him having that much of an impact as a result.


  2. Good observations Darius.  Here are mine:

    1.)  Julius got a little taste of life as Draymond Green…..”Hey Julius, you cover Boogie….”  Pretty Tall task.  He was clearly frustrated on D especially and it affected his overall game.  He will need to be able to take up those challenges on D if he’s going to blossom into a player of Green’s ilk.  Green may push the ball up the court and shoot 3s, but his versatile DEFENSE is his primary and perhaps most unique skill.  Let’s see if Julius is up to this kind of mind set.    

    2.)  Clearly the coaching staff is learning the personnel.  So these Choppy, Byronesque line ups/rotations are a product of that.  We need to watch the games accordingly even though I myself immediately commented, “Lou is STARTING????? Here we go again!!!!”

    3.)  I thought Ingram rushed his shot on all his Js.  He should calm down as he plays more.  He needs minutes to better acclimate and he’s getting them it seems. 

    4.)  Black is an intelligent guy ( I believe he just got his Masters Degree….) and his game was impressive.  He won’t thrive in all match up situations, but he’s a great piece to have in the Big man rotation if he can keep playing close to how he did last night. Of course, that young Greek center George Papadopolis (you know, the Dad character from WEBSTER) or whatever his name is, is as green as they come and slower molasses.  

    5.)  I thought Deng was surprisingly decent at the 3.  His corner 3pt shots are on point and he ALWAYS finds his man on D.  I don’t know how he will fare against more elite, dynamic wing players, but his savvy and effort are apparent and will certainly be a welcome addition this year.  

    6.)  Don’t Sleep on Anthony Brown!!  He may be on the bubble as far as making the team but if he can get his sweet stroke to find the bottom of the net, he could be not only a keeper, but a rotation guy.  The Kings second half line up wasn’t anything that highlighted his Defense per se, but he hit 3 quick shots and was active.  I like his game if he can get it to translate on the floor more consistently.  

    7.)  Jian (Yi) looked out of place IMO.  He seemed to be slow to me.  Not lumbering.  Just his pace is not athletic and explosive.  I realize he’s a 7 footer but I agree that his release looks slow and his burst off the floor is non existent.  He seems to need a lot of space just to get his jumper off.  The space wasn’t perfect so perhaps he will look better as the offense improves.  But I don’t think the whole STRETCH 5 thing is entirely appropriate when describing him.  He is a 7 ft guy who CAN shoot 3s….IN PRACTICE.  Let’s see if his game speed and sharpness can improve.  

    8.)  The Defensive evolution has begun.  I was impressed NOT with the result all the time, but with the effort and the understanding of team defense beginning to take root.  Guys did foul a lot, but the rotations were deliberate and there was a flickering light of DESIRE on the part of the guys to play D that I haven’t seen before.  I think it bodes well for the future improvement of the defense.  

    Go Lakers!!!!!!!!!!  Let’s see what happens Friday!!!!!


  3. A Horse With No Name October 5, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Not able to watch the game as it was blacked out outside of the area (I’m in Santa Cruz.)  That sucked.  Anyone here have any advice on live streaming services?  I signed up with one and my credit card issuer sent me a fraudulent warning advisory message.  (All the streaming services are off-shore and seem rather sketchy.)    

    Anyway, I’ve watched all the highlights and have a pretty good feel for the game.  I liked the movement offensively, imperfect as it was.  I was very impressed with Mozgov.  Great defensive awareness and surprising range.  Offensively he showed passing skills that bode very well for his ‘Bogut’ role.  Deng can play the 3 in this offense.  Everyone moves and the line between a 3 and a 4 is blurred.  Seeing Lou get abused by Affalo  coupled with his penchant for slowing ball movement was cringe worthy.  He cannot be a starter.  Bad idea.  

    For those who are ready to write off Yi, I recommend patience. Guarding Boogie is a nightmare for most players.  He was impressive in the Olympics against the US squad.  I look for better play from him.

    If AB can sustain good shooting, this could be a huge deal for the team.  He could be the third guard.  I love size at the two.  I like Clarkson and Russell together; there’s synergy there.  But AB if he is hitting shots,he could pair with either C and R, for a big, defensive back court.  Think OKC’s Andre Roberson with a shot–that would be big.

    Calderon’s 3 range shooting and all around skills trump (hate that word now) Huertas’ play making as far as the needs of this offense.  He should get more minutes than Huertas, but there will be time for both in the marathon season.

    Want to see Zubac get some non-garbage minutes.


  4. A Horse With No Name Most of the time I am able to find a stream here: https://www.reddit.com/r/nbastreams/

    Just remember that all of the darker corners of the internet come with risks.  Keep some ad blocking software up, run a regular virus scan, and avoid giving out any info and you should be mostly okay.


  5. A Horse With No Name October 5, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    MT87 A Horse With No Name thanks bro!


  6. Darius:on my laker
    calendar I place a W with the final score.
    By the end of the regular season, I hope to see at least 30
    Go lakers !


  7. MT87 A Horse With No Name 

    God Bless the Dark Corners………… ; )


  8. Is it just me or did julius randle look like he was returning to his same offensive game due to frustrations