After losing to the Spurs on Friday night, the Lakers are off to a 1-8 start to the season. This is the worst start in franchise history. In other words, things couldn’t get much worse.
Oh wait. Did I say that out loud?
Early reports are that Kobe will try to play tonight, but after suffering from the flu over the last couple of days, that is not a certainty. My guess is that he’s in the lineup, but after dealing with these issues in the Spurs game and being decidedly ineffective — to the point that he mentioned after the game that not being able to push through his illness and play up to a certain standard was something he was not used to — who knows if this is even a good idea. After all, as I noted on twitter (look to the right hand sidebar if you don’t know what I’m talking about), it’s the coach’s job to recognize if a player is up to performing and then sitting him down if he is not. Allowing him to fail — and do so spectacularly in a nationally televised game — was the opposite of that.
In any event, a closer eye on Kobe will be needed in this game and if he’s not up to playing well, the Lakers’ slim chances to win this game will be downgraded even further. Counting the preseason, this game will be the 4th time these teams have faced off this year and every single time the Warriors have shown to be the vastly superior team. Thinking that could change tonight with a potentially hampered Kobe wouldn’t be wise.
What this leaves is a very good Warriors team and a banged up Lakers’ team squaring off. If this doesn’t sound very exciting to you, I don’t blame you. To be honest, the things I am most interested in aren’t even X’s and O’s or how the Lakers can make this game competitive, but rather whether Byron Scott starts to make small tweaks to his rotations to try and get some of his younger players on the floor for longer stretches.
For example, Ryan Kelly is now back and healthy enough to play. And while Carlos Boozer has been putting up some good numbers of late, I would not mind seeing Kelly steal some of those minutes to see if he can contribute to the team’s offense and altering the team’s spacing on that end. Sure, Scott could decide to play Kelly some at SF, but his best position is still at big forward and the only way you get him on the floor more is at the expense of the veteran Boozer. The same is also true of Jordan Clarkson. Against the Spurs with Ronnie Price serving his one game suspension for his flagrant foul the previous game, Clarkson got some minutes at back up PG and looked alright. He still has a lot of learning to do, but the best place to get that experience is in games against live defenses. Might as well give him some burn at the expense of Price rather than simply keeping the rook at the end of the bench.
Ed Davis also needs more burn, whether at Center (hopefully with Kelly flanking him at PF) or at PF next to either Hill or Sacre. Davis has proven to be the team’s most efficient player to start the year and that’s not by accident or, really, a fluke. Davis isn’t going to wow you or overwhelm opponents with his skill set. But he is going to work hard and play well within his skill level while not being wasteful of his offensive opportunities. Further, he’s the team’s best (and most dynamic) defensive player who has shown an ability to play well within Byron Scott’s scheme. At this point, the only thing holding him back is his foul rate but he’ll need more minutes to sort that out so he can learn to play without fouling.
Again, I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the Lakers will be hard pressed to win this game. With that being the case, why not start to try and grow some of the younger players and let them get their feet wet by playing some more minutes. I’m not talking about throwing these players to the wolves — as with the Kobe discussion above, I think Scott will need to monitor these players’ minutes and try to put them in positions to succeed — but some extra, controlled, burn wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Maybe it happens tonight. At least I hope it does.