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I am not a huge boxing fan, but I have watched enough of the sweet science to know a little bit about the sport. Boxing, in the sports world, is the ultimate mano-a-mano physical endeavor. The sport in which there is no where to hide your failures; no where to escape the punishment when you face someone better than you.

There is maybe no modern superstar whose career has more closely resembled a pugilist than Kobe Bryant. He has turned so many possessions into a one-on-one battle where, like two men confined to the ring, there is no where to run from the onslaught he had prepared for his opponent. Maybe, for me, at least, that’s why his comments last night took on a familiar tone.

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There is not really much to say about Friday night’s game against the Kings. The Lakers were bad, the Kings were not. The 132-114 margin of defeat reflects that, but also all the little things which go into winning, or, in this case, losing, basketball.

The missed rotations, the easy allowance of dribble penetration, the lack of helping the helper, the shoddy work on the glass, the bad shot selection, the sloppy execution, the poor screens being set, and so many other things that I’m just going to stop trying to explain it. When you give up 132 points, you did too much wrong. Scoring 114 may look nice, but it’s really just the shiny object on the ground to distract you from the fact you’re about to walk into a wall.

Analyzing this game for what it was, then, isn’t important. The Lakers were bad. Why they were bad are reasons we already knew about — or at least had strong hints at after opening night:

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After losing to the Timberwolves on opening night, the Lakers are 0-1. The last time they were at or above .500 (0-0 does not count) was actually December 20, 2013 when they were 13-13. That…that was a long time ago. Mike D’Antoni was head coach, Pau Gasol anchored the pivot, and Kobe Bryant had already played in all of the 6 games he’d appear in that season (he broke a bone in his knee three days earlier against the Grizzlies).

That stat interests me because tonight the Lakers have a chance to get back there against the Kings. Sacramento, like the Lakers (and, if we’re honest, like the Wolves), are looking to take a major step forward this year by outperforming expectations. They hope to make the playoffs. And they assembled a veteran heavy roster and retained George Karl to get there.

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Any critique leveled against any team on the second day of the season has many caveats attached to it. For the Lakers, this is especially true. Not only is the “it’s only been one game!” caveat important, so are the ones tied to the team’s youth, the high amount of roster turnover, and the resulting lack of familiarity and continuity which comes with it.

Simply put, any real criticisms should be held off on for now. We really are too early in the season to come to any lasting conclusions. Let’s see what things look like after 15-20 games to get an idea if what we are seeing are actual trends or not.

However, some of the issues we saw in Wednesday’s loss to the Timberwolves aren’t new. This is especially true on offense where the Lakers looked very much like the team they were last season in many ways. And not good ways, either.

In reviewing the game, one play stood out to me that captured many of the team’s issues and encapsulated why they can sometimes struggle in the half-court.

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Talk about a punch to the gut. On a night where the Lakers played a pretty good first half and had a 16 point lead in the 2nd half, they gave it all away over the last 15-plus minutes to lose their season opener to the Timberwolves 112-111.

While the story of the night was the collapse, the devil, as always, is in the details. The game started with a lack of flow for both teams. Coming off an emotional start to the game with an extended moment of silence for the recently passed, former T’Wolves coach and GM Flip Saunders, both teams were somewhat skittish. Shots weren’t falling, the ball wasn’t moving very freely, and guys seemed like they just couldn’t find a great rhythm.

As the minutes passed, though, both sides found their stride and an actual NBA game broke out. Fueling the Lakers was their 2nd unit. After D’Angelo Russell picked up his 2nd foul with 6 minutes left in the 1st quarter, he and Kobe went to the bench in favor of Lou Williams and Nick Young. Soon after that, Marcelo Huertas replaced Clarkson with Bass and Kelly subbing for Randle and Hibbert.

It was this bench crew that opened up the game, giving the Lakers a sorely needed boost. The ball whipped around the floor, but, more importantly, the wings were hitting shots.

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The Lakers open their season against one the few teams who have been as bad as they have recently. While the Lakers have won 48 games over the last two seasons, the ‘Wolves have been nearly as bad with 56 wins over that same period. Though, to be fair, 40 of those wins did come in the 2013-14 season which saw Kevin Love put up video game numbers.

Of course, Love is now a Cavalier. And Andrew Wiggins, the fruits of the Love trade, is a T’Wolf. He joins #1 overall pick from this June’s draft, Karl Anthony-Towns, to form what Minnesota fans hope is the inside/outside tandem that will dominate the league for years to come. The Wolves also sport lottery picks Zach LaVine and Shabbaz Muhammad as well as Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio (questionable), and Nikola Pekovic (doubtful) as core players.

With this group of elite youth and young veterans, the Wolves are a team on the rise. Add in veterans Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller and this is the type of roster construction Lakers’ fans should be quite familiar with. In fact, in a way, tonight’s game offers a bit of a look in the mirror for two organizations who hope to take some major strides forward this year. Sort of fitting considering the Lakers hail from where the ‘Wolves now call home.

The similarities in roster construction make for an interesting set of match-ups and story-lines.

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Up through Tuesday’s practice, Byron Scott was noncommittal on D’Angelo Russell starting in the Lakers’ season opener. He didn’t give reasons, but expressed he’d yet to make up his mind on the matter. I, for one, didn’t really believe that with it the day before the game, having seen Russell for an entire summer league and training camp, and knowing how the rest of the roster fit together.

But that was Byron’s story and he was sticking to it. Fine, no problem. We would get final word today, the day of the game, and that would be that. Well, guess what? D’Angelo Russell is starting.

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My longform thoughts on what I believe the Lakers can and will be this year are pretty clear. If you don’t know them, click the link!

While that’s how I think things will go, though, that’s not why I watch. Whether my predictions or analysis holds up as the final word of truth isn’t why I run this site or why I make time for the Lakers. I love the game and I want to see the team I root for play it.

Underneath it all, too, I actually am optimistic about this team and where they are going. I believe the young players — especially Randle, Russell, and Clarkson — are going to be very good. I like the veterans brought in over the summer. And I still really enjoy watching Kobe Bryant. I like this team.

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