Archives For Game Preview

The Lakers wrap up their summer league play today, taking on the Jazz. This will be their 5th game in seven days, or basically enough time to get a rhythm and be a bit worn down after not likely playing much full court basketball of any import over the previous few months. Of course, one could argue the import of these games as well, so…

In any event, the Lakers are 1-3 to this point but are coming off their best game of the tournament in Wednesday’s loss to the Mavs. That game saw Julius Randle breakout, D’Angelo Russell show some fantastic playmaking instincts, Jabari Brown show off his all court scoring game, and Jordan Clarkson continue to look impressive as a shot creator and finisher. Add in the better flow offensively and a more team oriented approach to their sets and I think fans got a lot out of the game even thought it was a loss.

Heading into today’s game, my biggest hope is that these kids are able to build on some of those positive steps forward. As I wrote about heading into this process, I’m not so concerned about wins and losses or even the individual statistics of the players. I’m looking for positives in their games that can be carried forward into the regular season and whatever negatives exhibited are ones that can be worked on, learned from, and minimized going forward.

So far, I’ve seen little to really be overly concerned about while also seeing some positives that can be built upon. Yes, it would be nice if Russell shot better or if Randle did more work on the glass. I’d have liked to see Nance bury a mid-range jumper or two and for Anthony Brown to get a bit more burn (and get some more spot up chances). I’m not going to worry about these things, though. These are young players and we’re playing the long game, not looking for short term gains on players who are very far from finished products.

With that, enjoy the game today folks. It will be the last Lakers’ basketball we see for at least a couple of months. Hopefully the team can go out with a W powered by some strong performances from players they have so much hope for. But, even if they don’t, trust that the work will be put in so they can be better the next time we see them.

For the third time in four days the Lakers will play a summer league game at the Thomas & Mack center. They were able split those first two games — losing to the T-Wolves but recovering against the 76ers — and now find themselves taking on the Knicks.

To this point, as their record indicates, the team’s performance has been a bit of a mixed bag. The only consistent performer has been Jordan Clarkson with every other player mixing flashes of their potential with moments I’m sure they would want a do-over on. This is what summer league is about, though. Even the young players — especially the rookies — who get their numbers will likely find more than a few mistakes and learning moments when dissecting their game on film.

The point is to get your feet went and, in the process, hopefully show enough positives to build on heading into training camp. From the Lakers’ side, things are certainly moving well in that direction. I can understand fans wanting to see more, but, in reality, this is what summer league is about. With that, here are a handful of things I’ll be looking for when the team takes the floor against the Knicks:

  • I do not believe D’Angelo Russell is so much more athletic than he’s shown in the first two games, but I also do not think he has his legs fully under him right now. The team was having heavy practices leading up to Summer League and then played games on back to back nights where he logged 27 and than 33 minutes. Yes, he’s young, but after not playing in meaningful games since March, getting back on the floor into full bore practices has probably had some affect on him. I am interested in seeing how he plays today after a day off.
  • Keeping on the Russell theme, my thoughts on him have not really wavered since he was drafted. His passing and court vision are special. His jumper, though not falling at the rate anyone would want, looks pure with a great release point. He plays with a poise and confidence beyond his 19 years. In saying all that, he’s mostly only using the P&R when orchestrating the offense and hasn’t yet gotten many (any?) opportunities to run off screens or attack a defense closing out on him when he’s spotting up on the weakside. In other words, we’ve seen a fraction of what his game actually is (and what I think it will be down the line). In other words, I know some fans are getting antsy. I’d advise against putting too much into what we’re seeing since what the team is running offensively in the half court really isn’t doing much to highlight any of his skills beyond his passing ability.
  • Speaking of the Lakers’ sets, I don’t expect them to change much in this environment, but I would like to see them play with a bit more tempo in the actions they are running. Certainly some of this is the product of them not knowing each other or having a firm grasp of the sets. But, as the deeper we get into the summer, it would be nice to see them start to work off the ball with more urgency and start to be tighter in how they execute. Yes, I know, it’s the summer, but a man can hope, right?
  • The match up I am looking forward to most is Julius Randle against Kristaps Porzingis. Randle was clearly disappointed in having to sit out Saturday’s game. I expect him to come out active and aggressive. Matching his strength and physicality against Porzingis’ slender frame and length will be an interesting contrast to watch. Porzingis should be able to shoot over the top of Randle when match up in space. But Randle will likely try to bully him into the paint and take away his length advantage on the other end. It should be fun to watch them go at it.
  • Will we get more “Larry!” chants? Nance Jr. has shown off the skill set and energy that surely caught the front office’s eye in the lead up to selecting him in the first round. His athleticism stands out in a major way and he’s flashing the type of value he can bring to a team should he continue to refine his game (making a couple of jumpers when the ball is kicked out to him would be a nice place to start).
  • I’ve only caught a little bit of the Knicks to this point, but they are sticking with their Triangle offense even in the summer. Filling the post, quick cuts off the post entry, and some nice off-ball movement was the norm in the few glimpses I got of them. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers’ defense responds to ball and player movement after seeing a lot of P&R against the Wolves and a post heavy attack from the Sixers.

Friday’s Lakers’ LVSL opener offered glimpses of what is and, maybe more important, what might be when it comes to the prospects of some key players. And even though the Lakers lost the game, there were some good takeaways to be had.

Heading into Saturday’s game, we already know that Julius Randle will not play as the coaches prefer to ease him back into the action after not playing any meaningful basketball in nearly 10 months. Even without Randle, though, there will be plenty to evaluate and more add to our knowledge base about the young guys on the team.

With that, here are five thoughts and things I’ll be watching closely in this match up against the 76ers:

1. Will the team look any more comfortable non-pick and roll sets? Whenever the team tried to run any of the pure Princeton actions, they looked like they just learned the stuff last week. That, of course, is true. So, in a way, we shouldn’t have high expectations for how well they execute these actions. That said, the hope is that with more reps, the comfort level will increase and the players can start to find good looks within the structure of these sets. In order to make this happen, the off-ball screens must be better and the players must move with more certainty and tempo. We’ll see how it goes.

2. I’m interested in seeing if Russell tries to create any looks for himself in isolation. On Friday, nearly every one of his shots came out of the P&R or in semi transition. I’m not complaining about the lack of iso’s, but considering one of the knocks on Russell coming out of college was his lack of athleticism, I’m interested in seeing if he can create separation using his handle and craft to either get into the paint or to find his mid-range jumper. He did this fine in college, of course. But this is no longer college.

3. Well hello there, Jahlil Okafor. I don’t need to remind folks that when it was time for the Lakers to make their draft pick, many thought Okafor would be the guy instead of Russell. Well, Okafor gets his first shot at revenge today and it will be interesting to see how he manages. Okafor’s already had games this summer and he’s looked pretty good in all the ways you’d expect. Will he do the same against Tarik Black and Robert Upshaw? How will he manage when the Lakers put him in P&R’s defensively? Russell and Clarkson are sure to find ways to pick on him in this action and I’m interested in seeing how he does.

4. Speaking of Upshaw, he will no longer be a free agent after the Lakers will reportedly sign him to a two-year contract after he made his pro debut Friday’s game. The deal, reportedly, carries a partial guarantee for this upcoming season and is fully non-guaranteed for the second year. He will make the league minimum for both years. This is a good gamble for the Lakers and offers little risk. Upshaw is clearly not yet ready to be contributor, but you can see the tools he possesses and he has an on-court demeanor I can appreciate. He plays with passion, but is under control and is clearly competitive as you could see his desire to go toe-to-toe with #1 overall pick Karl Towns. I imagine he’ll have a similar approach when battling Okafor in this game.

5. Tony Mitchell is a guy who intrigues me. He has good size for a wing, is clearly athletic, and has reasonable skill with the ball in his hands. Of the guys who are looking to catch on, he impressed me much more than Dwight Buycks who, once again, seemed to be a guy who did a lot of dribbling to not really get anywhere with the ball. If Mitchell could play some SG as well as some SF for this summer team, his utility goes up a ton with Jabari Brown out until at least Monday. I’d like to see Mitchell more today, especially in lineups with Anthony Brown and Russell to see how he takes advantage of the extra space on the wing.

Sacramento Kings vs Los Angeles Lakers

Wed Apr 15, 10:30 PM EST – TWSN, CSNS

Line: LAL -2.5, O/U: 205.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 105.2 ORTG (17)
  • 109.4 DRTG (27)
  • 95.3 Pace (8)
  • 75.3 DRB% (12)
  • 0.541 TS% (10)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • DeMarcus Cousins 24.1 ppg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 12.7 rpg
  • Darren Collison 5.6 apg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 1.7 bpg
  • Darren Collison 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 103.5 ORTG (24)
  • 110.5 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (14)
  • 76.2 DRB% (6)
  • 0.513 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Vander Blue 2 spg

The end is here. Enjoy it the best way you can.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Sacramento Kings

Mon Apr 13, 10:00 PM EST – TWSN, CSNS

Line: SAC -3.5, O/U: 207.5

Sleep Train Arena – Sacramento, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (24)
  • 110.5 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76.1 DRB% (8)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 105.1 ORTG (17)
  • 109.5 DRTG (27)
  • 95.3 Pace (8)
  • 75.4 DRB% (11)
  • 0.54 TS% (10)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • DeMarcus Cousins 24.1 ppg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 12.7 rpg
  • Darren Collison 5.6 apg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 1.7 bpg
  • Darren Collison 1.5 spg

Two games. Eight quarters. 96 minutes. That’s all that remains of the Lakers’ season.

It’s funny because it seems I have been waiting for the end of this season for so long, but now that it really is almost here it feels strange and I’m not quite sure how to react. While I have not “enjoyed” watching the games — no one really likes watching their favorite team lose — I do still tune into to every game (or at least 90% of them) to watch this team. I still want to evaluate what they do well, what they don’t, who’s playing well, who’s not, and scope the little nuances that make the game the game.

I am a basketball junky. I like seeing how Clarkson attack’s on a certain angle or strings his dribble out. I enjoy commenting that Kelly needs to use his height more on defense rather than reaching in all the time. I like seeing Jabari Brown’s composed competitiveness. I even like seeing Carlos Boozer celebrate his teammate’s good plays on the bench like the true professional he’s been all season. These things don’t come with wins, but they come with watching the team I root for. On Wednesday, the season will end and this will be no more. Sure, I’ll still watch the playoffs and enjoy seeing the game elevated in the 2nd season. But, in a way, I’ll miss the Lakers even if I won’t quite miss these Lakers if that makes sense.

When watching tonight, I’m sure it certainly will make sense. In Sunday’s loss to the Mavs, the Lakers lost Wes Johnson to a sprained ankle and Dwight Buycks to a fractured hand. Tonight, then, they’ll be down to an even more skeleton roster that has them without a natural SF and without a true backup PG. They did add Vander “Forum” Blue for the rest of the season from the D-Fenders, but he’s more of a scoring guard who can also create shots for others than a bigger wing or a pure distributor. Still, though, the Lakers can use the depth on the perimeter since they were down to only Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown to man the two guard slots.

I’m sure the Kings will not feel sorry for the Lakers, though. They are down DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison and are also running patchwork lineups due to their reduced depth. Since George Karl took over the Kings aren’t much better than they were under Ty Corbin, but they are playing at a much faster pace and Karl is getting more from some of the role players (rookie Nick Stauskus is a prime example). Their defense is not where it was under dispatched Mike Malone, but that’s to be expected. Overall, though, it seems Karl will need a full off-season and training camp to implement what he wants on both ends and go from there.

In any event, this game will test your viewing endurance though, if history tells us anything it’s that these franchises tend to compete hard when matched up. Maybe that extra effort can make up for some of the injured players and offer an intensity that covers up some of the flaws of the individual players. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Apr 12, 9:30 PM EST – NBAt, FSSW

Line: DAL -5.5, O/U: 204.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 109.5 ORTG (5)
  • 106.5 DRTG (19)
  • 95 Pace (9)
  • 71.9 DRB% (29)
  • 0.549 TS% (7)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Monta Ellis 19.2 ppg
  • Tyson Chandler 11.5 rpg
  • Rajon Rondo 6.5 apg
  • Brandan Wright 1.6 bpg
  • Monta Ellis 1.9 spg

Ranks

  • 103.5 ORTG (24)
  • 110.4 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

There’s only three games left. Two of those will be a home and home against the Kings — a team that is, like the Lakers, playing out the stretch — and the other is tonight’s match up against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are playoff bound, locked into the 7th seed and waiting to see who will emerge from the tie-break hell that is the chase for the West’s 2nd seed. We know that it will either be the Grizzlies, Spurs, Rockets, or Clippers. For the Lakers’ sake, the hope is that it’s not the Rockets (hello draft pick from the Jeremy Lin trade), but beyond that, I do not think anyone associated with the Lakers cares.

If you’re looking for another Lakers-centric theme to this game, look no further then their starting point guard. Rajon Rondo is an unrestricted free agent this summer and, as there have been all season, the rumors are there that he will be a target for the Lakers. I have not written much on this, but I would not be a fan of that move. I’ll have more to say at a later date, but I’m not convinced Rondo is going to be worth his salary demands — especially in a league that has moved almost entirely towards prioritizing shooting from all positions, but point guard especially.

That isn’t to say that Rondo is without appeal. In a recent profile from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, Rondo’s combination of quirkiness, extreme intelligence, and competitiveness was detailed:

At shootarounds and practices in Boston, Rivers says, Rondo would become “very irritated” when they had to go over plays again and again, even for veterans. For Rondo, learning plays came as naturally as math. Teammates and coaches would universally claim that Rondo has some sort of photographic memory — he doesn’t deny it — and former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, now head coach of the Bulls, says that by the time they’d watch game film the morning after, Rondo had already reviewed the footage two or three times. (“He doesn’t sleep,” Doo says.) The Celtics considered him a pseudo-advance scout, listening and looking for cues from the opponent, then calling out exactly what they were about to do.

Before Rondo’s first playoff series against Atlanta in 2008, the Celtics distributed a 100-page book full of the Hawks’ plays and statistics. Rondo took it home, then challenged assistant Darren Erman the next morning: “Quiz me on anything.” Rondo nailed every question, until Erman tossed a curveball — a question about something that wasn’t in the book. “Fuck you,” Rondo said. “That’s not in there.” Once, when Erman was with the Warriors, his team ran a side out-of-bounds play, called C, that he says they’d run maybe 15 times all season. They called the play. Rondo immediately shouted, “C! Rip screen, rip screen!” Erman and then-Warriors assistant Brian Scalabrine looked at each other, stunned: How in the hell did he know that?

A second coach on the court. An advance scout in the locker room. What could possibly go wrong? “You’ve got to have your shit together,” Garnett says. “Rondo would be like, ‘Nah, Thibs, that ain’t what this is called. It’s called this.’ Thibs would look down at his little sheet and be like, ‘Oh yeah, it is.’ ” In time, Rivers even allowed Rondo to call games like a catcher in baseball, providing a list of five or six plays Rivers wanted him to run that day. “I’ve never had to do that before,” Rivers says, “but it was awesome.” Rondo would study the sheet before games and during timeouts, placing it on the floor between his feet. Even then, Rivers says, after he was given all that freedom … he’d still deviate.

“He’s a contrarian. I figured that out early. He’d ask, ‘Well why wouldn’t we do it this way?’ Sometimes I’d answer, ‘Well, which way do you want to do it?’ He’d say, ‘No, I like the way we’re doing it, I’m just asking.’ That’s a Rondo.”
— Doc Rivers

Yes, the holes in his game are real, but what is described above are things that coaches will value. I know for a fact that Byron Scott will value them. It’s been well documented that Kobe Bryant already does. Whether that leads Rondo to Los Angeles this summer remains to be seen. But, it is something that, regardless of how much one would disagree with it, remains a possibility.

Of course, one of the reasons many who cheer for the Lakers would be against it is the presence of Jordan Clarkson. March’s NBA Rookie of the Month winner is a strong candidate to make 1st Team All-Rookie and looks as though he has the physical tools, smarts, and work ethic to continue to improve. Considering his cheap contract (for at least one more season) and the need for him to have minutes in games to continue to grow, the better long play would be to spend money on other positions and let Clarkson develop further.

Tonight, then, gives fans a chance to see these two go head to head. That match up along should be enough to tune into this game. In fact, it will have to be considering there’s really not much intrigue to this game beyond that. Sure, seeing if Ryan Kelly can keep up some of the momentum from his last game is something I’m interested in. I also want to see how Tarik Black does against Tyson Chandler on both ends of the floor and whether Jabari Brown can somewhat keep up with Monta Ellis. But, ultimately, Clarkson versus Rondo is what I’m looking forward to most. Hopefully it delivers.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and NBA TV. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Apr 10, 10:30 PM EST – NBAt, FSN, TWSN

Line: LAL -5.5, O/U: 203.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 102.7 ORTG (26)
  • 111.7 DRTG (30)
  • 94.4 Pace (11)
  • 71.8 DRB% (30)
  • 0.516 TS% (24)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kevin Martin 20.3 ppg
  • Gorgui Dieng 8.3 rpg
  • Ricky Rubio 8.8 apg
  • Gorgui Dieng 1.7 bpg
  • Corey Brewer 2.3 spg

Ranks

  • 103.4 ORTG (24)
  • 110.4 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76 DRB% (9)
  • 0.513 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good news. There is no longer any fear of the Lakers finishing the season with the 5th worst record in the league and, in the process, dropping their lottery odds to only a 55% chance of retaining their pick. With only four games left in the season, the Lakers have five fewer wins than the Orlando Magic, leaving them with no shot of “catching” them in the standings. As we’ve said multiple times, finishing with the 4th worst record gives the Lakers an 83% chance of keeping their pick. So, that brings some relief.

The bad news, however, is that an 83% chance is not a 100% chance and isn’t even the 96% they would have had if they’d finished with the 3rd worst record. Further, they have almost no chance of catching the 76ers for that 3rd worst record since that team faces three teams angling for playoff positioning while the Lakers only play one such game of their remaining four (against the Mavs).

More bad news is that the Lakers actually play four more games. That might sound harsh, but the reality is that, at this stage, there is little meaning in any of these contests. Add to this that it is unlikely we see high quality basketball, and the viewing experience is not what I’d call “must watch”. That leaves a team playing out the string against, mostly, other teams playing out the string. Not very inspiring stuff. It used to be that this time of the year brought anticipation and eagerness to start the playoffs and get into the part of the year when the stakes and level of play rise exponentially. For the Lakers, these are not those days. I miss those days.

Tonight, then, get ready for a barn burner between the Lakers and the Wolves. Jeremy Lin will sit out with a sore knee, putting Jabari Brown into the starting lineup. That brings me to this:

And this:

And this:

Hey, if you can’t enjoy a good joke at this time of year under these circumstances. I feel for you. Maybe this game will be as enjoyable. At least we get Jordan Clarkson and Andrew Wiggins (can you believe I just typed that) facing off as a battle of likely all-rookie 1st team members (with Wiggins likely winning the Rookie of the Year). Hopefully both can have a big night. If previous match ups between these teams hold, though, odds are that Zach LaVine outdoes both of them. The former UCLA Bruin seems to get up to play the Lakers.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and nationally on NBA TV. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets

Wed Apr 8, 9:00 PM EST – ALT, TWSN

Line: DEN -10.0, O/U: 205.5

Pepsi Center – Denver, CO

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.3 ORTG (24)
  • 110.2 DRTG (28)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76 DRB% (9)
  • 0.512 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (22)
  • 107.7 DRTG (24)
  • 95.9 Pace (4)
  • 74.6 DRB% (16)
  • 0.514 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Ty Lawson 15.4 ppg
  • Kenneth Faried 8.8 rpg
  • Ty Lawson 9.5 apg
  • Jusuf Nurkic 1.2 bpg
  • Ty Lawson 1.3 spg

What can really be said about this game? The Lakers only have a handful of games left and if there is anyone watching for reasons that extend beyond how it affects the lottery odds or for Jordan Clarkson’s growth as a potential point guard of the future, you’re probably either lying or so hard core about your Lakers that the term needle in a haystack probably applies to your ability to search for and find things.

When looking at the game through the prism that most fans view it, you’re in luck. Today’s contest is the Lakers’ 3rd game in four nights and the second night of a back to back. Further, it’s the dreaded flying east to Denver portion of the second night of a back to back where the team did not finish a game until after 10pm PST and then getting to Denver late night/early morning and then driving the long distance from their outskirts airport to their downtown hotel. Even in the best of times these circumstances represented a “schedule loss”. Now that these are the worst of times with an overmatched-on-most-nights team riding out the stretch of a miserable season, well, you get the picture.

In terms of Clarkson’s play, he’s coming off a very nice bounce back game against the wily Chris Paul and the aggressive defensive tactics of the Clippers. On Sunday Clarkson has one of his worst games of the year, but on Tuesday night he recovered well with a 20 point scoring night to go along with a handful of assists and rebounds. Showing that type of growth in his game and showing that he could learn from errors just a couple nights earlier speaks well to his acumen and willingness to learn. Tonight, then, he looks to carry that forward against the Nuggets and another good point guard in Ty Lawson.

Lawson may not have Clarkson’s size, but he matches the rookie’s quickness in the open court and in ability to get to the rim from any part of the floor. Clarkson will be tested defensively by Lawson’s exploits and, with Lawson’s quickness and ability to stay with other quick guards defensively, there will be challenges on the other end as well. In other words, it’s another good measuring stick match up for the young PG who seems to keep stepping up to those challenges. Here’s hoping he can do so again.

Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.