And one more for the road: If the Lakers are going to win tonight â€” going 2-0 without Kobe â€” we need to see some of the same things we saw against the Suns, because the Warriors are Suns-lite this season.
By my calculations last night, the Lakers took nearly 2/3 of their shots in the in the paint, including 24 lay-ups (and just 17% from beyond the arc). Like they did at the start of the playoff series last year the Lakers used their size inside to get good shots and it softened up the defense for good looks at the three later in the game. The Lakers should be able to do that tonight, the Suns should actually be better interior defenders that the Warriors.
The other key is the bench play (always big in back to backs). Last night the trio of Cook, Farmar and Radmanovic improved the Lakers defense â€” they were all double-digit positives in +/- (Cook 10, Radman 12 and Farmar 13, Odom was the only other Laker that did that well, with +14). You canâ€™t read too much into those number but you can say those three clearly outplayed the Suns bench. They need to do the same thing to the Warriors.
How about that Bynum kid? Maybe the preseason wasnâ€™t a fluke. Bynum had to be the highlight of the game for Laker fans â€” 18 points on 63.6% shooting, nine boards and five assists. Most importantly, he looked comfortable, pushing around former point guard Boris Diaw (what the heck were the Hawks thinking?). As I said before, there may be no two better teams for Bynum to face at the start of the season than the banged-up Suns (a healthy Amare makes things harder for Drew) followed by the â€œweâ€™re going small even if the personnel is not quite rightâ€ Warriors.
I expect more of the same tonight.
Also from the how about that guy line, Maurice Evans looked great with 17 points (61.5% shooting), a +7 and good defense and play all around.
Who didnâ€™t look good? Sasha was given a golden opportunity that Iâ€™m not sure he earned â€” Kobeâ€™s spot in the starting lineup. In the first half he proceeded to go 0-4 (all threes), with two assists and one turnover, and is -6. Evans started in the second half, and I bet does tonight. Itâ€™s a new season, but Sasha shows the same old inconsistency.
Phil and Kobe? We donâ€™t need no stinkin’ Phil and Kobe? The Lakers two biggest names are staying home for tonightâ€™s game. Kobe had some soreness in his knee so said he is sitting out the first couple of games (but is â€œoptimistic about the home-and-home this weekend with the Sonics).
When he begged off going to Fresno in the preseason, I thought Phil Jackson was wisely using his surgery to avoid places he didnâ€™t want to go. But tonight is a regular season game in the beautiful Bay Area, and Phil is staying home. So his hip must really be bothering him. I donâ€™t expect big changes, but Iâ€™m curious how the substitution patterns and other things will be different with Rambis at the helm.
Two more years: In a move sure to have John Hollinger scratching his head, the Lakers picked up a two-year option for Brian Cook before the game yesterday. Thatâ€™s nice, but Iâ€™m more concerned that Walton gets resigned for a few more years.
Jerry Buss is not going to get you a Rose: Itâ€™s been brought up a few places, including TJ Simers asking Phil Jackson on the radio: Are the Lakers interested in now available Jalen Rose. Well, first off, in the afore mentioned interview, Phil basically shot the idea down. He said, and heâ€™s right, that Rose is not the player he used to be. Now, the Knicks asked 26 minutes of him a game last season and if you cut that to 15 Rose might have more of a Robert Horry shelf life. But, do you think the Lakers are going to cut Aaron McKie and eat $2.5 mil to bring in Rose?
How much difference can a coach make? It made a big difference for the Lakers last season when Phil Jackson took the helm, and the Warriors are hoping to see the same thing from having Don Nelson come on board.
What Nelson has to work with is a great backcourt and some projects. Baron Davis should thrive in the more open system, he is a fun great open court player (when his body doesnâ€™t betray him). Jason Richardson had a career best year last year (PER of 19.2) and this season should arrive on a more national scene.
But then there are the projects â€” Mickael Pietrus, Zarko Cabarkapa, Ike Diogu, Andris Biedrins, Monta Ellis and Dajuan Wagner. Nellie needs to see which of these guys can play in his system and who canâ€™t, then start reshaping the roster. My guess is that means a slow start for the Warriors but they get better by next March. And then next season.
Coolest of the NBA Previews: You have to check out what lowpost.net did for Golden State â€” What would you do if you were running the franchise, an interactive game.
What to look for tonight: To me, this game is all about defense and defensive effort for the Lakers. Last night the Lakers used their length to frustrate the Suns after the first quarter â€” they shot 33% in the second, 41% in the third and 50% in the fourth. The Lakers can go big and do the same thing to the Warriors if they donâ€™t get tired and lazy on rotations.
Another key is just how much defensive effort the Warriors put out â€“ they werenâ€™t a good defensive team before Don Nelson walked in the door. The Lakers should be able to establish themselves inside again, or at least force Nelli to go with guys like Diogu and Adonal Foyle that muck with the running style heâ€™s trying to install.