So, the we’ve waited all this time to see the Lakers have their hats handed to them in their first exhibition game of the pre-season. Despite the loss, however, it was good to finally see the Lakers suit up as a unit and play the game we all love to watch, analyze, and critique. So without further ado, here are some scattered thoughts on the 111-92 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Were T’Wolves in London. Mind you, do not take too much from this game whether we’re talking about positive or negative performances (ex: Michael Beasley is not the next Bernard King). Some players did look good and I think some of what we saw will continue to trend into the regular season. However, there is still work to be done (more for some than for others).
*One of my big questions coming into the game was the health of Kobe Bryant and how he’d look, physically, coming off his knee surgery. Would he be labouring? Limping? How much bounce would he have in his step? The verdict is decidedly still undermined. Kobe seemed to move well and did show off the fact that he could change ends quickly and cut, slide, jump well enough. However, he hovered around the perimeter for his 6 minutes of game time and went O-fer from the field. His jumper did look flat, but that’s nothing new for #24 as he’s always had a lower trajectory on his jumper. So overall I’d give Mr. Bean an incomplete. His pregame address to the crowd and his waves from the bench while having his name chanted were in good form, though.
*Another player I’d give an incomplete to is Pau Gasol. The big Spaniard looked out of synch and lacked rhythm pretty much all game. He sprinkled in some good plays, but overall he showed some rust as he sometimes fumbled passes and looked hesitant at times when going to a move in the post. All of this is understandable considering his lack of play and emphasis on rest and recuperation from a long past three seasons. I have no concerns about Pau finding his rhythm at some point before the season starts and that’s all anyone should really focus on when it comes to #16. Right now, he looks rested and (most important) healthy.
*One player that showed no rust was Lamar Odom. LO has clearly benefitted from his summer of high level competition with Team USA as he looked in mid-season form in both his conditioning and timing. Odom was active around the basket both rebounding and defending and played his typical open court style when given the chance to turn a defensive rebounding into a fast break chance. He looked strong off the dribble and finished well both from the mid-range and at the rim. Really, his stat line of 17 points and 6 rebounds don’t do his game justice. He looked like the best Laker by a good margin. It’s a good sign to see LO already in basketball shape and showing fresh legs even after an active summer – especially after some players (Luis Scola, for one) have already said that they have tired legs going into camp.
*Odom’s new BFF, Steve Blake also looked good (I’ll explain more on this in a moment). Blake looked to be in full control for all his minutes and showed the poise and calm that many anticipated he would when his signing was announced. The veteran PG showed a high comfort level in the Triangle offense, exhibiting a firm grasp of the cuts and multiple reads that occur on any given play. On a couple of possessions he even found ways to move back to the ball within the flow of the offense to get the ball back and reset his mates and line everyone up correctly. Not too shabby for a guy who’s been on hand for only a couple of months. Getting back to Blake and Odom, there really seems to be a natural chemistry between the two players and I think this will be something to watch for this season. Blake has underrated court vision and a pass first mentality and one of Odom’s great skills on offense is his ability to find creases in the defense in the middle of the floor and along the baseline. Essentially, these two guys games go together like peas and carrots and when they share the court with either the first or the second unit I expect to see a strong connection similar to the one that exists between LO and Gasol.
*The other new additions looked good as well. Both Barnes and Ratliff showed why the Lakers picked them up and their value as quality veterans. Both played strong defense and crashed the offensive boards hard. And while Barnes showed a more refined all around game than Theo (this is to be expected, obviously), I was very happy with what Ratliff showed both on defense and on the glass. And commenter Sedale agreed:
I was impressed with what I saw from Theo Ratliff as well. He was extremely active in the middle and wasn’t afraid to body up to his assignment. His ability to finish under the basket was a little suspect, but when we’re talking about the 4th big man in what will be a tight 3 man rotation (PG, LO, AB) then it’s acceptable.
*Others that also looked good were Shannon Brown and both the rookies. Brown looks fully recovered from his thumb injury that plagued him for most of last year and showed off how good his hand was feeling by displaying what looked to be an improved handle and a good release on his jumper. As for the rooks, they showed off the skills that have earned them praise from Summer League through the start of camp by hustling on the boards (Caracter) and showing high activity on both sides of the ball (Ebanks).
*From a more team wide perspective, there were several things I saw that I liked as well but nothing caught my eye as much as the Lakers commitment to making the extra pass. Whoever was on the court seemed focussed on seeking out teammates whenever an extra defender slid over to help and it led to lots of open looks by every Laker on the floor. Players consistently got into the teeth of the D and then moved the ball along, rarely forcing a shot for themselves when a free teammate had a cleaner look at the basket. Again, I don’t want to take too much from this game (and it’s not like the Wolves are a strong defensive team) but the Lakers kept finding ways to get good shots and I was impressed with the way they moved the ball.
In the end, this was only one game and ultimately a loss for the Lakers in the books. That said, the team does look good together even if they don’t yet look sharp. And really, that’s what this part of the season is for – work out the kinks, find a rhythm as a group and a cohesion as a unit, and go from there. So far, I’d say the Lakers are well on their way.
Blake is to Odom as peas are to carrots.
If Sasha can just stay put and get his shot back, the bench could make up a very nice sofrito.
Sorry, Spanish cuisine gets me excited. Wish I could be in Barcelona to watch the team.
Dave M says
I was actually mildly impressed by Trey Johnson. There’s no shot for him here but I wouldn’t be stunned to see some other team pick him up for insurance.
Let just hope their defense remain the same as last year instead of this slippage…
watching how odom played in the last game makes me think that bynum’s ‘slow’ injury recuperation could be more beneficial to the lakers and to odom himself, because he’s already in full rev right now.
the longer bynum sits, means much more likely that he would be in full health coming playoff time. while odom could maintain his mid-season form early in the season for the lakers by playing more starter minutes (read: longer play time)
odom would then condition himself once bynum is back.
i just think this could mean the both of them will be fully healthy in the playoff.
one more point i would like to add is regarding barnes addition.
I totally agree that he would fit very well within our offense and defense system, but i would like to also point out that this would also benefit kobe.
because during practice, he would train against such a potent defender (in barnes and artest), which i think could only help him find better offensive rhythm.
likewise, this would also help barnes to guard better sg in the game (d-wade for example) since he’s practicing against the greatest sg in the game.
The tag team of Derek and Steve looks as potentially impressive as expected.
Lamar may well be playing at his highest level ever. We’ll see if it continues into the regular season.
Pau Gasol just has to have a better game against Barcelona, no?
Probably shouldn’t mention this, but given the detail in ESPN coverage of Lebron’s adventures with the Heat, they may soon begin reporting whether or not Lebron gets a double double in breaking wind and cups of Gatorade during a home game.
4, it’s sure awesome for my no limit fantasy team that drafted Lamar in the last round $$.
I was also very impressed with how active Lamar Odom looked. My slight with Odom had always been that based on little things (his release on jump shots, no right hand) it was obvious he wasn’t working on his game in the off-season. It seems (after one game) that he spent a lot of time on Team USA working on his release and finishing around the basket.
What I took from that game is there is clearly a problem with the refs and theLakers and how they call Laker games, they seem to give other teams the benefit of doubt while the Lakers get called for anything that looks like a foul pr violation. The refs are whats wrong with the game today they stop the flow of the game too often with unecessary whistles. Let these guys freaking play !
It was only a Pre-Season Game. The lakers know it and are smarter than Detroit or Miami who Both had Injured players! In a mean nothing preseason game, even a seaon game is not worth an injury.
Wade out for a least two weeks and a couple detriot players Hurt wort one will be out for 6 MONTHS!
Miami has Pressure on them and they will beat themselves up and acccomplish nothing of value
Lakers didn’t respect their fans that spend big money to see them play.
It was really disappointing