Lakers v. Nuggets
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers (with post-game interviews here): Everything about Kobe’s recovery from offseason knee surgery has looked pretty good. He’s played in every preseason game, not always with a sleeve, has moved freely, gone into the post, cut off screens, and generally looked like a guy feeling pretty good physically. Everything except the 4-of-28 shooting mark he sported through three preseason games entering tonight’s action, that is. Saturday, Kobe made a whole lot of fans feel a whole lot better. Yes, he only made five of the 13 shots he took, but the night was extremely positive. In the first half, he beat J.R. Smith to good post position on the left block, spun into the lane and buried the short jumper. Later, Bryant drilled a bread-and-butter turnaround baseline J, and in the second half a mid-range turnaround near the right elbow. Add in eight rebounds and five assists in only 24:26 of playing time, and you get a rock solid total floor game.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers had impressive team chemistry: The Lakers made sure not to make too much of it, considering it’s the preseason. But for the second consecutive game, everyone seemed focused on ensuring teamwork and good ball movement. The Lakers had five players in double figures, including Bryant (18), Lamar Odom (14 points on seven-of-10 shooting, six rebounds and seven assists), Devin Ebanks (14 points on five-of-eight shooting), Pau Gasol (12 points on six-of-nine shooting) and Shannon Brown (11 points on four-of-nine shooting). They recorded 29 assists on 38 field goals. And everyone genuinely seemed to want to manufacture and wait for the right play to develop. “They’re starting to get a feel for playing together, and they’re remembering some of the things they know how to do,” said Jackson, though he lamented the team’s 22 turnovers. “That’s nice to see. I think they’re making progress as a team.” There were several examples of that progress.
From Baxter Holmes, LA Times: Preseason though it was, the Lakers reentered Staples Center to play (somewhat) competitive basketball Saturday for the first game since exiting in June with their 16th championship in tow. That title, earned in an NBA Finals Game 7 win against Boston, came despite a terrible shooting performance from Kobe Bryant, who missed 18 shots (six for 24). And Bryant, recovering from off-season surgery on his right knee, has seemingly carried that slump into the preseason, as he entered Saturday’s game against Denver shooting four for 28 (14.3%) from the field in three exhibition games.
Lakers v. Jazz
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: A regular-season game almost broke out at Staples Center on Sunday night. The Lakers were sleepwalking through an exhibition first half before turning it on in the third quarter – riding Kobe Bryant’s first huge scoring wave since the third surgery to his right knee – and surged ahead of the Utah Jazz. Then Bryant sat out the whole fourth quarter. The Lakers lost, 99-94, to a Utah team without Deron Williams because of a strained calf. But the Lakers had to be encouraged by Bryant’s show. Bryant had missed all four of his first-half shots to drop his exhibition field-goal shooting to 20 percent.
From the K-Bros, Land O’ Lakers (with video): Bryant spoke afterward about Steve Blake’s immersion into the offense (good) and the progress of his knee (even better). Most intriguing, however, was his support lent toward an NBA team in the O.C., where he happens to lay his hat: “It’s fun playing in the Pond because I know how badly they want a team own there in Orange Country. They definitely deserve one. In that regard, it’s fun to play down there. … It’s a beautiful place. Hopefully, it won’t happen until I retire, this way they continue to have their allegiance to the Lakers.” Plus, say it with me: Mamba Chopper!
From Andy Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: Ever since the preseason officially kicked off, fans and media alike have engaged in a pastime unofficially known as “When is Kobe gonna start making baskets again?” Sure, the 12-time All-Star has looked steadily more fluid and active with each game as he has recovered from offseason knee surgery, but his shots haven’t followed suit at the same rate. Practically speaking, we’re a long way from actually needing to worry about Kobe’s proficiency from the field but rarely is anything involving Bryant analyzed with a practical mindset. The Lakers often goes as Kobe goes, and for those seeking signs of “He’s baa-ack,” four misses in as many tries and zero points over the first half provided nothing of the sort. His third quarter, however, may have done the trick.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers almost came within striking distance in unseating the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game Sunday night at Staples Center, and the 15,690 spectators wanted Kobe Bryant to reenter the game so he could provide the typical theatrics. The crowd didn’t care that the result of the Staples Center Shootout meant very little, with it being a preseason game. The crowd didn’t care that Bryant has spent the first five exhibition games mostly interested in how much strength he can build in his surgically repaired right knee than improving his shooting percentage, let alone winning a game. And the crowd also didn’t care that Bryant sat on the Lakers’ bench with ice on his knees with 3:27 remaining in the contest.
From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: 83-79. In describing the Los Angeles Lakers accomplishments on the defensive end last season, 83-79 is the only statement you need. In the last game of the season, on dead tired legs, the Lakers won a game in which they barely topped 80 points. They out-defensed one of the better defensive teams of the past 20 years. That strong defensive performance didn’t exactly materialize out of thin air, mind you. The Lakers performed plenty well on that end of the court all year long. Driven by the addition of Ron Artest, who’s tenacity and hunger galvanized his teammates’ effort, the Lakers spent most of the season at or near the top of the league in overall defense. It wasn’t until that late season swoon that the Lakers began to look vulnerable on the defensive end, and throughout the year, it was the Lakers defense, and not the offense, that was leading the charge.
From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: In figuring out how to go about getting Silver Screen and Roll ready for the upcoming season, I had this great idea for an analysis piece looking into whether Shannon Brown’s offensive foibles (too many contested shots, not enough ball movement) were because of his own personality/playing style, or because of his playing partner. Put more simply, was Brown a gunner last year because that’s just who he is, or was he a gunner last year because he played as part of a me-first bench backcourt with gunning partner Jordan Farmar? Could Shannon’s gunner tendencies be curtailed by pairing him with a lead guard who is much more team oriented, like, say, Steve Blake? I thought it was a pretty insightful question, and was excited about looking into it. But, the timing wasn’t right, as we were knee deep looking at each player on the roster, so I figured I’d hold off, and write about it later. There was just one little problem … you pesky (brilliant) members beat me to the punch. From the Shannon Brown preview:
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Midway through the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Lamar Odom was whistled for a shooting foul against Carl Landry. After the call was made, Odom kept his offending arm up in the air for several seconds to indicate he believed his defense was legal and within the rule of verticality, and an official promptly issued him a technical foul. The explanation? Even though Odom’s mouth was silent, his arm was raised for more than three seconds. Automatic technical. “That was one of the weirdest technicals I’ve ever gotten,” Odom said after the game. The situation surrounding the NBA’s new guidelines for technical fouls — which will expand to include “overt” player reactions to referee calls this season — is becoming even weirder.
From Matt Moore, Pro Basketball Talk: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Andrew Bynum is “progressing” and could be practicing in a limited capacity as early as next week. You know, like the other 700 times we’ve heard that. ESPN LA reports that Bynum began resistance strength training Friday, a step towards his return to the floor. Basically, he did some work with one of those big rubber bands you see players using in rehab. Phil Jackson said after practice that he’s hopeful Bynum will be “on the floor” with the team in a week or two. In other news, I’m hopeful a check for a million dollars will be in my hands in a week or two. The two have about equal odds of happening.
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: It’s one of the few unspoken postscripts to the Lakers’ championship run last season, nothing short of a fallacy in some basketball circles. Should Pau Gasol have been the MVP of the NBA Finals instead of Kobe Bryant? Detractors of the facts — that Bryant won the award over Gasol because of a 7-2 vote by media members — point to Bryant’s six-for-24 effort in the Lakers’ Game 7 victory against Boston, while Bryant’s supporters eagerly present his overall stats in the Finals — 28.6 points, eight rebounds and 3.9 assists a game overshadowing his 40.5% shooting.
From Mark J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports: Kobe Bryant is pursuing his sixth NBA championship, a benchmark that would match Michael Jordan’s career total and immediately launch a debate about how the Los Angeles Lakers star measures up to the league’s greatest player ever. Jordan, however, doesn’t sound quite ready to allow Bryant to stand toe to toe with him. “He is always going to be within the conversations of some of the greatest players who’ve played, by the time he is finished,” Jordan recently told USA Today about Bryant. “Where does he rank among those, if you are talking about positions? If you are talking about guards, I would say he has got to be in the top 10.”
UPDATE: As we continue our season preview series, below are the links to the Southeast Division. I think there’s a team in that division that folks say are pretty good. I also read that their fans were chanting something about LA at a recent open scrimmage.
Hawks: Peachtree Hoops