No longer winless in the preseason, the Lakers are back in action Tuesday night against the Kings in…Las Vegas. After getting in a Monday practice, the team jetted off to Sin City and will face a team who, just like them, is looking to make a strong move forward and out of the western conference basement.
The Kings are an interesting lot where thousands of words could be spilled about them and not sufficiently cover all that’s occurred in the past season plus. What’s important heading into this game is that they have, essentially, reconstructed their roster in the hopes of fulfilling the promise they showed last year before DeMarcus Cousins was diagnosed with viral meningitis (which triggered a losing streak and, ultimately, the firing of then head coach Mike Malone).
To add to their core of Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, and Ben McLemore the Kings went wild in free agency adding Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos, Carol Butler, and Quincy Acy. In the draft, they landed Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein. What we have, then, is an entire new rotation of players the FO hopes can lead a push towards the 8th seed. That’s probably overly optimistic, but, if nothing else, the combination of George Karl and this roster of headstrong and eccentric personalities should lead to some exciting play and some potential locker room fireworks.
The Kings new team will face the Lakers new team — well, at least most of it.
Brandon Bass practiced today, but Marcelo Huertas (strained hamstring) is out for tomorrow.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 12, 2015
It is still unclear if Bass will play, but considering the glut of forwards on the roster, him sitting out wouldn’t be the worst thing from an evaluation standpoint. Byron Scott noted that cuts could happen this week, so today may actually be the last game for some of these guys to make an impression. Or, it could be their fate is already sealed and any look tonight is a gesture of good will to see if any other team wants to snatch them up.
In other injury news, Roy Hibbert sat out Monday’s practice with a sore knee but has said he plans to play against Sacramento. Hibbert said he tweaked it in Sunday’s game, but after being examined by team doctors, it was determined he did not need any X-rays or an MRI. We’ll see if he’s laboring at all against the Kings — especially since he’ll be dealing with Cousins a fair amount.
The other item worth noting is that D’Angelo Russell will again come off the bench in this game while Anthony Brown starts in his place. I don’t think this is anything to be concerned about long term and agree with Mike Trudell in that we’re likely to see Russell starting when the season starts. I do think, though, that they are very much intrigued by what Brown brings to the table as a small forward and want to get a better look at him — especially next to more talented players who can create shots for him and where he can expend all his energy on defense.
Regarding how any of this impacts the game, I don’t expect it to, really. Russell is likely to see lots of minutes with a mix of starters and reserves, likely coming in for Kobe or Clarkson around the 6 minute mark. He’ll match up plenty with Rondo and Collison throughout and will get a better test — on both ends of the floor — than he’s had at any point this preseason.
The other juicy match ups are fairly obvious — Hibbert/Cousins, Randle/Cauley-Stein, and Kobe/McLemore all offer various levels of intrigue. The Randle/Cauley-Stein battle will be especially interesting not just because of their shared University of Kentucky history, but because WCS is the type of long, quick athlete who could, theoretically, give Randle problems. We’ll see if Randle can use his strength and craftiness around the hoop to still be effective or if WCS’ defensive chops win out.
After getting a win in their last game, it would be nice if the Lakers could keep the trend going. The Kings pose a tougher challenge than Maccabi Haifa, but the things the Lakers did well in Sunday’s win are portable. Make the extra pass, dial up the defensive intensity, and attack the backboards on both ends. If they can hit some shots in the process, they’ll be right there with a win in reach.