The Lakers enter their final preseason game of the exhibition season tonight and, while there is a lot to wonder about, my biggest item is simply to stay injury free. It is, truly, the only priority.
While the battle between Metta and Jabari for the final roster spot matters, seeing a good game from Russell would be nice, seeing whether Huertas can continue his strong play, and the surely entertaining Julius Randle/Draymond Green match up are all talking points, those are secondary. Get out of this game healthy and then onto opening night against the T’Wolves. Seriously. It’s all I am asking for. Win, lose, or another game cut short for whatever reason pops up. I do not care as long as both teams leave the game as healthy as they entered it.
That doesn’t make the rest of the game meaningless, of course. As noted above, there are things I will monitoring. How Scott handles the rotation with a shortened roster, though, might be the thing I look at most closely. While I could see him not tip his hand in a preseason game — especially with Kobe out — I’ll be watching how he handles guys’ minutes and what lineups he goes to and for how long.
Also interesting to me will be how much Russell handles the ball while playing next to Clarkson and how often either of them use the P&R to initiate the team’s offense. One of the noticeable differences between the first and second units, especially since Huertas has returned, has been how often the reserves go to the P&R as a primary set. This has been especially true when Kelly is in the game as he’s more adept at spacing the floor on the wing than playing at the elbows. I’m interested in seeing if Russell starts to run more P&R as well, especially when the ball handling with that group has been split fairly evenly between him, Clarkson, and Randle.
Lastly, I’ll also be watching how the team does defensively. Monday’s win against the Blazers showed better defensive intensity and execution, albeit against a much weaker opponent. The Warriors, even if the trot out a shortened rotation, will offer more dynamic sets which stretch the integrity of a defense in ways the Lakers didn’t see against the Blazers. I’m interested in seeing how they handle all these actions and whether they can communicate effectively within their scheme to limit good shots.