The Lakers open their season against one the few teams who have been as bad as they have recently. While the Lakers have won 48 games over the last two seasons, the ‘Wolves have been nearly as bad with 56 wins over that same period. Though, to be fair, 40 of those wins did come in the 2013-14 season which saw Kevin Love put up video game numbers.
Of course, Love is now a Cavalier. And Andrew Wiggins, the fruits of the Love trade, is a T’Wolf. He joins #1 overall pick from this June’s draft, Karl Anthony-Towns, to form what Minnesota fans hope is the inside/outside tandem that will dominate the league for years to come. The Wolves also sport lottery picks Zach LaVine and Shabbaz Muhammad as well as Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio (questionable), and Nikola Pekovic (doubtful) as core players.
With this group of elite youth and young veterans, the Wolves are a team on the rise. Add in veterans Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller and this is the type of roster construction Lakers’ fans should be quite familiar with. In fact, in a way, tonight’s game offers a bit of a look in the mirror for two organizations who hope to take some major strides forward this year. Sort of fitting considering the Lakers hail from where the ‘Wolves now call home.
The similarities in roster construction make for an interesting set of match-ups and story-lines.
Crazy that in LAL's 1st game of the year, you'll have the #1 & #2 overall picks AND Kobe/KG in their 20th & 21st seasons facing off.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) August 13, 2015
Hard to decide what the bigger story here really is, right? It’s rare we’d have the top two overall picks from the most recent draft squaring off on opening night. Even rarer, though, has to be two hall of famers in their 21st and 20th seasons sharing the court and doing battle in the same game. If this was all the game offered, it would be enough to keep me entertained. But there’s more in the form of actual on-the-court matchups which intrigue.
Last season Andrew Wiggins noted that his toughest match up came against Kobe. If you recall, in the first game between the Lakers and ‘Wolves, Kobe made it a personal challenge to attack Wiggins every possession, working over the rookie with his full arsenal of offensive moves. By the time the game was over Kobe had scored 26 points on 10-18 shooting and gone to the foul line 10 times. Tonight, then, I am interested in seeing if the old dog has any more tricks to pull out or whether the rising Wiggins will impose his physical gifts instead.
I am also interested in seeing how the Julius Randle vs. Garnett battle plays out. KG has been slowed by age, but his defensive smarts remain unmatched. Combine this high IQ with his still excellent length and instincts and Randle will need to use all his strength and craftiness to get buckets against KG.
Beyond these individual match ups, the battle of the benches will be key in deciding this game. The Lakers bring a fair amount of firepower off their bench — especially on the wing with Young and Williams. The Wolves don’t offer the experience in their wing duo, but LaVine and Muhammad can both get buckets in their own way. The latter can be a bull in the post and hit from the mid-range on in with his jumper. LaVine, meanwhile, is best known for his dunking but can get hot from behind the arc when his man goes under screens in the high P&R. Whichever bench duo does the most with their touches likely tilts the game in their team’s favor.
At this point I should add what I expect to see on both sides of the ball, but in all honesty I think there’s going to be a fair amount of sloppiness from both teams. With this being the first game, the sure anxiousness which comes with it, and the feeling out process both teams will go through with each other I don’t expect there to be much of a collective rhythm. Sure, one or two guys may find their stride early, but I expect broken action via suspect turnovers and missed shots from a lot of the guys.
And, really, I’m fine with that. This is game one of 82. There will be time to work out the kinks, time to sort out the issues. From the Lakers’ side, then, don’t get too concerned if player X doesn’t look very good or if things go poorly for a long stretch. Yes, a win would be preferred, but the process of what this team will become starts today, it doesn’t finish.
With that, enjoy the game as best you can. Simply with the Lakers being back in action for a game that counts, I know I will.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and ESPN. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.
Kobe Alert: Great to have Kobe back in uniform tonight against the Wolves, which is the team he was facing when he moved by MJ. At tip off Kobe will become only the 5th player (Kareem, KG, Robert Parish, K Willis) in history to play in 20 seasons. He will also become the only player in NBA history to play in 20 seasons for the same team. KB will once again be the top paid player in the league. Kobes is 20th all time in games and can move by 3 players including Derrick Fisher in 8 games. He will move into 9th place in minutes (by G Payton) with 373 minutes. However the next big milestone could also happen tonight. KB needs just 10 FGs to get by Shaq for 5th all time. He may have his eyes on this for the opener. With 4 dimes, Kobe can take 28th in that category, moving by Clyde Drexler. So it should be a big night for Kobe as he will establish a new record for years played with a single team, could get by Shaq for 5th in FG’s, and could move up on the dimes list. I do not think Kobe is coming into this game to coast or to impress people with a new Kobe. Nor do I want him to. What I want is a few double teamed, turnaround fadeaways, with the shot clock running low. That’s what we pay to see.
As I stated last season, I’m high on the Timberwolves top picks. I think they definitely have a few young studs to build around. I think Wiggins has a really high chance of becoming a star player bare minimum. I would trade our 3 for their 3 young guys if I could. I am a fan of Randle and still have high hopes for him, but I’m not on the Clarkson bandwagon, nor do I think Russel has much of a chance of being a superstar. But whatever, the FO made its decisions, but IF I was a Wolves fan, I would be pretty happy with what they are building over there. For us, I’m still crossing my fingers.
Warren Wee Lim says
I really wanted that 1st post. Guess not the same anymore.
They are the same. Kobe eats first.
chris hederson says
plus didn’t KG and Kobe both come straight outta high school?
I’m going to miss the game but I didn’t miss the Kobe alert. I mean I missed the Kobe alert but I didn’t miss this one! I mean, I mean, I mean… who’s on first?!?!?!?
I’m looking for 82 strong Koberts. Come, on Lakers, happy new year!!!!
Kobe still a ball hog….Lot of “gunners,” on this team…..
Nick Young beats the 1st quarter buzzer for a very long three. Lakers bench off to a good start.
Those gunners ended the first quarter on a 21-5 run, liked Randle hustle, that second unit is going to score a boatload of points wheww!! Kobe the “ballhog” took 3 shots and scored on 2 of them.
A LOT of offense on this Lakers’ squad too. They have a great bench.
Clarkson is amazing i dont understand the doubters – fights hard on d through screens …. great driver and playmaker
Lou is looking great too
Interesting that kelly is being played as our backup center
Bench looking good so far.
Lakers have way more talent this season…Love their energy.Scott has the Team prepared and motivated.Kobe slows the team up…hopefully he will see that and pass more…
Kelly as a backup center is interesting indeed if he is able to space the floor from the 5 centers are going to have to come out to guard him. That’s a good strategy, i like his newfound agression
Lou Williams and Kevin Martin are two individuals who are exceptional at drawing fouls.
Anyone else see Randle inbound that ball off Garnett’s back toward the end of the 2nd qt?
Hell yeah anon!! Lol
Haha I bet KG was thrilled with that.
Hell yeah, Julius ain’t afraid of nobody! This is great.
Really happy with the bench. I know it’s only Minnesota, but there were positive signs.
Kobe started horribly, but the shooting touch came back. Would like to see him passing more.
And I’m still seeing my eternal pain with the Lakers – BOX OUT ON THE DEFENSIVE GLASS!!
Enjoying season 2015-16 so far.
Russell looks terrible. Just looks overwhelmed. Randle looks good. Kobe is great.
Lou Williams is going to be very important player for the Lakers this year. Mamba looking good. I’m looking hard but I just don’t see “it” with DAR…Hoping I’m wrong.
How awesome is it to watch Lakers basketball that doesn’t suck?! So excited that bball is back!
Roy Hibbert’s free throw shooting is a big plus to his game.
Warren Wee Lim says
We’re approaching 90 pts in 3 quarters…
DAR looking like a bust …..was thinking maybe he could run tbe 2nd unit but even then …. meh
Stanley johnson might have been the best pick for us
DAR is not a bust, he is too tentative, thats why I preferred him to start the season with the 2nd unit, how can anyone call a player a bust after not even a full game? Randle is going to be soo good…
Russell doesn’t look like a bust to me, but he does look like a Rookie finding his way. And, it would be nice if his teammates would catch his passes.
Being tentative doesn’t mean your shots don’t go in. You are saying Russell can’t be good unless he’s jacking up shots like lou williams?
Its also the summer league, pre-season … questions at draft time … and eye ball test .. looks like a bust
Looks like he needs time in the d-league or off the bench not starting
Man we better not lose this game
@KBJ his whole game is tentative right now, he dont have to jack up shots smh his decision making is being too uptight right now. He needs to relax…
12 three pointers, Kobe?
And only 25% accuracy?
2 whipping boys this year … kelly and DAR
Fern, you want Russell to not be tentative and relax? Which is it?
Look who isnt closing the game
*sigh* i imagine you don’t understand what tentative mean, google it.
Marlon Brando says
Really pleased with Hibberts activity level. He’s gunning for every board; working his tail off. He’s not a surpreme talent by any means, but I love the blue collar hustle.
Not sure if I’m historically correct, but I have this feeling Rubio has always murdered us.
1. Kobe has to be more efficient and pass a little more.
2. Refs should be able to find the whistle when the Lakers have the ball because they seem to blow it when the T-Wolves do….
More minutes for Randle….less for Bass and/or Kelly….23 shots for K.B. Zero Assists,..
2nd unit lost for us in 2nd half
Ugh , can’t believe we blew this game, looks like a long season…
I know what it means. In my experience, you cannot relax when being tentative. You have to be aggressive.
Too many Fouls…took us out of our rhythm….
Rubio looking like an All Star against us. The same story with every 2nd string guard
Nice comeback by the squad! I love that Kobe allowed someone else to take the last shot there. Funny that the Lakers got back into the game when the refs stopped calling fouls every time down the court.
Problem is that the Lakers shoot too many jumpers. Offense is too unbalanced.
Disappointing loss to start the season. Poor 4th quarter and bad shooting helped to lead to the loss.
Kobe Alert makes a return!
Defense wins games. So in that regards it will be a long season.
The press will talk about Kobe going 8-24, but James Harden the current media darling at two guard went 6-22.
Chris J says
The Lakers’ offense is just painful to watch. PNR, PNR, ISO… Bad shot after bad shot from distance. Kobe needs to quit the heat checks and the coaches need to figure out a system that isn’t so scattershot or else.
I like Randle more and more, and loved seeing him go at the punk fake tough guy that is KG. Russell looked like a rookie but I see potential in him; doesn’t help quiet his critics when Jah drops 26 in his first game, but over time I am hopeful DR will be the right guy. Lots of time left in the season.
It’s going to be a long season.
None of Byron’s offensive sets seemed to work so the team had to resort to tons of isos and jumpers. If FO doesn’t get rid of him soon we are surely in for another top-three pick contention.
– @ Robert, as you predicted in the 1st post, Kobe was Kobe…no more, no less.
Kobe shot 8-24 tonight. That could be attributed to any number of things: geriatric knees, an off night, or a bit of rust from his lay off. But Kobe was not alone. Randle shot 5-13, Russell 2-7, Kelly 1-5, and Bass 1-4. In fact, the entire team shot only 37.6% (including 25.7% from 3-point range).
I think the real culprit was the lack of ball movement. The Lakers had only 18 assists vs. 13 TOs; Minnesota had 24 assists and only 8 TOs. Even so–remarkably–the game went down to the wire.
Although I’m disappointed with the loss, I definitely saw some good things.
1) This team has depth. Six players scored in double figures and I can easily see that happening on a regular basis.
2) The Lakers won the rebound battle impressively, 51-39 including 15 offensive rebounds. Randle had 11 rebounds while Hibbert had 10.
3) Hibbert played well. Twelve pts., 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocked shots. Not bad at all.
4) The team made a nice come back. They obviously have the fire power to do this.
5) Lou Williams played fairly well — 21 pts. (6-14 shooting), 3 rebs., 1 assist, only 1 turnover.
Things to work on including the following: 1) move the ball; 2) defend without fouling; 3) tighten up the perimeter defense; and 4) move the freaking ball (it bears mentioning twice).
My conclusion based on one measly game: this is not a horrible team. Once they learn to play together, tighten up the defense, cut down on the fouls, and pass the bleeping ball more effectively, they could actually be OK. Not great. But OK.
Finally, with regard to D’Angelo Russell. True, he looked a bit overwhelmed. But I was expecting this. We really won’t be able to pass judgement on him for another 40 games…if then. It’s all a process. We’ll just have to wait and see him develop. Meanwhile, his buddies — Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle — look like the real thing to me.
Based on this, I’m actually looking forward to the next game.
KoBEST! Report says
KoBEST! Starts the season strong by shooting 33 percent with incredible perimeter defence. I know it’s only one game but I think he might have a shot at MVP this year.
Kelly needs to go.
Russell is just a kid, cut him a break.
Maybe in a few years he will be a nice player.
He certainly is no Magic Johnson.
J C says
Nice output by Lou Williams and Swag.
Kobe looked very good at first but started doing his “watch me” thing.
Randle – great. Love to see his rebounding.
Why isn’t Tarik Black in there?
Kelly gets minutes as a 4 and 5?
Bass looks terrible.
You can’t give up a big lead and lose a winnable game at home, against a team like the Wolves, without putting some of the blame on the coach.
Last year wins didn’t matter.
We thought Byron was tanking.
This year we want to see if we can win. Right?
Losing close games often comes down to coaching. Time outs, substituting.
Looking organized and confident.
Making adjustments when guys like Martin and Rubio are going berserk.
Sorry, this one is on Byron.