I know the caveats. It’s only preseason. Training camp is only a week old. The team is still getting acclimated to new head coach Luke Walton and is still getting up to speed on what he and his staff are installing on both sides of the ball. All of this means don’t take too much away from tonight. And it’s true. You really shouldn’t.
You know what, though? I don’t even care. Lakers’ basketball is back and I’m here for it.
As far as what I expect in this game, the truthful answer is I really don’t know. The Lakers have a brand new team. They will be without Kobe on the roster for the 1st time in 20 seasons. They seem to be handing the keys to several young players and are incorporating (at least) two veterans who will play key roles and weren’t even on the team last season. On top of that, Luke Walton is playing coy with who his starters will be.
And while we do know the team has emphasized defense in the first week of camp and have slowly been laying out offensive sets the team will use, all the newness makes it a real unknown how things will actually look on the floor. Even if I guessed, I would probably end up being wrong.
In saying all that, with the games starting, now is our chance to see how the process is going. And while the answers we get won’t be definitive ones, we at least start to get a sense of how things might unfold in the lead up to the season. There is value in that, even if the takeaways aren’t necessarily lasting ones. With that, here are a handful of things I’ll be watching closely for:
- Will this team get after it defensively? With so much of the focus early in camp on that end, I want to see how that emphasis plays out on the floor. What do the coverages look like? How aggressive are they? Are they communicating?
- How does the rotation look and what choices does Walton go with in this first game? Is Calderon the first PG off the bench? Does Yi get in before Black?
- Speaking of Yi, does his shooting from the first part of camp carry over to game action?
- At any point do the Lakers play small with Deng at PF and either Randle or Nance at C?
- How many players see game action? One of the interesting things that came out of summer league was that the Lakers had so many young guys who were going to be on the regular season roster that some of the fringe guys didn’t get much run. That same dynamic exists in the preseason where there are 20 players on the roster but there are already 15 full or partially guaranteed contracts. Will Walton play any of players slotted 16-20?
- What does this team’s offense look like? While the expectation has been the Lakers will run a lot of what the Warriors run, the small snippets of tape we have gotten from practices looks like the team is running a fair amount of HORNS with motion weak (the basis of the Spurs’ O) mixed in. And then, of course, there has been a lot of P&R. I am interested in seeing if that carries over to the games.
There is much more to watch for, but I will leave it there for now. Because even if we get answers to these questions, it’s not like we can expect any of them to be set in stone. The preseason is a feeling out process for even the most established teams, so that goes doubly for the Lakers.
I am just happy to have the games back at all. Let’s go.