Even if it’s only preseason, Tuesday’s overtime loss against the Blazers felt disappointing. The team did not play that well overall, but still had a two point lead with 50 seconds left and possession of the ball only to commit a bad turnover that led to OT. Then, in the extra frame, the Blazers played a makeshift unit devoid of any starters while the Lakers played Russell, Clarkson, Ingram, Randle, and Yi. Based on those groupings, you would hope the Lakers could find a way to win. They did not.
This is where we must all be reminded that the Lakers are a young team that will not always play well or do the right thing on any given possession. As noted above, they had the lead, the ball, and there was under a minute to play. Rather than pull the ball back and give it to a guard, Randle pushed up court, tried to attack the paint for a basket or kickout, but instead turned it over. As frustrating as it was to watch that unfold in real time, it’s a moment he’s going to (hopefully) learn from.
The season will be full of these moments. Having some veterans around will help, but inexperienced players make mistakes. The goal is to make fewer and fewer of them as time passes, of course. But we are in the early stages of this with multiple guys. They are going to need to take their lumps.
As for tonight, the Lakers are in Las Vegas facing off against the Kings. When these two teams played earlier in the preseason, the Kings had the best player (Cousins), the better first unit (on the whole), and hit a lot of shots (contested or otherwise). Meanwhile, the Lakers had the better reserve unit and ended up taking control of the game because their bench carried them vs. the Kings’ 2nd (and 3rd) unit.
Since that game, the Lakers’ first 5 has improved while the bench has continued to play relatively well. The Portland game was a setback in some areas, but again, that’s to be expected with an inexperienced team. Will this rematch from the exhibition opener offer us a repeat from the first time they played or the PDX game? Or will they play as they did vs. the Nuggets?
Now, onto some specifics I will be watching for:
- How does Mozgov defend Cousins? Cousins is nearly impossible to defend one-on-one, but Mozgov has some tools to help him: length, decent feet, and an understanding of how to contest without fouling. The battle of position will be huge, so I am looking to see if Mozgov can keep DeMarcus from establishing deep position. I am also interested in seeing how well Mozgov can defend away from the hoop and whether he can slide his feet when Cousins puts the ball on the ground to penetrate.
- Can Russell bounce back? D’Angelo missed a ton of open-to-wide-open looks against the Blazers and never found his rhythm with his jumper. He also had a tough time guarding Dame (who doesn’t?) which seemed to impact his own offense. The last time these teams played, Russell was not as aggressive has he’s been in the 3 games since, so I am hoping to see him be more assertive tonight. After Luke told him post-game he was happy with his shot selection despite the misses, I think he will be.
- Who plays and who sits? Rather than have all the guys battling for spots play in each game, Walton has taken the approach of giving guys turns in the rotation to show their stuff. For example, last game Calderon didn’t play at all and Huertas got all the backup PG minutes. The same happened with Zubac and Yi the last game. After the Lakers made three cuts on Wednesday, the roster is smaller, but the battles for the final spot and who might have a leg up are still ongoing.
- Can Nick Young keep playing well? Before camp I argued for him to not make this team at all. Now that he’s in camp, he’s gotten an opportunity and has made the best of it. He’s competing on defense, shooting 50% from the floor, and higher than that number from behind the arc. The last game, he had several “wait, did Nick Young just make that play?” plays. I want to see how long this can go.
- Will the Lakers go small again? Against the Blazers, Luol Deng saw a heft stretch at PF and at one point was played next to Randle manning the C spot. Now, the Blazers start Al-Farouq Aminu at PF and then brought in Mo Harkless behind him. Those are natural match ups for Deng at PF, so maybe this decision was dictated by the opponent. Still, I will be watching to see if they go that route again tonight.
- I want to see continued assertiveness from Ingram. If this were last year and there were fewer prospects to watch for, I think Ingram’s struggles on O would be getting more play. I’m not concerned, really, but I think it’s noteworthy that the #2 pick in the draft who was being billed as a potential offensive difference maker has really made a stronger impression on defense than anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong, I like what he’s doing on D and think the offense will come. But I want to see continued aggression from him on that end (like we saw against the Blazers) tonight.
The regular season is less than two weeks away. And while the Lakers have a few more preseason games to work through things, the start of the real games will be here before we know it. In saying that, I expect to see more refinement on both sides of the ball in the coming games. Playing every other day does not allow for a lot of practice time, but I would imagine the 3 off-days between the two Warriors games will give the team the type of gym time to continue to ramp things up.
darius: I think we’re a;ll kind of sitting on our hands waiting for Ingram to break out of his summer league and preseason slump. To me Ingram needs to have the ball in his hands in order influence the game. We need to see if he really has that capability of being the go to guy early on in his nba career. need to see that out of him early out the gate. this would be that time to show us a glimpse of things to come. so far, the glimpses are not promising in coach Walton’s offensive schemes.
tonite could be a beginning. hope so.
I don’t think is necessary to put that pressure on him. He is still finding his way. Im not even worried. Asking him to be the “go to guy” as a 18 year old rookie is insane. He be fine…
The Lakers didn’t play well against the Trail Blazers? Really? Seriously? I watched the game as well and did not come away with that impression. The Lakers had six players score in double figures, which showed tremendous scoring balance. I could care less if Damian Lillard scored 30 points in 26 minutes. Lillard has scored as many as 50 points against better, more established teams. The fact is, the Lakers were more than the Blazers equals even when Lillard was out there. If anything, the Lakers beat themselves, the Blazers did not. I’ll take that anytime, Darius. So, I would hardly see that as a ‘setback,’ as you liked to call it. As for your comment about the Lakers starting unit minus Yi losing to the Blazers’ patchwork lineup at the end? Didn’t the Lakers lose the same way against the Nuggets in their first preseason encounter? You can’t have it both ways, bro. Smh. The Lakers have a good team with a tremendous amount of depth. There are no scrubs on that roster, which is why I see them being a lot better than folks want to give them credit for. You’ll all see that to be true once this season starts. Do I see them as a playoff team now? Not hardly. Yet, I do see them winning between 36 games to 38 games for this season and being very competitive even against the best that the NBA has to offer. The Lakers are no longer a pushover. You and the rest of the NBA teams will come to that realization soon enough.
My Lakers’ final roster for this season is: D’Angelo Russell, Marcelo Huertas, Jose Calderon, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Anthony Brown, Loul Deng, Nick Young, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr, Thomas Robinson, Timofey Mozgov, Tarik Black and Ivica Zubac. While it’s clear to me that there are still a ton of doubters out there when it comes to the Lakers, I’ll gladly submit that there are zero scrubs on this roster. There are too many folks out there for my taste that still want to live in the recent past and want to constantly throw out last season’s 17 and 65 record when last season doesn’t have a damn thing to do with this season. The last two seasons, the Lakers had one of the worst head coaches in the NBA in Byron Scott and an aging and injured Kobe Bryant who took away many touches and opportunities from D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Yet, those three young studs showed me that they all have great promise while all averaging double figures in points and in rebounds (Randle). Guess what? All three (as well as Larry Nance Jr) have shown tremendous growth in many ways since last season and will only continue to get even better. Like I said earlier, the Lakers will be nothing to fool with this season, as they have plenty of playmakers, scorers, rebounders, rim protectors and wing defenders. The Lakers also have a ton of versatility as well as athleticism. They will strongly resemble the Utah Jazz from a season ago in that while they’re very young across the board, they’re also a very talented and dangerous team on the rise. Many of you will come to see and respect that fact once this season starts.
My take from the Blazers game was that Russell had a bad shooting night and that was the difference in the final score. Everyone has bad shooting nights, but what I would like to see from Russell when he’s not hitting the 3 ball, is to find something that is working and stick with it. I appreciate his confidence to keep shooting 3s but he actually had several nice plays inside and in the midrange. I wish he would have made the appropriate adjustments when the outside shot wasn’t falling.
Also, I want to take credit for saying that Nick Young would be on the roster this year, if only for the purpose of showcasing his potential value on the trade market. I’m sure he’ll have a Shaqtin’ a fool moment sooner rather than later, but if he continues to perform at a high level, he gives added value for the front office to wheel and deal. Young or Williams will be traded by the deadline this year, I’m just hoping we can get some good value in return.
Just joining the game, Lakers are looking pretty good but are the Kings playing their starters?
The Kings look like the Warriors right now…
Mid Wilshire says
It’s becoming readily apparent to me (to whatever degree you can trust Pre-season results) that the Lakers’ 2 best players are Russell and Clarkson.
Clarkson is the better 2-way player and is more consistent. Russell is more confident, more of an alpha dog, and more spectacular (although he has ups and downs).
I’d like to see Julius Randle pick up his game a bit (although he did have 10 rebounds tonight). He does not seem to have figured out how to fit into the flow of the offense as yet. Of course, it’s just pre-season. Hopefully, he’ll figure things out over time.
Finally, I’m actually encouraged by Brandon Ingram’s play. He’s yet to set the world on fire. But he’s (very) young. And he backs down from no one. That’s a good sign. The skills are definitely there. It should be fun watching him develop over the years.
If those 4 players — Russell, Clarkson, Randle, and Ingram — can elevate their games, play both ends of the floor, and figure out how to play together, then this season should give fans a lot to look forward to. At least, I hope so.
Lakers Future says
I’m hoping for a second half surge similar to Utah’s last season. By February and March the Jazz became a tough out nearly everyone. I would love to see the Lakers progress like that. That may be too optimistic at this point. But the makings are there.
A Horse With No Name says
Mid Wilshire Agree that these guys are the two best players on the roster. Russell is somewhat better right now, but the difference between the two is rapidly getting larger. Russell has a chance to be a star; I can’t say that about Clarkson–and I love the guy–my favorite player on the squad.