After not playing since Wednesday — a tough loss to the Nuggets that had Luke Walton questioning the team’s effort — the Lakers preseason continues against the Sacramento Kings. The game will take place in Las Vegas and the proceeds from this game will actually be donated through the MGM Resorts Foundation to benefit the victims, their families, and first responders related to the tragic shooting that took place last week in Las Vegas.
That’s a somber note, I know, but I’m glad the Lakers, Kings, the NBA, and their business partners are doing something to help. Nothing can bring the lives lost back and the pain those people feel — to say nothing of those who are injured and live on dealing with the aftermath of having this happen to them — but doing something where you can should be applauded.
Getting back to the game, the Lakers have announced that neither Lonzo Ball (sprained ankle) nor Andrew Bogut (strained groin) will play in this game. Missing Ball will hurt, but I’m glad he’s sitting if he’s not 100%. He’s such an important part of the team that he needs to be healthy for the regular season. Missing preseason games (this is his 2nd straight game out) isn’t ideal, but I’ll take this over him re-aggravating it and being out for longer.
With Lonzo out, I’m interested in seeing how Walton handles the backup PG minutes. Briante Weber got those minutes the last game and maybe that’s the case tonight as well. But I’d also be interested in seeing Jordan Clarkson or even Brandon Ingram do some additional ball handling while playing in lineups that don’t necessarily have a PG at all. Maybe they can even split duties in a lineup that has both, while being flanked by shooting and/or smaller “bigs” where they can leverage their speed and athleticism a bit more.
On the good news front, Brook Lopez is expected to make his preseason debut. With all the hype around Lonzo and Ingram, it’s easy to forget that Lopez is actually the team’s best player and will be damn important to its overall success this year. So, not only am I happy to see him return, I’m anxious to see how the team’s offense changes and what they do to utilize his versatility on that end of the floor.
Speaking of the team’s offense, with three days off between games, I’m interested in seeing if the team has installed any more of their halfcourt offense. Nearly every possession the team has run through three preseason games has started with their “delay” series where the point guard passes to the PF trailing the action in order to initiate the team’s set. This was a key action for the team last year as well, but not to the extent we’ve seen this preseason. I’d like to see some additional things installed and, hopefully, have that diversity lead to better results (both from a points standpoint and aesthetically).
I also hope the time off has helped the team start to sort some things out defensively. I understand Denver and T’Wolves both project to be really good (to great) offensively. Still, though, the Lakers have habitually over-helped these first few games and it’s come back to bite them repeatedly. Can the team clean that up? Can they give better effort and be more disciplined while doing it? Can they start to show some better tendencies and habits overall? If the answer to these questions are no…well, let’s hope the answer isn’t no.
Lastly, on a more individual level, I want to see Brandon Ingram play well. He’s not shot well at all and whether it is the case or not, it seems like the role of primary scorer is impacting his approach to how he’s playing on that end. He needs to let the game come to him a bit more and I hope to see him look to facilitate for others a bit more rather than working in isolation and taking contested mid-range jumpers. Granted, this ties back to what the coaches are asking of him too, but Ingram is the one out there on the floor and he’s going to need to better discern what’s a good look and what is not. When it’s the latter, move the ball on or get the team into a different action.
Where you can watch: 6pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet and ESPN.