As the pre-season wears on (far too long in my opinion, but that’s a rant for another time) the injuries start mounting around the league. First it’s Yao in Houston, then its Williams in Utah and tonight almost saw Kobe go down with a hyper-extended knee. (Hey at least it wasn’t an ankle again. A little new injury thrown into the mix) I’m more than sure that Kobe won’t see too many minutes in what’s left of the pre-season and hopefully (which from the looks of it, it will) give him enough time to get back to 100% to continue with the business of the real season. A season that could be one of the biggest the Lakers have seen in a while.
That 4 to 5 game pre-season Phil talked about years ago is looking real good about now, isn’t it?
In the meantime, the Lakers played another sporadic game; grabbing an impressive double-digit lead, turning their way over to a double-digit deficit, and then running it back up to another double-digit lead then winding up a narrow win.
Welcome once again to the shoddiest rollercoaster on the fairgrounds pick-ups – the pre-season.
There were, however, quite a few bright spots amongst some nutty play at times. Chief amongst the bright spots was Farmar – again. The guy is continuing to show more energy game by game. It looks like either he’s getting used to his spark plug (and probably temporary) role off the bench or he’s smelling the starting job inching closer. With Phil at the helm, it will take a full season of this type of improved play to grab that spot from Fisher. The thing is, if he keeps going as he has in the last 2 pre-season (and yes, I know, it is pre-season – nevertheless) games, he’ll be hard to keep out of the starting 5. One thing is for sure, he’s bringing something new to the table every year and shooting looks like it may be the watch word for him this year. It was coming along last year, but his selection tonight and against Toronto was spot on.
Good strong, quick defense from him tonight as well. He and Ariza are getting really good at jumping into those passing lanes to swipe passes.
In typical Radmanovic fashion, he nailed his first couple of outside shots, which led to an overall strong performance from him on the offensive end. Though he still lacks a bit in defensive recognition (Something that doesn’t look like its coming online any time soon), his hustle trying to do other things to make up for his lack of innate perception was admirable. Largely though, it’s those made outside shots and sometimes simply the threat of him going off like he can that sold his case to be the starting 3 further.
Whether he is hitting or not, the fact remains that (as was seen tonight) you have got to respect the guy’s ability to suddenly catch fire. If he does go crazy from the arc, it’s another something that garners intensified defensive attention from the opposition. Again, you saw it tonight, when Vladi started hitting shots, the Bobcats had to pull off of the instant Bynum / Gasol semi-zoned triple team down low to play one on one. When that happens it leaves the bigs low and this guy named Kobe with single coverage. This isn’t news I’m telling anyone, rather it’s a case made by Vladi tonight and in the last 2 games as to why Lamar will be seeing the 6th man role become a habit.
That habit tonight shone once again too. Running with Bynum moiré than usual in the second team, Odom showed a great use of court space tonight. He was turning down shots he should take (as is his way) but was making up for it with some crisp pass and move on offense. Defensively, he did well in clogging up the middle. Although with him and everyone else leaving the back door open so much for the Nugget-esque parade of alley-oops / uncontested dunks was annoying to see, the middle was rarely a wide open battle ground.
Bynum had a great outing tonight. The knee thing was a tiny scare, but watching him shake it off, and come back to play a touch more was a great sign of how strong mentally Andrew is becoming. The blocked shot Okafor was a thing of beauty. It was something that Andrew can have the greatest impact doing. Sure the double-post threat is beyond sweet to have, but the “Gasynum Forest” (I know you can figure that out) in the middle is even better.
Couple the block mentality working its way through with the way Andrew’s been getting strong early position for boards on defense, and things are moving along at a good clip for the big guy. I’d still like to see him take a bit more time with his shot. When he’s playing a team like the Bobcats that have length but no real strength in the middle he has top know that he can absolutely dominate the paint, no matter the speed he takes his shot at.
Now I hate math, but this is kind of a semi-math postulate for you. If you subtract the number of teams with a legit center from the total amount of teams in the NBA, you can begin to get a feel for how many more wins Andrew’s current play against the non-center teams can add up to. He could always do better, but for not playing since January, Andrew’s done well against teams like the Bobcats that don’t have an answer for him. Even if he doesn’t go stat crazy the early fouls he can draw off of teams that have to honor him and Gasol in the post can do nothing but help.
The passing was obviously the hitch tonight. Just about everybody at one time or another passing the ball with nothing on it, off of flat angles, or simply letting the ball spill out of their hands in the hopes that the closest Laker would get it. Pre-season or not, that has to clear up, before it becomes a habit. No matter how many weapons the Lakers have, it pointless when you give up t he ball 14 times in one half.
Mihm was still making me crazy tonight using his one-handed approach to rebounding. It’s something that is too far gone to correct, but if he is going to do it, he has to do better in tipping it towards a Laker and not just out of the paint. He was still trying to do too much as is his M.O., but the last 2 games have also shown that he will be a decent backup center behind Andre or Pau.
Sun had a good little steal off of a lazy pass at half court. Though he made a poor decision in dumping it off for a shot, it gave a quick glimpse as to the speed and court awareness he has. He completely reminds of Sasha in his rookie year. You don’t really see how he’ll fit on the team, but something tells you that he could be something interesting in 2 years or so.
As for the tryout squad of Karl, Crawford and Giles, it wasn’t anything special. Crawford had his most solid outing, looking a bit more foot sure in the offense. Karl was giving way too much effort for what he was doing out there. You could see that he knew it was do or die (possibly tonight) for him. Unfortunately for him it was coming out as sloppy play. Giles, looks to be the victim of being at a position the Lakers are well stocked at.
The rumors of Crawford being the guy right now could be for the Lakers to have 3 guys listed (officially) at every position. It’s a balanced roster with Crawford on board. I’ve been a Karl proponent for the most part, but as of tonight I can see how Crawford has the upper hand.
But, anyway – Luke did well, showing his hustle and movement off the ball again. He still has a great instinct for worming his way into curiously low post position. And when he’s not forcing up a shot in tall traffic, he shows just how pesky he can be offensively.
As pre-season games go, it had some drama, it had some highlights and it showed the ridiculous versatility of this team. I would think that more than the starting 5 being a problem that finding time for everyone won’t be the easiest thing for Phil to manage at times.
For now, it’s off to my backyard / Anaheim for Game 6 and hopefully a Kobe-less team looking to run with splints on their knees and ankles.