It’s been a long off-season for the Lakers. It’s been a long off-season every year since, let’s face it, the last championship in 2010. As badly as the 2012-2013 season ended, however, there’s always the promise of new beginnings.
After last weekend’s media day and the week’s worth of training camp, the team had tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors to play out their new beginning – new coaching staff, new players, re-newed system. With the Big Three of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol sitting out, the new guys got a run and did not disappoint.
Xavier (pronounced ZAH-vee-yay) Henry – Talk about first impressions. Signed as a free agent after being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies back in 2010, and then most recently playing for the then New Orleans Hornets, Henry is a hopeful for an already crowded backcourt for the Lakers, and tonight he showcased his value. 29 points on 9-15 from the field, 9-11 from the free throw line, 2-4 from three, seven rebounds and a pair of steals – not bad for your first game in the purple and gold. And the half-court buzzer beater to end the first half? Not a bad way to get the fans on your side. If Henry continues this play, he may just make the final cut and help the bench’s ability to contribute more consistently. He lead the game with a +21.
Nick Young – Nothing seems to get in the way of Nick and his swag; not a recently sprained ankle from practice, nor foul trouble (he finished with five). Young poured in 17 points in his Laker debut. He went 4-9 from the field and went a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. His box score leave a lot to be desired, but despite not filling it up to reflect a more well-rounded game, Young was part of the Lakers’ active defense, even grabbing a steal in the process.
Chris Kaman – Kaman played just over 21 minutes, but did enough to show why he was on the team’s radar. Going into his 11th year, Kaman is just as comfortable in the post as he is shooting 18 feet away. He’s also a solid passer, like Gasol. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Honorable High Points – Jordan Farmar looks great in his old jersey, and the fans in the arena gave him the loudest cheers of the evening when he checked into the game. He scored only nine points, but led all players with his seven assists and three steals. • Defense. Yes, a team under Mike D’Antoni can play defense, and according to all the players, it’s been a focus in training camp this year. The Lakers didn’t become the Detroit Pistons of the 80’s, but the defense was noticeably more active in this game than it was last season, even with a three-time defensive player of the year on it. Efforts to contest shots, run back on defense, etc. were shown by the Laker tonight, causing the three-point happy Warriors to shoot just 5-21 from their sweet spots behind the arc and just under 40% from the field.
Win – Despite it being a mere pre-season game, having gone 0-8 in the last pre-season, this victory just feels encouraging.
Sloppiness – The two teams combined for 43 turnovers in the game, which says volumes. That the Lakers could even keep up with the fast-paced play of the Warriors shows their young side this season, but 20 turnovers in the pre-season means far less than it will when the wins and losses begin to count.
Well, so far so good. D’Antoni didn’t empty the bench, but there are seven more pre-season games to do that. He said his goal is to finalize some sort of rotation before the regular season begins, so expect more permutations of players on the floor. Both Gasol and Nash are expected to play Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.