5 Things We Learned About LA Lakers During First Week of Training Camp
Thus far, training camp and the preseason have given fans of the Los Angeles Lakers a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
As shown by the Lakers' surprising victory over the Golden State Warriors and their sloppy defeat to the Denver Nuggets, there are still a lot of kinks to work out during the preseason in order to unearth the potential that was apparent against the Warriors.
Whether fans want the Lakers to tank this season and make the lottery or make a playoff push as a major underdog, there is no denying the talent on this roster.
With bright spots from unexpected places and old hands returning strong, training camp and the preseason up to this point have revealed a lot about the makeup of this team.
The Pick-and-Roll Is Emphasized While the Transition Game Isn't
Despite not scoring as many points in transition as expected, the textbook pick-and-roll is still evident in Mike D'Antoni's offense.
With only seven fast-break points in their win over the Golden State Warrios and eight fast-break points in their loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers don't look like they are emphasizing the transition game as much as one would usually see from a Mike D'Antoni team.
Either that, or they're having trouble scoring in transition without All-Star finishers like Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion (in their respective primes) running the break.
While D'Antoni's fingerprints are all over the half-court offense in the form of the pick-and-roll, the Lakers are playing at a more controlled and subdued pace than the run-and-gun style the Phoenix Suns used to run under D'Antoni's guidance.
Whether or not this pace is merely a trend or an anomaly is still a mystery this early in the preseason. There are definitely positives and negatives to both.
Although the Lakers are full of young athletes, such as Nick Young and Wesley Johnson, slowing down the pace may save the legs of high-mileage players such as Steve Nash.
On the flip side, the San Antonio Spurs have shown that increasing the tempo and quickening the pace may help aging veterans mitigate the time they spend banging and clashing in a half-court set.
Of course, a Mike D'Antoni team will always be a threat in the open court, as evident by Nick Young's nasty slam. However, what we've seen thus far indicates that those fast-break dunks will be less frequent than most expected.
Xavier Henry Might Not Be a Flop
Averaging 22 points in his two preseason games, Xavier Henry has shown the scoring touch that made him a stud during his tenure as a Kansas University Jayhawk.
Selected 12th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2012 NBA Draft, Henry's career hasn't lived up to the hype.
While it is a little too optimistic to expect a star from the 12th pick in the draft, Henry has still fallen short of expectations by averaging fewer than five points per game during his career while spending time on the bench and in the D-League.
Possessing a game that is very similar to Nick Young's, it isn't preposterous to expect the two of them to compete for the backup shooting guard spot behind Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers Need to Attack the Paint
Averaging 26 points in the paint during their two preseason games, the Lakers are scoring mainly on perimeter shots.
Scoring 48 total points from three-point range in their two preseason games, it is clear that the majority of their points are coming from mid-range shots.
While it is impressive that they were able to eclipse 100 points in their victory against the Golden State Warriors with this type of offense, their 88-point effort against the Nuggets shows that this offensive style isn't sustainable.
The Lakers must get easy baskets. With their transition game appearing rather limited, they're still going to have to find a way into the paint.
Despite the vast amount of potential on the roster, the Lakers will need to either speed up the pace or really attack the basket via drives or post-ups.
The Lakers Need to Focus on Rebounding the Basketball
While two preseason games are too small of a sample size to adequately judge this, the fact that the Lakers lost the rebounding battle against the Nuggets and the Warriors should raise some red flags.
Even if the Lakers don't appear to be utilizing the rebound as a tool to start the fast break, they will need to rebound the ball in order to be successful.
It's still too early to tell, but the Lakers could be in for some trouble if they don't protect the paint and finish off their defensive possessions by cleaning the glass.
Without a rim protector and an athletic rebounding threat like Dwight Howard, the Lakers are going to have to get contributions from every position.
Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman will get their fair share of boards, but it will be up to Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry and all of the other young athletes on the team to put a body on their men, box out and finish off defensive possessions.
Pau Gasol Still Has Some Gas Left in the Tank
Training camp has revealed that Pau Gasol may not be as washed up as expected. Despite not elevating in practice, Gasol has stated that he feels refreshed and Mike D'Antoni is impressed by Gasol's contributions in training camp.
The most obvious indicator of Gasol's health is the way he performed during his first preseason game against the Denver Nuggets.
Setting picks, running the floor and even finishing a dunk, Gasol's knees don't seem to be the least bit hindered.
Although he only made four out of his 13 shot attempts, he scored those baskets in many different ways, thereby showing his offensive versatility is intact. Whether it was finishing in transition or hitting a mid-range jumper, Gasol has shown flashes of the All-Star he once was.
Some glowing reviews from training camp and a bad shooting night during a preseason game might not be the best indicator of the season to come. However, what was most important to note is that Gasol's knees don't seem to be hindering his movement any longer.