Fumbling Their Way To A Win
Well, Kobe (alongside Phil and the medical staff’s prodding) wisely sat the game out to check out some minor swelling in the back of his knee. Now, once the swelling subsides, Kobe will continue to sit out until the 28th.
Meanwhile, the Lakers “hosted” the hapless Bobcats in Anaheim to see what they could do without the MVP in the mix. That leaves the team with some questions: Who will lead in scoring? Who will be the go-to guy? How will the team cope without an obvious leader on the court? Will Kobe don another Cosby sweater to watch this game?
(And yes, to answer the most pressing question, another sweater in the Kobe Collection made its ominous sideline debut.)
Actually, this Kobe sitting out thing is a good thing for this team at this point. With this and another game to go, they have the chance to kind of assess where the team is outside of the obvious. Granted, Pau, Bynum, and Fisher are also members of Club Obvious as to what they bring, but it’s good to get a glimpse the team without their hub.
The first glimpse went right to Andrew. The kid was having a cozy little impact on the defensive end, pretty much dominating the paint in the way of rebounding. You gotta love those blocked shots, too. Its great having a goalie back in the net again.
The best thing in this preseason for Andrew has been his balance between offense and defense are both moving, head to head, to where they should be.
To that effect, the Lakers controlled their own board well.
Pau looked a touch lost tonight. He was having some real trouble early on keeping track of his man, as anyone he was guarding was getting easily free while Pau paid attention to the ball a bit too much.
Offensively though, the guy is/has been in midseason form. His positioning is incredible to see. Don’t watch the ball when it comes up, just keep an eye at how quick and deep Pau gets into the paint every single time down the court, maintains that position, and always shoots methodically.
That early position is something you saw Andrew getting the hang of a bit tonight, too. Though he was out too high a lot, Andrew wasn’t wasting time languishing around the free-throw line, waiting for position to open up as he does sometimes. Playing with Pau isn’t only advantageous for Andrew’s stat line, it's going to do wonders for teaching Andrew what he can or can’t do in his career.
In terms of how the team plays with two giants in the middle, they need to either get passes into them as soon as they get into the post, or they need to be more patient in getting it into the post. A lot of turnovers are coming from rushing ill-advised passes into the post as the double team is gathering itself.
The Bobcats showed you tonight how easy it was to swoop in from the weak side during those slow passes into the post.
Odom was “interesting” tonight. Coping with being put on the bench will be an issue until he adjusts, but he has had a bit of a temper this preseason—notably, his words with Jermaine O’Neal and now the tiny tussle with Brown on the Bobcats.
I suspect some of the temper change is from his new assignment, but like it or not, Lamar has done well so far as a member of newly coined Minutemen. He does have to increase his drive and energy though. He was enveloped in cruise control for the better part of this one. Come the fourth quarter, he woke up a touch, but he has to find out how to come into a game with instant energy in order to run with the speed of the bench lineup.
The hotly debated (which is ridiculous to type) Coby Karl played well defensively. He’s not a stopper, but his recognition of screens and jumping out around them to switch was quick and without hesitation. He did well in defending the NBA’s favorite carnie, Adam Morrison. Offensively, he was finally taking the shots he was given (with a couple hits mixed in there).
As far as defensive switching goes, the whole team did well, particularly the bench unit that played most of the second quarter. There were a couple sequences with missteps, but for the most part, you could tell the communication and understanding was sharper, defensively.
Trevor was up to his passing-lane thievery again. His offense was unsure. He showed tonight why he is better suited as an energy guy off the pine rather than someone who can get you off to a potent start on offense.
Offensively, this game was an inconsistent mess. When the Lakers weren’t shooting shots in thick traffic, they were forcing low-percentage ones up or standing stagnant off the ball, waiting for the play to come to them.
The third quarter, with the infusion of Farmar, is when the Lakers ran the lead up to double-digits. Farmar is quickly getting the knack of how to play calmly with quickness, something that is easier typed than done for young points.
Another buzzer beater at the end of the third for Jordan, too—that’s looking like it’s becoming a trademark. Every time Jordan is inserted into the game (despite the lineup he runs with), the offense hums.
Best of all, Jordan’s making players around him better. That’s huge.
Preseason or not, this wasn’t, how you say, “Fun to watch.”
As expected, the offense was rickety for most of the game. Without your main focal point, things tend to go south like that. What the Lakers have to do in case this situation happens again (which it won’t, right?) is learn patience with the offense.
There was a lot of panic when plays got shut down. Losing a huge player like Kobe will change things, but fundamentally, the team still knows what to do. You can’t make up for that kind of loss by abandoning control.
Thankfully, tomorrow spells the demise of the preseason, and we can all await the massive debut of the 2008-'09 edition of the Lakers against a rough Blazer team. One more game to go, one more chance to run tests, one more look at experimental lineups, and one more game until the drive back to the promised land.