You can never learn too much of an NBA team during the preseason. You know even less after a lockout shortened preseason. None the less, we only had a two game sample to learn as much as possible about the Los Angeles Lakers in the infancy of the Mike Brown era.
Two losses to the Clippers revealed either everything or nothing at all of what the season holds for pro basketball in Los Angeles. Some patterns did emerge and some things look blatantly obvious for the upcoming regular season.
One bet you can take to the bank is that no matter who gets more Ws between the Lake Show and Clipps it is clear Los Angeles will be Lob City. Also, there is no doubt that when he’s healthy and on his game Andrew Bynum is as dominant a low post player as there is in hoops.
With only a few glimpses of what could be for the Lakers here are the good, the bad and the ugly of the preseason.
Andrew Bynum – He is fit, active and playing like a beast. Bynum abused DeAndre Jordan the two preseason contests. If Kobe is slow to recover from his wrist injury then Drew will have to carry the load. He looks the part but can Bynum play the role of franchise player? We might finally get an answer to that question this season.
Pau Gasol – The Spaniard is playing with a chip on his shoulder. Whenever Pau touched the rock he was looking to make something happen. Perhaps arriving a dollar short and a day late, Gasol’s suddenly found mean streak might only boost his trade value. For now he’s a Laker and he’s out to prove last season is old news.
Steve Blake – Has he finally found his jumper? Blake’s shot was as lost as Ron Artest in the triangle. In two preseason games both his stroke and confidence were back. Blake will need to play more minutes this season so he’ll need to produce. Prospects of defending opposing point guards are no better this year than last so offensive production will be at a premium for Laker guards.
Mike Brown – He’s got an impossible task in replacing Phil Jackson and has been tossed in at the deep end of the Lakers drama pool what with injury, trades and general drama circulating before Christmas Day. Brown has quickly gained respect of the both the players and local media. He’ll need wins to validate his job status but so far Brown is talking the talk of a championship coach.
Kobe Bryant’s Injury – The sum of all fears might be realized if Kobe’s shooting hand is problematic for the entire season. For the record the post game took center stage without Kobe in the mix and things went well. Still, one sure way to end any title hopes would be to lose KB24 to a nagging setback that drags on through the season. Getting Kobe to sit will be Coach Brown’s first real challenge as the front man for the Lakers. Bryant has something to prove this season so convincing him that resting is best for the team will be mission: impossible.
Matt Barnes – His knee still doesn’t look quite right. Could be preseason rust but Barnes was mostly invisible except for his near ejection in game 2 of the Battle of Los Angeles. Devin Ebanks made more plays when he was on the court and for now looks like he should get more burn ahead of Barnes.
Turnovers – The Lake Show just flat out neglected the rock against the Clippers. We can excuse early mistakes due to a lack of practice but being careless can become a bad habit. Coach Brown needs to get this issue under wraps in a hurry. The Lakers can’t play from behind this year. They’re not built that way.
Depth – Mitch Kupchak was in a bad spot to begin. He had no money to spend and only a few chips to cash in on the trade market. A hectic offseason produced minimal personnel moves. The trade deadline looms large depending on how this team is playing. For now the options off the bench are limited meaning health is a huge concern. Having to start the season without Bynum and possibly Kobe could be a great test early for the entire franchise
The Defense – Where is that new defensive persona the Lakers were supposed to take on under Mike Brown? Yes, he’s only had a few days with this team so things should improve. Overall the team defense looked worse than it ever did under PJ. Having to defend against Chris Paul and his traveling highlight show will make any defense look bad but this was embarrassing at times. Another growing pain the fans will endure along with the team.
Metta World Peace – This whole sixth man experiment isn’t producing the desired effects thus far. Metta looks like he’s lost even more of whatever explosiveness was left in those legs. He gets into the paint surprisingly easy yet must always dish as he cannot finish anywhere near the net, never mind the rim. His best bet is to play harassing D and continue to work on knocking down open shots. He’ll never replace the bench production of Lamar Odom but World Peace could become a sparkplug of infectious energy.
The Third Quarter – I hate to ready too much into two meaningless preseason games but in both instances the Lakers were totally outplayed in the third. Coming out of the locker room they were sluggish, careless and played reckless. This cannot become a trend. Lineup changes can be attributed to some of the third quarter problems but that has nothing to do with effort.