A long, long summer’s wait has finally ended and basketball is, at last, on the horizon tonight. After months of workouts, refocusing, and rehab, the Lakers are set to tip-off the preseason against the Warriors. After a disappointing season, the Lakers will look to set the foundations of a more successful season tonight. With much lower expectations for this season, this year’s version of the Lakers have a far different mindset heading into this preseason contest. With a full off-season and the beginning of a training camp to implement his offense, head coach Mike D’Antoni is likely facing a do-or-die season given the prospects of next summer. In fact, most of the roster consists of one-year contracts, with only Robert Sacre and Steve Nash having guaranteed deals for next year. With low team expectations and high personal stakes on the line, this has all the ingredients to an interesting season.
- Nick Young – Probable. Young twisted his ankle at the end of Thursday’s practice, but participated in a full practice on Friday and told reporters he’d play this weekend. “I came in early and got some treatment, so I should be ready to go (on Saturday).”
- Steve Nash – Doubtful. Nash spent most of the summer rehabbing a variety of injuries that kept him out for extended periods last year. First it was a broken leg, then an ailing back with the list growing longer and longer. D’Antoni said he, along with teammate Pau Gasol, wouldn’t be playing in back-to-backs this early and would rather the duo play Sunday.
- Pau Gasol – Doubtful. Gasol spent the off-season recovering from surgeries on both knees to clean out the respective areas. While his rehab is on track and Gasol will be playing this preseason, it likely won’t be Saturday. As the case with Nash, he won’t be playing back-to-backs this early.
- Kobe Bryant – Out. This one is no surprise as Bryant not only is still recovering from his Achilles surgery, but he isn’t even in the country as he’s in Germany where he’s getting the “orthokine” procedure done.
- Ryan Kelly – Out. Kelly’s acclimation to the Lakers has been far from ideal. While he was drafted with the knowledge of recovery and rehab from his foot injury being necessary, his rehab has not gone according to schedule. His most recent setback has put his availability for the preseason in jeopardy, although D’Antoni did comment that Kelly was close to returning.
Projected Starting Line-Up:
D’Antoni did tell the L.A. Times what his projected starting line-up would be, given the injuries and those unlikely to play.
Point Guard – Steve Blake
Shooting Guard – Nick Young
Small Forward – Wesley Johnson
Power Forward – Jordan Hill
Center – Chris Kaman
Mike D’Antoni’s offense. We heard a lot this off-season about how D’Antoni couldn’t run the offense he desired due to the personnel, or lack thereof, the Lakers had last year. But with a roster more tooled to his liking and an entire off-season to implement his schemes both offensively and defensively, it’ll be interesting, and crucial to the success of the season, to see how successful those schemes are. Specifically on the offensive end, D’Antoni was brought in to revive the Showtime Era. Last year was anything but Showtime basketball. A host of young, energetic players will surely change that for this season, but D’Antoni will likely be on a short leash by the fans given his failures next season.
The result of tonight’s game is not important. Sure, the media and pundits will point out how we didn’t win a preseason game last year and look what happened, but those two outcomes are not correlated. Instead, fans should focus on the tempo of the offense, how well the Lakers defend (it can only get better, right), and how the roster meshes. These youngsters, namely Jordan Farmar, Young, Johnson, Hill, Marcus Landry, and Elias Harris, have a great shot tonight. For the outcome itself, well that’s just a shot in the dark.
Warriors 103, Lakers 92