Oct 6, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Xavier Henry (7) drives the lane during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers Vs Warriors In China - The Rubber Match

Its debateable whether you can glean much from preseason games, especially when a team’s best player is absent, but there is some optimism for the Lakers. The team competed well against last year’s media darling, the Warriors, for the second time this preseason losing a close contest 101-95.


Mark Jackson playing Steph Curry 37 minutes, Andre Iguodala 40 minutes, and David Lee 38 minutes early in the preseason in order to get a win was bush league, particularly with Curry’s injury history. Thankfully Mike D’Antoni didn’t stoop to that level and continued with his approach of developing chemistry with his bench and tinkering with his rotations and combinations.


The trip to China has been eventful off the court beginning with the  jovial, lighthearted personality infusion that is Swaggy P. This team is the youngest in recent memory and there  is a refreshing spirit that is emanating on the bench. There have been tobogganing incidents. Kobe Bryant as a Demigod to Chinese basketball fans still seems as jarring as in the 2008 Olympics.


The Lakers so far this preseason have shown crisp ball movement, have discovered that Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman work nicely together, made solid acquisitions with Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry, and Nick Young seemingly has learned that an assist is also a statistic worth having.


That’s the good news.


The team has been competitive in every game and has shown an ability to score easily, with plenty of open looks from deep. There are, however, some significant concerns going forward with the team.


They can’t protect the rim.


Kaman and Gasol, at this point, aren’t deterrents in the lane. Jordan Hill isn’t productive enough offensively to justify big minutes.


Steve Nash looks like a shell of his old self. Maybe he’s pacing himself but he is struggling passing off the pick and roll, leading to numerous deflections. He was more aggressive in looking for his shot on Tuesday but needs to become more dynamic if the team is to get off to a good start at the beginning of the season.


Steve Blake continues to be fools gold. While he is a scrappy defender and decent shooter, the second unit bogs down when he has to create off the dribble. He’s no threat to penetrate the defense and it forces the rest of the team into tough shots.


Get well soon Jordan Farmar.


Xavier Henry has gone from camp invite to a possible replacement in the rotation for Jodie Meeks, who is playing meekly. Henry has size,growing confidence, and a versatility to his game that makes him a better alternative off the bench when Kobe Bryant returns.


The highlight of the preseason to date has been the long awaited appearance of Ryan Kelly. He scored only 6 points in 12 minutes of playing time but showed the sweet shooting stroke that had many calling him the best shooter in college basketball last year.


At 6’11” Kelly is the type of knockdown shooter every team covets. He can draw bigs away from the rim and must be guarded.  He drained two 3 pointers with ease. Defensively he was isolated by David Lee but he showed the ability to move his feet. With time he might not be a liability on that end and the Lakers will have themselves a player. D’Antoni would be best served finding minutes for Kelly with some of the starters to get more open looks for him.


With Kobe, Farmar, and Wesley Johnson out there’s still plenty of question marks about the team’s identity. They’ll be entertaining to be sure. Whether they’ll be any good depends on which Kobe Bryant returns to the court and if they can avoid major injuries.

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