Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmer, Chris Kaman, and of course Kobe Bryant and Ryan Kelly all played little or not at all Sunday night, and despite Pau Gasol and Steve Nash each seeing action, Brian Shaw’s Denver Nuggets used a big third quarter to end the Laker’s one game exhibition season winning streak.
Johnson has a strained tendon in his left foot, Henry, by far the most exciting and dominating player in a Lakers’ uniform this preseason, a sore wrist, and Farmer has a sore calf, making them all uncertain for the rematch tonight.
Shaw, long my personal choice as the young guy who should have been tabbed to lead the Lakers, rather than the re-treads that have been the darlings of the new team leadership, finally has his shot as a head coach, and with a talented young team in the Nuggets.
|In fact, the “experts” all say the Nuggets again will end ahead of the Lakers this coming season. We’ll see about that.
The Lakers’ offense has been much more controlled than one would have expected from a Mike D’Antoni team so far this preseason. That is
likely the difference between a 30 year-old Steve Nash from D’Antoni’s Phoenix teams a decade ago, and a 40-year-old Nash of today running things. But, put Farmar in there, especially with Henry at shooting guard, and the likes of Johnson and Kelly on a wing, and your’ve got a team that fits the traditional D’Antoni mold. Add a healthy Kobe to the mix, along with Gasol and Kamen doing their rebounding, passing, and scoring thing, and we have a team.
A good sign of the early pre-season has been the overall team long-range shooting. Last year’s team had one guy, Kobe, who could consistently make a three-pointer. Blake had his streaks, and the meta psycho thing even had a couple*, but overall, it was Kobe or else from behind the arc. Last season, the Lakers put up an average of 25 three-pointers per game, making 8.7, a 35.5 percentage. In two exhibition games this year, the Lakers are taking and hitting 3-pointers at the same rates, without Kobe,
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making eight per game, on 24.5 shots per game.
Two other injury-related items: 1) Pau Gasol, in his first appearance, looks like he’s healthier than pretty much at any time last year, moving around well, seemingly unhindered by any knee restriction, and 2) With other guys injured, Shawne Williams is getting some time and impressing, and after a past checkered with off-court problems and underwhelming success on the court, he may be earning a roster spot, at least until Kelly is ready to play.
*Well, actually last season the meta psycho thing took .2 more 3-pointers per game than Kobe, hitting a 1.8% higher, for the team lead in both categories, with Kobe second. But, of course he is gone too, making the results so far this year even more impressive.