Injuries and Bad Defense Still Present as Lakers’ New Season Approaches

A year ago, the LA Lakers had assembled an almost totally rebuilt roster, loaded with talent, but led by the wrong coach, and, as it turned out, minus Kobe Bryant for virtually the entire season. Their undoing, however, was a pervasive raft of injuries, depriving the team of the on-court presence of the most talented of the newcomers, and key veterans, for extended periods, as well as keeping Bryant and Steve Nash from making any contribution at all. Along with the coach, many of those players are now gone, but the injury bugaboo is still present, and early training camp injuries to key players such as Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly, and to worthless, overpaid, one dimensional jerks like nick young, struck even before the first exhibition game. Then, in last night’s second exhibition game, rookie guard Jordan Clarkson, impressive during the summer and in line to play significant minutes behind the oft injured Nash and new primary point guard Jeremy Lin, suffered an injury

to his left calf. Described initially as a strain, a more formal diagnosis and prognosis is still pending at this time, but watching him limp off the court lasts night, it did not look good.

While it has been widely reported that new head coach Byron Scott has tried to instill into the minds of his players the need to actually play defense, over the first two exhibitions, little evidence of that is present. This was especially
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evident in the play of Lakers’ lottery pick Julius Randle, who was described after the game by Scott to have been “lost” while on the court. Offensively, he has actually put up some decent numbers, making nine-of-21 shots, but in the long-standing tradition of Lakers’ big men, has hit only 50% of his free throws (4 of 8), and on defense, there is a lot for Randle to improve upon if he is to make a contribution in his rookie season.

As a team,however, and in last night’s game in particular, defense was again a missing element in the Lakers’ game. Golden State shot 56% from the field, including an even higher 57% from three-point range. Most of the Warrior’s misses came from bench players and guys looking to catch on, as the starting five made 25 of their 37 shots, and that is 68%. In their first game against Denver, the Nuggets’ overall shooting was not in that league, but they still hit on 50% of their three-point attempts. Team defense will be the most critical in the backcourt, which promises to be primarily populated by the 36-year-old Bryant returning from two major leg injuries, Nash, who has never played defense and who, in

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whatever playing time he sees, will be focusing totally on offense, Lin, who also is an offensive player yet to show he can make any kind of a difference defensively, and the likes of young who plays zero defense and doesn't care when he does no have the ball in his hand, rookie Clarkson who is a total question mark defensively, and hopefully Henry, who also will be on the court for his offense.

The Lakers open the regular season in 18 days against Houston. They have only six remaining exhibition games before then, with the next one a rematch against Golden State on Sunday. Scott is no miracle worker, and unfortunately that is what it would take to make the Lakers into a winning team this season.

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