This song has changed from the Lakers anthem to the Clippers by one quick veto of a certain CP3 trade from one team, and then packaged as a holiday gift to their roommates. What a difference a lockout makes.
The Lakers started this preseason just as they finished the 2010-2011 postseason by looking completely shell shocked and confused. I realize this is an abridged training camp and preseason. I realize that the Lakers have a new coach. I realize that there are many new players and that the Lakers are learning a new system, but none of this seemed to stop the Clippers from absolutely embarrassing the “home team” Lakers in front of their Staples Center crowd.
Chris Paul was doing what he does best, breaking down defenses, lobbing passes to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and once again proving why he is the best point guard in the game today by dropping 19 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, and 5 steals in 24 minutes of play.
Chauncey Billups also looked good by leading the team with 23 points on 5 for 8 shooting with 3 steals and 3 assists in 20 minutes of play.
On the Lakers side there was not much positivity to speak of. Josh McRoberts came in and gave the Lakers a bit of spark with his hustle play and is sure to be a fan favorite. Bynum looked fairly solid with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. I really like the addition of Jason Kapono as he scored 9 points on 3-5 shooting and looked really confident and natural with his shot. This is an element the Lakers have been missing.
Rookie point guard Darius Morris got a lot of playing time and had some spotty moments of both bad and good. He looked a bit erratic and often was stuck with the ball with the clock winding down, but hit a few clutch shots. My quick assessment of Morris is he has some individual skill, but I didn’t see much team play out of him especially for a point guard who is supposed to be getting others involved. Darius ended up with 11 points on 5-9 shooting, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 turnovers in over 23 minutes of play.
Outside of that, the Lakers looked pretty much horrible. All the hype on Mike Brown’s defense is just that as they gave up 114 points. Kobe had some nice moments with his 22 points, but I didn’t see anything that leads me to believe he is back to his most elite level of play. I don’t want to believe the “father time” decline in Kobe’s game, nor do I want to put too much emphasis on a preseason opener, but his 7 turnovers and lack of game dominance are hard to ignore. I fear there may be some truth that Kobe is not what he once was. Not that I’m saying he’s washed up, but that Kobe is merely a great player, just not the greatest in uniform today.
Gasol picked up right where he left the playoffs last year…pathetic. Even though Pau’s stat line looks decent, outside of a 3 pointer he hit, Gasol didn’t do much positive work. He was weak on the boards and was consistently being bullied around in the paint. Most of his points came from other players setting him up for for wide open layups and dunks. The wrong player was traded while Pau is still standing in a Lakers uniform.
The artist formerly known as Ron Ron may have been the biggest train wreck out there. I’m a huge Ron Artest fan, but Metta World Peace is a different story. He looked lost and desperate going 0-8 and with 3 points.
With all of the player movement in the offseason the Lakers did not address their most pressing issue; the point guard position. Steve Blake was scorched by CP3 and didn’t show any improvement from last year. The Lakers can’t expect to raise the trophy at the end of the year without improving this position. Fisher and Blake will just not cut it anymore. Not in this system, not with the talent at that position from every other team in the NBA.