The Big Picture:
Leading up to this preseason edition of the Hallway Series, the two teams seem to be trying to outdo each other with how little they care. The Lakers are 0-6 in preseason, but aren't very concerned. Kobe Bryant will miss this one, and Dwight Howard will probably sit out also to recover some more after playing his first game as a Laker on Sunday. The Clippers have Billups, Odom and Hill all out, and coach Vinny Del Negro has hinted that he may rest some other players as well. If we get to see Steve Nash against Chris Paul for the first time as L.A. adversaries and Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin renew their personal battle it will make for an interesting contest, no matter who else is playing, but with a regular season confrontation looming in nine days, I have a feeling both coaches are going to play this close to the vest.
- Comparison of key metrics. Given that the Lakers finished ahead of the the Clippers in the standings last season, I'm surprised to see that their efficiency differential is not nearly as good (Lakers +1.6, Clippers +2.8). That probably means the Lakers won a bunch of close games or got blown out a lot in their losses. It doesn't matter much, given that this is a very different Lakers team.
- SBN LA. I wrote a small preview of this game for SBN Los Angeles as well, if you're interested.
- Preseason struggles. I understand that it's preseason, it doesn't matter, and these are the Lakers we're talking about, but I don't think anyone WANTS to be 0-6. It also occurs to me that it's one thing when Phil Jackson tells you not to worry, that it's all part of the process, that he's got the situation under control, and quite another thing when it's Mike Brown telling you those things. Brown's comments in today's LA Times today where he says the team is ahead of your he thought they'd be struck me as bizarre. Really Mike? You're 0-6 in preseason and that's BETTER than you expected? Were you expecting to lose games you didn't even play?
- Fitting the pieces together. It is preseason and it doesn't matter, but ideally the Lakers would no doubt like to be taking this time to see how all of the pieces fit together on their team. Howard is returning from back surgery and Bryant has been hurt also, so obviously that hasn't helped matters. It looks like they'll have to be learning to play together on the job next week when the regular season starts. Still, it's a long season and the Lakers have been their, done that. Even if they start the season slowly, all they care about is how they end it. If they're playing their best basketball in the playoffs that's what matters, and they won't worry about a few games in the regular season standings.
- One ball. We're obviously going to have to wait at least until next week to see how this great experiment works out, but the basic flaw in the plan may be the fact that there's still just one basketball. Last season, every possession in Phoenix went through Steve Nash, every possession in Orlando went through Dwight Howard, and every possession for the Lakers went through Kobe Bryant. How will it work with all of them on the same team?
- Former Lakers. Lamar Odom won't play tonight, but the Clippers also have Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf who are relatively recent Lakers and Caron Butler who was there a few years back. Barnes has said that he's looking forward to his chance to defend his former teammate Bryant, but he'll have to wait for that chance. Steve Blake of the Lakers is also a former Clipper.
- Gonzaga centers. Gonzaga has become an NCAA power over the years, but they've generally done a better job of sending guards to the NBA (John Stockton, Dan Dickau) than centers. Tonight Turiaf will likely find himself lined up opposite fellow Zag alum Robert Sacre at some point. Sacre was the 60th and last pick in this year's draft and probably won't make the team, but he's been getting lots of minutes in preseason because of the injuries to Howard and Hill. He's a legit seven footer, so there's an outside chance the Lakers will keep him around as a hedge against Hill's lack of size, but don't count on it. I suppose they could also be worried that their top two bigs have both had recent back issues. Hill, by the way, is available tonight after missing the preseason to this point with a herniated disc.
- Bad blood. Unwanted pats on the head, poster dunks, flagrant fouls -- these teams don't like each other. Odds are nothing's going to boil over in preseason, but the truth is that for the last few seasons whenever these teams have met, there has been some significant tension.
- Lyrical reference:
Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Magic Johnson
L.A. Lakers, fast break makers
Kings of the court shake and bake all takers
Back to back is a bad ass fact a claim that remains in tact
I really try not to use the team name as the team name when doing these lyric/quote things, but there's not much choice for the Lakers. That's all a Laker is -- it's a basketball team name, not a word. Which kind of hurts my whole premise here -- another reason to dislike them.