The 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers are a likeable team playing an enjoyable style, which should make for a fun season for fans.
Although they may be less talented than last year’s squad, this year’s team is younger, faster, and hungrier. They are also committed to playing coach Mike D’Antoni’s system of constant ball movement and quick decisions, and tonight it resulted in 12 players contributing to the team total of 108 points.
One possession that exemplifies this approach came with 4:09 remaining in the third quarter. Jordan Hill grabbed a defensive rebound, passed it to Jordan Farmar, who brought the ball up court quickly, drove under the basket and passed to Xavier Henry in the corner, who immediately passed to Nick Young, who immediately passed to Wesley Johnson, who took two dribbles to the basket and then found Hill under the basket for a dunk.
The ball did not stop moving once on that possession, and all five Lakers touched the ball. It was a clear example of D’Antoni’s mantra that the ball finds energy.
The Lakers got off to a slow start tonight in their first game since returning from China, and were trailing 26-18 after the first quarter; however, they evened the game up with an 8-0 run to start the second, and took a six point lead into half time, which they never relinquished.
First-half stand-outs included Wesley Johnson, with 14 points in 13 minutes, and Xavier Henry, whose entrance into the game instantly made the Lakers more aggressive. Henry is sometimes out of control when he attacks the hoop, but good things generally happen when he’s aggressive – which is most of the time.
The second-half star was Jordan Farmar, who scored all 20 of his points after the break. He also had a great block and generally provided great energy. Jodie Meeks (15 points) and Jordan Hill (10 points and five rebounds) also had nice games.
D’Antoni continued to be cautious with pre-season minutes for Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, who played just 24 and 15 minutes, respectively. Despite the limited minutes, both Gasol and Nash managed to hit their first three pointers of the pre-season in tonight’s game.
With only one pre-season game to go, the Lakers will soon be making at least one cut to their roster. Marcus Landry has had a poor pre-season campaign, and he was the only player available tonight who did not receive any playing time – I suspect he will be released from the team before the final exhibition game.
If the Lakers were to make two cuts, then look for Elias Harris to be dropped as well. While he has not shot poorly in the way that Landry has, he has been incredibly quiet when on the floor. Whereas Xavier Henry’s approach has been to let it all hang out during pre-season, Harris’s approach seems to have been the opposite – to try to not do anything that would draw attention to him, good or bad.
Kobe Bryant missed the game as he continues to recover from his torn Achilles tendon, and Chris Kaman sat out because of stomach problems that have bothered him since the team returned from China.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Jordan Farmar looked great tonight, and earned player of the game honors. He scored all of his 20 points (5-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 8-9 FT) in the second half, and in 23 minutes had a game-high plus-minus of +22. That injured calf that had kept him out of a few games looked just fine tonight.
Friday, October 25, at 7:00 p.m. PDT vs. the Utah Jazz in Anaheim, CA
This is an article by Craig Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter: @stevenashchroni