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D’Antoni to rest Nash and Gasol in pre-season opener; announces expected starters

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Kobe Bryant won’t partake in tomorrow night’s pre-season opener against the Golden State Warriors, however, we already knew that; not only is the eighteen-year veteran still recovering from season-ending surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, but he’s also in Germany right now receiving treatment to his troublesome right knee.

On the other hand, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are both relatively healthy, yet Mike D’Antoni says he’ll rest them on Saturday due to it being the first night of a back-to-back.

With three starters missing in Bryant, Gasol and Nash, D’Antoni has a lot of holes to fill. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the head coach is expected to start Steve Blake, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman tomorrow night in Ontario, California:

[pullquote]Nash and Gasol, on the other hand, are healthy, but Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni wants to give them a day off with Saturday’s game in Ontario, Calif., to be followed by Sunday’s game against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.

D’Antoni told reporters after practice Friday that he likely will start Steve Blake and Nick Young in the backcourt and Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman in the frontcourt against the Warriors, the first of eight preseason games for the Lakers.[/pullquote]

The pre-season is a great time to take a look at different players and line-ups, and the absence of the Lakers’ “Big Three” will allow the team to do this. You pretty much know what you’ll get from Blake, but it’s yet to be seen how Young, Johnson and Kaman will perform as Lakers.

Then there’s Hill, who spent much of last season on the injury list. It’ll be interesting to see how the big man performs with extended minutes tomorrow night; Hill has also apparently worked on his mid-range game over the summer, so we’ll see if he exhibits his apparent newfound shooting touch during the course of the game.

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