Do pre-season wins mean anything? If you ask the 0-3 Los Angeles Lakers, they would probably say, “No.” What matters most to this team is the progression of their young talent, the overall play of their new additions, and the effectiveness of the aging Kobe Bryant.
So far, everything is looking good on that end of things, as Julius Randle is starting to find his rhythm and confidence, Jordan Clarkson is continuing his fine play, Lou Williams is leading the scoring charge each game, Roy Hibbert is playing with a chip on his shoulder, and Kobe Bryant is slowly regaining his touch.
The preseason is essentially designed for coaches to evaluate their players, and that’s exactly what Byron Scott and his coaching staff is looking to do, ignoring the losses.
Lakers’ Sunday night opponent will be a non-NBA team, Maccabi Haifa, an Israeli basketball club. Thus far, the Lakers have taken beatings from the Utah Jazz twice and the Toronto Raptors, but they have a great chance to snatch their first win against a squad that has yet to beat an NBA team in the preseason, going 0-11.
But of course, as mentioned before, the win doesn’t matter much for the Lakers. This game would be a good opportunity for them to explore different lineups and improve their defense.
Coach Scott continues to experiment different on-court combinations, none that has worked too well. However, the problem mostly lies within the bench players, but it’s excusable since Scott is digging deeper into his bench to evaluate some of the young guys who are fighting for a roster spot.
For instance, last game he used Robert Upshaw as the only big man off the bench, resting Tarik Black and Robert Sacre. Alongside Upshaw, Coach Scott tried playing Larry Nance and Metta World Peace in the frontcourt during the first half, and then changed it to World Peace and Jonathan Holmes in the second half.
Upshaw was quite good in his debut, recording six points, three rebounds, and two blocks on 3 of 4 shooting. He had an impressive back-to-the-basket shot and a graceful rejection in Thursday’s outing. Meanwhile, Holmes started the game off slowly, but ended with a couple of amusing plays, including a monstrous rejection of his own.
Defense will continue to be the emphasis for Coach Scott, as his team has allowed 104.0 points per game so far during the preseason. The Lakers have struggled to defend the high screen and rolls and have had lapses in transition. They will get the opportunity to correct those areas against an inferior opponent.
The only Laker who hasn’t played in any of the preseason games has been Marcelinho Huertas, who is doubtful to play on Sunday as well. The Brazilian is currently taking care of some citizenship issues.
Also doubtful for Sunday’s bout is rookie D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Bass, who are nursing minor injuries.
The game will tipoff at 9:30 pm Eastern Standard Time on NBATV and will be played at the STAPLES Center.