Lakers fans could have watched their team’s preseason win over Utah Tuesday night with a sense of optimism. Jordan Farmar looked good in the second half running the offense, Wes Johnson looked comfortable in the system on his way to 14 points, Xavier Henry was attacking, Jordan Hill looked solid in the paint. You could extrapolate out from that things aren’t as bad as some pundits predict for the Lakers.
That’s not what Tracy McGrady saw.
He was watching the Lakers game and tweeted this:
As there should be in the preseason, there is optimism in the Lakers camp… and by optimism I mean thinking they will make the playoffs. I’m not on board that train. Talent wins in the NBA and while fans can talk of improved chemistry and the rest, the best players win the most games in the Association. The Lakers replaced Dwight Howard with Chris Kaman and Metta World Peace with Johnson and Henry. Those are not upgrades. Nick Young is a gunner not an answer.
As I’ve said more than once, I expect Kobe Bryant to come back and not be terribly far from the Kobe we remember on offense — he’s become more of a jump shooter who uses his footwork and fundamentals to get the ball in his spots then get his shot off. That will not change.
The big issue is the Lakers are going to struggle defensively. You could see some of that against the Jazz Tuesday — Steve Blake struggled to defend Gordon Hayward and when he got broken down the Lakers (with Kaman out) just lost all defensive shape and integrity. With a slowed somewhat Kobe the Lakers perimeter defense is in question. The Lakers open the season against Chris Paul (with Steve Nash guarding him) and the West is flush with good, attacking point guards. That defensive integrity will be tested.
By the time he comes back, we all may feel for Kobe Bryant.
Tony Parker revealed a plan nearly two years ago to play until he’s 38.
Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, the Spurs point guard is sticking to that goal.
Parker, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:
“The Spurs know I want to play until I’m 38,” Parker told Yahoo Sports in a recent phone interview. “That will be 20 seasons for me. That’s my goal. This year is No. 15. And if I’m lucky enough and I’m healthy, hopefully I can play 20 seasons and then I’ll be ready to retire.”
That seems pretty ambitious, no matter how you handle the conflicting math. (Parker is 33. If he plays 20 seasons, he’ll spend most of his final season at age 39 and turn 40 during the playoffs.)
Parker is already showing signs of slippage. Many of his key numbers were down last season, including ESPN’s real-plus minus, where he quietly slipped from 12th to 67th among point guards.
But Gregg Popovich is very liberal with resting his players, and Parker won’t have to carry too much of the load. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will probably retire before Parker, but the Spurs will still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible Parker lasts that long.
The Pelicans starting center, Omer Asik, is injured.
Their backup center, Alexis Ajinca, is injured.
Enter Greg Smith.
Scott Kushner of The Advocate:
Smith was part of the Rockets’ 2012-13 rotation, but otherwise, he has seen limited minutes in his four-year career with Houston and Dallas. In that small sample, he has looked alright. The 6-foot-10 24-year-old uses his big frame and massive hands to catch passes and finish efficiently near the rim. He has also become more disciplined defensively.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the regular-season roster behind the 13 Pelicans with guaranteed salaries.
But it’s also possible New Orleans signed him just an extra preseason body. That’d beat relying too heavily on the aging Kendrick Perkins and undersized Jeff Adrien at center. Anthony Davis is the Pelicans’ best option at center with Asik and Ajinca sidelined (and maybe even with them healthy), but the biggest drawback to playing him there is the injury risk. If Davis is going to deal with the banging at center, might as well save it for games that count.
Still, even New Orleans plans to keep Smith only through the preseason, this at least gives him a chance to impress.