Stability mattered more than ever this season. Shortened training camps and just two preseason games means switching systems was going to be a challenge.
But Jim Buss was intent on wiping all traces of Phil Jackson from the Lakers, not keeping Brian Shaw and the triangle offense with a team built to run it. No, Mike Brown is in as coach with new systems on both ends of the floor. The result is confusion.
The bottom line is the Lakers are 0-2 after falling 100-91 to Sacramento Tuesday. That is two games in a row where they played poorly at the end (they blew an 11 point lead Sunday, scored on basket in the final three minutes Monday). Look at the words of Metta World Peace after the game to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.
“We had two games in the preseason, and Coach (Mike Brown) is trying to figure out who he wants to start. We had Andrew (Bynum) in the preseason. One game he started Matt (Barnes), and the next game he started Devin (Embanks). Now he’s going with Devin, so now everyone has to get accustomed to a whole new look. We played two games with Andrew, and now he is out for four games. It’s normal to have a little letdown right now, especially given the circumstances that we’re under.”
The Lakers defense was not good in this one as the Kings guards were able to beat their man on the perimeter and get in the lane, and the Lakers missed Andrew Bynum to clean that up (he is serving the second game of his four-game suspension for flattening J.J. Berea in the playoffs). Tyreke Evans had 20 points and did a lot of the damage; Marcus Thornton had 27 to lead the Kings. But since the preseason the Lakers pick-and-roll defense has been bad and until they fix it they will see a steady stream of it.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were not bad, but neither was dominant either. Gasol was outworked on the glass, Kobe needed 24 shots to get his 29 points.
The Lakers long-range shooting woes continue over from seasons past as L.A. was 1-of-16 from beyond the arc. This kills their inside-out offense Mike Brown wants to install — the Kings defense collapsed on Gasol and took away driving lanes inside but never paid a price for falling back.
Where the Kings really made their runs was against a Lakers bench pressed into big minutes on the second night of the Lakers back-to-back-to-back to start the season (they lost to the Bulls on Christmas and have Utah in Los Angeles on Wednesday).
These are the nights you look at that young Kings core and think they could be special in a few years, if they all grow and mature their games together. Evans was maybe the best player on the floor, a leader, Thornton was efficient and the Kings seemed to get all their key shots to fall. We’ll see if there can be more of these nights, but if you are a Kings fan that wants to believe this is what you need to see.
For Lakers fans, it’s too early to panic. But it’s not too early to be concerned about what the ceiling is for this roster.