01 November 2006

They're Playing Basketball . . .

Off season is over, the games count again. I watched some of the Lakers' pre-season games and I liked what I saw. Their big guys all got bigger, Andrew Bynum looks much bigger, Roni Turiaf has bulked up, and even Kwame Brown appears to have been hitting the weights (which may explain the unusual for basketball rotator-cuff injury).

Watched both games on TNT last night, first game was a laugher Chicago 108 Miami 66 and the second game was an exciting, if you are a Laker fan at least, Phoenix 106 Lakers 114 contest. Miami seem to have gotten very, very, very old over the off season. Also, Chicago might be a really good team, but not 40+ points better than the defending champs, good.

As far as the Lakers, they aren't just Kobe and those other guys this season. After trailing by as many as 19 points and giving up 41 points in the first quarter, the Lakers turned their game around and dominated the Suns through fierce play from their front line. Even though he's only 19, I think it's safe to say that Bynum is the already the best 3rd choice center on any team, and if he continues to play as he did last night, may assume a starting role at center and allow Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm to play forward like they should.

The Lakers don't look very talented on paper (beyond Kobe and Lamar), but have a lot of versatile players who give them the flexibility to go large or small depending on whatever works best against that night's opponent. The key will be discipline on both ends of the court, and good team play, but that's the key for every team, every season, what's different is that this group of Lakers looked like they understood that in the pre-season, and hopefully will carry on playing that way when Kobe plays himself into shape during the first few months of the season.

Now it looks like Kobe is going to sit out at least 3 more games, but Lamar Odom can be the scorer/slasher, and with a lot of active bodies to scoop up boards the Lakers can control tempo and stay with any team in the league, even if Kobe requires a month or two to play himself into shape. Off season acquisition Maurice Evans looked great, and will contribute a lot to the team, and Jordan Farmar actually was left on the floor by Phil Jackson during significant minutes late in the game. Possibly a first for any rookie coached by Jackson.

Also, the Lights Out gimmick, I like it.

And Charles Barkley is already in mid-season form, the TNT after game show is probably the best sports related show on TV.

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