First impressions count for something, even in a half-filled arena in Fresno. Four guys who made good ones in the exhibition opener against Utah were Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom, Maurice Evans and Jordan Farmar.
Vujacic faces greater competition this season with the additions of Shammond Williams and Farmar. He had one of his best halves since coming to the Lakers in the opening two quarters Tuesday.
Not only did Vujacic hit all four shots he took – – Vladimir Radmanovic even passed on a shot to slide the ball to him for a 3-pointer at the end of the first half – – but he drew two offensive fouls by being a pest.
If he can do those two things, Vujacic will have a nice role for himself this season.
Odom, meanwhile, was the best player on the floor at the start of the second half. It wasnt a coincidence that the Lakers went from leading 44-41 at halftime to going up 12 in that stretch.
He took Carlos Boozer off the dribble for layups, knocked down a 3-pointer in transition and kicked out a pass to Luke Walton for a 3-pointer off a drive. Odom also was grabbing rebounds and pushing the ball the other way.
Odom finished with 18 points (on nine shots) with 6 assists and 5 rebounds in 28-plus minutes. The only weakness he had came in missing four free throws.
“Right now, Im playing with the spirit of two people in me, Odom said, referring to the tragic death of his infant son. “I want to just keep attacking, keep attacking, keep attacking, pour it on as much as I can.
“I lost my legs a little bit on my free throws. Theres always things you can improve on. Defensively, I want to just keep improving and knock down those free throws.
Evans was a 37.1 percent 3-point shooter last season in Detroit and showed that he can be more than just a defensive stopper. He connected on jumpers from 19, 26, 25 and 18 feet in the fourth quarter.
Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said Evans had been struggling to learn both the guard and forward spots in the triangle offense. But Rambis praised him at the same time for wanting to get better and being a quick learner.
Needless to say, Evans was impressive Tuesday. He still faces a minutes crunch trying to get on the floor as Kobe Bryants backup.
Farmar played the last 4:19 but made those minutes interesting. He was so eager to play that he jumped up in the third quarter to check in when Andrew Bynums name was called.
By the time he realized his mistake, Farmar tried to squeeze in next to assistant Brian Shaw on the bench.
On the court, Farmar whipped a pass to Ronny Turiaf as he drove the lane, which led to two free throws for Turiaf. He also was visibly frustrated as he posted up Utahs small guard Brian Chase and didnt get the ball.
Farmar had two steals as well in a matter of 15 seconds. He finished the game by slicing to the basket for a layup with the clock running out.
He missed the only jumper he took, but Farmar brought an unmistakable energy to the court.
As for some of the other players, Radmanovic missed all three shots he took in the first half and was way, way short on an open 3-pointer and a baseline jumper. He finished with seven points on 2 of 7 shooting.
Bynum turned in the lowlight of the game. He showed off a great spin move in the third quarter but somehow short-armed his shot from point-blank range. Bynum was so upset at himself, he smacked himself in the head a couple of times.
You could hear Odom on the bench asking why Bynum didnt dunk the ball. Bynum was asking himself the same question after the game.
Here’s the story on the game. There’s also a trivia question related to the part below about Derek Fisher: Name the five active players who were a part of all three of the Lakers championship teams this decade.
By Ross Siler
FRESNO–Lakers forward Lamar Odom has taken to calling guard Maurice Evans by the nickname “Herschel Walker for the simple reason that Evans is built more like an NFL running back than an NBA player.
That might be the case, but Evans did a pretty good Kobe Bryant impersonation in the fourth quarter of the Lakers exhibition opener Tuesday night.
Evans connected on two 3-pointers and an 18-footer as the Lakers reversed course after giving back most of a 14-point lead and went on to a 94-79 victory over Utah.
He started in place of Bryant, who skipped the trip to continue strengthening his right knee, and scored all 12 of his points in the final quarter.
Evans was acquired from Detroit in a draft-night trade and came with the reputation as a defensive stopper. But Evans, who can defend three positions, showed the other side of his game Tuesday.
“When I was in college, I was one of the top scorers in the country, said Evans, who averaged 22.6 points his sophomore season at Wichita State. “I had never been known for being a good defender until I got to the NBA.
Evans best sequence might have come after he missed a shot. He kept the rebound alive, tipping it back outside, and drilled a 3-pointer from the corner after he got the ball back from Odom.
Teenage center Andrew Bynum, meanwhile, had his ups and downs in finishing with two points, six rebounds and four turnovers in 17-plus minutes.
Bynum hit a turnaround 12-footer on the baseline in the fourth quarter and blocked a Rafael Araujo shot in the second quarter. But he had the ball plucked from his hands twice by Derek Fisher in the first half.
“You can see that hes still got a long way to go in terms of his strength, assistant coach Kurt Rambis said, “and for a big guy thats 7-feet tall he brings the ball down way too many times.
Jazzed: There might not have been a worse possible time in Fishers life for a trade to Utah, with his wife delivering twins only days before the veteran guard learned he was leaving Golden State unexpectedly after two seasons.
It took Fisher a little longer than expected to report for a physical but he has since come to appreciate the move. He was traded for Keith McLeod, Devin Brown and Andre Owens, with Utah taking on the $26 million still owed Fisher.
“Once I kind of got over the shock of the trade itself and really just concentrated on my family for a couple of weeks, Fisher said, “then I was able to step back and really just look at it from the perspective that Im still able to play this game that I love to play.
Fisher, 32, was coming off a season in which he played in all 82 games and averaged a career-best 13.3 points. The losing, though, took its toll, with the Warriors finishing 34-48 once again.
It starts to feel like a job, Fisher said, “when youre not enjoying going out there every night.
He will be counted on to provide veteran leadership to a Utah team that hasnt made the playoffs in three seasons. Fisher also will serve as mentor to Deron Williams, the Jazzs point guard of the future.
“Its a good place for him, Rambis said. “Hes a system player. (Utah coach) Jerry Sloan is going to love him. He plays hard, he gets after it. . . . I thought whenever he got traded that was a good move for him and the Jazz.