Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni often joked he’ll “spin” the team’s preseason performances any way he sees fit.
A Lakers win will prompt D’Antoni to gush about the significant team-building. A Lakers loss will prompt D’Antoni to point out it’s only a preseason game. So take it with a grain of salt that D’Antoni described the Lakers’ 0-2 performance against the Golden State Warriors in their nine-day excursion to China as a “good trip.”
Yes, the Lakers see plenty of positive signs.
Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman have proven to develop chemistry with their versatile skillsets in the post and on mid-range jumpers. Nick Young, for better and for worse, has picked up the scoring slack in Kobe Bryant’s absence by hoisting 15 more field-goal attempts (68) than Gasol (53). The Lakers reported relatively positive health in Steve Nash’s sore left ankle (“not bad,” he says,) while previously injured players appeared in China including Wesley Johnson (left foot), Jordan Farmar (right calf) and Ryan Kelly (left foot).
But it’s apparent the Lakers have lots of work to sharpen before the team’s season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center in a designated home game. They have two more exhibitions both against the Utah Jazz, Tuesday at Staples Center (7:30 p.m.) and Friday at the Honda Center in Anaheim (7 p.m.).
“We’re trying to get more disciplined and our offense, trying to get in your spots and the same on defense — trying to get back on transition and get our bigs up on pick and rolls and trap a little bit better,” D’Antoni said. “We still have nine days of work and we have to get ready for the opening game.”
The main area of focus seems to involve both turnovers and defense.
The Lakers have averaged 19.67 turnovers through six preseason games. For all the talk of the Lakers having better chemistry during this training camp, that mark actually proves worse than last season’s output. Then, the Lakers averaged 15.1 turnovers per game (22nd overall out of 30 NBA teams). That helped contribute to the Lakers conceding 16 points per game in transition (ranked 29th).
Of course, part of that attributes to the Lakers playing a wide rotation. The Warriors took both games in Beijing and Shanghai after keeping their starters in the second half. D’Antoni said he “probably” will tighten up his rotation for the last two preseason games, though that hinges on the Lakers’ fatigue level after a nine-day trip that entailed a 15-hour time difference and two 12-hour flights.
“We just have to be consistent defensively, going back on defense and not having any breakdowns defensively,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “If we do that, the personnel we’re facing, it’s little details that make a big difference during games.”
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