Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Series tied at 2
7:30 p.m. PST
1. Did we learn anything jarring about the Clippers during the preseason?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanhuba): No. I don’t count their weaknesses—perimeter defense and rebounding—as preseason revelations. We knew that coming into the season. Perhaps they were worse in both aspects than originally anticipated, but I don’t necessarily count that as a surprise. For contending teams, the preseason rarely correlates to regular season play, and I don’t expect the Clips to be as lackadaisical in effort.
Law Murray, (@LawMurraytheNU): Jarring? No. Watching them kept me grounded for the most part. It was nice to see Blake Griffin hitting some more jumpers, but not nice to see what looked like a major regression from the stripe. If the small forward “competition” was the Eastern Conference playoff race, then Matt Barnes was the ATL Hawks and the field was the lottery—Barnes tanked and still couldn’t give the job away. Other than Jared Cunningham getting crossed over into a roster spot, this was a preseason that screamed, “just start the regular season already.”
Seth Partnow, (@SethPartnow): Preseason?
2. We know what Kobe Bryant’s role is with the Lakers, but what should it be?
Buha: During this lost season, Kobe should be the team’s primary offensive force, locker room leader and mentor to the younger prospects (the injured Randle, Davis, Clarkson, etc.). Not unlike what he’s doing. But next season and beyond, he should take a step back and embrace another star or two with open arms, helping the Lakers transition into their next era. The question, as always with Kobe, is he will he do what’s best for the team or himself?
Murray: Ever wanted to see Kobe Bryant play without an exceptionally skilled big man? Well, if so, you finally have it. This is Kobe’s first season playing without Shaquille O’Neal, Lamar Odom, or Pau Gasol (not to even mention Dwight Howard). He’s also strapped with a head coach in Byron Scott who is a fixture in the organization but isn’t going to help Kobe or the Lakers overcome their major personnel issues. This is worse than Michael Jordan in Washington. But Kobe’s here because he’s climbing the all-time scoring ladder. Limiting his role with that team won’t make them more effective…or easier to watch.
Partnow: Player-coach would be amazing. Seriously though, with this non-collection of talent they’ve put together this year, what can he be other than a ball-dominant Chuckasaurus Rex? Especially post-Randle, discussing “roles” on this Lakers team feels sort of pointless.
3. Are the Lakers the worst team in the West?
Buha: With all of their injuries and defensive woes, I’d have to say yes. I’ve watched both of their games and can’t seem to figure out how they are going to effectively defend anyone—and it’s not like they haven’t struggled offensively, either. Also, my hot sports take: They’re starting the season 0-15. Look at their schedule. They won’t be favored in a game until Game 16 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. It’s going to be ugly, folks.
Murray: The competition is between the Lakers, Sacramento, Minnesota, and Utah, with New Orleans on alert if their injury-prone starting lineup has to expose their shallow roster. Out of all of those teams, you can argue that the Lakers have the worst point guard situation and the least to work with up front. And now, they don’t even have their lottery pick to work with. I’m expecting the Lakers to have the West’s worst record for the first time since the merger.
Partnow: Yes. By a decent margin. Perfect storm of marginal talent and “old-fashioned” (not in a good way) coaching. I said before the season that by virtue of the tougher Western Conference schedule, they could challenge Philly for worst record in the league, and I have seen nothing through two games to change my mind.