Man alive, the Bobcats are bad. I mean, really bad. If there is a prime takeaway from this evening, it's that Michael Jordan's new team is eons away from becoming Michael Jordan's old team … the Wizards.
Here are four more takeaways.
1. Kobe Bryant 18, Bobcats 15.
This was the score when Kobe finally took his first breather with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter. From minute one of this contest, Bryant was on a clear mission to take advantage of Charlotte's dearth of defenders capable of slowing him. He scored the Lakers' first eight points en route to an 18-point first quarter. Back-to-back triples were drilled. An easy score was manufactured after Derek Fisher spotted him so far under the basket he was practically sitting courtside. The lane was attacked with aggression.
I actually felt sorry for Gerald Henderson (charged for much of the game with checking 24) on a sequence in which, with the clock running down, he wound up faced up against Bryant just inside the arc. Kobe busted a series of his patented head fakes, but Henderson refused to take the bait. No matter. Bryant simply drained the jumper with the buzzer sounding. It reminded me of the scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when Indiana Jones just shoots the guy twirling the sword, except Kobe was both Indy and the other guy.
Unfortunately, like the rest of his teammates, Kobe grew too loose during the third quarter, and as a result, his overall efficiency went out the window. I could have also done without 11 3-pointers. But during that first half, The Mamba put on one heckuva show.
2. The second unit made use of Andrew Bynum as an anchor.
With Bryant and Pau Gasol on the bench, it should go without saying Andrew Bynum would be the focal point of a second unit low on scorers requiring a double-team. Unfortunately, this team has often played in a way that says this obvious approach requires the message spelled out in neon lights. Tonight, however, wasn't one of those nights. Bynum took over the frame, along with residence on the left block, and made the Bobcats pay for his presence.
Possession after possession began with Drew backing down the woefully overmatched Byron Mullens, then making a strong move to the basket. Five baskets in as many tries were converted, including one with three-fifths of Charlotte's floor unit on his back. He also set up Andrew Goudelock for a clean triple from dead-center court.
Yes, it was only the Bobcats he was beating up en route to 20 points and 11 boards, and they have no real defensive frontcourt presence to speak of. (No real presence of any kind, to be honest.) But pounding inferior competition is what good players are supposed to do. Drew got the memo and played like the All-Star center he'll be this season.
3. The Lakers grew careless in the second half.
As someone who appreciates good basketball, I don't blame the purple and gold for being bored upon taking the floor post-intermission. This game was hysterically one-sided in terms of talent, and the Bobcats have absolutely no chance of beating them without some favors offered. So the hosts became generous. Shot selection turned frivolous. The defense turned slack. And after turning the ball over just five times in the first half, the Lakers had seven gaffes in the third frame alone.
There was even a sequence in which Kobe, of all people, stood dribbling the ball along the right wing, then rifled the ball to Gasol surrounded by bodies in the lane with (maybe) 1.5 seconds left on the clock. Perhaps this was a "Doesn't feel so good, huh?" message delivered after getting asked to bail out countless possessions over the years, but there are better ways of proving a point than an ensuing 24 second violation.
Later in the fourth, there was a possession in which Goudelock practically crawled the ball past half court, and the clock reached 15 before the other four Lakers literally moved. At all. It was like everyone was battling a spontaneous case of narcolepsy.
Obviously, the game never became "competitive," per se, but it grew much more relatively complicated than need be. The ship was righted by about halfway through the fourth quarter, but had the Lakers operated without a hiccup, Gasol, who clearly needs any possible rest, might have sat the entire fourth quarter rather than play a few pointless minutes. Even it a night where he played just 28 minutes, this matters.
4. Josh McRoberts appears the latest victim of Mike Brown's carousel rotation.
The Lakers' resident energy man didn't even play five minutes against Minnesota, and didn't enter this game until less than five minutes remained. Troy Murphy got the nod as the primary big man off the bench, and to the credit of both coach and player, made good on the increased minutes. The Notre Dame product racked 12 points, highlighted by a clean 4-for-4 line from deep, plus six rebounds, four assists and even a couple of nice defensive plays. He and Andrew Goudelock (who remains on a roll) also worked a nice two-man game on several possessions. For that matter, the bench as a whole played very well.
Will this development stick? As someone desperately craving a stable rotation allowed the chance to jell, I'd like to think so. But who knows? In any event, that's the news as reported.