LOS ANGELES -- For those concerned about such things, the Los Angeles Lakers remain winless in the preseason, as the Utah Jazz outscored them by 24 points in the second half Saturday at Staples and won going away, 99-86. So there are kinks to work out, but this is as good a time as any to remind folks that the actual score of games featuring players who won't actually be on the team at the end of the month aren't all that important.
Here are five takeaways.
1. Robert Sacre wants to be on the Lakers.
You'd expect any 60th pick to work his tail off in any preseason burn, because that's what 60th picks are supposed to do. Sacre definitely does just that, and over 27 minutes Saturday it paid off in the form of 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He hit the floor in pursuit of loose balls (it's a long way to the ground for a 7-footer), and did his best getting up and down the floor. But Sacre isn't just hustle, the activity comes with purpose. On multiple occasions he went high on the perimeter defensively in pick-and-roll coverage, and rotated well defending the basket, including a Sacreblock! (patent pending) on Al Jefferson in the third quarter. Offensively, when he rolled to the bucket on P-n-R sets, he did so assertively, and also tossed in some nice post moves on the block.
He still has plenty to learn -- avoiding fouls (he picked up his sixth with 10:22 left in the fourth) and playing defense while staying on the floor, for example -- but overall Sacre looked like a guy who belongs in the NBA. Whether it's with the Lakers remains to be seen, but he's certainly not hurting his chances. Nine points, 10 rebounds, three blocks.
2. Kobe Bryant went hard, particularly early.
Perhaps it was a matter of using up all the energy left over from sitting Wednesday's game in Ontario? But from the jump, Kobe was playing with a level of oomph not typically seen in the preseason, translating into an impressive floor game. There was the highlight reel no-look pass through his legs to Pau Gasol on the break in the first quarter, and an almost equally slick feed to Antawn Jamison from the right baseline to the left in the second. He grabbed seven rebounds, three offensive, and lived at the rim earning 12 free throws, making 11. Defensively, he had two steals and a block. Final line: 25 minutes, 18 points (12-for-14 from the line), eight rebounds, five assists.
3. Not a great night for Gasol.
Five times he turned the ball over, three times he had his shot blocked, and for most of his 27:44 didn't look particularly comfortable.
As Andy wrote earlier in the week, weary camp legs could be a factor, but some of it is probably a matter of finding his way in the new system. The assumption once L.A. acquired Steve Nash was that Pau would flourish, but like everything else with this team it could take a little time.
There were plenty of things to like about what Ebanks did Saturday night. In the first half, Ebanks made a nice play putting the ball on the floor from the top of the key, guarding the ball well to finish at the rim. He made a great play to Sacre, calling him up high on the floor to set a screen, then whipping him the pass on the roll where Sacre drew a foul. In the second half, he finished again at the rim.
Overall, he showed plenty of confidence.
So did Morris, and it led to some good moments, including a great first quarter dish to Jamison on the wing for a jumper (one among his four assists), along with a nice drive/reverse layup in the second half. But too often Morris dribbled himself into trouble, and paid the price in a busted possession. He finished with four assists against one TO, but the solid ratio doesn't tell the whole story. Plus, Morris missed five of his six shots. We're talking about a 21-year old guard who barely played in his rookie season, so mistakes are going to come. While it was "his turn" so to speak to get the backup minutes behind Nash, Morris probably didn't leap up the depth chart for the real games. Plenty of potential there, but he still needs marinating.
5. Metta World Peace isn't the guy he was in last year's training camp, and that's a great thing.
MWP, by his own admission, is in much better physical condition this year than last, and it shows. The speed with which he's getting up the floor, and more important his mobility coming back the other way, is outstanding. He chased down a few plays Saturday, the highlight coming when he ripped the ball from Utah's Gordon Hayward at the basket in transition, forcing the ball out of bounds. (And just to prove chivalry isn't dead, MWP kissed the hand of the nice woman who returned the basketball to him.) Offensively, he earned six trips to the line and hit three of his four triples, en route to 12 points.
There were some typically goofy moments, but even when things didn't turn out well, the signs were encouraging. In the first half, Metta went full court on the break, and when he tried to finish at the rim was blocked. So the end result wasn't great, but the real takeaway was the speed with which he went from end-to-end. Last year, that guy didn't show up until very late.