Preseason games are rarely enticing, but they don't necessarily have to be this ugly. Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers, light on stars, were again waxed by the Utah Jazz, 114-80. Their preseason record stands now at 0-4 heading into Friday's game in Vegas (baby!).
Here are five takeaways:
1. Game play has offered few clues to how this whole thing will work.
Dwight Howard has yet to suit up. Jordan Hill is on the shelf. Kobe Bryant has missed a game. Tuesday, it was Pau Gasol's turn to observe in street clothes, as coach Mike Brown gave him the night off. These aren't peripheral players we're talking about, here. No surprise, then, to see the quality of play ebb and flow, whether in the starting lineup or among the reserves. Tonight's first five -- Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Antawn Jamison, and Metta World Peace -- led a first quarter in which L.A. scored a mere 15 points, on 4-for-15 shooting from the field. Even Kobe and Nash weren't on the same page. Late in the first, Kobe cut back door when Nash expected him to pop out high on the wing. Turnover. (The Lakers compounded the error by not getting back in transition, giving up a bucket sure to tick off Brown when the game film is reviewed. For that matter, the defensive effort as a whole, particularly in transition, was shoddy.)
The second quarter (and beyond) featured too many players who won't make the regular-season media guide to glean heaps of meaning. Nash didn't play after the first quarter, and so on.
The important thing is how the Lakers are able to practice, because that's where the real work of training camp gets done. In that regard, they're fine. Everyone (save Hill) has been on the floor consistently and with little restriction. Still, it can be argued actual game play hasn't offered a whole lot of clues as to what the Lakers will look like when the real games start.
2. Jamison still hasn't found the range.
There were positive signs Saturday, when Jamison canned a couple of jumpers and finished a well-executed set baseline inbounds play at the rack. Still, he entered Tuesday's game a paltry 6-of-18 from the field, and didn't do himself many favors in Anaheim. He turned an on-time, on-target feed from Nash into a first-quarter 3-pointer, but it was Jamison's only bucket among his first five attempts. His sixth, a hurried shot at the end of the clock, went off the front rim. Finally, he put one in off a nice feed inside from Bryant. In the second half, he missed each of his four attempts. Final line, 2-for-11, seven points.
He'll be fine, but for the time being Jamison isn't looking good.
3. Expect a heap of personals if Sacre is forced into service.
Fouls, not ads. Sacre fouled out of Saturday's game in 27 minutes. Tuesday, he picked up a pair of quick fouls in the first quarter, and his fourth early in the third. The most common problem most young centers face is learning to defend without fouling, and Sacre is certainly no different. There's no shame in taking lumps against Utah's high end frontcourt, but it's something he'll have to figure out over time.
4. Kobe put on a third-quarter show.
With the rest of L.A.'s stars on the bench and the game already out of hand, Bryant clearly felt compelled to give the people something to cheer about. Maybe it's because he lives in Orange County, maybe it's because he found the first half as unpleasant as the rest of us. Whatever the motivation, Bryant went video game on the Jazz, unleashing his full array of offensive weapons. There were triples, long jumpers, excellent dribble drives, turnarounds, floaters, calling birds, french hens, turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. In all, Kobe hit nine of his 11 attempts, and scored 23 points.
The Lakers, for what it's worth, scored 24, the lone non-Mamba point coming on a free throw from Steve Blake. During the quarter, someone tweeted me, asking what the record is for the most points scored in a preseason game. I don't know, and have absolutely no inclination to look it up. But 23 points in a quarter is really good, and at least briefly distracted from the ugliness put forth by the Lakers on the night.
5. Jodie Meeks showed his range.
He was brought in to be a shooter, and Tuesday Meeks showed off the range hitting four of his six 3-pointers in his most productive preseason game to date. His ability to knock down catch-and-shoot opportunities and stretch the floor will be very important for the Lakers this year, and while the battle for the backup 2-guard isn't yet settled, Meeks showed how his skill set might give him a leg up over a slasher like Devin Ebanks.