After 0-8 preseason, Lakers focused on big picture

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
11:52
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Los Angeles LakersChristopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireWith their 0-8 preseason behind then, the Lakers hope to implement a long-range plan for success.

SAN DIEGO -- So that went well.

For um ... Robert Sacre?

As for the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers, at some point an 0-8 preseason really does feel like an 0-8 preseason. Not good and not particularly fun for what is supposed to be the NBA's newest super-team.

It's also not particularly meaningful, unless it actually is.

If that sounds like a riddle, now you know what it has been like for the Lakers players trying to learn their third offensive scheme in three years, assimilate seven new players and three new assistant coaches and go on a barnstorming tour of some of the farthest-flung arenas in California.

"It's a big change for me," Steve Nash said.

"I'm just trying to learn the offense," Dwight Howard shrugged.

Thursday night it all finally ended in a whimper, as the Lakers dropped another not-very-close-one to the Sacramento Kings, 94-82. The floor in the old San Diego Sports Arena (now called the Valley View Casino Center) was as hard as ever, the shot clock didn't work for much of the second half and the locker room was, uh, rustic.

"I felt like Will Ferrell," Nash joked, referring to the comedy "Semi-Pro" about a second-tier basketball league.

By the end of the night, they were all done with it. The preseason had gone on far too long. And yet, somehow the Lakers ended it with a feeling of not really having enough time.

The offense is still a work in progress. Timing, rhythm, all those little things that go into making a team a team, all that is still brewing. Kobe Bryant is dealing with a troublesome foot injury. Howard is still making his way back from back surgery. Nash is still figuring out how to make the Princeton offense his own.

"Once we get it and everybody understands and trusts it, we'll be fine," Howard said. "I keep telling the guys, 'This is a process. We're not going to get this overnight. We're playing for June. We have to remember that.'"

True. Only now the games are going to start counting. And for a team with expectations as high as the Lakers, the grace period barely extends past the preseason.

"Are you guys going to be this fun once the season starts?" Howard joked before starting his postgame interview session. "What about when we lose a couple games?"

He was kidding, sort of.

Howard was a part of only two of the Lakers preseason losses. But a winless preseason is still a winless preseason.

"I would've loved to get one, at least one, but there's nothing we can do now," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "The worst thing about it, honestly, is that my preseason record with the Lakers is 0-10. Hopefully, next year I'll get a win."

Ah, humor. Best way to diffuse the tension and remind everyone that preseason games are just glorified scrimmages in nice uniforms.

The end results don't matter one bit, but what you saw on the court really is what the Lakers are right now: unfinished.

The question is how long will it take to smooth out the rough spots, such as the unsightly 149 turnovers they racked up these past eight games?

"I think we're going to improve in the offense the entire season," Nash said. "But hopefully there will be a time in the next month where we can get to a comfortable state and exploit the offense and do a lot of good things out of it."

There's that word again: hopefully.

As in, hopefully the Lakers' 0-8 preseason doesn't mean much of anything in the long run.

Fortunately, the Lakers open up with nine of their first 11 games at home, starting Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks, who are also living with the pains of an offseason rebuild.

After that, the Lakers head to Portland on Halloween, then come home for games against the Clippers (Nov. 2) and Detroit Pistons (Nov. 4).

What in these eight preseason games gives them hope the games that count will end better?

"We've covered a lot of ground, although it didn't show on the scoresheets," Nash said. "We've learned a lot, we've come together. We've put in a tremendous amount.

"You look at some of the other teams that have the same players and run the same stuff. For them, they're miles ahead of us at this stage. But we've got to think big picture and long term. Hopefully this will allow us to really be good down the line, even though we're struggling now."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
25.2 4.8 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.6
AssistsK. Bryant 4.8
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2