- Teams: Detroit Pistons (0-2) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-3)
- Date: November 4, 2012
- Time: 9:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
Andy Kamenetzky, writer for the ESPN Los Angeles Land O’ Lakers blog, was kind enough to answer five questions about tonight’s Lakers-Pistons matchup. I also responded to some pregame questions for him if you’d like to go check those out.
1. The Lakers obviously made two of the biggest (if not THE biggest) moves of the offseason in acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Just give a little overview of your impressions of each guy as a Laker so far.
“Between the two, Howard’s made the more immediate positive impression. His timing and conditioning aren’t quite right yet, particularly on the defensive side. As a lane protector, where Howard typically changes games, he’s been fairly ineffective. (Although to be fair, his job has been made difficult by equally inept work from his teammates across the board.) Thus, he doesn’t truly look like Dwight Howard. At the same time, he’s also averaging 21.7 points, 10.7 boards and a shade over 14 trips to the line while getting up to speed. I’m quite confident of the future once Howard hits his stride.
“Nash, however, has been a tougher fit. He’s got the green light to run the offense however he wants, but is admittedly trying hard to get the entire team up to speed with the Princeton, a goal that’s come at the expense of letting fly in his natural style. As a result, Nash has looked like a fish out of water, often tentative about what to initiate and when. When he gives up the ball, he doesn’t always get it back, and regularly ends up a bystander. This discomfort only further spotlights the defensive issues expected under the best of circumstances.
“I do think Nash will eventually discover a happy place as the entire team grows more cohesive, and I’m hardly panicking over his early start. But it will take a while before he truly hits a groove, and the small leg fracture currently sidelining him will only lengthen this timeline.”
2. With five rookies on the roster, the Pistons have expressed a desire to run more this season. Is that something you worry about with an older team like the Lakers? Do you think teams that commit to playing up-tempo against them will have some success?
Absolutely, particularly while the Lakers are still clearly not on the same page defensively. At peak efficiency, there’s a ceiling to how well the Lakers can defend in transition. They’re simply too slow to get consistent stops while backpedaling. Moreover, this weakness has been exacerbated by a tendency to play like the ball is a greased pig. This team commits so many turnovers, you’d think players added them as a contract incentive. Some are the result of not knowing the offense. Others are due to sloppiness. Either way, they hurt, and as you mentioned in your half of this exchange, these Pistons have been fairly effective at forcing turnovers anyway. I could see Detroit inducing some easy scores this way.
3. With the highly skilled Greg Monroe and the athletic freakishness of Andre Drummond, I think many Pistons fans look at the Lakers Gasol-Howard frontcourt as stylistically similar (though nowhere near similar talent-wise). How do you see Howard and Gasol complementing each other this season?
“Offensively, their synergy has been a bright spot. While Andrew Bynum operated almost exclusively from the left block, Howard can be placed all over the court because of his ability to play high screen-and-roll. In turn, Gasol is able to play down low more often than last season, even if he’ll inevitably launch his fair share of mid-range jumpers. Also, Gasol is arguably the best passing big man in the entire league, and makes a habit of finding Howard. Gasol and Bynum used to run a very successful 4/5 pick-and-roll, and we’ve already seen that from the current duo, as well as El Spaniard-to-Superman lobs. They could be terrifyingly good together.
“Defensively, like the rest of the team, they’re a serious work in progress, but I also think the potential is high. Both can cover a lot of ground, whether showing, then recovering in pick-and-roll coverage or closing on shooters. Plus, those are four very long arms altering lane in the paint and grabbing missed shots. The two could make life miserable for opposing scorers.”
4. Being in Michigan, I have to ask you a Darius Morris question. Any chance he cracks the rotation for Los Angeles this season? Are the Lakers high on him as a prospect?
“Under normal circumstances, probably not. Morris obviously won’t beat out Nash, and were I to guess, probably not Steve Blake, who’s earned the confidence of Mike Brown despite his inconsistencies. However, with Nash out, Blake’s the starter and Brown opted to play Morris ahead of Chris Duhon Friday against the Clippers. The kid performed credibly (7 points, including a triple, one assist, one steal) and I imagine he’ll keep those minutes against Detroit.
“Is he truly ready? That remains to be seen.
“Morris does a fairly good job penetrating into the teeth of defenses, a skill on notably short supply among the Lakers’ perimeter players, and his mind operates like a point guard’s. However, he also has a bad habit of over-dribbling into trouble, and his jump shot isn’t reliable enough to command much respect, which can limit his effectiveness. Defensively, he hasn’t necessarily stood out. Mike Brown gave Morris a few chances during preseason, and the results were fairly erratic. But he’s got an opportunity in front of him, and will hopefully make the most of it.
“Either way, every impression I’ve gotten is that the team is high on Morris long-term. He’s got great natural size for the point (with some extra muscle added in the offseason), works hard, and has a great attitude.”
5. Your prediction for this game …
The Lakers are 0-3 and that locker room is growing edgy. The Pistons are equally winless, but unequally talented. That sets up nicely for the hosts to finally break through. Plus, I’m not ready for a visit from the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The Lakers have to win, right? (Right?)