Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lakers' Post Preseason Wrap-Up: What We've Learned Thus Far

Kobe: "Yeah, and aside from Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom, I too also play for the Lakers!!" Artest: "Damnnn, we're that good?!"

So apparently D.J. Mbenga really, and I mean really, likes to shoot mid-range jump shots. Why? I have absolutely no clue. At times it seems as though he just erroneously comes to this horribly misled conclusion that he needs to help pick up the scoring slack behind Kobe and carry this young, offensively challenged team (yeah right) all on his own. Well, I don’t care if he makes 10 jump shots in a row, I will never trust D.J. Mbenga with that shot…unless he’s blocking himself and the ball ricochets off to any other Laker player for a better shot. Stick to the blocks, Deej - that's one area you can let yourself get carried away with all you want (especially on all the Kenyon Martins of the world).

With that little vent out of the way, let’s move on to the more significant developments of the preseason – LIKE
BLAKE GRIFFIN ABSOLUTELY ERASING D.J. MBENGA’S LIFE with a thunderous dunk during the Lakers-Clippers Staples shoot out!! Ok ok, I’ll lay off Congo Cash. Promise.

So as the Lakers wrapped up their preseason run this past Friday against the Denver Nuggets to finish 6-2, Laker fans across the nation were finally afforded a more complete and tangible picture of just how much potential damage and firepower this Laker team can dish-out to the rest of the league this upcoming season. While most of our previous theories were confirmed, there were still some surprisingly welcome, new developments that came to the forefront as well that exceeded even our own expectations. Here’s a mini-recap of all the players and events that proved noteworthy of mention in my mind this preseason (and yes, no more DJ Mbenga talk):

- Ron Artest is who we thought he was – or at least has played how we thought he would play. I had a feeling Ron-Ron would come out as a willing facilitator and a consummate role-player, but even he was a little too tentative for my liking. In spite of this, Artest really surprised me with his crafty handles and his overall court vision, proving himself an adept passer and solid triangle operator. I guess on a team like this, Artest’s underrated playmaking abilities can finally gain the credit it deserves; as he had many great passes to many of the Lakers’ big men this preseason (most notably Andrew Bynum). And even if his shot wasn’t on every night, Artest never failed to bring the intensity and grit on both ends of the court that the Lakers are counting on him for this season. Although, doesn’t it seem like Artest makes a better percentage of his threes by floating and fading away off curls than he does by spotting up as a stand-still, Ariza-like shooter? Regardless, this was, overall, a very solid showing for the Tru Warier in his first, unofficial games as a Laker.

- Andrew Bynum looks like he’s in mid-season, beast-mode form. You know that little mad run Bynum had near the end of December and into January last season when he was a consistent 20-10-2 beast? Yeah, that could come a little earlier this year and even carry itself through the ring ceremony of 10-11. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…Going into preseason, many of us questioned just how healthy and dedicated Bynum would be this year, coming from an inactive off-season filled primarily by college-like sightseeing and backpacking across the world. Well, those doubts have all been erased after Bynum averaged a cool 20.3 ppg and 7.6 rpg in 6 preseason games for the Lakers. While his blocks, rebounds, and overall defense leave something to be desired for, there’s no questioning the fact that Bynum’s offensive game and diverse skill set in the post are primed and ready to propel him into a break-out, All-Star season. So put your braces on kid, time to show the rest of the league why you were picked ahead of Yaroslav Korolev…I mean, Danny Granger.

- Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown have switched bodies. In a strange new turn of events, our two young point guards have apparently swapped mentalities this season, as Farmar is now the more triangle-sound and under-control, playmaking point guard while Brown has suddenly become the more offensively assertive, jump-shooting friendly scoring guard (complete with high-flying peanut butter jelly jam-time action, of course). While both have done very admirable jobs with the new roles they’ve undertaken this preseason (even playing surprisingly well together on the court at times), it’s definitely interesting to note the changed dynamic between the two. I have to give it up to Farmar, he has played exceptionally well thus far and has shown a real effective knack for finding his teammates at just the right spots on the floor. We always knew Farmar had the ability to become a great playmaker, but now he finally has the mentality to follow suit with it. We can only hope he continues to keep up this stellar play throughout this season and beyond – especially after we get coaxed into resigning him for the midlevel like we’ve done for so many of our other guys in the past. Regarding Farmar’s counterpart, Brown, who's been a little too trigger happy this preseason, we’ve at least got to hand it to him for making a fair amount of all those shots he's hoisted up (including this new turn-around jay of his from the key that he’s effectively added to his repertoire). We also can’t leave out the fact that Brown has been our most consistent, human highlight reel this entire preseason. Gotta love those statue of liberties from just inside the free throw line – and we also gotta love the prevalent 'guard-pushing-guard' dynamic that’s sure to continue between him and Farmar for the rest of the season.

- The Machine has been retooled. It’s just preseason, but Sasha has definitely started to look like that same-old, annoying prepubescent teen shooter that we’ve all grown to love or hate over these past few years. His shot looks wet, he looks a lot more under-control on offense, and even his pesky, out-of-control defense and oscar-winning flops look just as effective as well. Chalk it up to the Samson-Reversal Effect.

- Adam Morrison, ironically, needs some more ammo in his NBA arsenal. Outside of one hot-streak he went on against the Clippers, where he went 4-4 from downtown, Morrison has, unfortunately, been but a shell of his Gonzaga self this preseason. While things look a bit bleak for him this upcoming season, hopefully he gets another small opportunity here and there to prove that he can contribute in any small way.

- Josh Powell is the next Udonis Haslem. Except Haslem starts for the Heat, and Powell is a secondary reserve on the Lakers’ bench. Enough said. Powell to the people!

- Lamar Odom thinks he’s Antawn Jamison. Odom’s shot has surprisingly been very Khloe Kardashian-on from downtown this preseason. He was also very consistent from three during the playoffs as well last season. Is there a positive correlation of sorts developing here? Hmm…Can Lamar Odom re-define his game to become not only a deadly rebounder, but a deadly outside shooter like Antawn Jamison as well? Well, let’s hope so, because he still apparently can’t make wide open lay-ups. Just don’t get too Mbenga-shot happy, LO.

- Kobe is Kobe. If he’s in contention for the MVP award this year, he’ll win it purely off of his unrelenting intensity and tireless ferocity out on the floor. I mean, the man was diving, throwing his body around, and making fun of Cap’n Kid-Jack all at the same time – during PRESEASON! Who knows, he may only average 24 pts this season, but old pops could still end up holding all the hardware in his hands before all is said and done.

- Get better, Pau-pau! Hopefully between now and Tuesday, Pau gets some good old TLC for his sore hamstring and he’ll be good to go for his showdown with Blake Griffin in the Lakers’ season opener against the Clips.

-The Laker Bench mob likes to ‘stand up’ for their rights by sitting down and crossing their legs. Proving that they’re an innovative, fun bunch, the Laker bench has successfully created the new 09-10 pre-made-basket ritual by which all other teams will try and measure up to for the rest of the season. Cross leg right, stomp twice with right leg, then switch and cross leg left.

Ok, enough talk - let’s Beyonce-up this show already, put a ring on it on Tuesday, and get our Laker basketball on for another championship run in Los Angeles! We'll let D.J. be the first to hoist up the trophy next year too because he's just that money - congo cash money.

The Jello's Jigglin' with anticipation,
Jonathan Hernandez
(Chick's Fridge)

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