Much to my dismay, the Lakers have not moved back to Minnesota or been disbanded by the NBA. No, the only thing Los Angeles did this offseason was get better, at least on paper, by virtually swapping Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza for their upcoming title defense. The Lakers are still the favorites to win it all and they face the Nuggets twice (starting tonight) to wrap up the pre-season on national television.
You have to hand it to the NBA ... after not airing countless pre-season games we get to see the Nuggets on TNT and ESPN in a back-to-back all California series against the said Lakers.
The funny part to me ...
If the Nuggets play well in the first of the two meetings, Karl might sit many of his regulars to give them some rest in advance of the Oct. 28 season opener against Northwest Division rival Utah.
So, ESPN wants to air the Western Conference Finals rematch, but may not get any of the star power if Karl decides to rest his players. This is funny because you know ESPN wants the Melo vs. Kobe match, but we the fans will get a look at the reserves ... something many of us want! Bring on Ty Lawson, Joey Graham, Arron Afflalo, Johan Petro, Malik Allen, and Renaldo Balkman! It's just too bad James "Flight" White wont be around ...
Do these final two preseason games mean anything?
I don't put a lot of stock into preseason games. I actually got into an argument before the NFL season about preseason games with a friend. My friend thought preseason records counted as a tiebreaker come playoff time. As you can read here ... they do not. Luckily, if worse comes to worse in football ... you get to flip a coin to see which team advances to the post-season! Basketball has yet to employ the coin toss rule into playoff tiebreakers.
Anyway, if the Nuggets win both games or lose both games I will not let the outcomes sway my thoughts on the season in any way whatsoever. But it will be fun to get a look at each team tonight.
Questions heading into the game ...
Lakers: the "experts" pick to win the West
- How will the 35 year-old Derek Fisher look at point guard? Is Jordan Farmar or Shannon Brown ready to take the majority of the workload off the veteran? (Pretty similar question in Denver with Ty Lawson.)
- How does Andrew Bynum look? Is the big man healthy and returning to his pre-injury form?
- I'm expecting Kobe to still be Kobe ... even at 31 years of age. But is he still as explosive?
- How does the Lakers chemistry look with Ron Artest?
- Basically ... are there any chinks in the Lakers armor?
Nuggets: the "experts" pick to finish around 3.8 in the West
- Can Double-A (Arron Afflalo) or Joey Graham match up with Kobe? Can Melo?
- How do the Nuggets bigs attack and defend the Lakers bigs? (Especially Nene)
- Can Ron Artest handle Melo?
- How are the Nuggets defending the triangle? Is there a lot of switching? (Which I think cost the Nuggets Games 5 and 6 in the Western Conference Finals)
- How does the bench look?
- Who are the secondary scoring options outside of Melo, J.R. Smith, and Chauncey Billups?
So, I'll be looking for a lot of things in tonight's game. I think the Nuggets will come out tonight, knowing that if they play well it means reduced work tomorrow for some, and look sharp. I don't particularly care about the end result, but I do want to see Denver play team basketball, like the 34 assist night against the Timberwolves earlier in the week.
Tonight may be our best look at the regular season team Denver will put on the floor versus the Jazz on October 28th. So get to a TV and check back here around game time and join in on the game thread ... get ourselves a little preseason work in while we're at it.