The Triumphant Return of Dudes Who've Actually Played for the Lakers
I didn't actually attend yesterday's SPL opening fiesta, but the general consensus seems to be that most guys looked somewhere between average and nondescript. Even more troubling (for those who like to press the panic button after one SPL game) was that Jordan Farmar aside, the cats whom you actually know and love (Andrew Bynum, Von Wafer, Devin Green) were especially unimpressive. Well, going off said sentiment, I imagine today's game, a 97-69 smoking of the "Dallas Mavericks," was a decided improvement. In particular, last year's rooks (who are this actually squad's vets, relatively speaking) made their presence felt.
Before I get into the game itself, a brief side note. The Mavs squad features a guy named DeAngelo Collins from Inglewood High. I had completely forgotten about this kid, but once I saw the name, I instantly remembered the articles about him getting into all sorts of trouble (not to mention going undrafted out of high school). I had no idea what had become of him, but all kidding aside, I'm relieved to see he's actually alive. Best of luck in what appears to be a life on track.
Anyway, your rundown, mostly focusing on last year's holdovers...
Andrew Bynum - I know BK already pointed it out, but it bears a second mention. Kid done swole up (and played with his socks pulled up)! He's starting to fill out and look like a man. I asked him what he's clocking in at these days and he estimated around 280. And judging by his play today, he's comfortable carrying the added bulk around. He pretty much had his way in the paint, as evidenced by the 14 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in 31 minutes (most of which came in the first half, since he didn't even play in the fourth). Offensively, he hit a couple baby hooks, a half layup/half jumper-looking thing (ugly but effective) and threw down a serious dunk off a Devin Green alley-oop. Socks also stayed out of foul trouble, which he said wasn't so much from making adjustments from yesterday as the refs calling things differently. That must have been the case, because he actually drew "and one's" today instead of giving them away (free throws that he made the most of by sinking four of five). All in all, a very good day. But not revolutionary. Again, Bynum's not even a year into voting privileges and the best player he went against today was probably Jelani McCoy, so don't expect these numbers everyday. As Kurt Rambis reminded us, "when we first got him, he was a project. He's still a project." If Bynum's playing 10 to 15 mpg next season, consider the experiment moving along nicely. Be patient.
Von Wafer - The Lakers Blog favorite had a rough first half, going 1-6 with his only bucket coming after a complete mental lapse. With a little over eight seconds left in the first, the Mavs scored and the ball was inbounded to Wafer. Inexplicably, Wafer was way nonchalant taking the ball upcourt, even slapping a low five to a teammate under the basket (I think he was trying to keep the guy's spirits up after allowing the Dallas score, but "time and place," Von!). Kid was actually risking an eight-second violation with basically only eight seconds on the clock. Finally, Rambis starting screaming about the clock and Wafer quickly chucked, drilling it from behind the arc. Nice recovery, but probably not how the coaching staff would have drawn things up. But the second half basically belonged to Wafer. He went 7-9, spending much more time taking the ball strong to the rack and under control (sorry, BK). He also had a nice couple of defensive sequences (three steals, all in the second half). Wafer said he's being asked to run the offense and read situations a little more, a switch from last season's summer league days (and 2006 in general) when he came in "wild and raw, just doing what I had been doing my whole life, shooting the ball." Rambis said today's game was an improvement and truth be told, Wafer actually seems a little more mature. (Again, my condolences to BK.)
Devin Green - Another guy who didn't do much in the first half (unless missing all five shot attempts was part of their set plays), but seriously came alive in the second, where he went 6-7 and played aggressively from minute one. Aside from a lazy inbound that resulted in a turnover, Green didn't do a whole lot wrong to close his day out. He and Jordan Farmar had a nice two man going for a few possessions, executing some smooth ball movement. "He's a pure point guard and I can always get along with people like that," joked Green. Rambis said they're counting on defensive intensity from Green and an increased ability to find players when they're open, much of which was on display. "He had a nice little thing in the second half where he was making shots and making the right passes and the right reads.... We just gotta go from there." I still think Green has a shot at making the team, but he's gotta keep working.
Jordan Farmar - After the game, your No. 26 pick said that he understands what he's been taught about the triangle thus far. Judging by his performance, I believe him. He looked absolutely comfortable calling out instructions, pointing people in various directions and generally being a leader. On the offensive side of the rock, he's got a lot going for him. He hit everything from treys to 8-foot floaters. He also had some terrific passes, including a behind the back dime leading to a Pinnock layup and a sweet dish as Green cut to the basket. Not surprisingly, Rambis complimented his instincts. Defensively, he got beat a couple times, but also came up with four steals, so that's certainly nice compensation. Now before getting all excited and ahead of yourself, yesterday and today are no indication that he's ready to take Smush's job. Remember, it's a lot different being guarded by Jason Kidd than whoever Ben Hunt is. While it's obviously not inconceivable, let's keep some perspective. But I do think he could get some minutes during the regular season.
Danilo "J.R." Pinnock - First time I've ever seen him play. Solid outing. Very athletic, very active and played very under control (nada turnovers). 11 points, four boards, a dime and a block. He even went coast to to coast for a layup after his swat. Can he make the team? Obviously, now's too early for speculation, but it'll be a tough road, regardless of his success. It's a guard heavy roster that doesn't appear to be getting guard-light anytime soon. (Say hey, Shammond???) But I would think he's making a case for himself.
Marcus Douthit - Another day in a row of hitting the boards. Ten in all, plus four dimes. A lot of energy and plays with mucho vigor. He didn't display any offense to speak of, but that's not where he's focusing himself unless called upon. "The Lakers don't need anybody who can score," Douthit noted. "They got Kobe and Lamar...I don't really worry about it as long as I rebound the ball." Like Pinnock, Douthit could fall prey to a numbers game, but he's worth keeping an eye on (especially if you're another team with an open spot and looking for a rebounder).
Nile Murray - Very quick kid. Got a couple of really nice steals (four total) and was active whenever he was on the floor. Needs to do better than 3-11 on the floor, though.
Laker Girls, rest easy. I don't see the SPL dancers replacing you come October, although the odds would dramatically increase if they took it upon themselves to make every boogie session an organized routine. A few times, there were all sorta just out there, bopping around and doing their own thing. I can tell you right now: the woman who instructs the Lakers Girls wouldn't tolerate such nonsense for a second.
The Pyramid's music system may be the same brand Staples uses. Unfortunately, those in charge of it apparently think the Pyramid is actually the size of Staples, because both are played at the same volume. I'm actually writing this post while newly and permanently deaf.
If Japanese point guard Yuta Tabuse (who played limited minutes for Dallas today) could stay in the league, he'd be a huge crowd favorite. Lightning quick. Sorta-dyed floppy-banged hair. Upon first glance, looks too unathletic to handle a game of air hockey. Who wouldn't cheer seeing that guy on the court?
Jelani McCoy is still not a very good basketball player.