Five things to watch in Lakers-Clippers game
1. Derek Fisher will probably sit out. Lakers Coach Mike Brown has granted the most rest to Fisher, sitting him for Friday's intrasquad scrimmage against USC and some full-court contact drills. Brown plans to do the same in Monday's game against the Clippers because the veteran guard is still catching up on his conditioning after a summer filled more with contract negotiation meetings than off-court workouts.
Therefore, Steve Blake gets the nod, and his role deviates from what Brown wants from Fisher. While Brown is asking Fisher to concentrate on stopping opposing guards from driving into the lane, Brown wants Blake to be more of an on-ball defender. The way the Lakers guard Clippers guard Chris Paul will prove to be different then, although just as challenging.
2. Will the Lakers' defense improve? Amid all the positive coach-speak from Brown in training camp, he hasn't minced words about his displeasure with the team's inconsistency on defense. The main problem areas involve team communication, getting back on transition defense and avoiding frustration after committing turnovers. A preseason game means very little, but one against a youthful team such as the Clippers, particularly against Paul, will provide an early indication of the Lakers' ability to improve in that area.
4. Brown values teaching over winning. Don't expect Brown to be consumed with the outcome. Wait until next week. At this point, Brown's using these preseason games as extra practice sessions. So the strategy will involve resting Fisher, limiting Kobe Bryant's playing time in the low-30-minute range and trying various lineup combinations to see what works. If anything, the newcomers gain the most out of this game, including Josh McRoberts, Trey Murphy, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. All have acknowledged to some degree feeling like they've been thrown in the fire since training camp started. This will help mitigate that. Also, expect Andrew Bynum to play a heavy role since he's serving a five-game suspension to start the season.
5. Will Blake Griffin dunk over Metta World Peace? The Lakers player formerly known as Ron Artest professes he won't just let the Clippers' rising star posterize him. But he has also acknowledged that it's inevitable. We'll see.
-- Mark Medina
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