New Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had a successful debut in Los Angeles on Tuesday night as his side slipped past the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 95-90.
D’Antoni doesn’t get a chance to rest as his second test will come on the road with the Lakers heading south to visit their in-state rivals down in Sacramento on Wednesday.
Here are a few key things to consider ahead of the game:
What’s the point?
The Lakers received some bad news on Tuesday when D’Antoni told the media that there is no timetable for the return of point guard Steve Nash and that his back-up, Steve Blake, will miss at least the next four games due to an abdominal strain.
D’Antoni told the Los Angeles Times that Nash is “coming along.”
As for Blake, he said, “I’d like to see him practice before he plays and we have four games in five nights and we don’t practice on Thanksgiving, so I’m going to rule him out for the next four games.”
The Nets were unable to take advantage of the Lakers’ weakness as they went cold from the field. Point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson were a combined 12-for-34 from the field.
With Aaron Brooks being the Kings’ primary point guard, it’s unlikely that the Lakers will be troubled. Darius Morris will once again get the start for Los Angeles.
Close your eyes Kobe
Late in Tuesday’s game Nets forward Gerald Wallace tried to get Kobe Bryant to be like Mike from the free-throw line.
“I was trying to get him to close his eyes to shoot,” Wallace told the New York Daily News.
Jordan once famously canned a free throw with his eyes closed and Wallace was trying to play on Bryant’s affinity for the Chicago Bulls legend. But Bryant made Wallace think twice when he told him to put his money where his mouth is.
“I had to make a big bet,” Wallace said. “So I told him just shoot the free throws.”
The return of the Hack-a-Shaq
While Shaquille O’Neal helped the Lakers win a couple of titles, L.A. fans had to live with his dismal free-throw shooting as teams would often force Shaq to the free-throw line by fouling him whenever he touched the ball. It was often referred to as “Hack-a-Shaq.”
They got their first taste of the Hack-a-Dwight era on Tuesday night when the Nets decided to test the practice on newcomer Dwight Howard, another notoriously poor free-throw shooter.
Howard went 7-for-19 from the charity stripe including an airball in the Lakers win.
D’Antoni didn’t seem to bothered by the Nets tactic.
“The thing with Dwight that I hope he knows is they started ‘Hack a Dwight’ and he made one out of two,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News. “That’s one point per possession. That’s pretty good basketball especially down the stretch. That’s fine. If they want to do that, that’s great. I have no problem.”
Tough to be a Kings fan
At 2-8, the Kings are off to their worst start in over 20 years and team president Geoff Petrie believes that Sacramento’s woes can be blamed on their inability to score baskets.
“I don’t think you can avoid that our record isn’t what we hoped it would be at this point, and the major reason for that is that we’ve just struggled mightily on offense,” he told the Sacremnto Bee. “The improvements we’ve made defensively for the most part have been mitigated by not being able to be productive offensively, primarily in the halfcourt.”
Of course, this team was assembled by Petrie who needs to take part of the blame for the Kings’ troubles in the halfcourt game.
In Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, the Kings have a trio of players who are shoot-first. The aforementioned troika have all taken over 100 shots and not one could be described as efficient as Thornton is shooting 39.2 per cent, Evans is at 41 per cent and Cousins is shooting 43.1 per cent.
Petrie is not prepared to blow up the roster this early into the season though.
“I think in the short term, you have to give it a little more time,” Petrie said. “And maybe there are different lineup combinations that will work better, maybe there are different rotations that will work better.
“But at some point those things have to be open for discussion. I don’t think this early in the season there are teams looking to be aggressive and make changes.”