Incredibly enough, we’re just three days away from Lakers basketball as they’ll play their first preseason game of the season on Saturday against the Warriors.
While Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will be limited, game one of the preseason should allow players like Shawne Williams, Elias Harris, Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson a chance to prove themselves.
Every Wednesday this preseason, regular season and hopefully in the playoffs, I’ll be rolling out a trending up and down article about which Lakers are heading in the right direction and those heading the other way.
Here’s who’s trending up and down after a few days of practice ahead of the first playoff game.
Williams was signed to a non-guaranteed deal after not playing a single game last season as his ties to head coach Mike D’Antoni played a role in him signing on with the Lakers.
In his one season under D’Antoni in New York, Williams averaged seven points and 21 minutes and through four days of training camp, he’s turning heads. Williams has been seen knocking down shot after shot and as we all know, if you can make shots in D’Antoni’s system, you’ll usually play.
Williams will have to fend Harris, Xavier Henry and Marcus Landry for a shot on the Lakers opening night roster, but it sounds like he has a slight edge at the moment.
Farmar is in his second tour of duty with the Lakers after playing for the Nets and overseas for a couple seasons. Now 26 years old, Farmar will compete with Steve Blake for the primary backup point guard duties.
However, D’Antoni and trainer Gary Vitti have maintained all offseason long that they want to limited Nash’s minutes and with Kobe Bryant no guarantee for the start of the season, expect Farmar and Blake to be in the backcourt together.
Farmar also said that he’s going to be in Nash’s ear trying to learn all season long as he seems extra motivated to prove he belongs in the NBA.
There hasn’t been much said about Hill, but it sounds like he’s the likely candidate to start alongside Pau Gasol at power forward. Hill missed 54 games last year, but showed in the games he was healthy that he was a player that didn’t need the ball to make a play.
It’ll be interesting to see how D’Antoni configures the starting lineup for opening night, but starting Kaman and Pau doesn’t seem like something he’d do if he wants to push the pace.
This isn’t so much about what Blake has done, but the Lakers having so many guards due to the uncertainty surrounding Kobe’s availability to start the season.
Blake is in a crowded backcourt that has Nick Young, Farmar and Jodie Meeks, but should still see the lion share of the backup minutes behind Nash. Where Blake can separate himself is the fact that he can play both the one and the two, but there’s definitely a lot of mouths to feed in the Lakers backcourt.
When the Lakers selected Kelly out of Duke, it was a bit of a head scratcher for the simple fact that he was injured at the time. Kelly projects to be a stretch four in the NBA and D’Antoni definitely salivated at how he shot the ball behind the arc at Duke, but he’s been behind since the start.
Kelly is running at 90 percent and the fact that he’s a second-round pick without a guaranteed contract, makes it much harder for him to stay with the Lakers. While the Lakers could keep him around due to intrigue alone, Kelly has a lot of catching up to do once the preseason begins.
Henry should never have left Kansas after just one season and the former lottery pick is now onto his third team in his young NBA career.
Henry faces stiff competition from Williams, Landry, Kelly and possibly Harris for one of the last roster spots. Without Metta World Peace, the Lakers are looking for starting small forward and at this point, D’Antoni hasn’t tipped his hand who is going to start.
In his young career, Henry hasn’t shown he’s capable of sticking on an NBA roster as he’ll have plenty to prove to the Lakers coaching staff.
Make sure you check out our interview with Marcus Landry