Andrew Bynum: Sore shoulder (minor): Did not practice: Will Not Play
Pau Gasol: Practiced : Will Not Play
Luke Walton: Practiced : Will Play
The season opener is inching closer, less than a week away the ring ceremony and championship banner raising awaits. Let that sink in for a second…excited yet? Of course you are, but meanwhile there are still two pre-season barn burners to go before that triumphant night is here. Both contests will be against the Denver Nuggets, one back at the Honda Center (tonight), and the other in San Diego on Friday. These two games against a fairly talented Nuggets squad should provide the perfect last minute tune up the Lake Show needs before the games begin to count. More important than winning these games is putting the final touches on their offensive/defensive game plans, continuing to develop their bench players roles, and most of all, stay healthy. A scare to Andrew Bynum after the last game is nearly all Lakers fans need to have a heart attack before the season is even under way, let’s hope to avoid anything further as the team wraps up pre-season play.
Back in Orange County tonight, the Lakers (5-1) take on the Denver Nuggets (3-3) at the Honda Center. This will mark the Lakers second appearance in “The OC”, defeating the Golden State Warriors there in the first pre-season game, 118-101. The Denver Nuggets come in to this game clearly committed to sticking with their high powered offensive strategy, posting over a hundred points in all by two of their pre-season games thus far. While the Nuggets have never had issues scoring the basketball, it has been their ability to shut teams down on defense that has caused issues for this squad. Down low the Nuggets will look to defend with Chris “Birdman” Anderson, who presented problems for the Lakers in last years playoffs, coupled with Nene and Kenyon Martin. Carmelo Anthony will be their primary scoring threat, and most likely will begin the game matched up on both ends with Kobe Bryant. These two got into a heated battle during the post season, and I fully expect the friendly rivalry to continue into the 09-10 campaign. The first test for Derek Fisher will present itself tonight in the form of Chauncey Billups, the most talented PG the Lakers have seen thus far in the pre-season and no doubt one who has given them issues in the past. It will be telling to see how Fisher handles this match up, and if the use of Farmar or Brown will prove more beneficial against Chauncey for the long run. Finally, early on the Nuggets have given minutes to newcomers, Joey Graham, Aaron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson, all of whom have produced fairly well thus far.
Here are a few things to look for tonight and on Friday as the Lakers wrap up the pre-season:
- The screws begin to tighten: After the Lakers sent Thomas Kelati to waivers today, there is only one remaining player who is not a carry over from last year’s squad, or named Ron Artest. Tony Gaffney has played some inspired basketball, but will it be enough to hang onto a roster spot? The Lakers have stated they only expect to carry 13 players into the season, yet he will still have a chance to prove himself in these final games.
- Derek Fisher vs. Chauncey Billups: An intriguing point guard match up that will begin reveal any further affects father time may be having on D-Fish.
- J.R. Smith- Will he lose his mind in the pre-season or wait? I am always entertained as to when J.R. Smith will act like he is a far better player than reality would indicate. Will we be so lucky to see the chicken dance in the pre-season?
Projected Starting Lineups according to ESPN.com: