Coming off a close win over the Clippers and escaping the ring ceremony trap game, the Lakers face the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center tonight. While the Lakers did not look terribly impressive in their opener, shooting only 41% from the field and winning by only 7, the same could be said for a somewhat revamped Mavs squad. The Mavericks dropped their opening night contest to Washington 102-91, getting 34 points from Dirk Nowitzki and not a whole lot from anyone else. Mark Cuban’s latest prized acquisition, Shawn Marion is only in it’s infancy, and time will tell if he is truly the missing piece that will push Dallas into the upper ranks of the Western Conference.
With the Mavericks in town tonight there are a few major things to watch for in the game, and on the sidelines.
- Artest with something to prove? Recently, Mark Cuban spoke out about the acquisition of Ron Artest by the Lakers, essentially stating that if he could pick anyone to add to the Lakers it would be Ron Artest, and not for the right reasons. Cuban, like many, believing that Artest’s somewhat troubled past is a clear indication that he will prove cancerous in La La Land. So far it has been quite the opposite story as Ron has been on his best behavior, getting great reviews from the coaching staff and his teammates in regards to his attitude and effort. On the court Ron has struggled to shoot the ball well in the pre-season and during their first game against the Clippers. Some continue to ask if he can be the guy who gets 17 points per game for this Lakers team, which the answer is no. Not because he is not capable, rather that on such a talented team as this, the shots simply are not available. Ron Artest has done his job thus far in purple and gold, putting his defensive hat on and taking the load of Kobe by locking up the opponents best player. Ron is so versatile that he is able to guard both smaller guards and mid sized post players with equal effectiveness. If the Lakers do in fact hit an offensive dry spell however, Artest can no doubt step in to produce 20+ points in any given game, he has that offensive ability. Cuban in most cases is nothing more than a loud mouth owner who likes to put himself at the fore front of the media’s attention. His comments about Ron are likely to hurt his team more than help, something which he is seemingly rather versed at doing. There is no doubt that the quotes from Cuban have been bulletin board material for Artest, and he will be driven to show just how much he does bring to the Lakers, tonight.
- Big D? Although Pau Gasol will not play in tonight’s game, the Lakers still hold a large advantage over the Mavericks inside the paint. While Dallas also boasts two seven footers in Dirk Nowitzki and Eric(a) Dampier, the tandem inside for the Lakers of Bynum and Odom should once again dominate the glass. Due to Dirk’s outside shooting ability, he rarely spends much time in the paint, and when placed in combination with a slow and aging Dampier, the opportunity for the Lakers is endless. Odom is quick enough to guard Nowitzki on the perimeter, yet the opposite is not true and provides Lamar with a decided advantage should he choose to take advantage of it. Dirk will surely get his during the course of the game, yet if Lamar can neutralize his offensive attack while wearing him down with his speed and versatility in the key, the Lakers will have a much easier night in front of them. Dampier may have a few extra pounds on young Andrew Bynum, yet the quickness and array of post moves that Drew possess’ will be too much for slow and flat footed centers.
- Point Guards: The Lakers must take advantage of these interior opportunities while also being aware of the dangers which loom at the point guard position. Although Jason Kidd has slowed somewhat over time, the tandem of Kidd and Jason “Jet” Terry running the point may cause problems. Fisher notoriously has difficulty staying in front of the leagues quicker guards, and Terry ranks very near the top of that category. Expect the Mavericks to utilize their sixth man in hopes of wearing down the steady hand of Fish, and getting to the Lakers young and less experienced bench.