Centers Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers and DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers jump for the opening tip off at Staples Center on November 2, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 105-95. The teams meet again on Friday night with the Clippers being the home team.
After a day off on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers convened in El Segundo for a hard practice that included a full contact five-on-five scrimmage ahead of the upcoming Lakers vs. Clippers rivalry game on Friday night at Staples Center.
The dark team was the Lakers’ finishing five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. The light team consisted of Darius Morris and Jodie Meeks in the back court with Devin Ebanks at small forward. The power forward and center positions were rotated between Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill, Earl Clark, and Antawn Jamison.
For the segment the media was allowed to witness, the offense did not look especially crisp in the late practice scrimmage, but the defensive energy and communication was noticeably improved.
Gasol commented on defensive communication by saying, "We’re trying to do it in practice, so it can be translated and brought up to the game…we have to get it going here, so we can do it during the course of the game when there is a louder atmosphere."
Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni was happy with what he saw in practice. When asked about practice, D’Antoni said, "We’ll be ready for tomorrow."
D'Antoni reflected on the Lakers’ previous two practices and hypothesized that he may have worked his team too hard prior to Tuesday’s loss against Philadelphia. D'Antoni stated that the energy in practice was good again on Thursday.
The coach also reflected on his team's up-and-down mentality on the season, and Gasol even went as far as to pin the current state of the team on the lack of a training camp under D'Antoni, injuries, and coaching changes in general. However, he was quick to state that there was no value in looking back for excuses, and the Lakers had to focus on the task at hand.
The Lakers’ point guard and offensive play-maker shared Gasol’s sentiment and was candid about where the team was in its progression under Coach D’Antoni and as a single team unit.
"We’re definitely still trying to figure it out," Nash said. "In some respects, it still feels like a training camp."
With the Lakers facing five playoff teams—Clippers, Nuggets, Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder—over an eight day span, the Lakers need to figure it out in a hurry or reaching .500 may be the goal for the season, not making the playoffs or winning a championship.
Notes: Chris Duhon is a game-time decision after missing Tuesday's game with back spasms. Steve Blake took part in shooting drills, and D'Antoni did not comment on his exact return timeline. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are projected as NBA All-Stars with Bryant being the overall top vote-getter.