Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Lakers tipped off the preseason with two games in two days. The Lakers split the pair, but wins and losses are hardly important at this point in the season. LA plays eight games in 20 days, and that includes a weeklong trip to China.
Keeping the squad healthy while still building chemistry is Mike D’Antoni’s biggest challenge at the start of the preseason. Determining which players belong on the end of the bench is always a focus during the exhibition season. However, considering the frantic travel and harsh schedule, LA may take a few extra losses to save some legs.
Through two preseason games, one should mention, the early standout is definitely Xavier Henry.
On Saturday, Henry debuted with 29 points, seven rebounds, and two steals in 29 minutes against the Golden State Warriors. Nick Young added 17 points, but Henry was the star in the Lakers’ preseason opener. Jordan Farmar also deserved a shout with a game-high seven assists in his first game back with the purple and gold.
On Sunday, the Lakers came out with a different look. Whereas Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill started in tandem in the Lakers’ first preseason game, D’Antoni started Pau Gasol without a true power forward in the second game. Gasol was rusty and went 4-13 from the field in 23 minutes as the Lakers fell 97-88 to the Denver Nuggets.
Henry, once again, led the Lakers in scoring with 15 points in 24 minutes. This time, though, Steve Blake led the team with seven assists in 17 minutes, and Steve Nash’s six assists were a promising start to the Canadian’s second season with LA.
After strong appearances on Friday, the Lakers opted to leave Kaman and Farmar on the bench in order to test the likes of Darius Johnson-Odom and Eric Boateng. Considering the Lakers have two more games—Denver on Tuesday and Sacramento on Thursday—before hopping a flight to China over the weekend, resting veterans should be a recurring theme during this preseason.
After two games against the Warriors in China, the Lakers return to Southern California and finish off the preseason with two exhibitions against the Utah Jazz.
The regular season tips off on Oct. 29 against the Los Angeles Clippers.