New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni flies in on Wednesday to start his tenure as the 24th head coach in franchise history. Tuesday night, however, Bernie Bickerstaff's free-style Lakers go for their third win in a row against a strong San Antonio Spurs squad.
The Spurs are off to a 6-1 start, the best record in the Western Conference. Considering they finished best in the West the last two seasons, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and company are right where most expected them to be.
The Lakers are far from the refined product offered by the Spurs. Steve Nash is set to be reevaluated next week, and Steve Blake is expected to miss Tuesday's game with an abdominal strain.
Second-year point guard Darius Morris has been playing starter's minutes the last couple of games, and he may be in line to earn his first career start. The more experienced Chris Duhon is the other option at point guard.
With the Lakers in uncharted territory, the Spurs should look to exploit their advantage at the point guard position. Tony Parker's scoring is down this season, but the Frenchman is averaging just fewer than eight assists per game in less than 30 minutes per game.
Parker's reduction in scoring has been balanced by Tim Duncan's strong start to the season. Duncan is averaging 18.9 points per game to this point. If he keeps on pace, this would be his highest average in four years.
Coach Greg Popovich's management of minutes with aging super stars is something the Lakers can learn from. Tim Duncan is the only Spurs player even averaging 30 minutes per game. Conversely, the Lakers feature four players averaging 34 minutes or higher per game.
In all honesty, the Lakers are not expected to win this game considering they have an interim coach on the sidelines and the Spurs are, well, good. However, since firing Mike Brown, the Lakers have been better on both ends of the floor.
Prior to the firing, the Lakers were averaging 97.2 points per game and giving up 98.9 points per game. In the two games since Bickerstaff took over, the Lakers are averaging 102.0 points per game and giving up only 83.5 points per game. Bernie hardly takes credit for the last two wins, with the team playing a free-flowing style led by the on the floor generalship of Kobe Bryant.
Considering the talent on the Lakers roster and the way they've been playing, there may just be an upset Tuesday at Staples Center.