The Lakers preseason officially gets underway tonight, as the team will take on the Utah Jazz at the Pond Honda Center in Anaheim. The game is a rematch of the physical series that the two teams played in during the second round of the playoffs, a series in which the Jazz pushed the Lakers to six games before being eliminated. But being the first "practice" game after just one week of training camp, it's doubtful that we'll see any of that playoff fire this evening. In fact, we're likely to see very little of the Lakers' two biggest stars, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.
Phil Jackson, likely in defiance of the league office, has already declared that Kobe and Pau won't play much in the pre-season, in light of the team playing through June in the NBA Finals and the two players' involvement in the Summer Olympics.
"I'm just going this week, see how they're doing, how they feel, what their energy level is like," Jackson said of Bryant and Gasol. "I was told not to say that I wasn't going to play Kobe in exhibition games. So I'm not going to say that Kobe's not going to play in this exhibition, but there's a chance he may not play in exhibition games."
The Lakers will likely use the pre-season to work Andrew Bynum back into game shape, after he missed most of last season with a knee injury. All signs point to Bynum being 100% by the start of the regular season, and from the looks of things, all that time in the gym has certainly paid off.
Another Laker who will be working his way back from injury is Trevor Ariza, and he was caught in the middle of a little back and forth between Phil jackson and Lamar Odom recently. Phil discussed the possibility of Odom coming off the bench this year, and Odom was less than thrilled. Ariza would be the starter in that scenario, but for now, it appears things will remain status quo from a season ago, with Odom in the starting lineup.
There is definitely no shortage of plot lines to follow as the Lakers tip things off, and we get to watch them all unfold beginning tonight.