Everything looks a little better after a win. Even one in the preseason.
Lamar Odom looked impressive as a sixth man (and didn't complain about the role afterward). The defensive rotations were a little more crisp (most of the time) and there were flashes of the fantastic passing that got the Lakers to the NBA Finals last year.
All of that led to the Lakers 94-89 win over the Sacramento Kings in a preseason game at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas. It was the first Lakers win of this campaign, they are now 1-2 in the preseason with five games left before they count in the standings.
Phil Jackson, still clean shaven without the soul patch, continues to tinker with his many lineup options. The starting lineup included Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and the now close-cropped Vladimir Radmanovic. While all the talk has been about how Odom will fit in at the small forward, Radmanovic made his case get a lot of key minutes reminding everyone he can shoot from the outside and take the pressure off the inside game of Bynum and Gasol. Radmanovic floated into open spaces, worked hard for a couple rebounds and had seven first-quarter points and two assists.
Odom came off the bench, replacing Bynum when he picked up his second foul in the first quarter, and from the moment he stepped on the court Odom seemed more focused than he has so far this preseason. He was a spark for the team at both ends of the floor, a welcome site for Lakers coaches and fans after two lackluster performances.
"I like that he came off the bench with six minutes to go in the first quarter so he didn't get stiff sitting on the bench," Jackson said. "He came out there and right away started playing hard"
Odom had a nifty spin move, drilled an open three and had a great assist to a cutting Kobe (the last during the Lakers third quarter run) in his way to four points, nine boards and three assists in 22 minutes. He looked at his best grabbing rebounds and leading the fast break, and his defense was the best it has been in a while.
After the game, Odom blamed his "alter ego" for saying he wouldn't be happy coming off the bench, adding that you don't get many shots at a ring and he wanted to do what was best for the team.
After trailing 49-47 at the half, the Lakers made their run in the third quarter with a lineup of Fisher, Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Odom and Gasol (who was replaced by Bynum midway through). That five some was the most aggressive and quick lineup the Lakers had on the defensive end, punctuated by a backcourt steal and dunk by Ariza during the run.
Gasol again led the Lakers in scoring with 12 point on three of five shooting. Bryant and Bynum both had nine points, and Bynum added five rebounds.
Next up for the Lakers is a week of practice before facing Gasol’s old Spanish team FC Barcelona at the Staples Center on Saturday.