In addition to building team chemistry, learning new playbooks and ironing out basic fundamentals and executions, the pre-season is also about having the opportunity to showcase the results of all the hardwork a player put on over the summer to improve his game.
While Devin Ebanks has never been short on putting work on becoming a better a player, his 20-point outing on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from distance, is proof enough that he deserves to be a regular in Mike Brown's rotation this season. Comparing Ebanks to the rest of the bench in exhibition games so far, he's the only one who seems more confident and more focused than anybody else.
Brown has talked about the possibility of sliding Ebanks to the shooting guard position before. Seeing that Devin is averaging 7.3 points at 66.7% shooting in pre-season, that might not be a bad proposition.
The Lakers (0-5) flew in to Sin City having lost their first 4 exhibition games. Of course, a lot of that had to do with everything new to the team and having the second and third unit on the floor for the entire second half.
Probably already have decided on which players to cut this weekend, Brown proceeded to use what could be his normal rotation against the Sacramento Kings (3-1).
The Lakers started the game slow as usual but looked sharper running the offense than any of the previous games. The problem again was no one was hitting their shots outside the paint. Their halfcourt defense wasn't terrible but it wasn't good either. They gave up too many open looks from behind the arc and didn't put enough hands on the face of shooters.
Their offense did pick up in the second quarter and got some stops to cut it down to 50-46. But turnovers and (yep) poor transition defense just stopped every single little run they mustered. On the bright side, they only lost by 5 points.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol anchored the starting unit. Kobe posted 22 points on 7-13 shooting while grabbing 6 boards and dishing 4 assists in 28 minutes. Pau finished with 20 points on 8-15 shooting along with 6 rebounds, 2 dimes and 1 block in 31 minutes.
As for Steve Nash, he had a mild night scoring 8 points and tallying 6 assists and 2 steals in 28 minutes. Nash fought through screens, ran back on D and dove for a loose ball before his night was over. That's the very reason why Bryant respects him so much. Steve just gives his all on the floor no matter if it's pre-season or not.
Same goes for Metta World Peace. He also doesn't take a day off and always commits himself to being in a better shape each season. With no injury and poor conditioning slowing him down, Metta continues his improved game with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and a block.
The Lakers actually ended up shooting from the field better than the Kings at the end of the game at 46.8% compared to 44.4% for Sacramento. But giving up 23 points off turnovers and 28 fast break points more than nullifies that advantage.
The return of Dwight Howard should eliminate a lot of their defensive mistakes as well as offensive boards out of the opposition as the team gets better in general. Howard's presence will alleviate the pressure off of everybody in shootiing the ball and in preventing their man from scoring around the perimeter. When that happens, team confidence goes up leading to a better team chemistry.
Not sure if the Lakers will improve enough come opening night regardless if Howard does play before the regular season or not. But it sure beats waiting for him until December.
Player of the Game
Devin Ebanks: Kobe and Pau might have kept the Lakers in the hunt but Devin kept the second unit relevant the entire game. Did I mention he only missed 1 of his 5 three-pointers?
vs. Sacramento Kings
Sunday, Oct. 21st at 6:30 p.m.
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN