Showtime: 7:30pm PT
Plot: This game might not have the Mamba-infused luster it had a few days ago, but it should still be a significant contest for a Lakers team in flux.
The Show heads up to the nation's capitol tonight in what won't be Kobe Bryant's season debut, but rather just another road challenge in an arena that's always extremely difficult to grab a W, no matter the season. The 9-9 Lakers will make their first appearance of the season in Sacramento against the division's basement dwelling Kings. Sacto has had another slow start to yet another campaign, sputtering to a 4-12 record and in the midst of five game losing streak, three of which have been at home.
It's not all bad news for the Kings--the opponents in their 12 losses include the Portland Trailblazers (twice), Los Angeles Clippers (thrice), Golden State Warriors (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. To summarize? They've gotten pummeled, sure, but it's been nine Ls to five of the league's best teams. It's been hard to gauge whether this is really a decent squad or an outright bad one and whether or not new coach Mike Malone has been effective. It certainly didn't appear to be a positive for either question the last time the Kings played the Lakers at STAPLES Center two weeks ago in a 100-86 demolition that was even more out of hand than it the final score would suggest.
For the Lakers, no, there won't be the excitement of a Bean season debut, but there's a lot the Lakers need to settle before Sunday's probable return. First and foremost is the second game without injured back-up point guard Jordan Farmar, the still sidelined Steve Nash and a Steve Blake who will no doubt be hobbling after hyperextending his elbow last Sunday. Coach Mike D'Antoni has mentioned that he'll again rely on Xavier Henry and Jodie Meeks as back-up ball handlers should Blake be on a further minutes limit. With Farmar out for another month, Nash's return date uncertain and Blake at his highest minutes average in five years, the Lakers need to figure out who can help run the offense when the subs are in. The Lakers definitely suffered in their decision-making when running half-court sets with essentially no classic point guard on the floor on Sunday versus Portland. If they want to survive going forward, MDA and the team is going to have to find a way to win in that sense-no better place to start than tonight.
The keys to victory tonight against the Kings are the usual fare-try to find a way to contain or isolate the damage DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez, all while trying to prevent a trigger happy supporting cast from killing them from long range. The Lakers were successful in that venture last time the two teams met, forcing the Kings into a poor shooting night while letting Boogie do all the hard work by himself.
The Lakers have been treading water for a month and a half without their best player. Hopefully, this will be the last night that they'll be fully kicking their feet in the pool. Still, they'll have a lot to learn in the interim.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino