At the start of the season, If you told me the Los Angeles Lakers would be a .500 basketball team after 14 games, I would have thought that pretty solid. If you told me the Lakers would be a .500 basketball team after 14 games with the most difficult schedule in basketball, I'd be pretty excited. If you told me the Lakers would be a .500 basketball team with Kobe Bryant still not back (but returning soon), Pau Gasol playing far below the standard we could have expected of him, and Steve Nash disintegrating on the court and missing significant time, I would be ecstatic ... so I guess I'm ecstatic. The Lakers are not a great basketball team, but considering the circumstances of the start to their season, they are performing well above expectations to date. With Kobe's return imminent, their expectations will rise, and if they can keep up the onslaught, we might find ourselves with a fringe playoff contender after all.
Pau Gasol - The Spaniard followed up his excellent effort on Friday night with another fine performance against the Kings. 20 points on 16 shots, 10 boards, and a general competency from both inside and out that has seemingly been missing all season to date. We've always known that Pau had the skill to succeed, but until the last few games, he didn't seem all that interested or capable of displaying that skill, but now we're seeing the full Pau Gasol repertoire - the outside shot is falling, and more importantly, the post moves are being stacked against each other one after another. He's faking and countering and going up and under ... he's doing it all, and as it always is when he manages it, it's a beautiful thing to watch.
Xavier Henry - It's been a while since the Lakers' youngest member of the rotation has graced this section, but X came back with a vengeance tonight. It's been a struggle for him lately, as teams have adjusted to his helter-skelter style, and his finishing and shot both deserted him for a while, but he's a young dude, and young dudes are prone to severe bouts of inconsistency. Last night, he broke out of his slump in a major way, leading the team with 21 points off the bench on 7-11 shooting and 5-6 at the line (prior to this game, his free throw shooting threatened to reach psychological problems of Dwight Howard proportions). It was nice to see the young guy smile and get excited again, here's hoping he can keep the good times rolling.
Steve Blake bounce passes - Nothing too special in Steve Blake's stat line for the night (although 12 assists will always go down smoothly), but Blake is seeing the court brilliantly right now. He had a number of fantastic bounce passes out of pick and rolls, but this was the highlight of the night. A pass like this requires a guy who's seeing the court two steps ahead, and that's where Steve Blake is right now.
Shawne Williams - Our favorite punching bag actually wasn't terrible on the night, making a three and collecting a rather memorable hustle rebound that helped the Lakers with the big run which opened up the game, but he played a lot of minutes (28) and managed just three points on a team worst 1-6 shooting. And there wasn't a whole lot of competition for the category, as most folks played pretty well.
Nick Young - Again, this is more a matter of nobody else playing too poorly. Young didn't shoot the ball too well, ending with 7 points on 3-11 shooting, but he gave us a solid swag moment near the end of the game, and for that we will always be grateful.
Three point shooting - Ironically, as the Lakers waltzed their way to a fairly easy victory against a bad Kings team, they did so without having a great night behind the three point line. Hitting threes has been the Lakers' bread and butter. Ergo, winning so easily with a relatively off night from distance is actually a positive sign, but the shooting itself is still as good a topic as any to react negatively to.