It was just one preseason game for the Los Angeles Lakers, but fan excitement has been through the roof since the moment the franchise ping-ponged their way to the No. 2 pick. Exhibition opened with a loss for the purple and gold, but watching the team take its first steps together in a competitive setting made for a fascinating look into where they are.
Lonzo Ball dished out eight dimes and grabbed seven rebounds, but with just five points and a few missed opportunities — either from over-passing or his teammates failing to convert — his impact was mostly-negligible from an individual standpoint.
In case you hadn’t heard, though, the Lakers are more than Lonzo. Brandon Ingram has big expectations going into his sophomore year, the forward rotation is an exciting competition between three worthy young players, and there’s plenty to learn about this team each time they step on the court.
I’ll be trying (incredibly hard) to bring a handful of observations from each game to the table year round. Sometimes it may come in the form of a roundup of several things, other times it may end up being one specific thing. Content’s like a box of chocolates.
With that said, let’s break into the preseason opener.
(This is a collection of GIFs, so it may take a little extra time for things to load. I’ll do my best to make it worth your time, every time!)
Ivica Zubac rises from the ashes
Ingram’s second year in the league may be the focus for the Lakers, but Zubac has plenty to prove as well during his second campaign. His poor showing in Las Vegas was definite reason to question where he fits going forward, and the arrival of Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut has only added to that.
Zubac had a very strong preseason opener, taking advantage of the extra opportunity he had with both of the Lakers’ veteran big men out for the night. He did a little bit of everything on offense, and showed the increased mobility that came from dropping significant body fat over the summer.
From this filthy pump-and-go that Pau Gasol would be proud of:
To his nice cross-key movement on this screen for an easy dunk:
To small things, like keeping the ball up once it touches his hands to kick it out:
There was a lot to like about Zubac’s bounce-back performance. Continuing to make this kind of impact will be key in Ivica earning minutes once the rest of the bigs are available.
A Brandon Ingram pet play
Head coach Luke Walton has been clear that the team has not installed its halfcourt offense, but it certainly looks like they have a simple action in place for when Ingram inbounds the ball.
We saw it first early in the game, ending with Ingram splashing a jumper over Taj Gibson:
It came around a second time, but this time some solid defense chased Brandon away:
Let’s see how often we see this.
Appreciating something small from Kyle Kuzma’s big game
There’s plenty to be excited about regarding Kuzma’s team-high 19 points and impressive continuance from Las Vegas. Something small stuck out to me, though.
Communication in trying to organize the offense will be key in the early stages, and Kuzma did just that to set up some quick points for the Lakers:
These small things, to go with what looks like big potential, could make Kuzma a positive player for the Lakers way ahead of schedule.
Stay in Zo’s lane
Lonzo only had three turnovers, but it’s clear he’s going to go through the typical growing pains of playing against elite competition every night as a rookie.
The scouting reports will definitely say play the passing lanes, especially once Lonzo leaves his feet:
These types of turnovers are going to be a thing, especially as he works to break the habit of always trying to pass.
Bad fouls need to be minimized
The Lakers were crushed at the free throw line, and racking up fouls is a hallmark of young teams. Eliminating pointless ticky-tack fouls like this, from Ingram...:
...is going to be big for the Lakers closing the margins on teams.
I’ve watched a lot of basketball, and I can’t recall seeing something like what happened to Tyler Ennis’ jersey occurring. it’s a pretty bad sign that, in only the second game of preseason, the new Nike jerseys are already looking a little flimsy:
Shouts to D’Lo: