All things considered, the preseason for the Lakers to this point has been relatively encouraging. Among your more positive signs:
- Pau Gasol looks comfortable and productive. In 22 minutes against the Kings Thursday in Vegas, Pau posted 13/5/5, on 6-of-9 from the floor. This backing up a smooth 14/8/2 against Denver a couple nights earlier. While the Lakers are smartly managing his workload, it looks like Gasol is far, far better off physically now than he was a year ago.
- The Gasol/Chris Kaman combination has worked better than I figured it would. Defensive vulnerabilities aside, at the very least it looks like a viable option for Mike D'Antoni, one potentially producing some very entertaining and efficient offensive sequences. One way to protect yourself in transition? Take good (and even better, make) good shots.
- Shawne Williams hasn't exactly lit the world on fire, but looks like he'll add another useful option for D'Antoni as he shakes his Boggle box of lineup combinations.
- Kobe is at 100 percent on the Alter-G treadmill (that's good!), and even while sidelined has managed to find ways to dominate. In an eyewear obsessed NBA culture, the frames Bryant wore the other day at practice basically said this to his peers.
Still, given what we all know has to go well for the Lakers to surprise people and compete at a reasonably high level in the Western Conference this season — and by that, I mean basically everything — Thursday wasn't exactly a banner day. Steve Nash played only nine minutes thanks to an ankle that has been squishy since last month. After the game, Nash generally downplayed the significance of the injury, but at least in print (I didn't hear the audio) his comments don't exactly inspire. Quotes like “I feel fairly confident it shouldn't be a huge issue” contain enough hedging to landscape a nice two-bedroom craftsman.
Meanwhile, D'Antoni was West Virginia blunt, admitting to the media after that Nash could very well miss time over the course of the year. It is in these moments you're reminded we're talking about the oldest player in the NBA. The Lakers do have some options at guard, and even without Nash can put together multiple backcourt combinations. With diligent maintenance and a little bit of luck, maybe Nash can be steered through the season successfully, and all of this is moot.
But at a time where everyone rightly wants to be as optimistic as possible and dream big, Nash's early bruises (along with Farmar's problems, and Wes Johnson's as well) harshes L.A.'s collective mellow and reminds that L.A.'s margins are, in cheap furniture terms, thinner than an oak veneer laid over particle board.