Los Angeles Lakers fans will get their first look at a new-and-improved Lakers squad on Sunday night as the team takes on the Golden State Warriors in Fresno for their first exhibition game of the preseason.
Expectations are high every year in Lakerland, but it's likely they've never been as high as they are headed into this season. Even SB Nation's own Tom Ziller -- an admitted despiser of the Lakers -- is eager to see what a team that added two perennial All-Stars/Future Hall Of Famers to its starting five (as well as adding some key bench depth in Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Chris Duhon) might be capable of.
While we won't see Dwight Howard in purple and gold on Sunday night (or for a while, as he recovers from offseason back surgery), we will get our first look at the Lakers' new Steve Nash-led offense. The 16-year veteran's masterful pick-and-roll game should flourish with Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Howard (when healthy) as his partners, and his stellar outside shooting should be a pleasant addition to a Lakers team that has had trouble knocking down open looks from beyond the arc in recent seasons. TNT analyst Steve Kerr thinks we'll see a little more inside-out play from the Lakers with Nash at the helm.
"I think you'll see Steve become more of a spot-up shooter than we've seen in the past. They're going to play some inside-out stuff where he's spotting up, so that's a big adjustment for him but one he's obviously capable of making."
Perhaps the most intriguing thing to watch for in Sunday night's game will be the implementation of new assistant coach Eddie Jordan's hybrid Princeton offense. While it's unlikely that we'll see them incorporate a ton of it this early in the preseason, it'll be really interesting to see how much it helps the Lakers with spacing and off-the-ball movement when it's utilized, as well as how many open looks it gets Bryant, Nash and (shudder) Metta World Peace.
Kobe Bryant, who sat out Friday's Lakers practice with a sore right foot, was back at practice on Saturday so hopefully we'll see him on the floor Sunday night (albeit in limited action).
The Warriors are coming off a disappointing 23-43 season, but their projected starting five for 2012-13 is young and promising. With a couple of potent scorers in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the back court, the rock solid David Lee at power forward, oft-injured yet solid defender Andrew Bogut at center, and rookie Harrison Barnes at small forward, there's reason for Warriors fans to be hopeful. Until they look at their bench depth.
Aside from depth at small forward (Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson) and a basically replacement-level back up point in Jarrett Jack, there's not much of value on head coach Mark Jackson's bench. This is most notable behind Bogut, who is recovering from an ankle injury and should miss a portion of the preseason. Andris Biedrins is coming of his second abysmal season in a row, rookie Festus Ezeli is a work in progress, and Carl Landry can play the undersized center role if need be, but none of the three look like a comfortable option when Bogut is unable to suit up.
Preseason basketball. New faces. Old faces. New offensive sets. Old "offensive" sets. Sloppy play. And limited minutes for stars. The NBA is back (almost), friends. And there's reason to be excited.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT at Save Mart Arena and the game will be televised on on Time Warner Cable Sports Network. The radio broadcast can be found on 710 ESPN.