Lakers vs. Jazz Pre-Game Report: Pre-Season Opener at Staples Center

The Lakers will play at Staples Center for the first time this season as they host the Jazz Saturday night. Kobe is expected to return to action tonight, so it’ll be the second time we get to see him run with Steve Nash. As fun as it will be to see them play together, the emphasis tonight will probably be on improved bench play. Clearly the Lakers’ bench has some glaring weaknesses and hopefully they will take advantage of the extra minutes they are afforded during these warm-up contests.

The Jazz made some moves in the off-season which included acquiring starters Mo and Marvin Williams. It seems as if their plan is to surround their young and talented frontcourt with serviceable wing players. Let’s take a closer look at what the Jazz have to offer this year.

Frontcourt: Millsap and Jefferson are expected to start, but budding big men Favors and Kanter may significantly eat into their playing time. Millsap and Jefferson are solid players who are both skilled, but a bit undersized for their position. The one thing you can’t teach is size and Favors and Kanter both have it. It’ll be interesting to see how fast they develop and if they will eventually supplant the starters this year. Newly acquired Marvin Williams never lived up to his second overall pick draft status while he was playing for the Hawks. He’s a mediocre small forward a best and isn’t expected to blossom into anything more for the Jazz.

Backcourt: After a short season in Los Angeles, Mo Williams joined the Jazz during this off-season. He is expected to be an upgrade from the ever disappointing Devin Harris. Williams is a shoot first point guard, so it remains to be seen how often he will get the ball into the post. At the two, Gordon Hayward is the glue guy on the team who does a little bit of everything. The next step in his development is for him to establish his presence more on the court rather than being content with the support role. Hayward has the ability to be one of the core contributors for the Jazz going forward.

Key to Lakers’ Victory:

Bench Improvement: The Lakers have a new big four in town, but will the bench remain a thorn in the team’s side for yet another season? It’s expected that the starters will not play heavy minutes tonight, so it’ll be on the bench to carry the team to victory. Coach Mike Brown has played the bench squad for extended periods during the pre-season and the results have not been pretty. The bench looks lost on defense and completely stagnant on offense. Jamison needs to get things going; the Lakers haven’t had an offensive weapon like Jamison since Odom’s departure. It remains to be seen if Jamison can shoulder that load and put up 10-15 points a night.

Jordan Hill’s injury was a big blow to the Lakers frontcourt. In his place, Robert Sacre has received a look and he has yet to seize advantage of the opportunity presented to him. Hopefully the rookie big man can assert himself on the defensive end of the floor since it seems that his offense is very limited. Hill is hopeful that he will be back in the lineup by the start of the season. In the event that Hill is unable to return or his injury worsens, Sacre will shoulder the bulk of the back-up minutes at the five.

Utah Jazz (0-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)
7:30 PM PST, October 13, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Jazz Projected Starting Line-up

PG: Mo Williams SG: Gordon Hayward SF: Marvin Williams PF: Paul Millsap C: Al Jefferson

Key Reserves: PF: Derrick Favors, PG Jamaal Tinsley, C Enes Kanter

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