A strange thing happened while most people (myself included) spent the summer cracking jokes about the coming Lakers season poised to be their worst in recent memory.
They turned out to not suck.
Yes, it's true, the Lakers are not half bad. They're not half good either, but they're sitting pretty at two games below .500 as they try to get a healed Kobe Bryant back into the flow of things.
Much of their success stems from the fact that despite subpar roster talent for much of the season so far, they have a young roster that fits in Mike D'Antoni's worldview. They get out and run and take a ton of threes. A hair over 30 percent of their field goal attempts are 3-pointers, the third highest percentage in the league. Their guard-heavy roster also makes the fifth-best percentage of them, which makes for a dangerous, if streaky, team.
However, injuries have struck them with crippling blows, mowing down their entire point guard staff with a combination of hamstring and elbow problems for Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. As a result, coach Mike D'Antoni has slotted Kobe into the point guard position. Kobe doesn't get much press about his passing skills, but he's a deft ballhandler with a great understanding of the game and vision of the court. Unfortunately for him, his fans and Lakers fans, he's lost a major step in his quickness due to the Achilles tendon injury and recovery, but his offense is still there when you watch his footwork in the post. Bryant is no longer the defender he once was (despite how knuckleheads vote every year) so Kemba Walker could take advantage of that matchup.
The Lakers are also in the middle of an ugly rift between Pau Gasol and D'Antoni, who differ in opinions on the cause of Gasol's decline this year. Gasol says his role has decreased under D'Antoni and that he's not being used effectively. D'Antoni says Gasol isn't giving good effort.
For the Bobcats, watching the three-point line will be a must. This Charlotte team can get buried quickly since they don't have much in the line of consistent three-point shooters. The guard matchup will be interesting since Kobe's got nearly half a foot in height on Kemba Walker. Bryant may be old and trying to get back in shape, but that savvy post game could do some damage, especially against a shorter defender. The Bobcats could bring double-teams to help, but rotations will have to be quick and crisp to close out on perimeter shooters in the event the ball gets kicked out.
Los Angeles is also one of the worst rebounding teams and they don't force many turnovers, so those will also be some points of interest for the Bobcats.
This should be another good installment in the Bobcats-Lakers series, as it seems to be every year, so you'll probably want to plan on watching it or set your DVR to record it. However, I have been known to eat my words on more than one occasion, so now that I've written that, it'll definitely be a terrible blowout.