The Los Angeles Lakers are back on the hardwood, Wednesday October 28th opening night of the 2015-2016 NBA Season, hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves. The initial storyline had this contest as a match up between the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft Karl Anthony-Towns versus D’Angelo Russell the second pick however, overshadowing that narrative was the stunning news of the passing of Timberwolves Head Coach Phil ‘Flip’ Saunders. Saunders, the T-wolves Head Coach, President of Basketball Operations and part owner of the team lost his battle to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on October 25th 2015.
Saunders was 60 years old with 35 years of teaching and coaching. Sam Mitchell is the T-Wolves interim Head Coach. This is a match up that NBA and more importantly, Los Angeles Lakers fans have been waiting to see. The first game of the 2015-2016 season for the purple and gold; a contest between two teams that possess a good mix of youth and experience. The Lakers and T-Wolves debilitated by injuries last year and as a result rewarded the first two selections in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Lakers start the season with several questions, most of which that will remain unanswered until the middle of April 2016.
Can Kobe Bryant stay healthy? How much gas does Kobe have left in the tank? How many games will Kobe Play? Will the Lakers defense improve? Can the Lakers compete in the Western Conference? Head Coach Byron Scott and staff have the unenviable task of building chemistry, developing their young players, define role’s for players and establishing an identity. The Lakers have some young building blocks for the future in Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance and Anthony Brown. The coaching staff needs to put the young players out there for extended minutes, hence sink or swim situations.
For example, with extended minutes Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell could develop into the Lakers starting backcourt for the next ten years. Julius Randle; under the direction of the coaching staff, the tutelage of Hall of Famer James Worthy, veterans Metta World Peace and Brandon Bass the second year power forward could develop into a solid starter for the next decade. For one thing, while playing the young players Laker Nation will have to deal with the growing pains.
The under the radar additions of Low Williams, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert will produce. The NBA experience provided by the law firm of Williams, Bass and Hibbert will be a welcome addition. The Lakers biggest issue will be their defense, specifically their transition defense. This team is not equipped to run with the other teams in the Western Conference. The T-Wolves are a team full of athletes that want to play uptempo, run up and down the floor and outscore their opponent. It is imperative that the Lakers control the tempo and force the T-Wolves to play at their pace.
Projected Starting Lineups:
Lakers: D. Russell, J. Clarkson, K. Bryant, J. Randle, R. Hibbert
Timberwolves: T. Jones, Z. LaVine, A. Wiggins, K. Garnett, K. Towns
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
• Los Angeles: ESPN, TWC Sportsnet (Bill MacDonald & Stu Lantz)
• Minnesota: ESPN, FOX Sports North (Jim Peterson & Dave Benz)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
• Minnesota : WCCO 830 (Allan Horton & John Focke)
• Kobe Bryant (Lower Leg Contusion) Day-to-Day
• Marcelo Huertas (Hamstring) Day–to-Day
• Jordan Clarkson (Shoulder) Day-to-Day
• Kevin Martin: (Back) Day-to-Day
• Nikola Pekovic (Achilles’ Tendon) Out