The Lakers' 0-3 record won't bother Mike Brown, as long as the new lineup is getting better.
By JOE McDONNELLFS West
Mike Brown has been quoted many times during training camp as saying he didn't care about wins and losses in the preseason – especially the early games.
If the Lakers coach was telling the truth, he's the most carefree guy in Los Angeles these days since his team is 0-3, the latest non-concern being a 99-86 loss to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
"I thought we were pretty good in the first half," Brown said. "When Utah scored it usually came off of one of our turnovers, so I thought overall we did OK. We want to continue to build off some of the things we've done."
New Lakers point guard Steve Nash is in total agreement with his coach.
"There's definitely been progress," said Nash, who had five assists and two points in 24 minutes of play. "It's coming as we're trying to implement new things on both ends of the floor and get to know each other at both ends. That takes time – and it doesn't translate into wins. But this is the time of year that we need to continue to grow and not worry about winning ball games."
Kobe Bryant was back in the starting lineup after missing Tuesday's exhibition loss to Portland, leading both teams in scoring with 18 points. He also had eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in 25 minutes.
Enes Kanter and Marvin Williams led the Jazz with 14 apiece. Eight of Kanter's points came as the Jazz took control of the game in the fourth quarter. The backup center also grabbed 14 rebounds as Utah improved its exhibition record to 2-1.
The Lakers entered the game with a 20-man roster, which will have to be pared to 14 or 15 by October 30, when they open the season at home against Dallas. The starting five of Bryant, Nash, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, along with reserves Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks and rookie Robert Sacre are likely the 12 who are safe. That leaves eight players battling for the final two or three spots. And it will probably be two, as the Lakers prefer to carry 14 players.
Veterans Chris Douglas-Roberts, Earl Clark, returning Lakers Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock, draftee Darius Johnson-Odom, and free agents Reeves Nelson, Greg Somogyl and Ronnie Aguilar are looking for a chance to show Brown and his staff what they can do. (There could be an extra spot open if Hill has to start the season on the injured list with a herniated disc in his back. That job will probably go to Clark). But after Tuesday night's exhibition game against the Jazz, their chances to impress will become less available.
"I'll start looking at putting the guys together who are going to get most of the playing time after the fourth game," Brown said before Saturday's contest. "Right now, though, I'm still going to mix and match, and some of the starters won't finish the game. We'll let some of these other guys taste what it's like to play here.
"After Game 4, we'll start figuring out what we're going to do going into the regular season."
Morris seems closest to having a spot locked up, as Brown went out of his way to praise the second-year Laker guard.
"He's been playing fairly well in practice," Brown reported. "I moved him to the second team and he looked really good."
Morris said that he appreciates Brown's compliments.
"I've been working hard all summer," said the former Michigan Wolverine, "and to hear coach say those things keeps me working even harder. This year is definitely a crossroads year for me, and I felt like I had to let people know what I could do.
"I've adjusted to the speed of the NBA game and everything has started to slow down for me out there. I've learned how to make better reads as a point guard.
While Morris is learning, Douglas-Roberts is just trying to survive.
After being Derrick Rose's running mate in college at Memphis, the 6-7 G/F hasn't been able to find a niche in the NBA. CDR is in his fourth training camp with his third organization, an alarming trend for a player who many thought would be a very good pro player.
He's phenomenally athletic and can get to the basket with an ease that most players never develop. But while Brown acknowledges that CDR can help the Lakers with his athleticism and scoring, he has to refine other areas in his game.
"It's great to have guys who are athletic," Brown said of Douglas-Roberts, "but he's got to be able to defend and he's got to play the right way for us offensively. We've all seen and played with athletic guys, but if they don't know how to play, it doesn't really help them out. It might get a highlight or two, but it doesn't help you win ball games. There's some things he has to do consistently to make this team at the end of the day. And he is getting better, which is exciting."
CDR said he had other offers that might have provided him a more immediate roster spot, but says he chose the Lakers to show that he's willing to do whatever he has to in order to become a member of the team.
"(With the Lakers) it's more of a mental game," said Douglas-Roberts, who averaged 7.3 points with Milwaukee last season after two years with New Jersey. "You have to know where to be on offense, where to be on defense. This is a serious team with great expectations. One play can be the difference in a championship over here. So I have to be serious as well.
"I look at this as a great challenge and I know if I can conquer this, I can conquer anything, any obstacle. This is the best organization in the history of the game, and I just want to be a part of it."