Chucky Atkins and Tierre Brown vs Andre Miller and Earl Boykins:
First game of the 2004-2005 regular season. Now we really get a chance to see what this team can do, how well the new players (from the Miami and Boston trades) can do, and a peak into what are are in for this season. The most disappointing position that we have on our team is the Point Guard slot. Atkins, a backup at best, is our starting PG. He had a miserable pre-season and was over shadowed by the newest addition to the Lakers, Tierre Brown. Tierre was the biggest surprise in the pre-season and if he can keep up the intensity and level of play that he played with in the pre-season, then he might just be able to steal Atkins starting spot. Tonight should turn out to be a very good battle between the point guards. Atkins will get outplayed in every sense of the word by the bigger, stronger, more talented, better offensive threat Miller. The most comical thing we should see involving Denver's point guard situation tonight, is when K-Mart realizes that Andre is far from Jason Kidd and fans will see that Martins is overrated. Miller though is just too much for Atkins to handle, we don't have a lot of size in our PG rotation and this could cause some problems against bigger guards, especially when our guard is struggling to be able to produce anything for himself on the offensive end of the floor. Atkins has yet to be able to get going, his shot has been off, he has been quite turnover prone, and his offensive game has been non-existent. If he keeps that up, then it will give defenders a free ride on defense, allowing them to focus all their efforts on offense. Fortunately, Miller is not a very good defender, so if Chucky is going to break out of his slump, this would be as good of a time to do it as any. I think the real excitement at the PG spot will be between Brown and Boykins. I really look forward to this matchup, Tierre finally gets the chance to prove that his pre-season performances were no fluke, that he can do that in regular season games, and against the best of the teams. Both guards really love to run, both can attack the front of the rim, both are quick (lightning quick), and both should play a large role for their team this year, off the bench. If given the minutes tonight, both could make an impact on this game. I think Boykins will have the better game, only because he is an experience veteran, used to the Nuggets, their players, and their offense.
Kobe Bryant vs Voshon Lenard:
Kobe gets to do what he has always wanted to do, have his own team. This is game one, it starts counting now. Time for him to shut up all of the journalists that have been counting not only him out, but the Lakers. He has a coach that is going to make him better, a group of guys that he will benefit from and that will benefit from him. Kobe is finally the first option, what better time to have a big game and to get the Lakers first win, than against the team from the same state as his trial was in, against an opponent that is not a good defender, and on national tv...sounds like the perfect stage to me. Oh yeah...and it's at home. Lenard is a shooter and a very good one, but his game ends somewhere around there. He is going to get tired from guarding Kobe all game long, playing tough D, even though you know you are fighting a battle you can't win, especially against the newly built Kobe. And I really don't think Kobe is going to have much of a problem guarding Voshon, as long as he sticks with him, doesn't let him get many open looks, and uses his bulk to his advantage, it should be smooth sailing as far as a defensive matchup is concerned. I would expect a 35+ point performance from Kobe tonight. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kobe vs Melo at some point and time in the game, it won't be a necessity like it was last season, because Caron can actually guard him, but if Melo gets going, we might see Kobe switched to Melo, and Caron put on Lenard. I think Rush will likely see 6-7 minutes tonight, probably going against Johnson or Russell. I think Russell will have a solid game, for the minutes he plays, because he is going to want to stick it to the Lakers for letting him go.
Caron Butler vs Carmelo Anthony:
Finally, we have a player that can guard the SF stars of the league. No longer do we have to sit there and try to force ourselves to watch George getting murdered by them or Fox trying to keep up with them, even though he was about 3 steps slower last season. We have a young, athletic, forward...and get this he has offensive talent as well. I am really looking forward to this matchup too. Caron is a very good player, he is our third option, and he is going to have to have big games for us this year. These big games don't have to be him scoring, but he can show up by playing strong D, being active on the glass and getting after loose balls, being active in the passing game, or playing the passing lanes. I think we will all be very pleased and impressed with what we are going to get out of Caron this season, and will see the Caron of his rookie year, only more mature, more developed, more comfortable with the game, smarter, and overall better; but the numbers will be similar to those of his rookie season, instead of him struggling at time last season, because of injuries. I think we all know the winner of this matchup, the runner up for rookie of the year, Melo. For the Nuggets to succeed this year, he will have to mature drastically, I think if we alternate Caron and Odom on him tonight, we can frustrate him, take him out of his game, and give him fits. We have had an impressive backup SF too, Jones had a very good pre-season. He played tough D, was tremendously active on the glass, especially in the limited minutes he played. I don't think he will have any problem containing and outplaying Buckner and White.
Lamar Odom and Brian Grant vs Kenyon Martin and Nene:
The first real test that our frontcourt has faced, I thought we would be able to get an idea of what we could do against the Western bigs, when we played the Kings, but they rested their players for most of the game. Odom vs K-Mart. Statistically, Odom is the better player. I think he is better all around, he is more polished, and can do more. Kenyon is a very strong, very tough, physical athlete though. I think his game will suffer tremendously without Kidd making him look good, but I still think he will be a solid big man. Kenyon is also going to have to get used to playing against real big men out West and not getting the ball as much. Add the fact that Kenyon and Nene are already bumping heads, and you have some big problems, if you are the Nuggets. Lamar finally broke out of his poor pre-season play, late in the pre-season. There is a lot of pressure on Lamar, he knows it and is up for it. He knows that he is going to have to be our #2 option, Kobe's Pippen, and not to get back into his LA slump that he had when he was with the other team that shares the Staples Center. Lamar is going to have to have some plays designed to get him in the game early and get his confidence up, something I can guarantee you that Rudy has already drawn out and is ready to use. He is going to need to use his length against Martin and hopefully preventing him from attacking the basket with force every single time that he touches the ball. I am looking forward to seeing Mihm send a couple of K-Mart's attempts into the front row. If Martin gets going early, I think we will see a bigger body placed on him, trying to slow him down, in comes Brian "100% hustle" Grant. Although I mainly expect to see him positioned against the beast that the Nuggets have for a backup. The Grant vs Nene battle should also prove to be a good one. Nene is young, athletic, likes to go to the rim whenever possible, and he plays with a lot of energy; Grant is an older vet, can still score and rebound in bulks, is a banger in the paint, when he plays, he goes all out and gives it everything he has. I would really like to see the Portland Grant again tonight. Also, Cook will get some time, we are going to need his shooting touch out there.
Chris Mihm vs Marcus Camby:
Chris has been Mihm-azing. I don't think any of us expected him to do this well with us. He was one of the most impressive players in the pre-season. This is not the Boston Mihm, this is an all new and improved Mihm. He has been a solid scorer, a force on the glass, a mini-Deke with his blocking, and a solid defender. He has been more than Laker fans expected and hoped for. If he can continue at that level, even against real competition, and then have Vlade play for 24 minutes or so, when he comes back, then I think we have a solid center position, even in the West, even without #34. I think Mihm and Camby have very similar games. Both can hit down a mid range jumper, both are good shooters, both can block the ball, both are active on the glass, both of them can play either position in the frontcourt. This should be interesting to see how Mihm can hack it against a similar player, but a solid Western big man, nonetheless. I expect both of them to put up very similar numbers, but Camby with the slight edge.