The Los Angeles Lakers will enter the NBA season as the defending champions and the odds-on favorites to repeat.
That doesn’t mean the preseason is just an afterthought.
The players were so disappointed with their performance in their last game, a 110-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday, that they called a players-only meeting Saturday to set some things straight.
They will enter tonight’s preseason game against the Sacramento Kings at the Thomas & Mack Center looking to put behind them a game in which they committed 25 turnovers and made 2 of 18 3-point attempts.
“We have a team that is the same other than the addition of Ron Artest, so our expectations are higher as far as how we approach each game,” point guard Derek Fisher said. “Not so much that we expect to play championship basketball in the preseason every single night, but we don’t want to start developing bad habits.”
The 35-year-old knows what it takes to defend a title. He was an integral part of three straight Lakers championship runs early in the decade.
Fisher insists this year’s team won’t rest on last season’s accomplishments.
“Complacency is always right around the corner regardless of your situation,” he said. “For a championship team, sometimes it’s closer than it is for other teams, but if you’re in the right situation like we are, we’re not going to have the same issues with being complacent.”
Fisher credits coach Phil Jackson with providing the right kind of atmosphere for the team to be able to sustain its success.
Jackson stuck with Fisher last season despite widespread criticism of the point guard in the early rounds of the playoffs.
The veteran rewarded the coach with two clutch 3-pointers in Game 4 of the Finals that helped the Lakers take a 3-1 series edge and eventually win the championship.
But it’s the criticisms that fuel Fisher as he enters his 14th NBA season.
“I feel like we all learn from adversity, and there were also some tough moments and some struggles in the postseason,” he said. “I’m not resting on the fact that there were some good moments in the Finals.”
Fisher will be trying to hold on to his minutes on a team with two young, talented point guards. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown are primed to take on more prominent roles in the team’s backcourt.
Most of the nucleus remains intact for the Lakers, except that Artest has been brought in to take over Trevor Ariza’s role. Artest has been starting, with Lamar Odom coming off the bench in the first two preseason games.
As far as tonight’s game, Pau Gasol (hamstring) and Luke Walton (back) have missed practice the past two days. The status of both players for tonight is unknown.
The Lakers play a preseason game in Las Vegas each year, including two games in 2006, and are 4-6 since they started doing so in 2000.
The Lakers will meet Sacramento in Las Vegas for the fifth straight season. The game will start at 7 p.m.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.GAME DAY
L.A. LAKERS VS. SACRAMENTO
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Thomas & Mack Center