Kobe Bryant, who missed a pair of practices Friday with a sore right foot,… (Harry How / Getty Images…)
Below are five things to watch in the Lakers-Warriors preseason game 7 p.m. Sunday at Save Mart Center in Fresno (assuming you're a Time Warner Cable subscriber, of course).
1. How much will Kobe Bryant play? No need to worry Laker fans. Bryant's sore right foot prompted him to sit out two practices Friday, but Lakers Coach Mike Brown said he had no limitations in Saturday's session. Still, with this being the preseason, that may give Brown reason to be extra cautious.
It's important that Bryant plays just so he establishes some feel for how he moves off the ball while Steve Nash runs the offense against an actual defense. But the low 20-minute range should suffice. With that a possibility, Lakers backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks has a chance to show off his three-point shooting and whether his defense has progressed enough.
2. The Steve Blake/Chris Duhon backcourt could be interesting. Blake's expected to retain his spot as backup point guard. But Brown made it a point to say that Duhon could compete for that spot. Because Blake has only gotten in two practices, it's likely Duhon would have more minutes than under normal circumstances.
Blake needs to show that his injured left foot has healed and that he can run the offense well and make shots in rhythm. Duhon needs to prove that he's improved his ballhandling enough so that he doesn't make mistakes. His abilities on defense could also lead to more time.
3. Pau Gasol should be featured plenty inside. With no Dwight Howard in the middle, there's no way Gasol will become an afterthought in the post. Not when he's competing with either rookie Robert Sacre or Greg Somogyi for touches. With the Lakers running elements of the Princeton offense, Gasol should have more scoring opportunities than last season, when he mostly played a facilitator. That's because the spacing, passing and cutting principles should open up chances for Gasol. After all, he usually makes the right basketball play.
4. The debut of Sacre or Somogyi. At first, many in the media thought Brown was joking. But he wasn't. He's going to start either rookie, possibly at the flip of the coin. That doesn't mean they'll play significant minutes. Brown's more worried about ensuring Gasol plays at power forward while the bench rotation stays intact. But this is obviously a huge opportunity for the 7-foot Sacre or the 7-3 Somogyi to fight for what may be the final roster spot. Both are known more for their defensive prowess. That should help ease them fitting into the star-studded roster since their number likely won't be called for many offensive looks.
5. Jordan Hill will still be important even if he isn't starting. That's because his energy will help mitigate the gaps Howard's absence leaves defensively. Whether he plays strictly off the bench or mixes in some time with the starters, that dynamic will help out in various ways. It will allow Gasol to conserve energy. It will help make up for Antawn Jamison's defensive deficiencies. And most importantly, it will further cement Hill's progression.
Mike Brown to start Robert Sacre or Greg Somogyi for exhibition
Kobe Bryant practices, will play in preseason opener
Steve Nash already providing leadership with Lakers
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