The Lakers need to lock down Detroit & take care of business tonight. The Pistons are 5-5, but let’s get real. The Lakers’ opponent tonight is not very good. They are without longtime stars Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton, both sidelined with injuries, and their starting lineup includes Swedish-born Jonas Jerebko and an aging Ben Wallace. Meanwhile, LA has lost back-to-back games including Sunday's debacle against the Rockets at Staples.
The Pistons did sign guard Ben Gordon away from the Bulls with a 5 year-$55M contract and lured the eyebrow-less Charlie Villanueva away from Milwaukee with a 5 year-$35M contract, but Detroit is no better than the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference and will probably spend the year drifting round the .500 mark.
The real upside for Detroit long-term lies in 23yo point guard Rodney Stuckey out of Eastern Washington and emerging point guard Will Bynum. They both scored season highs – 26pts and 27pts respectively – in the Pistons’ Sunday home loss to Dallas. Both Stuckey and Bynum are exactly the type of quick guards that have been a struggled for Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, but a loss tonight would be inexcusable.
Yes, Pau Gasol is out again. (Pau could return as soon as Thursday, and, if not then, Sunday against Oklahoma City.) Also, reigning finals MVP Kobe Bryant is dealing with a Whygroin strain and seems unable to elevate the way we’re accustomed to, but game like tonight are incredibly important.Consider this. The Lakers play 51 games after January 1 with only 21 at home. Their after-New Year’s dance card includes 4 games with San Antonio, 3 with the Trailblazers, 3 with the Nuggets (who beat the purple and gold soundly Friday night), 2 each with Boston, Orlando and Utah, plus a game at Cleveland. The early season has to be about putting wins in the bank, and the Lakers cannot afford to give away home games to run-of-the-mill teams like the Pistons.