Are the Lakers better than the Memphis Grizzlies?
Of course not, particularly after finishing 34 games behind them in the standings last season.
But a lighthearted comparison was created by the Lakers’ breezy 126-83 victory over Israel’s Maccabi Haifa in an exhibition Sunday at Staples Center.
There aren’t many ways to analyze a victory over a non-NBA opponent, though Maccabi lost to the Grizzlies last week, 97-84, putting the transitive property in play.
Kobe Bryant scored an effortless 21 points mainly by making four of six three-point attempts. He looked fresh in only 18 minutes, a good sign for the Lakers with the regular season about two weeks away.
Julius Randle continued to impress with his strength down low, totaling 14 points and nine rebounds. His early third-quarter scoring pretty much told it all — two-foot layup, three-foot layup, two-foot alley-oop layup.
There’s no tamping down expectations for the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft. The 14 minutes he played before a season-ending broken leg might as well have been 82 games in Lakers Coach Byron Scott’s mind.
“We expect him to play well this year, even though it’s kind of his rookie year as well,” Scott said. “Just the experience of watching and learning from the bench, I think was important for him. I expect him to play the way he’s playing right now.”
The increased burden seemed fine with Randle, who estimated he’d been grabbing defensive rebounds and pushing the ball upcourt since fourth grade. Maybe fifth.
“That’s just always who I’ve been,” he said. “Affect the game in different ways.”
Maccabi Haifa couldn’t affect much of anything with only three players over 6 feet 7. It was a main reason Roy Hibbert had 16 rebounds in 23 minutes.
On the other hand, nobody knocked D’Angelo Russell for collecting 11 assists in 18 minutes after a one-game absence because of a bruised glute. He played with the reserves, not starters, because he was coming back from injury, Scott said.
Reggie Buckner had 20 points for Maccabi and former UCLA player Dijon Thompson had eight points on two-for-11 shooting.
The Lakers’ main lineup change Sunday was putting rookie Anthony Brown in the starting five.
Scott probably didn’t care that Brown scored two points.
“He’s probably one of our best perimeter defenders. He’s not afraid,” Scott said before the game. “I almost compare to him to a Bruce Bowen type of player.”
The 34th pick in the draft is that good on defense? Interesting.
Bowen, for all his talents, was accused of being too hands-on by some opponents. Former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson once derisively called him “Edward Scissorhands.”
"[Brown]'s not Scissorhands yet,” Scott said Sunday. “Bruce was a really good defender but he could hack you up a little bit too. Anthony, he has a ways to go to get to that. First of all, he has to get a reputation in this league for being a defender. Then maybe he can get away with being a little more Edward.”
“Scissorhands, that is,” Scott said.
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