If it provides any comfort for the players, neither one of us are very good shooters, either.
While the team's overall effort left something to desired, coach Phil Jackson was quite complimentary of the bench. (So much so that when I asked if there was anything positive beyond the second unit, he responded by giving more props to the reserves.) The highlight was arguably the strong performances of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, who combined for 23 points and connected above 50 percent from the field. Both guys have struggled with their jumpers, and Blake, typically an artist from distance, has been downright miserable.
While these buckets may have come during a meaningless game, Blake didn't deny how good it felt to finally stroke some nylon:
"It always feels feels good to hit shots. Just to get started getting into a groove and getting that confidence. So any time you make a shot in the preseason gets you going in the right direction."
The second quarter also saw Blake receive a technical foul after a dustup with Jazz big man Francisco Elson. It's not the first time I've seen Blake get into the grill of a dude twice his size, and probably won't be the last. "For some reason, I always get into it with the big guys," shrugged Blake. "It's fun. It's part of the game. It gets me going."
So scrapping with another 6-foot-3, 172-pound guard wouldn't do it for you, I wondered?
"No, it might," grinned Blake.
For his part, Barnes has been able to offset missed jumpers with points created by either crashing the glass or getting fed off cuts. Barnes has always found success moving without the ball, so it's not surprising to see him tackle a learning curve through hustle. The process won't be entirely second nature until he's more familiar with the tendencies of his teammates, but he has been consciously trying to make the most of this skill set.
Having said that, like Blake, he'd prefer his jumpers fall, so it felt good when a 19-footer and a 3-pointer dropped. After all, there's enough pressure involved with learning a new system on a championship team without missing shots on top of it. Then again, as Barnes said he and Blake recently accepted, there's no point in trying to be perfect, because that ain't gonna happen.
"Steve and I have been talking a lot. I think we're just thinking too much out there. We're gonna mess up. We just gotta mess up. Make an effort. So it's slowly coming. Everyone is helping us out the best they can, but we're kind of learning on the fly. The world's not gonna stop for us to learn the offense, so we gotta pick up as fast as we can. Make sure when come in with that second unit, we don't skip a beat.
"I think tonight was a big step for us. Although we lost the game, I thought the second unit, we kind of jelled a little bit on the offensive end and we definitely had some energy on the defensive end. It's just gonna take some time."
But even if Barnes is gradually getting a handle on the triangle, he's nowhere closer to understanding the criteria for technical fouls these days, beyond apparently not being able to clap ones hands after the a ball was ruled off his fingers. Barnes clearly wasn't showing up the official, which made his confusion about the "offense" understandable.
"Like I was telling the refs, we have to be able to show some emotion," Barnes said. "We're not robots. We're not just going to accept everything."
For what it's worth to Barnes, Kobe Bryant is a 15-year veteran and among the league's most cerebral players, and he's just as clueless about what's right and wrong, too.
Jackson, on the loss and the second unit:
Pau Gasol, on the preseason so far: