Lakers vs. Kings: What to watch

With so much tension swirling around the Los Angeles Lakers since their poor start, it wasn't shocking to see a lot of energy channeled into a walloping Friday win over Golden State.

This was a team clearly in need of a cathartic release, and Mike Brown's dismissal, whether consciously or not, provided the outlet. Collectively, the roster exhaled.

But with those circumstances no longer providing fresh adrenaline, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers conduct themselves.

The Kings are dealing with their own struggles, but they have enough talented -- if likely mismatched -- players to potentially keep their hosts busy. With a serious test against San Antonio looming on Tuesday, it would be great if the Lakers capitalized on the chance to continue building momentum.

For perspective on Sacto, I conducted an IM exchange with James Ham from the TrueHoop network's Cowbell Kingdom. (It should also be noted our conversation took place before the NBA suspended DeMarcus Cousins two games for a confrontation Friday with Spurs commentator Sean Elliott.) Below is the transcript.

Andy Kamenetzky: Like the Lakers, the Kings have come out of the gate 2-4. What's been your general impression of the team?

James Ham: The Kings are a young team and while they are much improved, they still make a lot of mistakes. Like the Lakers, they have a lot of new rotational pieces and they are still searching for the right mix on the floor. At 2-4, the Kings shouldn't be down on themselves. They very well could be 3-3 or even 4-2. They have been extremely competitive in almost every game so far.

AK: Sacto's defensive numbers have been pretty good, despite coming off a season in which they were among the league's worst in most categories. Byproduct of a sample size, or has this team legitimately improved the lockdown?

JH: They have improved greatly on the defensive and it's only going to get better as they continue to build chemistry, especially on rotations. DeMarcus Cousins is developing into a very high-quality post defender, but he has had issues with foul trouble. The addition of James Johnson was huge, but the biggest difference so far this season has been the effort of Tyreke Evans. He is developing into an elite perimeter defender in the mold of Andre Iguodala.

AK: The Lakers have trouble hanging onto the ball and aren't the world's greatest team defending in transition. The Kings have done a good job inducing steals this season, but how successful are they at converting turnovers into points?

JH: The Kings should eat the Lakers alive in transition. Both Evans and Marcus Thornton are great finishers on the break. Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks are lightning quick, and Jason Thompson is a very underrated big who can really get up and down the floor. The Kings like to push the tempo. They are much better in transition than they are in the half court. Defense and rebounding sets up the transition, so they need the defense to work to make the offense work in many cases.

Who will be coaching the Lakers tomorrow against the Kings? It sounds like Phil Jackson is ready to come back into the fold.

AK: Save an unexpectedly fast resolution, it will Bernie Bickerstaff ... who, by the way, boasts the greatest winning percentage in franchise history!

JH: Was Mike Brown really that bad? Or did the Lakers players force the brass to make this move to get Jackson back on the sidelines?

AK: Without specific knowledge, I don't wanna speculate about player motives, because that's simply unfair. However, it's not unfair to say guys stopped playing hard for Mike. Brown is a workhorse and a terrific person to boot. But those qualities don't guarantee players will buy into him as a coach, and a bad habit of overthinking and overcomplicating everything only compounded problems. These Lakers never truly responded to Brown, and that's been obvious since day one.

Shifting back to the game, you mentioned the improved defense from both Cousins and Evans. How are they meshing on offense?

JH: They aren't. To be honest, the starting lineup of Thomas, Evans, James Johnson, Thompson and Cousins isn't really working. Thomas is the only true perimeter shooter of the bunch and he is the third or fourth option. Johnson is an interesting player, but his lack of shooting range is collapsing the lanes and causing a lot of offensive issues.

AK: However, if overtime is ever decided through kickboxing, Johnson guarantees Sacto will win.

JH: Yes. Johnson is an interesting cat. He can do a roundhouse kick and hit the backboard.

AK: Wow! I mean ... WOW!

JH: The Kings may have to go back to Thornton as a starter, sooner rather than later. Evans' confidence on the offensive end is wavering at best. The Kings also take turns playing offense. No ball movement. Tons of isolation. We dream of the old Princeton offense up here.

AK: Well, Lakers fans will tell you all that glitters ain't gold. Is there a particular matchup you're interested in tomorrow?

JH: I want to see Evans vs. Kobe. Tyreke is really locked in on the defensive side of the ball. And the Cousins vs. Gasol battle is always fun to watch.

AK: I would nominate Pau vs. DeMarcus, too. Those two always seem to get tangled up and annoy each other to no end. Pau's also been pretty successful defending Cousins.

JH: I'm not much of a Dwight Howard guy, but I'm sure he will give Cousins and Thompson fits, and it's really too bad that Thomas Robinson will miss the game.

AK: And finally, the prediction?

JH: This is a tough one. It will come down to one stat: who plays the most minutes between Howard and Cousins. Whichever big man gets into foul trouble first will cost his team the game. Cousins hurt his team on Friday with some ticky-tack fouls against the Spurs. I think he goes at Howard early and the Kings win with Superman on the bench. The epic battle of 2-4 teams!

AK: Well, I'm taking the Lakers, who looked energized Friday and should play more freely (if not necessarily with the precision of a Swiss watch). Besides, who am I to bet against Bickerstaff and his track record?

JH: Doing the Bernie?

AK: It's the new Gangnam Style!