Utah Jazz: New-look Lakers arrive in Utah with momentum
Like a champion racehorse that stumbles out of the starting gate, the Los Angeles Lakers needed only a moment to regain their stride and flash their impeccable pedigree.
Just in time for this season's only visit to Utah.
After their first 0-3 start in 34 years, which followed eight straight exhibition losses, the reworked Lakers made Detroit look like a D-League team in Sunday's 108-79 victory over the Pistons.
L.A. seeks its second straight win Wednesday night against the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.
"They're a good ball club," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They're finding their way. It's early. It's early for everybody and they will figure things out. ...
"I thought they played better against Detroit and, unfortunately for us, it looks like they're starting to figure it out. But we'll be ready to play."
The Lakers finished last year's lockout-shortened season in atypical fashion.
They ended nine games behind San Antonio in the Western Conference. They struggled past Denver in the first round of the playoffs before losing in five games to Oklahoma City.
It was the second straight year L.A. didn't come close to reaching the conference finals, signaling the need for major changes in offseason.
For dimes on the dollar, the Lakers acquired center Dwight Howard from Orlando and worked a sign-and-trade for All-Star point guard Steve Nash. L.A. also signed high-scoring Antawn Jamison to strengthen its bench.
"One thing about the Lakers," Jazz point guard Mo Williams said, "they're always going to reload. If they're down or mediocre or whatever you want to call it, they're not going to be there long. They retooled. They revamped their roster. They got some star power in there."
Howard is coming off back surgery, and the 38-year-old Nash is already sidelined for at least another week with a fractured fibula.
The Lakers' slow start in part can be traced to those situations.
With a starting lineup that includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, however, few expect the Lakers to struggle much longer.
"Obviously, as soon as you get Nash, you are a better team," said Utah's Randy Foye. "And as soon as you get Howard, they [became] a great team.
"It just takes time. A lot of new pieces are coming together. It takes time to get everything together, but they are going to be all right."
Asked what he first thought after hearing the Lakers had added Howard and Nash to their roster, Corbin smiled.
"I thought they would be awfully good, with the veteran experience of those guys," he said. "Plus, Kobe is there. And Pau is there. You put them with a healthy Dwight Howard and a healthy Steve Nash, and that makes them very potent in the West."
Williams and Foye got a firsthand look at last season's Lakers. They played for the Clippers, who also play their home games at Staples Center.
"They're a better team but, at the same time, they have to step on the court like we do," Williams said. "But they are a good basketball team ... [and] if we don't come to play they'll beat us."
Recalling the 66-game season of 2011-12, Foye said, "It was tough on everybody. But the Lakers upgraded. They got some great players to come in and help [Bryant]. ... It might take a while, but once they start clicking on all cylinders, they're going to be tough to stop."
Lakers at Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT
Radio • 1320 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 1-3; Lakers 1-3
Season series • First meeting
About the Jazz • Their top scorers are G Mo Williams (20.8) and G/F Gordon Hayward (14.8). â¦ F/C Derrick Favors is the only rotation regular shooting 50 percent from the field (12 of 24). â¦ They shot 56 3-pointers and 47 free throws on their 0-3 road trip. â¦ They average 17.5 3-point attempts per game.
About the Lakers • Veteran G Steve Nash won't play (fractured fibula). â¦ G Kobe Bryant averages 26.8 points in 37 minutes. â¦ C Dwight Howard averages 23.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, but he's only 27 of 52 from the free-throw line (.519). â¦ As a team, they shoot 50.3 percent from the field.