Dwight Howard Makes His Lakers Debut; Amar’e Stoudemire and the Knicks Are Already Breaking Down

The Kings did many things right Sunday night, from outscoring the Lakers bench 57-18, to getting Tyreke Evans involved, to Thomas Robinson‘s electrifying, gravity-defying putback slam over Dwight Howard. It all coalesced into a win at Staples Center in front of a sold-out crowd — not that anyone noticed, there or anywhere else. Outside of California’s central valley, this game won’t be remembered for the Kings’ 99-92 win after watching Kobe Bryant‘s fadeaway J from the corner (death, taxes, Shawn Kemp owning every defender from the ’90s and Kobe’s fadeaway for the win are all you can count on in this life) bounce off before garbage buckets were tacked on for the final score. This will be remembered not because L.A. moved to 0-6 this preseason but because the dream starting five played together for the first time and looked damn good. Quick impressions: Who in the West has the front line to stop the high-low passing from Pau Gasol to Howard this season? Naturally it didn’t work every time, but seeing it in action was like seeing that movie you had high expectations for that completely lived up to it. It will be devastating more often than it isn’t, with examples for the defense being his first points (oop from Gasol) and the ease of his oops from Steve Nash. As a possible stopper, Golden State comes to mind with Bogut and Lee, and sure, possibly the Clippers. But after that? The Mavs run their whole offense through Dirk Nowitzki at the free throw line, because he’s 7-feet tall and can initiate the pass or shoot in a multiple of ways. Same too, if more limited in the shooting way, is Gasol (14 points, eight boards, five dimes), who can catch the pass, then read Kobe or Nash as they cut hard around him and try to rub off their defenders for easy back-cut hoops. Or, just a simple dump down to Howard. Even if he’s off the block it seems the Lakers have an answer because … Howard (19 points, 12 boards, four blocks) has a lefty baby hook? Howard has a lefty baby hook! DeMarcus Cousins (16 points, six boards) went hard at Howard like you knew he would from the start and pushed Howard in a very good impression of how the regular season will go. His post D isn’t eons behind his rebounding like some might think, but it was no match when Howard unveiled his baby hook come third quarter, running from right to left across the lane about halfway up. L.A. also must figure out that bench situation. Jordan Hill will help when he returns but otherwise, say goodbye to productivity once the first unit departs (as ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin wrote, L.A. shot 60 percent and had dimes on 15 of 20 hoops in the first half with their starting five getting most the minutes). And then finally, who takes the last shot? Kobe, of course. He got the final introduction to the game for L.A., and the final chance to win it. This team can kill through myriad means, but there is still just one endgame scenario: Kobe. … Read more about New York’s bad, but predictable, news …

On a team with players 10 years his senior, it’s Amar’e Stoudemire who is physically breaking down first for the Knicks. The bad news out of NYK camp in Syracuse, where they’re hosting Philly, is that STAT won’t be playing for two-to-three weeks because a cyst blew up on his knee that Newsday diagnosed as likely being related to a cartilage tear or arthritis. Start the old man jokes all over again. Speaking of them, Kurt Thomas could be the new starter at power forward with the injury, or Carmelo could be moved into the position he dominated at the Olympics. It really isn’t a surprise that STAT got hurt this season, but it’s a major disappointment because our next chance to see what his workouts with Hakeem Olajuwon accomplished will be pushed back three weeks. … How about rook Andrew Nicholson in Orlando? He went 7-of-8 from the field in the final three quarters to get a game-high 18 points in Orlando’s 104-100 win over San Antonio. Danny Green, who was tossing threes in from everywhere against Miami a night before, had 13 for the Spurs. Glen Davis put up 17 points against a Spurs frontline that, it has to be said, didn’t play Timmy Fundamentals more than 12 minutes. Orlando is one of the league’s most interesting frontlines, with a rookie and a guy who shouldn’t be counted on to provide starter numbers. Hey, it’ll be a rough year for Orlando, so let’s look on the bright side for now. … Jeff Green has already spawned one ESPN Twitter spat over his value on this year’s Celtics team, but he didn’t play any worse Sunday night against the 76ers in Philly’s 88-79 win. Green had 12 points, 10 boards and four blocks. That looks good, right? Well, consider that he literally couldn’t make anything outside of four feet from the hoop. He bricked all three of his attempts outside of the key and his two longest from inside it, too. … Danilo Gallinari is going to shoot threes until George Karl stops him in Denver. Karl’s love for offense is well known, and Gallinari’s potential is so high, so we don’t see him stopping very soon. So far this preseason he’s taken 30 threes on his 57 field goal attempts, per Hollinger. He’s not a banger by nature inside, but still it doesn’t seem like Denver can win this way. It didn’t on Sunday, when OKC beat them 108-101. It wasn’t that close with the Thunder’s five regular-season starters jumping to an 18-point lead halfway through the second quarter. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka each had 16, while Gallinari got 26  â€” in large part because of his 6-of-13 shooting from behind the arc. … We’re out like the BCS standings.

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