- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Pau Gasol caught the ball on the foul line extended on the left side of the court in the third quarter in the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday and had options. He could pull up and shoot over his man. He could drive. He could dish it off, as Chris Kaman was positioned nearby, in the short corner, and likes that midrange shot. Gasol chose to pump fake, put the ball on the floor and drive middle, leaving his defender scrambling to recover to the rim and Kaman's defender sagging over to help.
As soon as Gasol spotted Kaman's defender leaving him, he whipped the ball in the air back over his head right by the hoop in a perfect spot for Kaman to plunge toward the rim and catch it for a layup or dunk. Only Kaman stayed stationary right where he was, about 15 feet from the hoop on the baseline, and the ball sailed out of bounds.
Gasol grimaced; Kaman shrugged his shoulders as if to suggest he thought Gasol was going to keep barging toward the lane himself because he had already beat his man. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni subbed out both of the big men, and they sat on the bench and immediately hashed out the play that went awry.
That's what preseason basketball is all about -- trying to mix and match new pieces together to see whether they can build a comfort level with each other and understanding and rhythm with their games.
"We're going to play that way," D'Antoni said before the game of the Gasol-Kaman starting lineup. "Just ride it for a while and just see what happens."
What happened wasn't as successful as the pair's debut together in a preseason win against Denver on Tuesday, as L.A. lost to the Kings 104-86, but it wasn't all turnovers and head shaking out of the two, either. Gasol had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Kaman had 17, six and two. They shot a combined 11-for-20 from the field and they had just one more turnover combined other than the one described above.
"Those guys are showing that they can play well together because they're both skilled, they can both make passes and look for each other," Kings coach Mike Malone said before the game. "So, as a coach, you always evaluate who you are as a team, what your personnel looks like and how to best utilize them, and what lineup best complements each other. If we had two 7-footers who could play, we'd probably find a way to use them."
And despite a few hiccups here and there, D'Antoni surely will continue to find ways to use Kaman and Gasol going forward.
How it happened: The Lakers led 50-48 at the half before falling asleep a bit and allowing Travis Outlaw to score nine points on three 3-pointers in the third quarter, giving Sacramento a four-point lead heading into the fourth that ballooned from there.
What it means: While there have been some positive developments in Lakers training camp, the team will be hard pressed to look good when the regular season arrives if they keep having to shuffle guys in and out of the lineup because of injuries.
Floyd "Money" Mayweather sat courtside for the game, and told Time Warner Cable SportsNet during an in-game interview that he is friends with Kobe Bryant and the two of them keep in touch through text messaging on a near-weekly basis.
Misses: Steve Nash, who has had a spotty preseason at best so far, had another uneven night Thursday. Nash started the game against the Kings after D'Antoni had publicly considered giving him and Gasol the night off earlier in the week, but his workload was brief, as he exited after just nine minutes because of a sore left ankle, finishing with zero points, two assists and one turnover. Nash had already missed the Lakers' preseason opener against Golden State, and averaged just 2.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds on 28.6 percent shooting in his two other appearances. The Lakers are saying he is day to day.
Stat of the game: 0-for-10. That was Steve Blake's shooting line overall, including an 0-for-8 mark on 3-pointers.
Up next: The Lakers will fly back to Los Angeles after Thursday's game, get home around 2 a.m. and then have a quick turnaround, as their flight to China for their nine-day exhibition trip is scheduled to depart at 1 p.m.
3dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne