The Lakers announced earlier this afternoon that they have acquired Orlando Magic forward and former UCLA standout Trevor Ariza in exchange for forward Brian Cook and guard Maurice Evans—a subplot that will surely carry over into tonight’s game versus the Indiana Pacers.
Tonight’s rematch between the two teams that battled it out in the 1999-2000 NBA Finals already had plenty of intrigue on its own with widespread speculation that the Lakers and Pacers were in discussions this summer that would have sent All-Star forward-center Jermaine O’Neal to Los Angeles in exchange for a package built around Kwame Brown, Lamar Odom or Andrew Bynum.
Nearly six months later and no substantial trade talks since then, the Lakers are sitting pretty with a 6-3 record with the aforementioned Bynum blossoming off the bench for the Lakers. O’Neal meanwhile is struggling, averaging just over 13 points and eight rebounds—numbers that are well below his career averages. However, the Pacers player said before tonight’s game that he is nearing 100% health and is ready to assume his usually role as one of the league’s preeminent scorers. Hopefully the Lakers won’t fall victim to his newfound motivation in tonight’s game.
The Pacers opened up the season with success of their own, going 3-0 before losing six straight games prior to winning two nights ago versus the Jazz. Still, the Lakers would be wise to not overlook the Pacers as they have a roster filled with capable players such as leading scorer Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. Also on the Pacers’ roster is former left-handed Lakers guard Kareem Rush.
Tonight’s match-up is important for both teams as the Lakers and Pacers look to continue the momentum from their latest victories. The Lakers will need to come out especially focused tonight as it is critical that they start their three game road trip off on the right foot. This is also the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers with the Milwaukee Bucks hosting L.A. tomorrow night. The Lakers split their last back-to-back with the Spurs and Rockets so they would love to enter Friday’s showdown with the Celtics already having taken two on the road.