One has to be very cautious taking much from an exhibition game. There are a number of reasons for this such as: level of combination; first real game for new players; rust of old players; and coach's experimenting.
The latter is interesting. In his two seasons so far, Steve Alford has been very reluctant it seems to tweak lineups much. His first season Tony Parker started for a while because Travis Wear was hurt. Last season GG passed Wanah Bail in the rotation off the bench based on his play in the Battle for Atlantis. That was pretty much it for change in the rotations. Both of those I did not think were big changes. This season though I believe Steve Alford when he says:
Asked if the lineup was set in stone, Alford said, "it's not."
"We're just messing with the starting five right now," the coach added.
I will give coach Alford credit here. He was doing what you should in an exhibition game, giving players long looks at different positions. It started with playing Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh together to start the game. It continued with the 6'10" Jonah Bolden and Alex Olesinski as small forwards. But the most interesting and what I thought was most pleasant surprised by was the long look at Aaron Holiday at point as Steve Alford said:
Aaron has done an awful lot this month to where a month ago we were probably not leaning that way, but what he's done has changed that. He had a chance to see what it was really like starting a game. He was a little anxious and got in some foul trouble, but he'll learn. In the second half, I told him to let them make the mistakes, just be a pest and they handed it to him one time. Those are all the things that he'll learn, but he brings such energy and toughness. I think that really solidifies what we're trying to do in the backcourt and when we go big-big, it allows us to be very quick in the backcourt.
This was really fascinating. Alford realizes and acknowledges how Aaron Holiday changes the game on defense. Unlike Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, Aaron is quick and showed a non-stop motor and a willingness to play D the whole court. However, it gets interesting on offense as Holiday was definitely a shoot first point guard. As observed in a number of tweets over at Bruins Sports Net:
What's really amazing is that Holiday is going to shoot whenever he wants with the coach's son standing right next to him. How will Bryce...— Chris Sorrentino (@BruinSportsNet) October 31, 2015
Deal with that? Holiday is one tough dude.— Chris Sorrentino (@BruinSportsNet) October 31, 2015
Now let's talk about the other new face and maybe the most important player, Jonah Bolden:
Sophomore forward Jonah Bolden, appearing in his first game after sitting out last season while ineligible, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, as the Bruins out-rebounded Cal State L.A., 60-26.
"You lose Kevon Looney, you're worried about board play," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "This was a dominant performance on the backboard."
I am more mixed on this. To be clear not on Alford's quote. A coach has to say that. However, UCLA had 22 rebounds from its starting three guards. Check out the box score here. Also Bolden looked bad as a three. He does not have a good outside shot . He was only 3-6 from the free throw line and two bricks from three. That said, he is comfortable with the ball in his hands and did look better in the second half when he started playing down low. However, consider the competition. Yes, Bolden's double double is nice but the 6' Aaron Holiday had seven rebounds in the game. Obviously, Bolden is the guy to watch but in a LIMITED viewing he seems like a good ball handling four. Not a "big guard" or even an outside shooting small forward.
Bottom line. Steve Alford is experimenting a bit as he should in an exhibition season. This team has more versatility than past Alford teams and this is without two rotation players that were hurt in Prince Ali and GG. For more of my thoughts check out this post.