...And There Goes One Promising Pre-Season
Guys you have to admit that there were a few moments tonight when you sat back on the couch telling yourself, "Ya know what, these guys will not only surprise some teams, they could downright shock the league if they play like this."
The balance of scoring, passing and overall play on this team is something that (and I feel I can say this freely although some may argue) Laker fans haven't seen since the break up of those gorgeous 80's Laker teams. There's a great blend of highlight reel players (Bryant, Odom, Butler), workhorse players (Grant, Mihm, Walton, Atkins) and bench performers (Brown, Cook, Jones) to make this team a serious force come playoff time. Add in the fact that this team has yet to integrate Vlade Divac (which could disrupt things for just a couple games while he sinks into his role) and the possibility that Malone could return to this team and we're looking at a Laker team we can all say we're proud to be a fan of. (Although Laker fans should always be proud, but ya know what I mean)
I was impressed by everything except for the communication on interior defense tonight. The rebounding on the defensive end was more of a symptom of the lack of talking and communication on D. The games these guys have talked to each other about what is going on with defense, the rebounding has been there. That will continue to hold true this entire season. With the chemistry that is flowing so freely on this team, honest communication should be developed quicker than anything.
Since the positives are glaringly self-evident with these guys, let's give everyone "two centences" about what to work on for the season to make the NBA apologize for their short-sightedness about our guys in purple and gold:
Bryant - Learn how to trust your teammates with their job and their ability to get things done when things get competitive. These guys wnat to and can keep up with you Kobe.
Atkins - Relax. Take your opportunities where they are and realize that this team doesn't need you to be spectacular to contribute.
Odom - Let your game come naturally, forcing your game is always evident. Use that dribbling ability and fluiditiy in the front court work to your advantage against the West's tough big guys.
Butler - Use that exhuberance for scoring as your inspiration for everything else you do on the court. Above all, pace yourself and know your limits.
Mihm - Stay strong in the low post and don't let anyone initmidate you. If the footwork remains as active and spot on as it was in the pre-season, scoring and blocks will fall into your lap.
Grant - Keep banging in that post. Stop letting offensive players creep their way into the post by spreading your arms and using that strong lower body to clear out your area.
Brown - Don't let your anticipation for offensive creativity curb your appetite to defend strongly. There is such a shortage of point guards off the bench that have an impact in this league that you can have an immediate efrfect on this team.
Jones - Talk more. If you get lost on defense don't be ashamed to yell for help .
Cook - Don't get swept away by your new found ability to drain the 3. It does you big time credit, but that passion for the long shot shouldn't take away from your other duties on the court like rebounding and strong high post defense.
Divac - Don't stand with your legs close together against strong centers and play the same low post game you played in Sacramento (i.e - passing). If you widen your stance a bit, there are few big men that can get by you.
Walton - Your the catalyst off the ball for this team. Keep moving and taking your man away from the Lakers offensive strong points.
Medvedenko - Please, for all of our sakes and yours, getr inside on defense and use your frame to push people out of the post once in a while. We have a lot of guys that can shoot now, please behave more like a power forward and less like a 2 guard.
Vujacic - Take it easy. You've made the NBA, curb yourtendency to dribble intyo trouble and make a sloppy flashy play when a simple bounce pass or short jumper will do.
George - Work as hard as you can to get yourself back into the rotation. Jumaine has stolen your spot and if you show some drive to get that spot back, the team and your career will be the better for it.
And for everyone - STAY HEALTHY!!!!!!!!
I know guys, it was stupidly long, but I am just so excited about this team this year that it's hard to keep things short. These guys can do something incredible this year, but they can't do it onj their own. Let's all take a vow (myself inculded) to be patient with these guys and support them even when the bumpy roads show up. We'll raise the level of their play and we'll raise the level of all Laker fans everywhere. We as fans have an impact, make it heard this year!!
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill