After spending a week at Lakers’ training camp in Hawaii, here’s what I know:
This will not be the same Lakers’ team that we’ve seen for the last two years under Phil Jackson. He has thrown out the playbook and started over. Not to say that they won’t run the triangle system, but most fans won’t recognize it. This Lakers’ team is going to run, run and then run. It will also shoot much earlier in the shot clock. While the plan in the past has been to play half-court, team defense…this team is going to pressure the ball more and go for more steals. When those steals happen, they won’t set up in the triangle. They’ll run and try to score off of fast breaks.
By the way, I have no idea whether any of this will work, but it should be fun to watch.
Here are some thoughts on various individual players:
The biggest surprise I saw was the fact that Rony Turiaf is going to play a lot. He might even start. Jackson loves his energy, and the fact that he’s a big body who can run. My guess is that if he does start, Luke Walton will come off of the bench. This is no slight on Walton, who Phil loves. In the fourth quarter, my guess is that Walton is on the floor.
Jordan Farmar is clearly not happy that the Lakers drafted a point guard in the first round this year, and he’s playing like he’s out to prove something. Farmar is the most vocal, hardest-working, and aggressive player I saw all week. Kobe and Derek Fisher are the starting guards, and Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Javaris Crittendon, Maurice Evans, and a bunch of other guys are all playing for the back-up guard minutes. Farmar is acting like he wants those minutes more than anybody else.
Kobe Bryant is back, but he’s more business-like. He’s not messing around, and that’s a good thing. It’s almost as if he saying, “OK, you guys didn’t go out and get me any help, so we’ll try it your way. But I’m here to work….and everybody else better get on board. “
Of the three-headed monster the Lakers have at center (Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, and Andrew Bynum), Mihm looks the best. Kwame is still hurt, and although Bynum looks bigger, he still doesn’t look like he’s any better….yet. Since Mihm tends to get in foul trouble, all three of these guys are going to need to play.
Lamar Odom is the biggest question mark on the team. He’s still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, so it’s hard to tell how close he is to returning. But when I asked him if all of the off-season trade talk bothered him (Odom was rumored to be in almost every potential trade), he said that “it doesn’t, unless it keeps happening.” In other words, I think he’d like assurances that all of the attempts to trade him are now over. Since the Lakers will never give him that, it should be very interesting to see how focused he is once the season starts. By the way, I’d be surprised if Odom plays in any pre-season games.
Derek Fisher strikes me as a more confident, more complete player than he was in his first stint with the Lakers. I actually think leaving for a few years helped him develop. He’s smarter now, and he’s much more active defensively. On an unrelated note, he is still probably the most professional athlete I’ve covered in my 12 years working in Los Angeles.
Based on what I saw, and it’s ridiculously early, I think the Lakers can be competitive with most teams in the West, but clearly not San Antonio, Phoenix, or Dallas. I think they’ll be in a “second tier” with Houston (who will be improved), Golden State, Utah, and Denver. In other words, the Lakers should make the playoffs, and be seeded somewhere between the fourth and eighth seed.
Once they play a few pre-season games, I’ll make a more precise prediction
Bolded that quote. Won't hold too much stock in that but it's not encouraging. I'm hoping this will be the year Bynum becomes a force.