Lakers insist dark days are behind them as camp opens
For a team looking to get back into the championship spotlight, the dim lights of the 'Iolani School gym provided an appropriate setting for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers opened their 2007 training camp yesterday with a three-hour practice session at 'Iolani.
"It's really kind of a good feeling because this is a lot of where basketball comes from — where we started out as players as kids," head coach Phil Jackson said. "The lighting is a little bit dim. The floor is soft, and that's good, so the players like it."
The Lakers will be in Honolulu for the next nine days. The training camp will conclude with preseason games against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 9 and 11.
Due to conflicting events at the Stan Sheriff Center, the Lakers had to practice at 'Iolani yesterday and will be there again today.
"It's a little strange, but as long as we got a couple of baskets up, it's all good," star guard Kobe Bryant said.
The Lakers are coming off a 42-40 season — their worst record in seven seasons with Jackson as head coach.
Bryant expressed his discontent during the offseason, suggesting that Lakers management should make some trades, perhaps even himself.
But this week, he has emphasized his loyalty to the Lakers.
He said the team needs to unite during this training camp and "just play basketball, focus on executing and working hard and doing what we need to do."
Jackson said: "Those are situations that arise after you put six months of work in to try and get to a championship run and you don't get that opportunity. Everybody is like, 'How come I wasn't invited to that dance?' Kobe's been to that dance four times ... he's experiencing a lot of frustration about not being there and I think that's what you saw."
Center Andrew Bynum, who was one of the players Bryant mentioned as a trade possibility, said he was over the offseason ordeal.
"It's easy to get past that," Bynum said. "At the end of the day, we just want to win. Everybody in the organization will be happy if we win."
The Lakers believe they have a team that can win, even though they made only a few personnel moves in the offseason.
It starts with Bryant, who led the NBA in scoring last season with 31.6 points per game.
Jackson said Bryant could play a more significant role as a combo point/shooting guard this season.
"The one thing I can do is take him and put him back on the top of the floor again, rather than putting him down at the wing where he was really in isolation," Jackson said. "Put him in a situation where he can push the ball ... and also create for other guys down the floor."
Bryant said: "I think it makes me more of a facilitator. But at the same time, I'm potent at scoring the ball, so that's a balance we have to figure out."
Bryant expressed the need for a point guard after last season's exit from the first round of the playoffs. Among the point guard candidates in training camp are two significant additions to the roster: veteran Derek Fisher and first-round draft choice Javaris Crittenton.
"I definitely feel like I can be that guy," said Crittenton, who entered the NBA Draft after just one season at Georgia Tech.
Fisher rejoined the Lakers as a free agent this summer. He played his first eight NBA seasons with the Lakers, followed by two with Golden State, and last season with Utah.
Fisher and Bryant are the only current Lakers who were on the Los Angeles teams that won three consecutive championships from 2000-02.
"He's a dead-eye, knockdown shooter," Bryant said of Fisher. "More so than that, he understands the nuances of the offense. He understands spacing, he knows what I like to do and that simplifies things a great deal."
Other starters returning from last season are forwards Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, and center Bynum. Other key returnees include Kwame Brown, Brian Cook, Maurice Evans, Jordan Farmar, Chris Mihm, Vladimir Radmanovic, Ronny Turiaf and Sasha Vujacic.
Jackson said the players will not be confined to their hotel rooms when not in the gym while in Honolulu.
"We try not to take training camp too personally, too difficult, make it too hard for them," he said. "Make sure they enjoy the fact that they're here in Hawai'i, too."
As Bynum put it: "It is one of the worst places to go to work in the world, actually."
Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom have shoulder injuries, and their participation will be limited during training camp.
Phil Jackson was walking with the aid of a cane during yesterday's practice. "There's some inherent weakness that I'm working with around that hip. Otherwise, I'm doing pretty good."
The Golden State Warriors are conducting their training camp at the Cannon Activities Center on the BYU-Hawai'i campus.
Practices for both the Lakers and Warriors are closed to the public.