Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register wrote:
Paying no heed to the faltering economy and how little gross national product they were generating by playing hooky, 1,110 Lakers season-ticket holders spent Wednesday afternoon watching their beloved and supposedly championship-bound team practice at Staples Center.
Here are 10 noteworthy (and bad) things they saw in the last hour of scrimmaging:
1. Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant miss connections on three consecutive passes— two thrown by Bynum, one thrown by Bryant on the old-stand-by Shaquille O'Neal play on which Bryant drives and then drops the ball off in traffic to his waiting center.
2. A little while later, Bryant ducks his head and drives again before firing a pass across the lane toward Bynum — except Bynum has vacated that spot in anticipation of an offensive rebound. "Oh, Drew! Stay there!" Bryant yells.
3. Vladimir Radmanovic, not Lamar Odom, is playing for the purple first team, so Odom is sitting out — or more accurately, lying down. He stretches out his legs and lets out a big yawn.
4. After Bryant blows by Coby Karl on the wing and crashes into the lane to draw an obvious foul on Chris Mihm, Coach Phil Jackson stops the action, walks out there and lectures: "There should be no time when a guy is out on the wing playing defense by himself." A major element in the Lakers' plan to improve on defense is to be a more aggressive in bringing double teams.
5. The purple team of Bryant, Bynum, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Radmanovic loses to the green-clad team of Trevor Ariza, C.J. Giles, Brandon Heath, Karl and Mihm. Yikes.
6. The green team then loses to the white-clad team of Joe Crawford, Jordan Farmar, DJ Mbenga, Josh Powell and Luke Walton. It happens largely because Walton gets hot from 3-point range, and he carries that over into a post-practice, 3-point contest surprisingly won by Walton and "Pablo" Gasol, as Walton calls him, over Karl and Radmanovic. (The "UCLA" team of Ariza and Farmar eventually knocks off Gasol and Walton.)
7. Bynum is wearing his shorts backward. Seriously.
8. Odom comes in to replace Bynum for a purple-vs.-white matchup. Powell drives by Odom and down the lane on the first play. Assistant coach Frank Hamblen yells out a reminder to Fisher about help defense denying middle penetration.
9. Bryant wins the last scrimmage with back-to-back dunks. Then he wins the team-wide wind sprints — backpedaling to the finish line to reinforce the victory to his trailing teammates. Then he hits the final free throw that officially ends practice. This isn't supposed to be a one-man team anymore, by the way.
10. Gasol does a post-practice interview about the upcoming exhibition games this weekend and says he's looking forward to playing "at the Staples."
OK, so as you and those 1,100 fans can now see, the Lakers do not have it all together.
Reason for concern given the monster expectations on this team?
Lakers fans would be better served worrying about the economy.
"We're progressing the way we want," Jackson said.
But what about Bynum? The Lakers' golden child still is clearly not in sync with playing a team game, yet. Jackson said the rush of exhibition games (five in seven days) starting Saturday night will boost Bynum back into the groove, though. And despite misfiring on so many passes with Bynum, Bryant had no concerns about him, stressing one thing: "He looks in shape."
What about Jackson having no clue yet who should play with whom and acknowledging he won't really figure anything out until Sasha Vujacic returns from his injured left ankle in the coming weeks?
"This is the year more than any other year I've seen where he really doesn't know what starting lineup he wants to go with," Bryant said, "because we have so much depth. It's just a trial period. It's a great problem to have."
So maybe the Lakers will have to look like a one-man team at times until Jackson finishes playing Sudoku with them. The coach doesn't sound too baffled by his puzzle, however.
"When we have as talented a team as we have," Jackson said, "as long as players go in and play hard and take it upon themselves to try and do their best out there and not worry about playing time, they'll be fine."
Asked about building team chemistry, Fisher said: "We're still just two weeks into that process. And for us, that process will end with a championship. So to be two weeks into that journey is closer to this way (starting) than that way (finishing). We're realistic about that part of it."
If the process will end in a championship, there's no reason at all to sweat continued speculation that Bryant will be offered monster money to jump to Europe after this season. (The latest report is that Greek club team Olympiacos is gearing up to offer him a three-year, $60 million deal.)
Do you really think that a guy so targeted on being the best is going to give up that chance now that the Lakers are so beautifully set up to play dynasty again in the unquestioned best league in the world?
"Don't ask me that," Bryant said, expecting the Greek question and interrupting his questioner. "It's silly."