Training Camp Standout
With a week's worth of practices in the books, the Lakers can reflect, if just a bit, on how things are going, how much progress is being made and which players stand out.
If you ask assistant coach Chuck Person -- the only guy on head coach Mike Brown's staff who's been in the past few training camps in Los Angeles -- there's been one player who has stood above the crowd: Andrew Bynum."First of all, he's in good condition … his body looks good, looks chiseled and very trimmed and he's running really well," Person detailed. "Andrew has come back in excellent shape, and we're very pleased with that. He's been really paying attention, learning the system both offensively and defensively. If he continues to go in this direction, we expect big things from him this year."
So dominant has Bynum been in camp, consistently showing the game that keyed L.A.'s 17-1 stretch out of the All-Star break last season, that Person thinks he can be the West's best center this season.
"That's up to him," said the Rifleman. "If he comes in and puts the work in, he'll get the results."
The coaches are emphasizing how Bynum can be most effective on defense, placing increased importance on his effort to protect the rim from the weak side, with a mandate of making sure no one gets a free path to the bucket. Bynum's charged with trapping the box, contesting shots, landing, boxing out and rebounding. Every time.
It helps that he's healthy. He entered the offseason without a major injury/surgery from which to recover for the first time in years, and was able to build up his body to the point that he feels great physically.
With the 24-year-old center and fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol patrolling the paint, the Lakers have decided to make a major change to their defensive principles of a year ago: the big men will "show out" especially on side and also middle pick and rolls, instead of "downing" the pick and rolls to the baseline.
"Last season, we sent pick and rolls towards the baseline," explained Person. "We're now going to be a show team where we actually attack pick and rolls and send the ball towards the midcourt line. Our bigs are going to be asked to show up the floor.
"That's going to be new for us. But the weakside defensive responsibilities pretty much stay the same. We won't drop in the paint on anything."
That's not to say that in certain matchups or certain parts of games that L.A. won't go down or under some pick and rolls - for example, when Boston's Rajon Rondo is running the show. But the standard will be to show, and show hard.
"We're going to be a very physical team with bodies on bodies defensively, making the other teams feel us this year," Person concluded. Leading that charge, no doubt, will be the biggest guy in purple and gold.