A Los Angeles Lakers offseason is never boring. There was the Kobe Bryant
saga: does he want to be traded? Or, does he want to stay
? Bryant will stay put even though the Lakers did not fulfill his wishes of acquiring a big name free agent.
Last season, the Lake Show jumped out to a 26-13 start before Kwame Brown, Luke Walton and Lamar Odom all missed significant time with injuries. These absences, though costly to the team, allowed rookie point guard Jordan Farmar and second year center Andrew Bynum to gain valuable experience.
Barring a major trade -- which isn't out of the question if another star whose team starts out slowly demands a trade -- Los Angeles should be in the hunt for one of the Westís bottom four playoff spots. A team led by Bryant has a shot to win any game but the Lakers will need a healthy Odom and unprecedented improvement from at least one half of their two-center rotation if they expect to advance past beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The Lakers welcomed back Derek Fisher
back when he decided to leave Utah so his daughter could receive medical treatment for a rare form of eye cancer in L.A. Fisher may not get the assists you would expect out of a point guard (only 3.3 for Utah last year) but he knows how to run the triangle offense and that counts for a lot in Phil Jackson
Kobe should be more comfortable this year with Fisher replacing Miami-bound Smush Parker in the backcourt and the entire team should benefit from having two veteran guards with significant playoff experience handling the ball. Farmar and 2007 first round draft pick Javaris Crittenton should fight it out for the remaining backcourt minutes.
Lamar Odom and Luke Walton give the Lakers a versatile duo of good decision makers at the forward positions. Both Walton (4.3 APG) and Odom (4.8 APG) pass extremely well for their positions and Walton shot a respectable 39 percent from beyond the arc last season. Odom often directed the offense from his point-forward position and still managed to lead the team in rebounding with 9.8 a game last year.
Unlike the forward positions, the battle for minutes at center is wide open. Kwame Brown has yet to live up to his No. 1 overall selection in the 2001 Draft and Phil Jackson has publicly stated that Andrew Bynum, though only 20, needs to show more progress in order to live up to the hype that accompanied his jump straight from high school in 2001. Their play in training camp and in the first few weeks of the season should determine the eventual starter.
-- John Jacobson
Don't miss a single minute of exciting Lakers Basketball during the 2007-08 season. It's more than a game.
If 2007-08 is Andrew Bynumís coming out party, then the Lakers should be in good shape. Bynum and Kwame Brown had nearly identical numbers last year although Brown missed 41 games due to injury. They may combine to put up respectable numbers for a starting center --- 16 points per game and 12 boards -- but individually they were often inconsistent in the paint. Kwame started last year when healthy but the Lakers clearly see Bynum as their man-in-the-middle for years to come.
Heís younger (20 to Brownís 25), more durable (appeared in all 82 games last season), and he has progressed much faster than his counterpart. Mitch Kupchakís refusal to give up Bynum severely hindered his ability to land a big name this summer so he, along with the rest of the organization, has to be banking on a breakout year from the talented young big man.
-- John Jacobson
||Only Wilt Chamberlain has averaged more points over a four game span than Kobe Bryant. From March 16 to March 23, 2007, Byrant averaged 56.3 points posting totals of 65, 50, 60, and 50.
Seventeenth Season, Seventh with Lakers
Sixteen times, 179-77 (.699)
Phil Jackson returns for his eighth season with Los Angeles using a cane after off-season hip surgery. In the final year of his contract, the teamís success this year may very well determine his immediate future. Jackson, the proud owner of nine NBA Championship rings as a coach, knows what it takes to reach the top so donít be surprised if he influences general manager Mitch Kupchak into aggressively pursuing some established talent early in the season.
-- John Jacobson
KNOW YOUR LAKERS
Luke Waltonís most prized possession is his 1970 Cadillac convertible that his older brother passed down to him.
I think Kobe is just venting. Iím actually one of the people who thinks that that Lakers are much better than theyíve shown and I think a big part of that is injuries.
When Chris Mihm and Lamar Odom are healthy and add Fisher back, they can be a pretty good team.
Bynum isnít on the verge of dominance, but I think he can be pretty good with the help of Mihm and Kwame Brown splitting minutes so he isnít called on to do as much. I think eventually in the next couple years heíll continue to get better and be a force, but last year they were just looking to him too much because those other guys werenít healthy.
Now that they have Fisher, Crittenton and Farmar can just come in and play with energy and learn their trade. I think it helps them tremendously.
Kobe is the best player in the game. Itís an indictment on the NBA that the guy hasnít won a MVP yet. I donít understand that.
The Lakers need to find one other guy who has an iron will like Kobe. They need another iron-willed guy that he can look to. When things get tough, he doesnít look to anybody but himself.
-- Western Conference Scout