2012-13 Season Preview: Guards

Coming off a 4-1 series loss to Oklahoma City in the 2012 Western Semifinals, it was quite an offseason for the Lakers front office.

In essence, GM Mitch Kupchak and VP Jim Buss acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum and future draft picks. That's a two-time MVP and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who have collectively enjoyed multiple seasons on the All-NBA First Team, the point guard coming in a surprising sign-and-trade deal and the center the best fit possible with the team's personnel.

L.A.'s brain trust added free agents Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks to boost the bench, all the while managing to keep Pau Gasol in Los Angeles, setting up what promises to be the most intriguing of NBA seasons. As always, the franchise mentality is simple: championship or bust.

Little was revealed in a winless preseason (0-8) in which Howard and Kobe Bryant shared the floor for only one contest, the veterans rested and Mike Brown's coaching staff began to install the Princeton offense under the tutelage of assistant Eddie Jordan.

A foot strain kept Bryant out of the final week of training camp and has him questionable for the season opener -- he is, after all, Kobe Bryant, so most expect him to play -- but Howard looked fantastic after back surgery last April and is more than ready to debut on Oct. 30 against Dallas.

To make sure you are ready, we took a look at each of the 15 players on the roster, combining key statistics from 2011-12 alongside the expertise of player development coach Phil Handy, who revealed what each player added to his game in the offseason.


Steve Nash

42 – Number of games it will take Nash to surpass Mark Jackson for third on the NBA’s all-time assists list, if he averages 10 apg.

4 - Number of years Nash has shot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the free-throw line, which he narrowly missed doing last year in Phoenix (53.2, 39, 89.4). The only other player in NBA history to do it even two times? Larry Bird.

Phil Handy: Steve's very, very efficient, first and foremost. He can get more done in a shorter amount of time than most, and he takes a sophisticated attention to detail to everything, from footwork and balance to ball-handling, shooting and passing. The biggest thing he's been working on so far is his spot up shooting, which he's never really had to do before, but of course he already looks terrific.

Steve Nash

43 – 3-pointers Blake needs to reach 800 for his career.

4.3 – Drop-off in shooting percentage for Blake from the 3-point line from 37.8 percent in 2009-10 to 33.5 percent, though he rebounded to hit 41.9 percent in the playoffs and 45.5 percent in the preseason.

Handy: We spent the whole summer working on Steve's ballhandling, trying to improve his handle. We used a medicine ball quite often because it helps improve the hand speed and velocity of the dribble. With Steve it's been about keeping the ball closer to his body, because he has long arms for his size. He's a real worker, and he made some excellent progress.

Chris Duhon

123 – Wins during his four-year college career at Duke, which ranks second all-time in program and ACC history. He had some notable battles against Blake's Maryland Terps.

22 – Assists Duhon dished out against Golden State on November 29, 2008, a Knicks franchise-high.

Handy: Like Steve, Chris has also wanted to improve his ballhandling from day one, with the hand speed and dribble going with it. He also did a lot with the med ball. The other thing we've been working on is his footwork into his shots, helping him increase his speed and timing.

Darius Morris

15.4 – Points Morris averaged during the NBA Summer League, which led the Lakers.

10 – Pounds of muscle Morris added in the offseason while working with strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco.

Handy: Darius spent a lot of time shooting this summer and throughout camp. A lot of people know that he's fast and explosive, but 90 percent of his time was spent on shooting. He got a ton of shots up, and he's made great improvements; you ask him about where he was when he first came here last year, and it's night and day.

kobe Bryant

51,018 – Combined regular season and playoff (8,641) minutes for Kobe Bryant, his 42,377 regular-season minutes ranking 17th in league history and his playoff burn second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (8,851) by 210 minutes. If Bryant averages 35 mpg in the playoffs, it'd take him only six games to surpass Kareem.

78 – Number of games it will take Kobe (29,484 career points) to surpass Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, if he averages 25 ppg.

Handy: Kobe's a perfectionist. Whatever he does, he wants it perfect, no matter how long it takes. He will do it over and over and over again, which is a rare trait in today's players. This year, we've spent the most time on his ballhandling. That's the area he wanted to focus on, so we put together a semi-routine with the handle as well as his hand speed. He sees so many defensive coverages that I think he feels that if he can improve the ballhandling even a little, it's going to make his life easier. He's by far the best player I've ever had a chance to work with. Maybe I've had better shooters or ballhandlers in one specific skill, but his overall game and the transference from workout to game is 100 percent the best. He will take skills directly from practice to the game better than anybody.

Jodie Meeks

54 – Points Meeks notched against Tennessee while a junior at Kentucky, breaking Dan Issel’s single-game scoring record, while averaging 23.7 ppg on the season (6th in the country).

1 – NBA rank for Meeks in spot up shooting, as he hit 53.3 percent of his field goals, enough for 1.46 points per possession, according to Sports Illustrated and Synergy Sports. That beat out fellow gunners Steve Novak, Kyle Korver, Mario Chalmers and J.J. Redick. That's a big reason the Lakers signed Meeks in the offseason, with players like Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to draw attention before a kick out.

Handy: Jodie handles the ball better than people think and he's more athletic than people understand. I didn't realize he was as quick as he is. I knew he was a good shooter coming in, but I've stressed for him the ability to knock down mid-range jump shots off one- and two-dribble pull ups, in addition to being able to hit floaters off the dribble. Opponents are always going to run out at him because they respect his J, so we want to help him add that counter move, like Ray Allen has in his game.

Darius Johnson-Odom

15 – DJO's place on the roster, which isn't necessarily one the Lakers will keep throughout the season. Yet he was talented enough to beat out the well-liked Andrew Goudelock and Chris Douglas-Roberts to stay with the team.

2 – Dunks DJO favors hammering home in practice, with a classic windmill complimenting a reverse hammer jam where he drops the ball to his knees. Unofficially, Johnson-Odom led the Lakers in practice slams from the guard position.

Handy: DJO has progressed very well since the summer league. We spend time on his jump shot every day out to the three-point line and work often on ballhandling. We have also spent a good amount of time working on his pick and roll game, learning to make reads and how to make plays. He's a tremendously talented athlete and very hard working young man.