Camp Is Rolling, And So Is Sasha’s Ankle

Kurt —  October 1, 2008

A few thoughts after a couple days of training camp.

• Sasha Vujacic rolled his ankle (on DJ Mbenga’s foot) and is out for a couple of days, but it is considered nothing serious. This is not the playoffs, its camp, so no need to rush the guy back.

• A few quotes from Phil via Lakers.com:

On Trevor Ariza: “I don’t think anybody’s going to consider him a threat. I think he’s got an adequate jump shot that can keep people honest with it. I’m impressed with his abilities to make the jump shot. However, that’s not the strength of his game. His game’s going to be getting out there, being a slasher.”

On Josh Powell: “He’s impressed us a lot. He’s coming in playing hard. He’s got a lot of tenacity. He refuses to be boxed out. You’ve got to really put an effort into keeping him off the boards. He’s creating a lot of problems with our big guys, they know they’ve got a tiger down there after the rebound. He seems to have an idea of what we’re trying to do even though he’s only been here for one day. He seems relatively comfortable playing in our offense.”

• John Hollinger’s season prediction for the Lakers (and the rest of the West) is out on ESPN, and while I know he sort of has a Kobe-like polarizing effect on people, I thought his assessment (57 wins) was pretty accurate.

The Lakers have the highest ceiling of any team in basketball. If Bynum comes back healthy and plays like he did last season, if the frontcourt meshes and stays out of each other’s way, and if Bryant can put together another MVP-caliber season, the sky is the limit. In that sense, the Lakers have to be considered the favorite to win the West — if everything goes right, there’s no way anyone will beat them.

So you might be surprised to learn I’m not picking them to win. When I projected this team statistically, enough minor concerns came up that it added up to a one-game advantage for the Jazz. I realize this seems a bit odd since L.A. beat Utah fairly convincingly in the playoffs last year, and did it without Bynum, so let’s try to walk through it:

(1) Bynum’s health and production are not guaranteed. I project him playing 30 minutes a game, even with time out for injuries, and that still might have been rosy on my part.

(2) The frontcourt players are likely to negatively impact each other. Not hugely — not as badly as Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry last season, for instance — but enough that in the absence of other effects it would be a noticeable. I project both Gasol and Odom losing 1.5 points of PER to this.

And the list goes on, you should read the entire thing. He and I agree on a lot of this and disagree on a few things — I think Bynum and Pau will blend better together than some think; I think Sasha and Farmar will be improved, not take a step back (Fish will be fine, but the Lakers need to keep his minutes down during the season, he’s not young anymore).

He picks Utah to have a better regular season record and win the West, and that is possible — Utah is a very good team and one that plays well during the regular season. But in a seven-game series with everyone healthy, I like the Lakers chances.

But that is why we play the games — everyone’s preseason predictions are educated guesses at best. And how wrong were we about last year’s Lakers when making early October predictions?

• Al Davis has become Howard Hughes circa 1973.


Kurt

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