Archives For September 2010

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Part deuce of our look at key stats for the upcoming season focuses on the bench corps. In case you missed it, check out our post on the starters too.

Lamar Odom: O/U 30 games as a starter
Fisher and Bryant are used to receiving props for their durability, but Odom proved that he belongs in the Lakers iron man conversation too after playing in all 82 games in 2009-2010. As the starting center on Team U.S.A. this summer, Lamar entered training camp this week with only a few weeks of rest. His load figures to be even heavier to start the season now that Bynum is out for at least the first few weeks, leaving Odom as the go-to starter. The Lakers have been able to weather his inconsistency as a sixth man the past two seasons, but will especially need Lamar to elevate his game while Andrew heals. Going off of Bynum’s own timeline, Odom is a virtual lock to start the first 15-20 games of the season. The Lakers can only hope it stays around that number and far away from the 38 games he started last season.

Sasha Vujacic: O/U 37% three-point shooting percentage
Sasha fell out of favor with Lakers coaches and unfortunately, back into the “practice player” label too as he only connected on 31% of his three-pointers during the regular season–down from his career average of 37%. Here’s hoping his much-improved performance in the final two rounds of the playoffs is more indicative of his play this season.

Luke Walton: O/U 70 games played
Luke was largely a forgotten man in last season’s championship run after appearing in only 29 games due to a pinched nerve in his back. Heading into 2009-2010, Walton’s troublesome back remains a bit of a ticking time bomb for the Lakers. Though they’ve proved that they can win without him, Luke’s expert knowledge of the offense is an undervalued commodity on a second unit that will be lacking triangle wherewithal. If his back holds up, it’d sure be nice to see him play close to a full season.

Matt Barnes: O/U 38% three-point shooting
The Lakers expect stellar defensive tenacity and intagibles out of Barnes, but they also need him to spread the floor from the three spot, similar to the player he’ll likely be subbing for the most—Artest. Matt shot 32% from beyond the arc during the regular season in 2009-2010, but improved to almost 38% during the playoffs—a trend that L.A. is hoping continues this season. Barnes proved himself a capable, if unspectacular offensive player during recent playoff runs with the Warriors and Magic, but finding consistency in his outside shooting will go a long way toward shoring up L.A.’s second unit this season.

Steve Blake: O/U 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio
Blake has been quietly dropping bombs from three point land for years now, hitting 40% of his treys last season (23rd in the league). However, equally important to the Lakers’ success this season will be his ability to lead the offense in a way that his predecessor Jordan Farmar never quite mastered. Blake ranked 13th in the league last season with a 2.97 assist-to-turnover ratio and could do a lot worse than replicating that number this season. Early reports out of training camp from Coach Jackson and Kobe indicate that Steve is already taking control of the team, which bodes well for next season.

Shannon Brown: O/U 2.5 assists
After a sub par regular season and playoff run for Shannon, his second full season with the Lakers is all about the other tricks in his bag. For starters, he can improve his nearly 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio—an ugly stat that is unfortunately mostly consistent with his inconsistent decision-making. When Brown first joined the forum blue and gold, there was preliminary talk about his ability to potentially supplant Fisher as the team’s starting point guard, thanks to his ball-handling and the strong potential he showed as a man-to-man defender. He obviously isn’t the answer the team is looking at the one spot anymore, but he remains a vital spark plug in the 20 minutes or so he plays off of the bench.

Theo Ratliff: O/U 1.5 blocks
Ratliff was a shot-blocking fiend during his prime and will be asked to recapture some of that magic as the Lakers’ third-string big man. With Andrew missing the first month of the season, Theo moves one rung up the ladder. At this stage of his career, Ratliff is a bit of a one trick pony, but his specialty—blocking shots—is something that L.A. despertaely needs from its second unit.

Derrick Caracter: O/U 275 lbs
So far, so good on the Derrick Caracter weight watch as the the versatile forward entered training camp in compliance with the team-mandated weight clause. The Lakers will certainly keep a close watch on his conditioning throughout the season, and if he sustains his motivation, he could get some quality burn even in Coach Jackson’s notoriously anti-rookie regime. The odds of this happening, of course, also depend on the collective health of Walton and Bynum.

Devin Ebanks: O/U 1.5 steals per 40 minutes
It’s difficult to pinpoint a stat for a player who isn’t expected to see much time on the floor this season, but I, along with the Lakers, view Ebanks as a potentially very strong defender in the same vein as Trevor Ariza. For that reason, it would be great to see him channel the former Lakers forward as a go-to defender on the wing, agile enough to guard some of the league’s larger point guards, but still sturdy enough to do battle with the NBA’s elite small forwards.

Amar'e Stoudemire salutes the media at a press conference after signing a 5 year nearly and 100 million dollar contract to play with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York City on July 8, 2010.    UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

From Joey, Straight Bangin: What are the team’s biggest strengths? Apositional players neither qualified to play point guard nor big enough to guard opposing centers. Raymond Felton is a point guard. So is Sergio Rodriguez, I guess. (Doesn’t matter what he is; he’s in Spain.) Mozgov is a center. Eddy Curry is an expiring contract in a center’s body. That’s it. The rest of the roster is unintentionally participating in the much-heralded Positional Revolution. No one else on the team is a classic anything. Some don’t have the bodies for what they do. Others don’t have the skills for their bodies. And then some more are uniquely situated. Amare, for example, can block shots like a center, rebound like a power forward, and shoot that pick-and-pop jumper like a small forward. Similarly, Toney Douglas has the size of a point but the game of a shooter and is sort of just a guard. The roster is composed of these players almost indiscriminately: starters like Danilo Gallinari and reserves like Bill Walker will be deployed across multiple lineups. On offense, this will be a boon for the Knicks, as the roster appears versatile enough to threaten nearly any defense. This is the kind of flexible outfit with which Mike D’Antoni has had success in the past. These Knicks will far exceed the recent predecessors in their scoring potential, offensive execution, and aesthetic appeal.

From Tim Lewis, Indy Cornrows: What Significant Moves were made during the off-season? Over the past few off-seasons the Pacers have had a lot of turnover on their roster in an effort to make changes while being cash-strapped with little to no salary cap space. This past summer, the team made fewer roster changes but the significance of those changes was much larger. Consistent double-double contributor, Troy Murphy was sent to New Jersey in a four-team deal that brought second-year point guard Darren Collisonto the Pacers along with veteran forward James Posey. Collisonfills the Pacers’ desperate need at point guard, since T.J. Ford has struggled with the Pacers and is now in the final year of his contract. Collison should help solidify the position for the future along with reserve A.J. Price. Moving Troy Murphy also impacts the Pacers greatly. No longer will the team’s power forward be trailing the break to line up a three-pointer. The remaining power forwards are more athletic players that can get out and lead the break instead of floating around the three-point line. This will also force Jim O’Brien to alter his coaching strategy without a stretch four like Murphy to increase the volume of three point shots. But missing Murphy’s consistent double-double production will be difficult to replace.


From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: During our ESPN Media Day broadcast, there may have been no more interesting — and potentially controversial — exchange than one involving Andrew Bynum. By then, it was old news his offseason knee surgery revealed more damage than expected and his anticipated absence during the preseason could extend into the regular season. Bynum is targeting late-November for his return. Delaying surgery until mid-July to accommodate an overseas vacation was endorsed by Phil Jackson and the front office alike, as all signs pointed towards a relatively minor procedure and rehab.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Saturday at media day, Andy and I managed to speak with just about everyone on the squad. Just about. Never happy to tolerate loose ends, I caught up after Tuesday’s practice with one of the guys who, in a surprisingly savvy, veteran move, escaped our broadcast table: rookie forward/center Derrick Caracter. Q: So a few days in, is this what you were expecting? Derrick Caracter: Definitely. I’m out here playing, and they say [Phil Jackson] likes to condition with basketball activities, so that’s what we’ve been doing, and I’ve just been trying to take it a day at a time, and compete, and play as hard as I can. Q: Has your approach changed knowing Andrew Bynum is going to miss some time? DC: No, but I know that I have to be even more prepared now, with possibly playing more minutes. I really have to focus in on all the different options. I know the triangle, but all the options, the reverses, and the lingo- how he says it- I just have to keep continuing to work at it and pick it up.

From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: Once the Lakers break from their team huddle, the team goes its separate ways. Some go to the training room for treatment. Some linger and address media. And then others get a head start on the L.A. traffic. Rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks, however, are still in the gym. They pick up towels and water bottles. They put the basketballs back on the rack. And they pick up any loose items on the gym and coaches’ desk (Ebanks was so devoted during Wednesday’s practice that he sneaked onto the court just as a whistle blew during a scrimmage to pick up a small piece of paper). The Lakers didn’t have any rookies last season, so they’re enjoying the extra service (“There’s no question it’s great to have some rookies this year,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher said). Ebanks and Caracter join a veteran-laden, two-time defending championship team, so they figure beyond their work ethic they have something to offer. (“Whatever they ask us to do,” Caracter said. “We’ll do them.”)

From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: OK, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said with a smile after practice Tuesday, call Lamar Odom “our handyman.”?And this will be another season in which Odom plays the handyman role in the frontcourt.?With center Andrew Bynum rehabilitating his surgically repaired right knee, and with Pau Gasol moving to center, Odom will start at power forward when the Lakers open the regular season Oct. 26 against the Houston Rockets.?But that’s nothing new for the 6-foot-10 Odom.??He started the first 11 regular-season games last season when Gasol was out with a hamstring injury. In all, Odom started 38 games last season.?”That’s the strength of my game, is to be able to play anywhere on the court,” Odom said. “That’s what I look forward to doing the most.”

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Phil Jackson hasn’t even wanted to bring his team to Honolulu for previous Lakers training camps, so heading overseas to London and Barcelona left him calling the start of this camp “a bust” even before it began. Jackson believes more work gets done with better focus at the team’s headquarters. (By the way, once Jackson does finally go out the door and stay out, you can bet the Lakers will be back to train in Jerry Buss’ beloved Honolulu again, probably in 2012.) But the Lakers are getting seven practices in over six days at home before their 5:25 p.m. flight to London on Thursday, at least. They’ll play exhibitions Monday in London against the Minnesota Timberwolves (12 p.m. Pacific live broadcast on KSPN/710, 7 p.m. Pacific delayed telecast on KCAL/9) and Oct. 7 in Barcelona against Regal FC Barcelona (11:30 a.m. Pacific live broadcast on KSPN/710, 7 p.m. Pacific delayed telecast on KCAL/9). Both games are sold out.

From Robert Baptista, Silver Screen and Roll: Sasha Vujacic might be the most hated player in the NBA. Well, maybe that’s Vince Carter, but Sasha’s definitely the most annoying. Unfortunate, but true. I don’t come across any fans of other teams who like him at all, and honestly, there aren’t too many Lakers fans who still like him either. They can tell you about the one-man full court press that usually results in the Lakers getting in early foul trouble to start the second and fourth quarters. Or the arguments with teammates and coaches. The Steve Nash-like finger-lick-hair-fixing thing. Then the outside shot that’s become terribly inconsistent. Oh, and did I mention he’s making $6 million per year for all of this? Therein lies the real problem. The money he got paid versus the player he’s become.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: he last two shots he attempted in the last game of last season — two free throws with 11.7 seconds left and the outcome of Game 7 against the Boston Celtics hanging in the balance — found nothing but net. Now, more than three months later, most of the first shots Sasha Vujacic has put up through the first three days of Lakers training camp are doing the same. “Sasha was like the hero today. Sasha made all his shots,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said about Vujacic. With Kobe Bryant out while recovering from right knee surgery, Vujacic continued to play with the first-team unit of Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Pau Gasol. The team ended practice with organized eight-minute scrimmages with officials and scoreboard on and everything, and Vujacic’s team won 29-10 in the one session that was open for the media.

From Nadya Avakian, Lakers Nation: Nobody causes the occasional head-scratch gesture more than Lamar Odom. The 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward’s passing ability, length and instincts on the boards, attack off the dribble and transition game make him capable of putting up hall of fame type numbers on a nightly basis. There’s just one problem—he doesn’t. The one constant you’ll find in regards to Odom is fans constantly wanting to grab and shake him until he gets that he’s better than the once in a blue moon 20/10/5 stat line. The reality is Odom isn’t ever going to have that killer instinct mentality. He’s mellow, deferent and goes with the flow. It’s that same personality, however, that integrates so well with this current Lakers squad.

Around the World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  September 29, 2010

Los Angeles Laker's Derek Fisher sits down for an interview during the media day at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, Ca., on September 25, 2010 (UPI Photo/Lori Shepler) Photo via Newscom

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: The Lakers have become significantly less of an international team by personnel since the departures of Vladimir Radmanovic (Serbia), DJ Mbenga (Congo) and Sun Yue (China) from the 2008-09 training camp roster, leaving only Pau Gasol (Spain) and Sasha Vujacic (Slovenia) left in 2010-11. But if you’re looking for a roster full of New York – New Jersey metropolitan area hoopers, it’s not the Knicks or Nets, but the Los Angeles Lakers that carry the day. In fact, three Lakers – Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Devin Ebanks – are all from the same borough of New York City (Queens), and have known one another for years. Odom and Artest played on the same AAU team as teenagers, while Ebanks grew up so close to Artest’s Queensbridge project that Artest knew of him by the time he was 10 years old. But that’s just New York. Over in New Jersey, Derrick Caracter (Fanwood, N.J.) and Andrew Bynum (Metuchen, N.J.) grew up in towns that are both about 30 miles away from NYC, and just nine miles away from one another.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Luke Walton was on the floor again today after participating in both of Monday’s practice, a good sign regarding his still-questionable back. The difference between watching the first unit, filled with guys familiar with the system, and the seconds- today comprised of Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, Theo Ratliff, Matt Barnes, and Derrick Caracter- is profound. No surprise, the level of sophistication in the offense is far, far lower. Still, there are silver linings. Brown said after practice the process of playing with guys who don’t know the system as well is very constructive for him. Directing traffic reinforces and lengthens his understanding of what to do and where to go with the ball. Jim Cleamons spent a lot of time in Caracter’s ear, particularly on the defensive end. On the other side, Caracter was both a positive and negative force, nearly turning the ball over a few times, but also making good reads, crashing the boards, and showing some skill with a nice baseline drive and reverse layup.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: During our ESPN Media Day broadcast, there may have been no more interesting — and potentially controversial — exchange than one involving Andrew Bynum. By then, it was old news his offseason knee surgery revealed more damage than expected and his anticipated absence during the preseason could extend into the regular season. Bynum is targeting late-November for his return. Delaying surgery until mid-July to accommodate an overseas vacation was endorsed by Phil Jackson and the front office alike, as all signs pointed towards a relatively minor procedure and rehab.

From Rey Moralde, The No Look Pass: I’m not sure if David Stern is trying to turn his league into a robot league. Once again, the NBA is going to attempt to crack down on the complaining and whining of the players. They tried this once in 2005 and I remember Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley mocking this rule by yelling “THAT’S A TECHNICAL!” on every highlight. The policing slowly disappeared and it was back to where it was once again. I also remember the NBA when they said they would fine floppers during the 2008-09 season. Well, name me someone who was fined for flopping. Even if you did give me a name or two, that rule slowly disappeared, too… and everybody was back to falling on their backs even if no one made contact with them.

From Jeff Miller, OC Register: At 6-foot-9, he is the second heaviest Laker, his 265 pounds providing presence, which this team might need given what Andrew Bynum will be bringing. You know, absence? Coach Phil Jackson even noted Derrick Caracter’s offensive rebounding potential, his skill in terms of cleaning the glass. At the moment, however, Caracter is just cleaning. Empty water bottles. Discarded gum wrappers. Towels damp with someone else’s sweat. He is moving around the Lakers’ practice facility, picking up after teammates because that’s what rookies do, even this club’s preseason workouts ending with garbage time.


In continuing with our team previews series, below are the compiled links for the Pacific Division teams.

ClippersClips Nation | SBNation Recap

KingsSactown Royalty | Cowbell Kingdom | SBNation Recap

LakersSilver Screen and Roll | Forum Blue & Gold | NBAtipoff | SBNation Recap

SunsBright Side Of The Sun | SB Nation Arizona | ValleyoftheSuns SBNation Recap

WarriorsGolden State of Mind | SBNation Recap

Recaps: All Previews

Los Angeles Laker's talks to reporters during the media day at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, Ca., on September 25, 2010 (UPI Photo/Lori Shepler) Photo via Newscom

As we’ve all read by now, Andrew Bynum is still recovering from his off-season knee surgery.  This extended recovery time will likely make him unavailable for the start of the regular season and the man himself has said that he may not play until late November.  And while there is a group of people that are upset with Bynum once again being behind schedule his recovery from an injury, I think most folks are understanding of this recent set back and just want Bynum healthy for the playoffs come April and May (this group includes Phil Jackson) after Bynum gutted his way through the playoffs on his bad wheel while still contributing to the Lakers championship run.  That said, missing Bynum still has implications for this team.  Just because the Lakers have had success in years past of playing with a limited or completely out of the lineup Bynum doesn’t mean that there aren’t any reprecussions to having their starting Center (potentially) miss the first month of the season.  This is especially true with this current Lakers group (as we’ll get into).  Below are a few questions and things to look for while Bynum is on the mend until Thanksgiving.

*More time for Lamar Odom – is he ready to play the extra minutes?  Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a question worth asking.  In past seasons, Odom has filled in admirably for an injured Bynum and has usually raised the level of his game to the point where the Lakers are just as dangerous as they are with an Odom/Gasol frontcourt as when their twin towers patrol the paint.  However, this is not a typical year.  Odom is coming off an extended Summer of on court action playing for the gold medal winning World Champion Team USA.  Combine this lack of rest and recuperation to the fact that Odom is coming off a third consecutive deep playoff run where he played heavy minutes in place of a banged up Bynum and there are legitimate questions about how Odom will hold up in the first part of the season.  Maybe this is much ado about nothing and I’m worrying over a potential issue that will never sprout up.  However, Odom is not known as the most durable player (despite his relatively high games played totals the last few seasons) and he’s also been nicked up himself the past couple of years.

*Who will be the Lakers’ 3rd big man with Bynum out?  In years past, this role would be split between Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga – with Josh earning more minutes from coach Jackson.  However, both of those players have moved on to new teams and now those minutes will have to go to another big on the Lakers roster.  With the newly acquired Theo Ratliff and rookie Derek Caracter waiting in the wings, the Lakers look to have able replacements that can soak up some minutes in the front court.  However, that’s not necessarily a given.  Last year, in limited games (but extended – for him – minutes), Ratliff filled in nicely as a part time big man for the Bobcats.  He rebounded at an average level and blocked over a shot a game.  However, if forced into action for the Lakers will that same production be there?  One can hope, but at this advanced stage of his career, that’s not a given.  And then there’s the rookie Caracter who looks the part of a legitimate NBA big man but is still only a first year player with pretty big learning curve to get over on offense and the need to play defend and rebound at a high enough level where he’s actually useful on the court.  Overall, I feel that both Ratliff and Caracter have enough experience and ability respectively to be relied upon, but with Andrew out the onus is on them to prove it for stretches in every game.

*Will the Lakers play more small ball?  Last season, when Bynum missed games and Mbenga/Powell were ineffective the Lakers played Artest at PF for some stretches in situations where Pau/LO needed extra rest or were in foul trouble.  During the first part of this season, the same may end up being true if Ratliff/Caracter prove to be no better than their predecessors.  This off-season, the Lakers added a player in Matt Barnes that has at times played PF in small ball lineups on the Suns and Warriors.  Whether or not this same need arises with Bynum missing up to a month to start this year remains to be seen, but Phil Jackson should be comforted that against certain teams – ones with perimeter oriented PF’s especially – the Lakers can trot out Barnes or Artest to play some PF in a pinch.  Also, Odom did play some Center for Team USA in the Worlds so he may be able to fill that same role for short stretches if Pau is relegated to the bench for any reason.

It’s clearly not the end of the world that the Lakers will be without ‘Drew to start the season.  As mentioned, they’ve survived without him in the past and have enough talent across the rest of the roster to compensate for his absence.  That said, missing Bynum will be a challenge for this specific Lakers’ team.  Their pre-season will be broken up by a trip to Europe and Phil Jackson has already said that this training camp will be a bust, what with the integration of new players and how that will likely curb their growth process as a team in the early going.  You add that to the potential that the aforementioned issues crop up and the desire to have a stronger regular season this year than last and there may be issues on the horizon.  Nothing that the team can’t overcome by the time the playoffs roll around, but a potential concern nonetheless.

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, left, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher battle for the ball in the first half of a NBA basketball game in Los Angeles on November 19, 2009. UPI/Lori Shepler Photo via Newscom

From Blog A Bull: What are the team’s biggest strengths? Defense, rebounding, and overall physicality. With all the faults of the Vinny Del Negro era (and oh, there were many), he did have the Bulls playing as a top-10 defense for most of the season (finished 11th after the midseason trades and an injury to Noah). Anchored by Joakim Noah (one of the best help defenders in the game and an improving shotblocker) and supplemented by an underrated perimeter defender in Deng, Thibodeau’s defense-first mindset should fit in well with this roster. Kirk Hinrich will be missed on that end of the floor, but he was always undersized for the position compared to new acquisition Ronnie Brewer. Boozer isn’t known as a great defender but he’s a physical one, and Noah ought to cover a lot of his mistakes. The bigs off the bench include second-year player Taj Gibson and rookie Omer Asik, the former having proven to be an above-average defender and the latter excelling in shotblocking while playing overseas.


From Mark Medina, LA Times: Walking across the Lakers’ practice court during the team’s media day literally signified Lamar Odom’s first step into the 2010-2011 season. It didn’t just mark the first time Odom would see the assembled reporters since his exit interview a week after the Lakers’ 2010 title run. It also served as the first time Odom had actually been in the Lakers facility itself. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol abstained from the 2010 FIBA World Championships, while  Odom helped Team USA to its first gold-medal victory since 1994.  While Andrew Bynum underwent a controversial surgery after traveling to the World Cup in South Africa, Odom avoided surgery and traveled to Turkey with Team USA.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Standing off to the side, Lakers forward Ron Artest approached Phil Jackson with a potent observation. In just his second practice, Steve Blake already provided a formidable impression. “Was Steve here during the summer a lot?” Jackson recalled Artest asking him. “Because he seems to know the offense already.” Even casual observers understand the irony in this conversation. Lakers fans may hold Artest in high esteem now for his 2010 NBA Finals’ Game 7 heroics and lovable nature, but they also painfully remember Artest trying to figure out the triangle even well into the postseason. They witnessed his questionable shot selection, confusion over where he should move on the floor and transition in becoming a secondary offensive option. Compare that with Blake, and you have the Zen Master praising his understanding, Kobe Bryant crediting his basketball IQ and Blake, himself, sharing his extra off-season work.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Andrew Bynum had a great time, though. For the distraction he wound up creating and the flak he’ll catch as he sits for most of the rest of the calendar year, Bynum said his trip sans crutches to watch the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg was “one of the best times of my life.” “I never saw so much emotion going through people before, even the NBA Finals,” Bynum said. “I hope we can get to that stage (in basketball).” Bynum could hardly stand still as he tells the story of his day of departure from South Africa, when he and his entourage brought a soccer ball to the airport. Suddenly, in Pied Piper fashion, they found 35 people there encircling them, happily hanging out just because there was that ball.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Friday afternoon, Phil Jackson said he thought Andrew Bynum might miss a few games to start the season. Two, three, maybe four. No worries. Guess he should have run that line by Bynum himself, because Saturday the fifth-year center revealed he expected to spend significantly more time in street clothes. “I see [returning] more towards the end of November,” he said. Bynum remains about four weeks away from significant activity on the floor, and then he has to work his way back into playing shape and onto the court. While Bynum will never be confused with Nostradamus when it comes to predicting when he’ll return from injury — he tends to be overly optimistic — for the sake of argument, let’s say he’s right and returns Nov. 30 vs. Memphis. It would be L.A.’s 18th game of the season.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Relatively speaking, Luke Walton had a miserable year last season. Oh, sure, as a member of the championship-winning Los Angeles Lakers, he’s probably not at risk of being the main character when CBS decides to give the “Worst Week” concept another try, but I think it’s fair to say that, even with another championship ring en route, Walton’s year didn’t play out as he envisioned. He lost a goodly portion of his season to what was called a pinched nerve in his back, only appearing in 29 games. And in the 29 games that he did see the court, he was not exactly at his finest. Unfortunately, Walton has three things going against him as he tries to pick up the pieces from last year. 1) His injury affects the back, which is a particularly fickle and vital part of an athlete’s body. 2) That injury isn’t particularly treatable or fixable. In fact, doctors don’t even really have a perfect understanding of what exactly is wrong with young Luke.

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Numbers don’t always tell the whole truth in basketball, but they can certainly offer valuable insight into player patterns, as well as some occasionally prescient nuggets about the future too. That said, we look at one or two important stats for each of the 14 expected roster players and eventually, some key numbers for the team as a whole. Part 1 of Lakers and the Numbers Game focuses on the starters (once Bynum is healthy). What stats from the starting unit pop out to you as the Lakers begin their title defense?

Derek Fisher
Key Stat: +/- 40% three-point percentage
Clutch playoff shots aside, Derek had one of the worst shooting seasons of his career in 2009-2010, connecting on only 38% of his shots from the field. More concerning than his overall field goal percentage was his sudden decline in three-point percentage last season—41% in 2007-2008, 40% in 2008-2009, 35% in 2009-2010. It’s hard to dog a guy who consistently comes through when it matters most, but his inability to knock down open shots was an impetus on the Lakers overall offensive scheme during the 2009-2010 regular season. In order to take advantage of their incredible length with Gasol, Bynum and Odom inside, they need Fisher to consistently knock down jumpers this year. On a side note, like Kobe, Derek is similarly chasing down the record books, currently sitting at sixth all-time in playoff three-point fields goals with 224. Barring injury, he’ll continue to creep up on Reggie Miller and the four others ahead of him this postseason.

Kobe Bryant
Key Stat: +/- 36 minutes per game
Kobe wound up playing three more minutes per game (39 total) than 2009-2010, while his usage rate of 29 was actually his lowest since the 2003-2004 season. In Bryant’s case, the numbers don’t lie as his productivity and decision-making has been on-point for several seasons now. As his scoring average gradually decreases, Kobes’s all-around game continues to shine—a point he emphatically hammered home with an underrated 15-rebound performance in Game 7 of the Finals. L.A. obviously doesn’t need to him to pull down 15 boards a night during the season, but they do need to keep his minutes down so he’ll be as spry as possible come April. Another number to look out for this season is Kobe’s ongoing climb up the NBA’s all-time scoring list. At 25,790 points, #24 is only 1,619 points away from passing Moses Malone for sixth all-time—a figure he should easily reach if he plays in about 60 games and maintains his 27 point-per-game average from 2009-2010.

Ron Artest
Key Stat: +/- 41% field goal percentage
Ron Ron connected on several prodigious shots during the playoffs, but struggled throughout the season with acclimating his offensive game to the ins and outs of the triangle. On a team as stacked as the Lakers, his 11-point output isn’t far off from where the team wants it, but his 41% shooting from the field leaves much room for improvement, even if his 42% shooting over the course of his career doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence for a sudden increase. More vital to the Lakers’ success than his shooting percentage, though, is Ron’s shot selection. During the Lakers’ last three-peat run, Rick Fox proved himself a strong outside shooter out of the small forward slot—and one that carefully chose his spots. Granted, the Lakers expect more offensively from Artest than they ever did Foxy, but Ron could do a lot worse than at least trying to emulate his fellow bruiser from a decision-making standpoint.

Pau Gasol
Key Stat: +/- 12 rebounds per game.
Buzz about Gasol’s quiet, but substantial improvement since linking up with Kobe and Coach Jackson seems to peak during playoff time, even if Lakers fans are privy to his continuing rise as an elite player year-round. Gasol showed up to camp in 2010 with a renewed sense of grit underneath the basket and focus on rebounding the ball. The results are hard to argue with as the Spaniard pulled down 11.3 rebounds per game last season. During the playoffs, those numbers increased to 12 against the Thunder, 15 against the Jazz and 12 against Boston. Granted, those boosted numbers came with a limited Andrew Bynum during the playoffs, but the possibility of Pau potentially leading the league in rebounding persists. With Bynum missing at least the first few weeks of the season, Gasol, along with Odom, will once again be asked to shoulder the bulk of the Lakers’ rebounding load.

Andrew Bynum:
Key Stat: +/- 60 games played.
35, 50, 65: the number of games Andrew has played over the past three seasons. With news breaking this week that the five-year veteran will be out at least two to three weeks according to Coach Jackson (possibly more if you go off of Bynum’s prognosis), there’s really no way of predicting how many games he’ll play this season. For the sake of coming up with a goal, let’s go with the assumption that Andrew misses the first 18 games of the season (includes all games up until the end of November) and doesn’t experience any lingering issues with his troublesome knee. If a similar scenario plays out, I think a solid number for Bynum to aspire to is somewhere around 60 games. In any case, it’s a figure that could very well define whether or not the Lakers are able to fend off hungry teams like Miami, Orlando and Boston for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

April 26, 2010 Milwaukee, WI. Bradley Center..Milwaukee Bucks Brandon Jennings drives to the hoop, Jennings had 23 points and 6 assists against the Hawks tonight..Milwaukee Bucks won over the Atlanta Hawks 111-104, in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Series is now tied at 2-2. Mike McGinnis/CSM.

Today, we’re continuing our league wide preview with the Milwaukee Bucks. And after the Bucks previews, we’ll get our first look at some Lakers training camp links (finally!). Enjoy:

From Frank Madden, BrewHoop: What Significant Moves were made during the off-season? Where to begin? Before the draft, John Hammond surprised many by picking up free throw-magnet Corey Maggette for the throwaway price of Charlie Bell and Gadzuric, addressing the Bucks’ complete inability to draw fouls but also raising questions over their interest/ability to keep John Salmons. Afterall, it stood to reason that Hammond (or perhaps more accurately, Herb Kohl) might think twice about committing major dollars to the 30-year-old Salmons just a week after taking on the 30-year-old Maggette’s three years and $31 million in remaining salary. Um, right?

From J.O., NBA Mate: What are the team’s biggest strengths? The Jennings/Bogut duo. Jennings, who after spending a year in Europe, was able to slot in comfortably last season as the Bucks cornerstone for the future at perhaps the toughest position to fill in the NBA. The highlight obviously, the 55-points he dropped on Golden State back in November of ’09. More importantly, Jennings played all 82 games and hauled in honest averages of 15ppg-6apg-4rpg. For a 21-year-old with great court vision, handle and speed, you’d take that any day. What also went right was the emergence (pre-injury) of Bogut, who boasted last season all-star stats of 15ppg and 10rpg. How he was overlooked for that game was downright ridiculous. He was also second in the league at almost three blocks a night behind Dwight Howard. Provided Redd doesn’t pass on his injury bug and if neither of these two consider LeBroning the franchise, Jennings and Bogut are undoubtedly the present and future pillars of where Milwaukee stands to be in 4-5 years time.


Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher (L-R), pose for photos during the basketball team's media day at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California on Sept. 25, 2010. The Lakers will try to three-peat this season after winning back-to-back NBA championship titles. UPI/Jim Ruymen Photo via Newscom

From J.A. Adande, The Lakers now have Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, two players who fill offensive and defensive needs in addition to bringing in ringless players who can infuse the back-to-back champions with extra motivation … which would be a perfectly legitimate storyline if the Lakers didn’t have Kobe Bryant. “Just speaking with Kobe, I don’t think he needs any motivation,” Blake said. “His mind is set on winning again.” When Barnes entered the Lakers’ locker room for the first time he heard Bryant in a heated conversation with Ron Artest, talking about getting over screens and locking up in man-to-man defense, a discussion that might seem more appropriate for a playoff game timeout than a leisurely summer day. “If he’s that hungry, I’m starving,” said Barnes, who has landed on his eighth team in his quest to join a winner. “I don’t think the mentality of the team is to sit back and get fat.”

From Dave McMenamin, Several seasons ago, Kobe Bryant approached Nike asking for a more streamlined sneaker that wouldn’t weigh him down as much on the court as his traditional high tops, and the company obliged with a low-top alternative. Bryant announced at the Lakers’ annual media day Saturday that he is going with a new less-is-more approach this season, like his sneaker preference. The All-Star guard is electing to not wear a splint on the bothersome right index finger on his shooting hand that suffered from an avulsion fracture and an arthritic knuckle last year. “If [the finger] gets whacked, maybe a game or so I’ll have to put [the splint] on, but for the most part no,” Bryant said. “I’ve been shooting without the tape. My shot feels a lot better. I can follow through with my fingers on the ball and get a better feel for it now than I did last year.”

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Andrew Bynum said Saturday he does not expect to make his season debut until late November. “I see it more towards the end of November,” Bynum said of his return. Bynum had surgery on his right knee on July 28, and the procedure involved his doctor reattaching the damaged cartilage instead of just cutting it off, as is customary in these surgeries. The goal is to give Bynum’s knee more long-term support — perhaps wise considering he is predisposed to knee injuries and has already had so many in his short career — but requires more recovery time. Bynum said he can’t do any impact activities for four weeks. He said he got an update from his doctor, David Altchek, on Thursday.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Before it even started, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson predicted training camp would be a “bust.” And plenty of variables were on display this opening weekends to why that’s proved to be the case. To no one’s surprise, Lakers center Andrew Bynum sat out of Sunday’s practice in what will mark the beginning of a preseason rehabilitation process after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this off-season. But what could at least be a tad consoling to Lakers fans entails the fact Jackson didn’t exactly share Bynum’s assessment that he wouldn’t return until late November, instead offering his expectation that Bynum would return in two to three weeks after the regular season starts Oct. 26 against Houston. Although Jackson believes Kobe Bryant’s efforts in recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery this off-season has proved enough to play during the preseason, Bryant sat out of Saturday’s and Sunday’s practices. He described his right knee as “feeling pretty good,” but he said he has been taking a “step-by-step” approach in improving the conditioning and strength in his knee. But it’s certainly nothing to fret over. Bryant isn’t for one: “I don’t give two [expletive]” about the preseason.

From Mike Trudell, Basketblog: The most important focus of Pau Gasol’s offseason was resting his body after three straight years of split duty between the Lakers and Spanish National Team. As he reported after Sunday’s practice, the 7-footer is certainly noticing the results. “I feel good about how fresh I am and how my body’s feeling, how my mind’s feeling,” he explained. “I’m coming in with a lot of energy and am just ready to go to work. I feel a lot different than I did last year, (when) I came in a little worn out.” That because he was busy winning a European title for his Spaniards as MVP of the tournament, and that just weeks after helping the Lakers to the 2008 Finals win over Orlando.

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson (L) and guard Kobe Bryant watch the team practice for Game 1 of the NBA Finals basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles June 2, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It’s been a busy couple of days for the Lakers as training camp is about to begin and members of the organization have been talking to the press about the upcoming season.  Below are some of the recaps from various members of the press and/or blogosphere that were there for first hand accounts and few extra links for good measure.

*The man that everyone spoke to yesterday was Phil Jackson as he gave his annual pre training camp presser on all things Lakers.  He talked about this probably/maybe being his last stand (including a great line about Custer), about the “exhibition” games in Europe, about his decision to come back for this season, about Andrew Bynum, and much, much more.  For some excellent recaps for Phil’s discussion with the media, check out the summaries from Mike Trudell over at, the K-Bros at Land O’ Lakers, and Mike Bresnahan at the LA Times.

*As mentioned, one of the main story lines going into training camp relates to Andrew Bynum and how he’s still not fully recovered from his off-season knee surgery.  Which means he will not play in any of the Lakers pre-season games and may not even be ready for the start of the regular season.  This has brought Bynum some heat from the local media where questions about the timing of his surgery have been debated and young ‘Drew has pretty much been portrayed in a negative light.  I’m on the same page as Phil on this in that the surgery ended up being a bit more complex than originally estimated and that pushed back his recovery time.  And since the team encouraged ‘Drew to get away from the game for a little while, there is no blame to be laid here.  Bynum will eventually recover and he’ll contribute to the success of the Lakers this upcoming season.  That may not be in October but the team wants a healthy ‘Drew in May and June.

*Speaking of ‘Drew, over at Pro Basketball Talk, Matt Moore is also questioning Bynum and bringing up the long debated topics of laziness and work ethic and how it’s still tough to know what the Lakers have in their young Center (Moore also lists plenty of positives about ‘Drew – so go give it a read).  Let me say that while Moore makes some good points, I think the questions about Bynum’s work ethic are a bit misguided.  As I’ve said multiple times in the past, Bynum has improved too much in his career for folks to question how hard he’s worked.  When ‘Drew came into the league he was doughy teenager that had limited offensive skills.  Since his rookie year he’s transformed his body, refined his post game to the point that he’s effective finishing with both hands from both sides of the paint, has developed a good face up game, and has even picked up counters to compliment his go-to, pet moves.  He’s also worked his way back from some pretty serious knee injuries in order to become a major contributor to the Lakers’ success.  And while some of this development operated on timelines slower than what fans would have liked, the fact that he’s come this far shows the amount of work that he’s put in.  I just don’t buy that this kid is lazy or that his focus isn’t where it should be.

*Speaking of hard work, no one ever questions the effort that Kobe puts in during the off-season and this year is no different.   Based off what Phil has seen and heard from both Kobe and the Lakers’ training staff, #24 will be ready to go this pre-season and should even see some minutes during the games played in Europe after dealing with his own off-season knee surgery.  This is excellent news for the Lakers (and the paying customers in England and Spain) as we all want to see how Kobe looks (hopefully, well rested) and if his game is ready to go for next season.  One body part that may not be healed, though, is Mr. Bean’s busted index finger.  As Kevin Ding reported, Kobe has arthritis in the knuckle on that finger and there’s really no repairing that through surgery.  The hope is that he’s done enough strengthening of the finger through exercises and rehab to have it be less of an issue this upcoming year, but that remains to be seen.

*As for other training camp news, the Lakers have added a few more bodies to the roster as camp invites.  Four players in total were added and they’re back court players Trey Johnson Anthony Roberson and centers Andrew Naymick and Russell Hicks.  This brings the Lakers roster to 18 players heading into training camp.  Before anyone asks, I think it’s highly doubtful any of these guys make the team and are in Lakers camp to hopefully get some exposure around the league to make another roster or potentially get an offer from a European club (and considering the Lakers will be in Europe for part of the pre-season, this may be even more likely).  For a bit more of a background on Russell Hicks, check out the interview Henry Abbott had with his agent when talking about Russell’s invite to Lakers camp.