From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Oh, a little of this, a little of that. Couple buckets here and there. Sell a few tickets, kiss a few babies. C’mon, now, he’s Kobe Bryant. At this point, his role on the Lakers isn’t exactly tough to define: Be Kobe Bryant. Of course, there’s being Kobe, and then there’s being Kobe. The former utilizes his ability to define a game without necessarily dominating every statistical category. The latter means plenty of heavy lifting, sometimes dragging teammates along and bailing them out in the end. Last season, it seemed every other day Kobe buried another game-winning shot. Fans were treated to some incredibly thrilling moments, while the Kobe Time Capsule had scads of video stuffed into it, for example. For The Legend of Kobe Bryant, it was a very bullish year. But exciting and healthy aren’t the same, and the extent to which Bryant is asked to repeat last year’s heroics — particularly during the regular season — could have a major impact on the team’s ability to Threepeat.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: We’ve grown so used to the metronome-worthy consistency it was jarring to see him struggle, relatively speaking, but from the moment he tweaked a hammy in training camp nearly a year ago, Pau Gasol set himself up for much tougher sledding than any he’d seen since arriving in L.A. (And not simply because it doesn’t snow here.) Twice he was forced from the lineup with hamstring problems, missing 17 games overall, and because he was injured so early in the process Gasol spent the season chasing, but never reaching, ideal fitness. It was enough to dent some of Gasol’s numbers. His field goal percentage dropped from 56.7 percent in ’09-’10 to 53.5 percent last year. The assist rate was down, the turnovers up. The mid-range jumper, so key to Gasol’s game, wasn’t nearly as accurate in ’09-’10 as it was a season earlier.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: He remains the single element on the Lakers most capable of elevating them from “consecutive championships good” (which ain’t half bad) to “damn near bulletproof” (which is even better). A healthy, engaged Bynum means there isn’t a team in the league able to effectively match up with L.A.’s three-headed frontcourt monster of Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom. More than anything, even more than Kobe Bryant, it’s what makes the Lakers unique. The abundance of length makes it tough to score down low- one reason L.A. was among the tougher teams to score against inside 10 feet- and provides a steady supply of high percentage points on the other end in the form of putbacks and lobs. The latter are particularly profitable for Bynum, both because he moves well on that end without the ball and his hands are Air Supply soft. It’s a luxury the Lakers exploit fully, to the point of near-recklessness. His teammates often toss the ball at the rim haphazardly, understanding Bynum’s go-go-Gadget arms will get to nearly everything.
From Eric Pincus, Hoopsworld: The 2010/11 NBA season rapidly approaches and once again the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorite to come out of the West. While LA improved over the offseason with an influx of steady role players, it will be a tremendous challenge for Coach Phil Jackson to earn his fourth three-peat. Last year’s foe, the Boston Celtics have added two sizable players in Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal. The Miami HEAT landed the high profile trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The Orlando Magic remain a threat with All-Star center Dwight Howard. For LA to thrive, they’ll need a healthy year from center Andrew Bynum. After three straight years with knee injuries, it’s time for Bynum to finally prove his worth. It took everything the Lakers had to get through the Celtics in June. Andrew was able to contribute, playing through the pain of a meniscus tear. Boston has improved and so too, must Bynum. Of course the Lakers aren’t the only team in the West. A number of teams will look to challenge them. Even the squads fighting to climb out of the lottery can be dangerous.
From NBA.com: The advantage over the field in the West is so obvious that the standings debate heading into camp goes only as high up the food chain as picking the second-best team in the conference. The Lakers are obviously not loved by all, but it has become impossible for even their greatest detractors to disrespect them. Not only is L.A. the two-time defending champion, with a third Finals appearance preceding that, but the summer moves were one direct hit after another: keeping Jackson, keeping Fisher’s leadership and playoff magic, signing Blake as a safety net if Fisher falters, signing Barnes to address the possibility of Luke Walton missing the entire season with a back injury. The Lakers didn’t just hold the line. They pushed it out even more.
From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: On paper, it appears the Lakers are even better than last season. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak took a bold step in ensuring a well-stocked roster after a second consecutive title and while Miami made big moves in assembling the so-called super team. Aside from retaining Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown, the Lakers also picked up Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff and drafted essential steals in Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. And the Lakers’ losses were minimal, with backup guard Jordan Farmar going to New Jersey, Josh Powell signing with Atlanta and Adam Morrison and D.J. Mbenga still looking for a team.
From Dan Loumena, Los Angeles Times: When Kobe Bryant decides that his playing days are behind him, there will be much adulation thrust upon the Lakers guard that I consider the greatest offensive player to roam the perimeter of a basketball court. Ever. No disrepect to Michael Jordan, who was a high flier when he came into the league and developed one of the greatest mid-range games ever witnessed as the seasons took a toll upon his legs. And it’s most likely that Jordan is the greatest player of all time, in terms of athleticism and all-around game. I differentiate the post players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain or a power forward like Karl Malone because they play a different all-court game. Not always one of style and grace but by necessity often one of power and fury, muscle and might.
From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: Lamar Odom won his second consecutive NBA championship in June playing for his team, the Lakers. Now he’s trying to win his first world championship in September playing for his country, the United States. Odom is the starting center for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship in Turkey, on a team that some consider too small and too inexperienced to become champions. But his team finished Group B play with a 5-0 record after beating Tunisia, 92-57, on Thursday and advances to the round of 16 with a No.1 seeding.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Players generally look heavier the higher a uniform number they sport, so it made sense that rookie Derrick Caracter went with No. 45 instead of No. 58. Caracter is being motivated by the Lakers to keep his weight down by an incentive to be fewer than 275 pounds Friday in the contract detail reported by ShamSports.com. Pro Basketball Talk further elucidates how Caracter, who slipped to the Lakers at the 58th overall draft pick because of past weight and behavioral issues, will get his contract this season fully guaranteed if meets that weight goal — after $250,000 of his $473,000 was already locked in because of how he showed NBA-ready strength and moves in summer ball.