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.