Summer is in full swing now and not only is the prospect team doing well in Las Vegas — they beat the Bucks yesterday to advance in the tournament — but the big club is also starting to take shape. Signings have occurred and as we sit back to type, the minds of the coaches and front office executives are churning out ideas about how to turn a group of individual players into a team. Lineup combinations are being considered, offensive and defensive schemes are being drawn up on whiteboards, and conversations between the principal decision makers are funneling us towards a place where the experiment will take place.
Of course, that’s a bit of a ways off from now. Camp won’t open until October and between now and then there will be more change. More players will be added, bodies will heal and get stronger, and ideas will shift, all in the name of reaching the team’s goal. And, in the meantime, we get to see hungry players battle it out in the cool confines of a air conditioned gym in the middle of the desert.
- One of the key questions heading into next year is when will Kobe Bryant return. If you ask Jim Buss, he says he’s willing to bet on Kobe being ready to play at some point in the pre-season. Of course, the chief of basketball ops also said that Kobe wouldn’t come back early to prove a point and would only play when he was ready, but that’s no fun. Pencil Kobe into the preseason!
- Even if Kobe is back that early, the expectations for a team that crashed and burned last season and heads into next year without their top in house free agent will be much lower than it has been in years. One writer thinks that’s a good thing and says that even if they don’t win in bunches, they’ll entertain along the way.
- One of the key reasons the team will entertain is because they’ve added nice depth on the perimeter. Personally, I’d like to see the Lakers hedge their bets by signing at least one more wing player, but the fact is if you look at last year’s perimeter reserves and look at the guys who’ve been signed, the team is in a better spot now.
- One of those reserves says that he always dreamed of being a Laker and calls next year the most important season of his career. Wesley Johnson is correct with that latter statement. As a former top 5 pick entering into his 4th season, it’s time to show you belong in this league or start scouting potential jobs overseas.
- Of course the talent on the floor isn’t the only thing that matters when trying to build a winner. It’s the talent pacing the sidelines that matters too. Like some of the reclamation projects the Lakers have signed this off-season, Mike D’Antoni also enters next year with something to prove. With a full camp and lower expectations, now is a good time to show what he can do.
- Now is also the time for Mike D’Antoni to fill out his staff, apparently. Reports say that Kurt Rambis and Jonny Davis will be added to the staff as soon as today.
- Of course, next season already trails in the battle of hype to the one that will follow after it. If the summer of 2014 were a blockbuster movie, Lakers’ fans would already be pitching their tents outside the theatre like a new Star Wars was being released. Excitement can be good, but it’s also good to remember that the best laid plans don’t always work out. Just ask Mark Cuban and the Mavericks.
I hate to end on a down note, so here’s a video clip of highlights from a 1986 charity game that Magic Johnson organized. Magic’s mid-summer classic was a place where star players would come out and play some all-star game type hoops for a good cause. This game was no different and, as a special twist, Magic made sure that Larry Bird was on his team. Great stuff:
(h/t to Andrew Ungvari for the clip)