Sunday Morning Reading: Training Camp Opens

Darius Soriano —  September 29, 2013

Media day came and went for the Lakers on Saturday, offering a slightly different scene than the one last year where championship expectations came not just from the players, but from many of the reporters in attendance. This year, though, much has changed. Not only did a certain free agent Center choose to bolt town, but the remaining core from that “big four” are all looking to bounce back from injuries and recapture their games (and to a certain extent, their reputations).

The players are seemingly embracing the shift in expectations and seem bent on proving that they not only have game left in their tanks, but enough of it to make some noise in a crowded western conference. But before they can get on the court to play, they all shuttled around the practice facility and talked the talk. Here are stories from the start of camp…

Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times has a full breakdown of media day, where he observes that there are more questions than answers.

At ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin notes that Kobe Bryant is feeling good, but still doesn’t have a timeline for his return.

Meanwhile, Eric Pincus of the Times, explains that one way to help limit Kobe’s minutes when he does return is via strong play from the team’s trio of point guards. This is something I’ve written about as well (at least in relation to Jordan Farmar).

Speaking of Kobe, he seems cognizant that coming off his injury he may have to play fewer minutes, but also draws inspiration from Peyton Manning and Mariano Rivera as guys who came back strong off their own injuries in recent campaigns. J.A. Adande has the story.

While Kobe heals, Pau and Nash say they’re both healthy. And Pau seems very excited that he’ll be back at Center and looks to get back to the form he showed in season’s past. That said, Pau will ease his way into camp and start out not practicing fully even though he’s been fully cleared for basketball activities.

Nash, meanwhile, will be practicing, but acknowledges that he is open to taking more time off during the season, even if that means missing games (ala how Gregg Popovich rests Tim Duncan and crew during the grind of the 82 game campaign).

The guy who will make those decisions on Nash is, of course, Mike D’Antoni. The head coach sat down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com for a wide ranging interview that covered a ton of ground. It is well worth your time.

Of course, media day wouldn’t be complete unless questions were asked about Dwight Howard. Kobe, in classic form, had the answer of the day.

Lastly, as camp opens, Kevin Ding offers five things fans will know as camp opens. This is an interesting list with notes on Nash, Farmar, Wes Johnson, and Chris Kaman.

Darius Soriano

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14 responses to Sunday Morning Reading: Training Camp Opens

  1. Seems weird but I more excited for this season then last . Maybe because I was not a Mike Brown fan, or a Dwight fan but I like being the underdog this year . A bunch of guys playing their hearts out for future security has my interest.

    Again I will go out on a limb and predict they are the surprise team in the West with 48 wins and a health unit by playoffs. Don’t forget Dalles 3 years ago. No way that that team was picked top 10 at start of the season.

    Expecting big years from Farmer, Johnson. Young and Kamen and less you forgot we do have a guy who a few years ago was the top 3 centers in the NBA back at center and WANTS to be here.

    So “Lets get ready to RUMBLE”

  2. I have seen a few people reference the 2008 Lakers and 2011 Mavs, as well as the 2004 Pistons, in relation to this team. All three of those teams acquired big men. Detroit got Rasheed Wallace mid-season and the Lakers of course got Pau. Almost no one saw the significance of it at the time, but Dallas brought in Tyson Chandler, a very fine team defender, prior to the 2011 season. Their team D was 12th, 8th, 12th, when they didn’t, did and then did not have him.

    The 2014 Lakers, OTOH, have lost a premier big man without compensation. And the lessons there are pretty clear, historically: when you lose a premier big in his prime without much compensation, you generally don’t do much for awhile.

    ORL WITH SHAQ 60-22
    AFTER SHAQ: 45-37, 41-41, 33-17, 41-41

    MIL WITH KAJ: 42-40
    AFTER KAJ: 38-44, 30-52, 44-38

    ORL WITH HOWARD: 37-29
    AFTER HOWARD 22-60

    HOU WITH MOSES MALONE: 41-41
    AFTER MOSES MALONE: 14-68, 33-49

    Houston drafted Sampson, and then Olajuwon. They went 33-49 with Sampson. The 76ers won the 1983 NBA Title with Moses.

    The 76ers were still good for a year after Wilt.

    Having Pau to step in at the 5 may help with this, short-term, and this team could surprise people in the sense that they win 44 games instead of 33. I doubt it will happen, but it could.

  3. Interesting take by MDA on Gasol. He is calling him the best center in the NBA and more specifically most skilled big man. Not sure if that is with Duncan at the 4 or 5 when making that comparison. But this is an example with of communication issues.

    Obviously Gasol was injured with knee issues etc but if MDA found a way to say he that the lakers have the most athletic and most skilled centers in the game I think Gasol would have bought in. Last year you could tell he was frustrated with Gasol. Gasol should be good now with the vote of confidence and an increase in health.

    @rr: only reason I ever made a comparison to 2008 was how they improved drastically from the following year of being a 7th/8th seed to a top seed and going to the finals with virtually no major acquisitions. I downplay Gasol’s contributions for the sake of the argument because they basically only had one good center all season and the lakers were like 30-15 and a top 2 or 3 team when they made the trade.
    However, I do agree with all the other points. Rasheed definitely put the Pistons over the top and Chandler as a rim protector was instrumental in Dallas’s success.

    I’m becoming more optimistic as MDA now has seen how each person “core” player has worked in the offense and he can now take that and mold that into his system and emphasize the pace and spacing and passing and shots he expects in the system.

  4. The Lakers’ fortunes this year will, I think, depend on 3 major factors:

    1) the health of the Big 3–Kobe, Nash, and Gasol (including, of course when Kobe returns to play and at what level);
    2) whether certain key role players answer the call or not–Farmar, Nick Young, Wes Johnson, Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, even Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks not to mention the rookies (Elias Harris, whom I’m intrigued with, and Ryan Kelly); and
    3) whether Kurt Rambis can get this team to muster up some defensive chops (especially team defense).

    I sense that at least 2 or 3 of the key role players could have productive years. (I vote for Wes Johnson, Jordan Hill, and Farmar.) If so, the Lakers’ fortunes could possibly look up. But the Big 3 have got to stay healthy.

    I also believe that team defense will be a key to this team’s success. The Lakers’ offense should be fine. This is not a team that will have trouble scoring points. They may be even more fluid and productive than last year. But, somehow, this team has got to figure out a way to stop the other guys. This is why Farmar, Wes Johnson, Jordan Hill, and, possibly, Elias Harris–players who have legs and can play transition defense and defend the perimeter–could be keys to our success.

    We’ll see how things develop. This could be a very interesting–and competitive–training camp. Let the games begin.

  5. Fanatic,

    You are not the only one who made that comp. The basic point is that the NBA, as Robert has pointed out, is not really a league of surprises or Cinderellas, and to the degree that it is, the 2014 Lakers do not fit the profile of a team likely to fit that pattern. They do not have any very young players who are likely to have major performance spikes, and they have not made any notable acquisitions.

    They are capable of surprising at a low level based on the scenarios that people have laid out all summer, and are laid out again by Mid-Wilshire above. But the odds are against it.

  6. rr: Nice stats with regard to the big men before and after.

    Cinderella: Not in the NBA. I did see a heavy metal band named Cinderella in concert and one of their best songs is applicable: “Everybody’s got opinions but nobody’s got the answers……. Somebody save me”

  7. I try so hard to find things to disagree with rr on… And when I find something I’m gonna jump so hard on him he won’t know what hit him

  8. Aaron:

    I don’t think there is a chance in hell that LeBron James is coming here.

    Fire away. ;-)

  9. Laker players are so excited to come back to basketball for the longest 2-3 months off in recent history. With some redemption at hand, we just can’t wait for the season to start. Just got myself the 55″ (was 46″ for the longest time) and HD finally reaches our place just in time for the season to start.

  10. @rr: agreed. You basically know who is going to win the championship or be in contention at the start of the season with the exception of any major trade deadline deals, which the past few years have been a little underwhelming to say the least.

  11. Health is the #1 issue. Almost more than an NBA champioship,and we`ve seen a few, I want to see a team that plays some hard, smart, and exciting BB. I have questions about the defense,and rebounding on both ends.

  12. The Lakers will play better then expected. Not as talented as last year but the team has gone out and gotten guys who fit with MDA who will function as a team. Expect better then expected offensive numbers, they will let up a lot of points but force teams to work for it. The lakers will make use of the talent they got to vault themselves into the play offs but not have the talent necessary to go deep.

  13. rr,
    Wade’s knees beg to differ ;)

  14. and at the top of my xmas wishlist:

    MDA, I know you don’t read this, but please install more ball movement into the offense aside from just the Horns sets. I know you didn’t get a chance to put in your offense the way you wanted to but hopefully its not the stagnant pick and roll options. Lets see some ball reversals and misdirections and entries before going into the main offense, mostly because when we play the great defensive teams we can’t execute because we are so static. I think we can adapt some of the Spurs principles on offense, and yes I know Pop stole from you but we could benefit from some preplay actions like downscreens and coming off double and triple screens to free up our ball handlers. And maybe show some of our players how to move without the ball ala Danny Green in finals when he was moving around the court when most players usually stay in one spot. Oh and please practice defense more than 30 minutes every day.

    Thanks a bunch,

    LakerFanatic