Basketball, even if in the remedial form of training camp, is back. Players are on the court participating in drills, scrimmaging, and soaking up what the coaches tell them in the hope of applying it in game situations — or, for the fringe roster players, in the hope that they can show enough to even make the team. At its essence, this is the time of the year where teams start to forge their identities and build the foundation for what they’ll be over the course of the season.
Also at its essence, the opening of camp is a time of optimism. Whether you have championship aspirations or have a bottom dwelling team who will contend for the prize of a top draft pick, every roster is full of hope. It can come in the form of a superstar player raising his game to even higher levels, a reclamation project showing some of the talent that always seems to land him another chance, or a rookie flashing that lottery talent that can be nurtured into the base of a special player down the line.
In this regard, the Lakers are no different than any other team. Internally they’re seizing on the doubt that outsiders cast on them and using it as fuel for what they hope can be an expectations defying run. They too have a mix of stars looking to rebound and regain past glories and enough reclamation projects and redemption stories to fill a 100 media notebooks. Right now the stories are ones of confidence; of the early signs of something special. Whether these storylines endure the toll of a grinding season remains to be seen. Only time will tell. But today, hope lives. On to today’s reads…
Outside of the uncertainty surrounding the Lakers’ big 3, there may not be a more intriguing story than Jordan Farmar’s return. The veteran guard left Los Angeles looking for an expanded role with the hope of picking up some life experience along the way. He returns with a more well rounded game and the maturity those new experiences bestowed on him. In a sit down with Mike Trudell, Farmar talks about all that and more. (One interesting nugget of info from that interview is that Farmar seems genuinely impressed with Wes Johnson. Again, this is the start of camp and hope can often be confused with what will really be. That said, if Johnson really is defending and shooting well, he’ll earn a role this season as a “three and D” player that I, ultimately, see as his future in this league.)
One of the reasons Farmar is even in Los Angeles is because he wanted the opportunity to play for Mike D’Antoni in this offense. In this excellent piece from Dave McMenamin, we learn that one of the reasons Shawne Williams is even in Lakers’ camp is because D’Antoni vouched for him and his work ethic to get him a workout and invite. Loads of good information in that link, so give it a click. (If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll note that Williams talks about D’Antoni really stressing defense early in camp while acknowledging it wasn’t necessarily that way when they were partnered in New York.)
And after clicking McMenamin’s piece, give our own David Murphy’s post on Williams a read. I’ve linked to it before, but it’s so wonderfully written it deserves your time (again).
One of the themes people point to when talking about the potential success of this year’s team is that they will have a full training camp together. Mark Medina of the Daily News explores that idea well here.
Another key to their success will be, of course, good health. At the LA Times Eric Pincus reports that besides Kobe Bryant, all is good on that front right now.
In this Marc Spears piece for Yahoo!, he talks to Steve Nash who discusses all that went wrong last year and why there’s hope this year will be better.
Finally, in case you live under a rock, you probably read that Michael Jordan said that Kobe could possibly beat him one on one while also making the claim that LeBron wouldn’t beat his Airness. I joined a panel at ESPN answering questions about who would win in these hypothetical match ups and, lo and behold, said that an in-his-prime Kobe would beat them both. In the end game, stuff like this really doesn’t matter and it’s all just for fun. So, don’t take it so seriously. But, in my defense, I saw the entire careers of all three players (well, Kobe and LeBron are still playing, but you get my point) and I can say without a doubt that I’ve never seen a more single minded scorer than Kobe. In interviews he’s said that there are times that he “only sees the basket” when on the court and in a 1-on-1 game that’s really the name of the game. Is there room for argument here? Sure. But don’t get so caught up in it that you forget this is all for fun.
Where the season goes no one yet knows. We all have our opinions and while I’m more cautiously optimistic this team can be better than many think they will be, that will all be answered on the court in due time. There are still lots of questions about this team right now — health, chemistry, and player development chief among them. But right now optimism is in the air, though, that isn’t unique to the Lakers.