Media day is part circus — well, mostly circus — and part infomercial for every NBA team. The players, walking around in full uniform, will hit their key talking points while reporters try to get something insightful out of them that they have not already heard to this point. There will be quotes, but the chance we get anything truly worthwhile out of the players today isn’t high.
When you add on Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott have both gone on the record with long sit downs and half the team has been introduced via press conference after their acquisition (either after being drafted, traded for, or signed in free agency), those odds go down even further. In reality, there just isn’t much new for most of the players to say today. It doesn’t mean we won’t all be lapping up the quotes like a kitten does a bowl of milk, though.
Of course, while we’ll get plenty of answers today, we won’t really get any answers. That’s because the Lakers are a team full of question marks that won’t be worked through with a scrum of reporters engulfing them. The Lakers need court time — in practice and in games — to figure out what they’ll be, where they’re going, and how the roles will be put together to get them there. As much as we would like to know how that will go today, it’s just not going to happen.
So, rather than focus on the many questions we will get answers to today, let’s examine five that we won’t…
1. How patient will Kobe Bryant be? For all the story-lines about Kobe heading into the year — Will it be his last season? How much does he have left in the tank? — how he manages the balance between his own expectations and what his team can actually provide will be one of the bigger ones. The idea of Kobe the mentor or Kobe the sage veteran will be there all year, but we will also get Kobe the pissed off superstar on a bad team and Kobe the death stare delivering dude calling out his teammates at practice? I think the answer will probably be yes to those latter two, but the question is how much those versions make appearances in comparison to the guy helping his younger teammates along while providing steady leadership to the core of veterans assembled around him.
2. Will Nick Young and Byron Scott find mutual ground? Mitch Kupchak spoke bluntly about Nick Young during last week’s press conference. Kupchak noted that Young “needs to make this head coach happy” by being more disciplined offensively and, more importantly, playing defense. This seems to put the onus on Young to make this relationship work and, for the most part, I’d agree with this. However, Byron seemed to be (at least sometimes) genuinely irritated by Young and rarely passed up an opportunity to take digs in the press at his flamboyant shooting guard. As much as the Lakers might have built a roster where Young can be considered redundant, he can still have value as a bench scorer who can boost the offense when he’s in the game. There’s a lot of caveats which come with this hope, however, and Byron will need to find the way which helps bring out the best in the player. Last year’s prodding and hard line didn’t seem to do it. Young needs to adjust, clearly. But it might help if his coach met him somewhere closer to the middle.
3. Will this team really share the ball? Mitch Kupchak said flatly this team will move and share the ball offensively. He qualified this statement by discussing D’Angelo Russell’s passing and Marcel Huertas’ ability to do the same. When you add in guys like Randle, Kobe, Hibbert (who is a solid passer from the high post), and even Clarkson and Lou Williams, that’s a lot of guys who can get you assists. The flip side is that a lot of these guys are also isolation players who do their best work after making the catch, holding the ball, dribbling around to survey the defense, and then making a move to set up a teammate. The Spurs/Warriors/Hawks model, this is not. Will these guys be able to move the rock quickly onto an open teammate? Will they be able to make reads while the ball is in the air and then act accordingly once they receive it? The Lakers have a lot of weapons who can do damage under a myriad of circumstances offensively. But maximizing them will really be dependent on how well they share the ball in ways that go beyond making the pass which leads to a score.
4. How adaptive will Byron Scott be offensively? For as hard as I have been on Byron Scott, one thing he did last season which I appreciated was, as the season progressed, him going to a heavy pick and roll attack to facilitate Jordan Clarkson’s growth. Scott still used some of his Princeton initiations, but they were employed less frequently in favor of letting Clarkson (and Lin) play a freer game where they ran multiple P&R’s a possession — sometimes even secondary ones after the initial action led to a swing pass, setting up a side P&R in the process. Part of moving to this style, however, was the limitations of his personnel and playing to their (more limited) strengths. With a full roster intact, Kobe back, and a lineup’s worth of veterans at his disposal, will he go back to a Princeton heavy attack with fewer P&R’s, more post ups and pin-downs to set up isolations and midrange jumpers? Most of Scott’s primary ball handlers do their best work out of the P&R, so how he manages this within the context of what he typically likes to run will be interesting to watch.
5. Who will be on the final roster? We’ve covered this topic one way or another multiple times, but it’s worth mentioning again here since it is, you know, important. The team has 12 guaranteed contracts. Of those 12, I’d argue two — Sacre and Kelly — are on the bubble to make this team. There are seven partially guaranteed or fully non-guaranteed players. Of those seven, I’d argue two — Huertas and Metta — make the team. The final makeup of the roster, then, has a lot of moving parts where non-guaranteed players could bump guaranteed guys, vice versa, or a combination of both. As of today, I could give you five different versions of a final roster which I think are realistic. The final cuts will be especially interesting to see.