Byron Scott would be the first one to tell you that he’s old-school. Even if no one uttered those words to you, however, you would still figure it out from the way he’s managed his teams and through an examination of his overall basketball philosophy.
When it comes to training camp, this translates to conditioning. Lots of conditioning. We have to remember, as a player, Byron came up in an era where players worked themselves into shape during camp. And while players today are much more conscientious about the type of shape they keep themselves in during the off-season — as the slogan goes, basketball never stops — as a coach, he still uses camp as a way to work his players hard to ensure they are ready for the season.
Received official word that Lakers' practice will go longer than scheduled.
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) September 30, 2015
Per reports, the Lakers first practice went a shade over 3 hours and was most focused primarily on conditioning. With this being the first day of camp, you might expect to hear some stories from guys about how tough it was, but that wasn’t really the case. In a post-practice interview Kobe noted that he trained hard during the summer and that he felt fine after practice (more on this later). D’Angelo Russell did make a comment about how he viewed running as “punishment” but also implied he knew this is what it would be like so he came in as prepared as he could.
Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson looks like he came into camp right where he left off from some of his other summer workouts.
Jordan Clarkson easily wins sprints at end of Laker practice. He's definitely in shape.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) September 30, 2015
All of this led to what was, as much as it seemingly could be, a happy coach.
Byron Scott said he loved the enthusiasm and competitiveness on day 1, and that he was impressed with the shape the players are in already.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) September 30, 2015
Regardless of how one might feel about Scott’s approach to camp, the preparedness — even if only perceived that way by the coach — is good to hear. It’s good to start camp out on the right foot and for the players and the coaches to be on the same page in order to progress together. Last year some of the rhetoric after the first day was the same as this year, but there were also comments about some players not being ready for what Scott had in store for them.
The bigger deal, however, isn’t just that the team was prepared for Scott, but that Scott seemed to be prepared for his players — specifically Kobe Byrant. The stories about overuse and injury and the need to monitor Kobe’s minutes have been run into the ground, but the fact is it’s smart to monitor his activity and to have a plan about how he will be used this year. And that starts in camp.
The coach and the player seem to be on the same page here. From Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times:
Bryant, 37, didn’t take part in end-of-practice sprints Tuesday at the University of Hawaii. Nor did he do shooting drills with the rest of the team afterward. True to his always-arrive-early mantra, he was at the arena an hour before the rest of the team, getting up shots on his own.
In the short term, he’ll sit either the morning or afternoon session of two-a-days this week. He almost surely won’t play all eight Lakers exhibitions, though the team hasn’t announced anything.
“We’re being smart,” Bryant said. “I’m in great condition. I could run all day. It’s just a matter of not having to do it in practice. You don’t want to beat up the joints too much.”
I don’t want to offer too much praise for things that seem like common sense, but considering what the alternative could be, I’m nonetheless pleased. Kobe and Scott both have a way of saying that they’ll stick to a plan only for the urgency of circumstances to alter that path. Scott has said he’ll be different this year and, though only the first day of camp, this is a step in that direction. To hear Kobe echo the sentiment behind the plan matters here too.
All in all, then, camp is off to a nice start and both the players and the coaches seem to be better prepared for each other than they were a year ago.