A New Lakers Season Cometh…
• dEDGE Post Scriptum •
Introducing, your defending, back-to-back World Champions, the 2010-11 Los Angeles Lakers. If you’re just getting back into the swing of things, a lot has happened over the summer and much was centered on the hoopla created by the King James hype machine. Meanwhile, fans in Lakerland marveled at the maneuvers of GM Mitch Kupchak and the entire Lakers brass. While the Eastern portion of the country was transfixed by the goings-on in South Beach, the Lakers have quietly assembled what may prove to be their deepest and most talented team ever. Concluding a season filled with fond memories of another championship parade, it was widely anticipated that the Lakers were simply going to cut loose some of their bench in a move to save a few dollars and avoid having to pay the highest payroll in the NBA. But what transpired was a definite upgrade, and also a return salvo aimed directly at downtown Miami. Attached was a note proclaiming that any championship aspirations must still run through Los Angeles first.
Here’s an update on your 2010-11 Lakers squad and coaching staff as the team heads off to Europe for some preseason NBA barnstorming:
As you all know, AB underwent off-season knee surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus that he suffered in the first round of the playoffs. He must now prove his durability rather than his desire. OK, let’s all forget about Drew not having this surgery earlier. Look on the bright side, he’s starting later so perhaps he’ll last a little longer into the post season this year. Regardless, Drew is the key to the Lakers extending their string of championships. At full health, there are only a handful of NBA centers that can handle the 7’0″ 280 lb. behemoth. Unfortunately, each season it’s been the medical staff that has effectively limited Bynum’s playing time on the floor.
What more needs to be said about D-Fish other than 3-more years? This guy is the consummate professional. Have you seen him recently? He looks even fitter than before and is sporting some pretty big guns. Whereas I highly anticipated Fish to hang them up after two and grab a clipboard and a seat next to Head Coach B-Shaw, it now looks as if he intends to play out the duration of his contract.
Caracter (6’9” 265 lbs.) may prove to be the big body the Lakers are looking for while Bynum recovers from knee surgery. Rookie hazing aside, Caracter has been seen cleaning the court as well as the backboards with his rebounding ferocity and looks to be a lock on making the opening day roster.
Once thought of as a key to the Lakers success this upcoming season, the Lakers now have the luxury of bringing Ebanks along slowly with the signing of veteran Matt Barnes and the resigning of Shannon Brown. Ebanks, the Lakers 43rd pick in the second round hails from Jerry West’s alma mater, West Virginia University. A slasher that mimics and looks a lot like Trevor Ariza, Ebanks led the Lakers Summer League team in scoring. But his defensive prowess on the perimeter is what initially interested the Lakers into signing him to a non-guaranteed rookie contract. Both Caracter and Ebanks may end up spending more time in the D-League, but remain two important insurance policies should someone go down with injury.
Has Kobe slowed down? Have the injuries that he’s played through finally caught up with him? Is he on a deadly downward spiral towards mediocrity? Should we expect anything less than spectacular as he enters his 15th season in the NBA? Has Kobe taken a back seat to Lebron, D-Wade and Melo? Is the end near? HELLLLLL NOOOOO!
For those who continually question LO’s consistency, effort and fire, Odom just celebrated his first wedding anniversary to Khloe Kardashian after having anchored the middle for Team USA in the World Championships. He can now attach his gold medal to the gold leash firmly attached to his neck. Not that it matters, but Odom enters training camp in the best basketball shape of his life. Let’s all hope he doesn’t burn out by midseason from fatigue or living it up with the Kardashians. Mr. Versatility will be called upon early, filling the large void left by Andrew Bynum. If one thing’s for certain, LO has finally shed himself of all monikers and can now proudly call himself by only one label; world champion.
Is he coming or going? Walton had an injury plagued 2009-10 season and found himself sitting more often next to the coaching staff as a stat-boy than as a player. His nagging back injury could severely limit his contributions again this season, but so far into training camp, all is well. Unfortunately for Luke, he may find himself out of the rotation entirely as recent acquisitions and rookie signings all pine for any available minutes on the floor.
One bad boy not enough you say? The perennial revolving door continues for Barnes as he joins his eighth club in his 8 years in the NBA. If you noticed Ron Artest having some difficulty on the wing whenever he was matched up against a quicker small forward, fear no more. Barnes along with Artest and Kobe form an even stronger nucleus of defensive stalwarts that will have opponents shaking in their shoes. And as soon as Bynum returns to action, look for the trio to start funneling their opponents into an impenetrable void. One possible hiccup is Barnes’ looming court date after being arrested on domestic violence charges in his hometown of Sacramento.
Pau may occasionally go “pauf” when he’s banging against the likes of Dwight Howard or KG, but his acumen for scoring and grabbing rebounds usually prevails in the long run. Perhaps the most consistent of any Lakers, Gasol spent the entire off-season relaxing and allowing his body to heal from 2-1/2 years of non-stop NBA and Spanish commitments. Remember when Celtic fans used to taunt the Cap with chants of “Kareem-puff,” now too, they must swallow their words as Gasol and the rest of the Fakers just shoved one down their throats.
Perhaps even more surprising than Artest’s clutch play in the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals was his incredible performance in the media room following their victory. That was a display of pure, unadulterated joy that swept up everyone lucky enough to witness it. Add to the fact that he’s even hungrier now, (claiming he will auction off his championship ring to raise funds for psychiatric care in public schools), Artest can chill this season and concentrate solely on his play, after spending the entire 2009-10 campaign auditioning for acceptance in Los Angeles.
Expiring contract or not, Sasha has quietly come into camp with some eye-raising performances. Has the Machine re-found his formula for success, or has the plug been pulled out of the socket for good? Sasha may find minutes hard to come by, finding himself fifth on the depth chart behind Kobe, Fish, Blake, and Brown. But Sasha has a shooter’s chance and will need to consistently hit the outside shot if he wishes to remain with the team past the February trade deadline.
The highlights never cease, and the spotlight continues to grow brighter for the afterthought in the Adam Morrison/Vlad Rad trade. Brown, now a two-time champion, re-signed with the Lakers to a 2-year deal that will likely produce a third ring for Mr. Brown. Not to be outdone by Mr. Kardashian, Shannon is currently dating R&B hottie, Monica.
Remember when the Lakers were desperately searching for the perfect back-up point guard to Magic Johnson? Well, he’s finally arrived. Blake proved to be a thorn in the Lakers side last season, first with Portland, then later with the Clippers. His ability to score and distribute the ball will provide Phil with much more solace than Jordan Farmar was ever able to produce. Add to the mix that he’s a veteran, wants to play for a winner, and is capable of hitting the outside shot, and the Lakers have seriously upgraded their point guard position from a season ago.
Although DJ Mbenga brought tons of enthusiasm, he brought little else in the form of skills. Ratliff is a solid veteran that should shore up the bench with both his play and his wisdom in the locker room. And don’t forget, he’s a shot blocker much like Dikembe Mutombo in all his finger-wagging swagger. You can count on Ratliff teaching Drew a thing or two about post play in the paint. Or it could be that the Lakers simply signed him so that Chuck Person can talk to someone his own age.
B-Shaw’s decision to turn down the head coaching duties with the Cleveland Cavs may prove to be the wisest decision of the 2010 offseason. Not only does he retain his Assistant Coach duties with the 3peat minded Lakers, but he may also inherit the entire shebang next season when Phil Jackson officially calls it quits. Look for Shaw to up his role of Master Student to the Zen Master.
The Rifleman has done got himself a shootin’ gig. Now part of the official entourage, Person not only helped Ron-Ron stay focused last season, he provided some needed shooting tips to a maligned and banged up Kobe Bryant. Remember, he wasn’t called the Rifleman for passing the rock.
It was Hamblen’s game plan that was pitted against the Celtics in the Finals. You can credit him for the Lakers success in the trenches, on the boards, and on defense. Each time the Lakers won the battle for points in the paint, they won. Each time they won the rebounding war, they went on to win. Remember, Kobe, Fish and Phil aren’t the only ones who can sport a “Cinco” t-shirt.
It wasn’t too long ago that Cleamons’ name came up each time a head coaching job opened up. Now content to groom and mold, his forte remains his ability to communicate with the players. In charge of scouting the OKC Thunder last season, it was Cleamons who called upon the Lakers to limit OKC’s fastbreak opportunities and to make life difficult for league leading scorer, Kevin Durant.
I guess we can call this season, Jeanie’s last hurrah. Will Phil leave the Land of LaLa for good at the end of the season? Will Papa Buss ever grant his daughter’s hand in marriage? Will another 3Peat provide enough impetus for 4-in-a-row? Has PJ used up all of his Zen wizardry or is there still incense left in the burner? Only time will tell, but one thing you can definitely count on, it’s going to be another hell of a ride.