What happens before Vegas doesn't stay in El Segundo
Thus, I'm at liberty to provide tidbits from today's practice before the Lakers head to Sin City for two days of roundball. The afternoon featured a lot of half-court scrimmage played with an increased physicality at the behest of Phil Jackson. Having sufficiently run his teams' legs off on Friday, the Zen Master was looking to see guys grind things out more and generally liked what he saw. "It gets very physical and
competitive. We're kind of wanting the guys to get into that activity,
get them reacting and playing with some physical aggression and
Unfortunately, with aggressive play often comes carelessness, meaning turnovers plaguing the Lakers throughout the preseason haven't vanished quite yet. While hardly satisfied with the oft-sloppy play, Phil wasn't freaked out by it, either. "Historically or hysterically, whichever word you want to say, our team has 20 turnovers to start the season and are down to 12 by the end of the year." As Jackson also noted, the majority of this roster fancies himself a playmaker of sorts. Thus, it's a matter of learning to hone that skill in conjunction with what everyone else is doing. And contrary to belief often tossed around, PJ isn't indifferent toward contests that don't count in the 82-game record. "I like to win games in the preseason," stated PJ. But even with that victorious agenda in mind, perspective must be maintained. The offense typically takes longer to truly click than some other systems after a layoff, younger players are being given the chance to showcase themselves after working hard in camp, and there's a fair amount of tinkering in the works, which means the inevitable trial and error.
Along those lines, Andrew Bynum worked more with Pau Gasol in
the first unit (there's still some confusion, but Drew said they're coming along as a tandem), Vlad Radmanovic- whose play and ability to expand the court was praised
by Phil- also spent time there, and Lamar Odom played both forward spots and even in relief
of Derek Fisher off the
bench for a good chunk of time. The move was neither confirmation nor denial of a decision to come, but simply a look-see for both parties. "He can start thinking about how he can help the team and what
he can do when he does that. But I don't know if I'll experiment with
him in a game yet." Jackson acknowledged that coming off the bench can rub some players the wrong way because learning to feel out a game already in the works isn't easy. "They get behind the action. Everybody else is going by the time you get in." Odom indeed had some trouble finding a groove at the outset, although once he got going, Phil thought he looked fine. The role, should it end up Lamar's, doesn't guarantee cut minutes by any stretch, at least not in Jackson's eyes. "A really good sixth guy can play 34 minutes with ease."
As mentioned, Phil praised Vlad Rad's efforts. During the tail end of practice we saw, he did play quite well, and not even within his typical "downtown" comfort zone. Baskets came via a driving finger roll layup and good use of screen for a cutting curl to the rack, but his best moment came setting up Kobe for a dunk with a fantastic behind the back paint pass.
Gasol had a strong dunk over DJ Mbenga.
Josh Powell continued his very active work on the boards, including a terrific grab between three bodies while losing his balance.
Coby Karl drained a pair of three balls and maintained an active, aggressive energy.
This was the first time I'd seen Luke Walton scrimmage, and he moved better than I would have expected. I wouldn't quite describe him as "fluid" yet, but he was active and able to keep up, if not necessarily dominate. "He looked good," nodded Phil. Walton's game activity is still being limited- meaning he's not likely to suit up in Vegas- but that's as much a precaution to hopefully prevent making his ankle worse. His bad ankle buddy Sasha Vujacic also won't play tomorrow and still moved a little gingerly along the sidelines, but should start working again next week. Sasha also said there's no new swelling or setbacks, so that's a plus.
Kobe operated with a lot of enthusiasm, whether telling some young non-roster invitees where to go during certain sequences, reminding Pau Gasol to provide quicker defense reinforcement or generally talking a little smack. After picking off an errant pass from Trevor Ariza for a coast to coast field goal, he loudly thanked the small forward for the unintentional gift. He also jawed with Jordan Farmar after Coby Karl's trey notched a win for the gray team (Farmar, Karl, Ariza, Powell, Mbenga) over Kobe's purple/starting crew. "All ^$%%# day, you win one," mocked The Mamba. "One in six!!!"
Apropos to nothing of importance, I've decided that C.J. Giles' baby face makes him look like the world's tallest 11-year old. Even while knowing for a fact that he's 23, selling him beer would still feel like a lawless act.
Phil Jackson, Part I (some interesting stuff about how much longer the preseason used to be): Download phil_jackson_i_10.11.08.mp3
Phil Jackson, Part II: Download phil_jackson_ii_10.11.08.mp3
Andrew Bynum: Download andrew_bynum_10.11.08.mp3
Sasha Vujacic: Download sasha_vujacic_10.11.08.mp3