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This week's 710 ESPN.com Lakers PodKast!... plus a Twitter mailbag

September 17, 2009 | 10:16 pm

Andy's still on his honeymoon, meaning it's just me this week with a pair of guests,producing scads of Giant Ear listening joy suitable for the whole family. Truly, if you only listen to one Lakers themed podcast this week before you listen to next week's Lakers PodKast, it should be this one.

  • ESPN's Eric Neel stops by to talk about Michael Jordan's all-too-revealing Hall of Fame speech and what it says about him, as well as larger issues about how we as a media and fans look at athletes generally. Click here for that discussion, which was prompted by a question sent to us over Twitter, specifically "Will Kobe's HOF speech be as bad as Jordan's?" The short answer? No. The long answer? That's what we cover. I hope to write a little more on the subject tomorrow.
  • Earlier in the week, ESPN The Magazine's feature on Trevor Ariza was the focus of some debate. I had the author, Sam Alipour, on to talk about the story and provide some additional insight. With the dust settled, it's a good way to put a bow on what was one of the NBA's bigger offseason stories. Click here for that interview
  • After that, it's a dip into our favorite obscure athletes, prompted by the "contest" currently running deeper down the page. 

I also answer a few more reader/listener provided questions. A mailbag if you will. Unfortunately, time constraints- yes it's a podcast, but nobody wants to hear me prattle on for much more than an hour, if that long, save perhaps me- meant I couldn't get to all of them. So click below for answers to questions not touched on during the show.

Thanks for sending them.

From tommydacomicguy: "Do you see LA trying to do the two styles thing again this year? It was working great last year till Bynum went down."

Absolutely, or at the very least, they'll try if for no other reason than Phil Jackson enjoyed the stylistic contrast he could create with change of pace personnel and the pressure it put on the opposition. It's tough enough to prepare for one very good team playing one style of ball. When that same team can go in a variety of directions, as the Lakers can, that preparation is damn near impossible.

There could be an even more dramatic difference in style of play between the first and second units than last season, because Ron Artest doesn't run the floor in the same way as Trevor Ariza. So, at least in theory, when guys like Jordan Farmar come in with Lamar Odom, the contrast in pace could be more pronounced. But remember, much of the success LA had pushing pace with their reserves was early, when Farmar was healthy and Ariza came off the bench, so it's hard to make fully linear comparison.

The key is Farmar. If he's good and earns minutes, that means more running from this season's Bench Mob. Shannon Brown isn't the same type of guard. Yes, he can sky like Sandwich, the Amazing Jumping Cat, but leading the break with pure point skills isn't his strong suit.

Both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol can and will run the floor, so whichever guy is out there with the reserves will enjoy some easy buckets.

Ling24: What will be the Lakers biggest challenge this coming season in order to successfully defend the title?

Some will say complacency. It's hard to keep that edge after a title, or so says the CW. Except most teams don't have Kobe Bryant, who is particularly gifted at both motivating himself and laying a prod to slacking teammates. Add in Artest, who wants a title like Bow Wow Wow wants candy, and I think they'll be plenty motivated. 

I touch on this a little in the poddy, but my worry is injury. Yes, Bynum was relatively hurt early and wasn't the same, but outside of him the Lakers were remarkably healthy where it mattered most. Kobe played in all 82 games, as did Fish and Ariza. LO was there for 78 (missing a game because of suspension), Pau 81, Sasha Vujacic 80. Yes, he didn't play well for most of those games, but at least he was there, right? The rest of the injuries were among the reserves. Luke Walton, Farmar, and so on. Can the Lakers again stay that whole? For the record, over the last three seasons, Artest has played in 70, 57, and 69 games.

In short, knock on wood, find your four leaf clovers, consult your local shaman. Good health is science (training, diet, treatment, etc.) but also luck. LA will need both. The good news? The team is so skilled and has spent enough time together that even if injuries come, if the Lakers are healthy come April, a repeat is still a very strong possibility.

tommy, 2.0:Do you think Kobe changes his game over the next few years to be a Kidd type point guard? With his skill set he would rule!

Kobe's a fantastic passer, but I don't think Kidd is necessarily the comparison, especially if the Lakers stay in the same offensive system for a while. Still, Kobe's game will continue to evolve. He's incredibly smart about this sort of thing, and I suspect as the years go on, 24 will press his all-court game in ways that allow for more physical preservation during the regular season. Continuing to dominate other guards in the high and mid-post, developing and honing even more stop-and-pop shots, feeling out games in ways that let him exert influence without requiring the sort of pounding guys take with endless drives to the basket. This is all stuff he does now, but he'll continue to tweak the formula as the years pass.

The best way for the Lakers to protect Bryant and promote his longevity is to continue surrounding him with good players.

BK


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