This news may be met in this corner of the blogosphere with a collective "tell me something I didn't know" attitude, but I'll tell you anyway: According to a preseason survey, the majority of NBA general managers predict that the Lakers will three-peat.
Granted, the fine print makes it clear that not all 30 general managers voted. The percentages are based on a pool of respondents to each question. But it's not as if the results come from Mitch Kupchak voting repeatedly, like Yao Ming's fan base relentlessly votes for him to be in the All-Star game. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel.
There are plenty of the GMs that like Miami's chances (33.3% say the Heat will win the title), and there are serious doubts about Boston's chances to offset their 2010 NBA Finals loss (3.7% say they believe the Celtics will return to the Finals and win).
Tweet of the Day:"League officials showed media in NY video of what is likely to be called a tech. Suffice it to say, a lot of players will be racking them up. It will be interesting to see how NBA's elite (Kobe, LeBron) are affected. Both can be very demonstrative and refs are now supposed to T 'em" -- ChrisMannixSI (Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix)
Reader Comment of the Day:" Am I going to have to show up at training camp hauling a pouting Laker Tom behind me and give Andrew Bynum a good screaming? Ummm... maybe. We're going to have to see." -- Jon K
Everywhere Derrick Caracter goes, his weight follows him.
It partly contributed to his abrupt transfer from Louisville. It partly contributed to his low-draft stock after his days at Texas El Paso. And it partly influenced how he structured his eventual two-year contract with the Lakers.
At each stop, he's managed to shed pounds. But not enough to stop teams and fans from wondering if it still prompt concerns. That's why, in addition to proving he's matured since his days at Louisville, Caracter also hopes he can prove his conditioning is working better than his bulky frame suggests. Caracter said he dropped from 305 to 277 pounds after his career with the Miners because of more sleep and better eating habits. And after impressing the Lakers in Summer League, the team currently lists him at 265 pounds. In an interview shortly after the Lakers selected him with the 58th pick, Caracter singled out his work with Dan Barto, IMG's pro/college training coordinator -- both before Caracter's senior year at UTEP and before the NBA draft -- as being a strong factor in his weight loss. I talked with Barto recently to get his take.
When did Derrick start working with you?
I first developed a relationship with Derrick last summer [in 2009]. He came down with Earl Clark. Earl Clarkcame down for pre-draft training that year and Derrick stayed for a couple weeks in July just trying to stay in shape after Earl left for the draft. We helped get him ready and continued to work, since he had taken some time off with training, to just be sharp when he went into school and make sure he was continuing to improve his body. He was in good shape last summer, but not as good as he got into this spring. He called in the middle of March after he finished [with Texas El Paso] and he said he wanted to do his training down here for the draft. He felt comfortable with it and he was here in early April. That's when we got rolling. He came in and the season had taken a long, hard toll on his body. He had just taken two weeks off so we started from scratch and looked at a eight- to 12-week plan. Anytime you have a player who's really trying to trim up and lose their body, you have to analyze the strength and conditioning program they came from and the position they played in college and translate that program into what you foresee him becoming. We took a lot of time to really look at what Derrick used to be when he was younger and how his body had changed and the different amount of coaches he worked with and really tried to peel back some of the layers and lay out a full 12-week plan for him so he could buy into something. When you have as many voices in your head, with assistant coaches and AAU coaches, it was important for us to really, really level down. We assessed what we needed to change, what's his goal weight and what skills will be effective.
Our economy is in disarray. There's uncertainty over the Afghan war. And political tensions remain high. There are plenty of things for people to be upset about these days, and the polls certainly show it. But the polls here at the L.A. Times Lakers blog reveal upbeat attitudes about one thing, anyway: the Lakers' chances for a three-peat.
The Lakers are coming off a second consecutive championship, making the off-season more relaxing, the free-agency process known as "The Decision" more laughable and causing the urge to start up the season to spike. Not to worry, though, folks. Training camp starts Saturday, meaning you can stop rewinding Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, playing out imaginary Lakers games in your dreams and searching miles and miles for any morsel of Lakers news.
Magic Johnson once said to the L.A. Times' Chris Erskine, referring to the Lakers after they won their 16th championship: "It's the only thing the people can trust. They trust the Lakers."
So what kind of trust do you have in the Lakers for the 2010-11 NBA season? Poll results show that 96.15% of you believe the Lakers will three-peat, so you may as well start planning for another parade. The reasons vary. I listed multiple factors that seemed to work in the Lakers' favor, including talent, experience, off-season acquisitions, Phil Jackson and the seemingly inferior competition. Instead of singling out one variable that will push the Lakers over the edge, 63.49% of you said all of the above -- all these qualities make the Lakers tough to beat.
For those who want a seat at the NBA Finals, well, start thinking about booking flights to South Beach or Boston. Most of you are ready to fly 3,000 miles to Chowder City, with 57.52% predicting the Celtics will rematch the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Finals. It'd be a compelling series for sure, what with Shaquille O'Neal up against Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest duking it out again with Paul Pierce and the Lakers hoping to close the series gap to 17-12. But then there's the 36.91% of you who think the Lakers will be taking their talents to South Beach and proving which team is really super.
There's nothing like starting your morning with some Andrew Bynum news.
Keep refreshing the comments threads because the news isn't good for the Lakers. To which you reply in frustration: "Of course it isn't good. News involving Andrew Bynum's health is never good."
NBA.com's David Aldridge reports that Bynum will not play in any preseason games and hasn't been cleared for any basketball activities after having arthroscopic surgery this summer on his right knee. Aldridge says Bynum will travel with the team and that the Lakers hope he will be cleared to do some preseason work.
I've blogged about Bynum's extensive history of injuries, pondered whether he might stay healthy this season and analyzed what he could provide even if he were still limited. Everyone in this corner of the blogosphere has commented and debated this topic ad nauseam, and it looks like that's just going to continue.
So how will Bynum's health issues affect the Lakers during training camp? Pau Gasol will get more run, meaning it's good he rested well this off-season. Lamar Odom could volunteer to play some center after manning the position with Team USA. Theo Ratliff and Derrick Caracter will have more time to see how they fit in the system. And, maybe, just maybe, Russell Hicks cracks the Lakers roster.
Update: 10:17 a.m.:
Lakers spokesman John Black said the team doesn't expect Bynum will play during the pre-season, although he added it's possible he may play toward the end of it. The Lakers have preseason games against Minnesota (Oct. 4 in London), Barcelona (Oct. 7 in Barcelona), Sacramento (Oct. 13), Denver (Oct. 16) an to be determined game (Oct. 17), Utah (Oct. 19 in Anaheim), Golden State (Oct. 21 in San Diego) and Golden State (Oct. 22 in Ontario).
"He's not ready for the beginning of training camp," he said. "We'll update him as camp moves on. We're hopeful by the start of the season that he'll be ready."
In addition to talking with the Kamenetzky brothers, Lakers forward Ron Artest told an audience in Bakersfield that he would've played for the Lakers for $1. Surely, Buss is wondering how much in luxury taxes he could've saved.
Tweet of the Day:"My name is 'jockstrap Ron' for this week"-- RONARTESTCOM (Lakers forward Ron Artest)
Reader Comment of the Day: "What is it with these delusional Celtics? First, Doc Rivers talks that gibberish about their starting unit never losing, and than Grousbeck comes out with this nonsense. If he wanted Shaq as soon as Kobe made that comment, why were the Celtics pursuing Jermaine Oneal and Kwame Brown this summer before pursuing Shaq?" -- Laker Truth
Photo: Big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum embrace in the middle of the Lakers' celebration on the Staples Center court following an 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
And if you believe the Celtics' principal owner, Wyc Grousbeck, Bryant planted the idea for Boston to acquire Shaquille O'Neal because of his comments to a question after Game 7 of the NBA Finals this spring regarding what a fifth NBA championship means to him.
"Just got one more than Shaq," Bryant said to a laughing press corps, which normally receives glares, rolled eyes and non-answers when they ask Kobe a Shaq-related question. "You can take that to the bank. You know how I am. I don't forget anything."
That probably includes Shaq's distasteful freestyle about Bryant after the Lakers lost in the 2008 NBA Finals. So why is it called Phase II? Bryant truly wants to win more titles than than Shaq and anyone else, but this rivalry is now just manufactured.
“The minute I heard Kobe [Bryant] say he had one more ring than Shaq, I said to [Celtics president] Danny [Ainge], ‘Let’s go get Shaq,’ and it happened,’’ Grousbeck told the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
Grousbeck may have actually said that, but I don't buy for a second the impression Boston wouldn't have come up with the idea in acquiring Shaq if not for Bryant's post-game comments.
It was just two years ago where the symbolic images of the 2009 All-Star game, at least superficially, showed their feud had ended. Bryant and O'Neal played alongside each other and were coached by none other than Phil Jackson. They also shared the MVP award, with Bryant scoring 27 points and Shaq adding 17 in the West's 146-119 victory over the East. The two even hugged each other. Shaq had remarked during the 2009 NBA Finals that the storyline of "Can Kobe win a title without Shaq" was misleading. He argued that Kobe would be the Lakers' greatest player of all time if they beat Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals.
The Times' Mark Heisler had observed during Kobe's and Shaq's All-Star reunion that their spat actually ended in 2006 and the two remain cordial, though they were never friends. But given the fact the Celtics again could meet the Lakers in the Finals -- Shaq's figured out the media game pretty well and we're very willing to accommodate -- this likely will become a repeated storyline. Just don't put too much stock in it.
This isn't a foreign concept to me. I know how the sports world operates. And I'm aware that everything that happens in life seems so fleeting and temporary.
It struck me, however, seeing how quickly everything unraveled after the Lakers won the 2010 championship. I witnessed first-hand the Game 7 excitement, the locker room champagne baths and of course, Ron Artest's unforgettable press conference. Days followed with the Lakers' championship parade, post-title parties and exit interviews. It all happened so quickly within that week-long stretch that there really wasn't much time to think about and process everything that happened.
Once the NBA draft and free agency began, the business approach crept back. Everything I covered involving the Lakers immediately shifted from reflective and celebratory events to ones involving the future. That's how sports works. And the fact that the Lakers immediately shifted gears so quickly reflects the mark of a well-run organization.
But I'm wondering what the process entails for a Lakers fan. How long do you soak in the taste of victory? How long do you relish the journey that resulted in a Lakers championship? When do you feel it's time to move on? I'm sure the answers will vary as it does with the Lakers' roster. For example, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum immediately went into rest mode. Lamar Odom quickly shifted gears to USA basketball. Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown focused on their financial future with free agency. Phil Jackson measured his health and stamina. And Artest? Well, he's probably still celebrating.
There's only a few days left before Saturday, so I thought it'd be good to get this feedback before everyone wants to completely move on from the 2009-2010 title run.
Phil Jackson sat in his chair, appearing as relaxed as ever. His smile and yellow-button shirt complemented the California summer vibes. His observation that exit interviews feel more enjoyable after a championship exuded a sense of ease. And with the burden of going through yet another NBA season ending with his 11th title, it appeared only logical that Jackson would be eager to experience it again.
But then Jackson wrote the headline for the next morning's local sports pages: "I'm leaning toward retiring. But I have not made up my mind." After a few seconds of stunned silence, a reporter observed: "It got quiet on that one there."
That followed with a nearly 21-minute interview featuring questions and answers that seemed more of a sendoff for a job well done. It wasn't so much the words that gave that impression: Jackson stressed he wouldn't make an official decision until results from a series of medical tests came in the following week. Reporters, including myself, framed questions that conveyed understanding that Jackson may change his mind, while still tackling the variables on what could ultimately lead him to retirement. But once Jackson shared his litany of concerns -- mainly exhaustion and health -- he sounded burned out and ready for a vacation.
That's apparently all he needed to change his spirits. Two weeks later, the team announced Jackson's return, with the Zen Master saying in a statement, “After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season." He later told The Times' Mike Bresnahan, "I got a message from on high … that said, 'Phil, you've got to come back, there is a need to fulfill the prophecy. You know 12 [titles] is a holy number and 11 just doesn't fill that …' So I listened to my doctors and watched the sunrise and the sunset a few times and voila, I'm back."
Lakers nation could finally relax. Though the free-agency process just began, the Lakers had already addressed their main concern. Jackson would have a chance to win his fourth three-peat, keep the triangle offense intact and maintain the levelheaded attitude that helped the Lakers fight through adversity. The good news came with a qualifier, however. "It’ll be the last stand for me," Jackson said, "and I hope a grand one.”
Despite Jackson's statement, a preseason question surely involves whether this season actually marks the end of storied coaching career. I hesitate to predict what will happen, but I wouldn't take his initial statement as definitive.
Talk about perfect timing. With eight days left before training camp begins for the Lakers, today marks Phil Jackson's 65th birthday, meaning it's more likely he'll celebrate it. It also serves as a tangible reminder of how fortunate Jackson has managed to overcome his health issues. Beyond the constant stress and fatigue that's worn on Jackson during the long and treacherous NBA season, he has had to monitor two hip replacements, withstand a chronically sore knee and periodically feeling bothered with kidney stones. As much as it's been a blessing for him to stay healthy, Jackson's competitive spirits surely is making him excited for the 2009-10 season. After all, that's what triggered him to reconsider his initial thought about retirement and come back for another season.
Below are a few ideas on what he might be doing
1. Jeanie Buss, the Lakers executive vice president and Jackson's girlfriend, tweeted him a Happy Birthday, and it's conceivable that the two are spending it together over a dinner and a movie. I can imagine after Buss buys Jackson dinner, he remarks, "I'm glad you're treating me to dinner. With the paycut your father made me take, I don't know if I could afford it."
2. Buss tweeted something else that the two might be enjoying on a relaxing day: "NBA TV having a Phil Jackson marathon. Check out 2002 Lakers vs. Nets final. Shaq free throws still kill me." This will prompt some mixed feelings. Jackson will wax nostalgia about the Lakers' three-peat and perhaps help him see applicable examples next season's team could follow to ensure another three-peat. But he'll also feel regret for how everything ended in the 2004 season, with both Shaq and Jackson leaving the team.
3. Birthdays are supposed to be a relaxing day, and there's no better coach that preaches that concept than Jackson. He goes through numerous sessions, involving meditation, massages, yoga and Pilates. It'll serve two purposes. It will relieve any worries from the external world, and it'll get him mentally prepared for the upcoming season.
4. Jackson customarily goes to Montana for the summer off-season. With eight days still away from training camp, there's no reason Jackson needs to ditch the quiet and picturesque confines of Montana for traffic congested and land deprived Los Angeles. It's going to be another day of hiking, swimming and fishing.
5. Jackson's already back to work. As much as he maintains an even keel and light-hearted attitude during the season, the Zen Master is insanely competitive.