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Rick Fox points to health as the main concern heading into the Lakers' 2010-2011 season

July 23, 2010 |  8:00 am

"Each year is an opportunity to be a champion. As soon as you take it for granted, it's gone."

Those were the thoughts former Lakers forward Rick Fox shared on the team's championship DVD commemorating the 2001-2002 title. Yet, that's not what he believes will significantly influence whether the Lakers next season can three-peat since that era. It's something that's much more tangible.

"It's just the health," Fox said Thursday after participating in the second annual "Shot from the Top" at L.A. Live to help promote Nike's three-on-three basketball tournament that's taking place Aug. 6-8. "Managing the health and keeping the stamina at a high level in hopes you do get an opportunity to defend a third time."

Perhaps the only thing that will prove more difficult than that entailed Fox's task of making a basket from atop Nokia Plaza's balcony, something only actor Jeremy Piven could pull off among he, Fox and Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro couldn't do. "I should retire again," Fox said. I should've gotten a scouting report from Derek [Fisher] who made the shot [last year], which may explain why he's still playing and I'm not."

At least Fox's scouting report on the Lakers speaks from experience. After the Lakers stormed out to a 16-1 record in 2002, they leveled off the rest of the season with a 42-23 mark. Part of that pointed to Shaquille O'Neal, who missed 14 games because of a strained right calf, resulting in five losses in January that nearly eclipsed the lone six defeats they allowed in November and December. The Lakers appear to be addressing health as their top priority heading into next season, with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol sitting out of the FIBA World Championships and Andrew Bynum having off-season surgery next week to treat the torn cartilage in his right knee. But even with the Lakers making those off-season preparation, Fox believes they must continually monitor that area in order for Phil Jackson to three-peat for the fourth time in his career.

They have a great team," said Fox, who added he liked the Lakers' off-season moves with Jackson coming back, Derek Fisher re-signing and Steve Blake joining the backcourt. "It's just keeping them healthy and keeping them prepared for defending."

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com


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