Lakers phasing into first weekend of practice
Before it even started, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson predicted training camp would be a "bust." And plenty of variables were on display this opening weekendas to why that's proved to be the case.
To no one's surprise, Lakers center Andrew Bynum sat out of Sunday's practice in what will mark the beginning of a preseason rehabilitation process after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this off-season. But what could at least be a tad consoling to Lakers fans entails the fact Jackson didn't exactly share Bynum's assessment that he wouldn't return until late November, instead offering his expectation that Bynum would return in two to three weeks after the regular season starts Oct. 26 against Houston.
Although Jackson believes Kobe Bryant's efforts in recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery this off-season has proved enough to play during the preseason, Bryant sat out of Saturday's and Sunday's practices. He described his right knee as "feeling pretty good," but he said he has been taking a "step-by-step" approach in improving the conditioning and strength in his knee. But it's certainly nothing to fret over. Bryant isn't for one: "I don't give two [expletive]" about the preseason.
Jackson shared a similar nonchalant tone, even with news that backup guard Steve Blake mildly sprained his left ankle. The injury isn't considered serious and he's listed as day-to-day, but it's rather interesting how the injury happened. Jackson shared that Sasha Vujacic collided with Blake, with Jackson saying Vujacic "gave him a little extra push" in a "highly competitive drill." So that means the approach Blake plans to take in fitting with the team, which outlined to me during media day, will be put on hold just temporarily.
In fact, Blake's injury isn't the only memorable instance surrounding Vujacic so far in training camp. Bryant described vividly how Shannon Brown leapt over Vujacic for a dunk during Saturday's evening practice.
"It was dumb. Sasha tried to take a charge on Shannon in the charge circle," Bryant said, shaking his head. "He forgot how high he jumps. It's just silly. He just went over him."
Still, even with how little can be drawn from the early days of training camp, it served as the first step. Jackson liked how Walton's back held up. He thought Lamar Odom appeared in reasonable shape, though he suspected much was on his mind surrounding his one-year anniversary with Khloe Kardashian. And Jackson provided praise for the newcomers in Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter.
"Every one of them has a part of their game that's a reason we brought them here," Jackson said. "Caracter's a tremedous offensive rebounder, and he's a real physical force in there. Matt showed some speed and quickness. Theo made some jump shots and blocked some shots out there. Steve Blake had a big influence on our practice today, just organizing his team. Devin Ebanks is very active and looks like he'll be a pretty good defender too."
There was also Pau Gasol's re-introduction to organized basketball since last year's championship run. Because of concerns over his two injured hamstrings last season as well as fatigue, Gasol abstained from the 2010 FIBA World Championships. It became his most limited off-season in four years, keeping his activity to individual workouts and a one-on-one session with his borther, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.
And if Bryant's assessment of Jackson means anything, it looks like it could be a good year. ""He looks better than he did last year," Bryant said of Jackson, who wore a knee brace during practice. "He looks great. He has a lot of energy; he moves around extremely well. He looks good."
Yes, these are all developments that seem small in nature, but critical in providing a solid foundation for a long season. This is just the beginning.
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