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4 things to watch for during rest of Lakers' preseason

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The Lakers are exactly 13 days away from the start of the regular season, but Coach Phil Jackson insists he hasn't thought that far ahead yet.

"No thoughts," Jackson said, smiling. "We're aware of it, but it's out there in some distance."

That's because the Lakers still have six remaining preseason games, including one Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas against the Sacramento Kings. It's an interesting concept for the league to cram in that many games for the Lakers in 13 days. Then again, so is spending a week-and-half in London and Barcelona, Spain, for two games filled with plenty of publicity appearances. As I've said numerous times, the results don't matter for the next two weeks. But there are still things the Lakers will want to see sharpened before receiving their championship ring in the season opener against the Houston Rockets. I outline those factors after the jump.

567220941. Kobe Bryant's rehabilitation process

Jackson and Bryant had planned all preseason for him to take a conservative approach with rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. Both of them agreed that playing 16 minutes per game during the team's trip to Europe would serve as a reasonable compromise between trying to stay healthy and trying to build a rhythm. The approach deviated, however, during the Lakers' 92-88 loss against FC Barcelona, where Bryant played 25 minutes because of his insistence in wanting to test out his knee, play in front of an international crowd and keep the Lakers within striking distance in a competitive game.

Jackson ceded to Bryant's wishes, but he made it clear afterward that Bryant has a long way to go to get into game shape. Bryant hasn't spoken to the media since the Lakers returned from their eight-day trip overseas, but Jackson said he emphasized to him to worry more about fully rehabbing than trying to expedite the process.

Bryant made some progress this week, appearing in half of Tuesday's practice after off-court workouts, but Jackson still maintains that he'll play Bryant in one eight-minute segment in each half. Jackson said that he'll consider playing Bryant more at the end of the game based on what Bryant tells him and what he sees in his condition on the court.

I wish we could have heard Bryant's take on this situation, but Jackson's account suggests he's trying to take an evenhanded approach with Bryant. He wants to serve as a check to Bryant's relentlessness and, in return, hopes Bryant appreciates him looking out for his long-term well being. But Jackson also wants to give Bryant the opportunity to plead his case for more playing time so Bryant doesn't feel like he's being held back.

2. Luke Walton's strained right hamstring

The good news thus far about Walton: He hasn't reported any pain in his back after a pinched nerve in his lower back limited him last season to 29 games. The bad news: He strained his right hamstring before the team's trip to Europe and missed both exhibition games.

Although Jackson said Walton's still a "couple days away" from practicing, he participated in shooting drills during Tuesday's session. "It's better than what we thought would happen, by far," Jackson said.

565802973.Team Conditioning

Usually Jackson singles out Lamar Odom for his conditioning during training camp. This preseason, Jackson singled out Odom as the only player that's in "basketball shape" as indicated by his 14.5-points-per-game average in the Lakers' first two exhibitions, including a double-double effort (17 points and 18 rebounds) against FC Barcelona in 41 minutes.

Odom's been the only Laker that played basketball extensively during the off-season because of his role with Team USA in the 2010 FIBA World Championships. So it's understandable that his teammates are lagging. But the Lakers' trip to Europe made it difficult to establish a definitive rhythm considering the heavy travel and public events already added to their schedule. Jackson said the 10-minute mark of the first quarter in Wednesday's game will serve as a good indicator of how players feel from a conditioning standpoint and will likely determine how he'll allocate minutes afterward.

"Just play. It's a process," Jackson said when I asked him what everyone else can do to catch up. "There will be some conditioning in those games, but we'll have to work a little bit extra hard."

4. Mastering the concepts

Jackson said he frequently stopped practice Tuesday and led what he called an "orientation" for the Laker newcomers. "I thought they might not have had the right anticipation on how we want to play defense," Jackson said. "We were lax I felt with how we played defensively [during Monday's practice]. We wanted to emphasize and get everyone on the same page, so to speak, defensively."

There's also an almost inevitable learning curve with the triangle offense. I actually was impressed during the first two games with how the chemistry looked among the newcomers and the rest of the Lakers' veteran-laden unit. Though nothing will ever appear perfect in the preseason, it appears that they'll be on their way simply because of everyone's willingness to fit in with one another.

Still, there are issues still to be ironed out. Coach and player accounts say Matt Barnes, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks are still figuring things out with the triangle and feeling some discomfort with their offensive role. Unless you're Steve Blake, it's almost expected that new arrivals have a hard time adjusting to the triangle. But how they look in these preseason games will largely determine what points of emphasis Jackson has them work on in the practices in between those contests.

--Mark Medina

mgmedin@gmail.com

Photos, from top:

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn't give his players much time to recover from their European road trip, putting them through a three-hour practice session on Saturday  Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant practiced for the first time Tuesday since returning from the team's European trip last week. Credit: Albert Gea/Reuters.

Lakers forward Lamar Odom is the only player on the team that Coach Phil Jackson considers to be in what he calls "basketball shape." Credit: Dylan Martinez/Europe.

 
Comments () | Archives (16)

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I'm looking forward to seeing how the newbies fit in....Barnes, Blake and the rooks.

As far as the Artest photo with Pres Clinton from the previous thread I like Rick Friedman comment. Or maybe...

Ron told President Clinton, "Queensbridge in the building. Say Queensbridge."

@Mamba - Bazooka indeed. As much as I love Bobby's music I always think of the Sam Cooke situation when I listen to him. Am I the only one?

@Justa - lol. Got a little defensive there huh!

LRob - huh? Me?

Steve Blake! Such a great acquisition. I saw his last game with the Clippers and he just dominated that 4th quarter playing his style. Just nailin jumpshots. The ability to take over a game is in him when needed...but his desire to work through the offense and his killer instinct is what will make him a great PG to Kobe's SG antics.

Let's go Lake show

MM, If I can add numero 5. FRONTCOURT ROTATION.
While Bynum is out, it may be a given that Pau will start at center, and LO at power forward, but the rest of the preseason may determine the bench rotation. How many minutes can Ratliff play, and will he be more effective with Pau, Odom, or Caracter alongside of him? Will we lose too much scoring if Ratliff and Caracter are on the court at the same time? Does it mean that Pau will log heavy minutes until Bynum's return, or can Caracter and Odom soften the load? Odom has already proven to be in midseason form, and I believe Phil will rely on him more than anyone else during this time. However, when Pau goes to the bench, Theo and Derrick will determine how long he sits by their style of play and effectiveness. If Theo and Caracter can rebound and defend, they will be doing exactly what their role is, but on the other end of the court, where will the scoring come from? Can either of them surprise us with offense while on the floor? Phil will soon learn what he has on the bench at the 4 and 5 spots. This early season experience can prove to be very helpful in the postseason even with a healthy Bynum.

How much worse is this going to get!?!

I saw this headline a moment ago: "U.S.: We suspect Iran doesn't have Lebron's interest at heart." Is EVERYTHING about Lebron now?

Then I noticed it didn't say "Lebron" but actually "Lebanon."

Never-mind.

Justa - too macho...hence your wonderful rib story :-)

Glad to hear Luke was able to participate in a shooting drill. (insert punch line here)


Laughed at Silver Screen and Roll's "under the radar" article being at the end of a huge list of Laker-related media mentions.


I was looking forward to the Riverside Press Whatever's piece on Phil emphasizing defense, but it was more an aside at then end of the piece. The truth is the Lakers' defense is the key to their ability to get by teams like the Heat and Celtics. The Lakers can score. No worries there (especially with Luke all practiced up at shooting). Their ability to slow down the best teams in the league is key.


The Lakers are a great defensive team on paper. Drew/Pau/Lamar are the long bodies. Artest and Barnes the bangers. Kobe is Kobe. Fish the tough, savvy vet. Blake a long, defensive minded guard. Ratliff specializes in D and the rookies with young legs seem the like playing at that end. Sasha is a pest and Shannon a physically gifted, yet mentally questionable, defender.


The pieces are there. But defense is a team thing. So the key to the season, to me, is 1) health and 2) lockdown team D.


I don't care if Barnes NEVER understands the triangle. Just play 20
minutes of intense defense. Play D and the points will come with Kobe and Pau and Company.

I'm glad to see the team is gelling together overall, and that Luke's back hasn't hurt him. A hamstring might have cost him a couple of weeks, but a bad back could cost him months. It will be nice to be able to turn to Luke for a few minutes here and there, in order to help stabilize the 2nd unit.

Phil is probably just wanting the team to concentrate on doing the little things right, maybe to keep their head straight after their 2nd straight title.

- - -

Great article on Kobe vs little princess, one-on-one. Rick Reilly asks a bunch of players, hoop legends and coaches for their opinions:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=5680638

I most liked Rick Barry's comment on a Dr. J vs Kareem 1-on-1 game:
"Kareem played Dr. J and beat him. J never could shoot from the outside."

That got me to research it some, and I found that it was a pay per view special from Feb. 1992 with the proceeds going to AIDS research.

For those interested to see a Jet magazine article talking about it:
http://books.google.com/books?id=38IDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA52&dq=kareem+dr.+j+one-on-one&hl=en&ei=9T62TOjXDMGongeH_t1q&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=kareem%20dr.%20j%20one-on-one&f=false


Oh, Kobe would KILL the little princess - bum knee, ages and all.

SKILLS beat ATHLETICISM everytime...


GO LAKERS!!!!!

Laker J: I hope that the tendinitis that Ratliff is suffering from doesn't limit his availability throughout the season. That is the risk bringing in a 37-yr old body, minerals or not. Loved DJ, but Ratliff is a proven shot blocker and defensive presence - hopefully he'll see regular minutes with the second unit.

If Ratliff is out, and Drew isn't recovered, the rotation will get out of whack early-on. Depending too heavily on Pau and Lamar early-on sets up an increased risk of injuries, as well as fatigue.

Hope Phil gives Caracter a shot, I agree that the experience he gains will be invaluable if he's called upon later on...


GO LAKERS!!!!!

I don't care if Barnes NEVER understands the triangle. Just play 20 minutes of intense defense. Play D and the points will come with Kobe and Pau and Company.
Posted by: Tom Daniels | October 13, 2010 at 04:15 PM

Tom Daniels - Good point. Barnes is at his best when he focuses on being a defensive pest...his offense is a bonus.

I wouldn't call Blake a defensive minded guard. I think his D is average, but I like his unselfishness and smarts.

Oh, Kobe would KILL the little princess - bum knee, ages and all.

SKILLS beat ATHLETICISM everytime...


GO LAKERS!!!!!

Posted by: CyberCosmiX | October 13, 2010 at 04:23 PM
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bird beats Johnson then?

Great article on Kobe vs little princess, one-on-one. Rick Reilly asks a bunch of players, hoop legends and coaches for their opinions:
Oh, Kobe would KILL the little princess - bum knee, ages and all.
SKILLS beat ATHLETICISM everytime...
Posted by: CyberCosmiX | October 13, 2010 at 04:23 PM
---------------
Cyber - Thanks for the article. MM had a good post on the Kobe vs. Bron match on Oct. 3rd. (check it out).

That whole one on one conversation started when Magic was going to play MJ, but David Stern nixed it! I put some link some articles on that post. But since Kareem and Dr. J was retired he couldn't control them.

SKILLS beat ATHLETICISM everytime...

Posted by: CyberCosmiX | October 13, 2010 at 04:23 PM
------------------
Bird beats Johnson then?
Posted by: KB Blitz | October 13, 2010 at 04:51 PM

-------------------

I wouldn't say Magic or Bird was very athletic.

"SKILLS beat ATHLETICISM everytime.."

I'd pick Bird over Rodman anytime.

Luuukkkeee suucccckkksssss!!!!

But otherwise...

Yippeee!!!!! We're #1!!!! Rah rah rah!!!!

Lakers Today, Lakers Tomorrow, Lakers Forever and Ever More!

Go Lakers!!!!!!!


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