Lakers need intense practices next season
Instead of the Lakers strengthening their game on the court, most of the practices entailed strengthening their bodies in the trainer's room.
Instead of aiming for strong team chemistry, the Lakers aimed for strong team health.
Rarely did the Lakers spend much of last season engaged in intense practices. But the strategy backfired because their bodies still ached, complacency appeared deeply rooted and resentfulness rose because of the disparity in players' practice responsibilities. As badly as the season ended, it could've ended worse had their injuries become more serious.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum sounded hypocritical in criticizng that approach considering he missed the first 24 games of the season while rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. But he correctly outlined in his exit interview why the Lakers' practices next season will require a stronger energy level.
"In order to win," Bynum said, "we need practice and we need to be out there going through things together."
A possibly prolonged NBA lockout will give the Lakers the necessary time to rest, recover and treat injured bodies. That means it's more likely Kobe Bryant can expand his practice time beyond weight training, shooting and half-court exercises. All of the starters won't have to frequently sit out from practice following back-to-back games or when the Lakers encounter a multiple-day stretch between contests. And it's less likely the Lakers won't have to manage the wide range of injuries they juggled last season.
Mike Brown's new offensive and defensive scheme will require the Lakers to treat practices as clinics to ensure a minimal learning curve. Some issues include how they'll manage the offensive pecking order between Bryant and Bynum/Pau Gasol, which players will deserve a larger role and how they'll consistently execute on defense.
On-court practice will be instrumental in fostering team chemistry. That will make any resentfulness some players felt between the disparity in practice responsibilities last season vanish. It will prevent some, such as Bynum, from arguing the team has "trust issues" in the playoffs. And most importantly, it'll give the Lakers the best shot at recapturing the NBA title.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Andrew Bynum. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times