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Five challenges the Lakers face with a compressed schedule

November 29, 2011 |  9:32 am

Kobe Bryant, center, with Derek Fisher, left, and Pau Gasol
1. Less rest between games. The NBA won't release its compressed 66-game schedule until possibly later this week, but one thing remains clear: The whole notion that the Lakers will benefit from a shortened season will prove to be unfounded. The schedule will feature teams playing at least one set of back-to-back-to-back games on three consecutive nights. The schedule helps mitigate that somewhat since 48 of the 66 games come against conference opponents. But that's not enough. Whatever benefits players received from prolonged rest this off-season will quickly evaporate.

2. Demand for focus increases. The Lakers have notoriously treated parts of the regular season with seeming disinterest. Part of that's understandable, because three consecutive Finals appearances proves taxing. The Lakers will also likely enter the 2011-2012 season motivated from last season's poor playoff showing in the Western Conference semifinals against Dallas. But any temptation to coast through games will hurt their development even more. 


3. Increased injury risk for Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. Both Bryant and Bynum are coming off productive off-seasons, where they've maintained their health and have reportedly kept in shape. But Lakers Coach Mike Brown will need to still exercise caution in using them. For Bryant, that means keeping his playing time around the 33.9 minutes he averaged last season. For Bynum, that means ensuring that he sticks close to the basket so he can both maintain his strong defensive role and minimize his movement. 

4. Stronger need for depth. Particularly on back-to-back games, former Coach Phil Jackson often resorted to giving his reserves longer minutes in at least one of the games. But for Brown to feel comfortable doing so, the Lakers' bench must play more consistently. It may seem daunting, particularly for Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, to feel they can have a definitive role. But they have will have a larger stake if the Lakers manage double-digit leads against sub-.500 opponents so the starters can rest. 

5. Less time to understand Mike Brown's system. Some on the Lakers suggested to me this off-season that it'll be easier to understand Brown's more traditional offense than Jackson's triangle. But I don't believe their suggestion that the transition period will be minimal. The concepts might not be difficult, but embracing his ideas and buying into what he wants could take some time, no matter how well intentioned the team is in giving the new guy a fair shake. 


Kobe Bryant still needs to pace himself during 2011-2012 season

Would a shortened season benefit the Lakers?

The Lakers won't win the 2012 NBA title

— Mark Medina

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Credit: Veterans Derek Fisher, left, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will face challenges with a compressed schedule. Photo: Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times