It’s been an interesting beginning to the NBA season with lots of different unexpected stories coming from out of leftfield. So naturally I’m bringing up the LA Lakers, a team that gets discussed and dissected more than any other. I made a promise to Yannis Koutroupis from the Laker blog Show Time that I would run this piece he wrote before the season started. I feel that the issues brought up still apply. Lamar Odom has been playing at a phenomenal level, Kobe isn’t back at 100% yet, and the young guys have been stepping up. This was sent to me right before the season opener. Take it away Yannis.
The future is now
By Yannis Koutroupis
Nobody under hyped the Laker draft picks more than the guy who made them, Mitch Kupchak. With Andrew Bynum he was very firm in saying that the plan was for him to sit the majority of his first two seasons, because he’s so young and the transition from high school to the NBA is especially hard for big men. At just 19 years old when drafted, much of the same things were said about rookie point guard out of UCLA Jordan Farmar.
But with injuries coming as frequently as complaints about the new ball, those plans have changed. Andrew Bynum is going to be the Lakers starting center until Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown can get healthy, but even then as Mitch Kupchak’s Wally Pip comment alluded to, Andrew could keep his spot if he plays at the level he did the last two preseason games.
The Lakers brought in Shammond Williams to solidify their point guard rotation, but because of a pelvis injury that is likely to nag him the entire season, Farmar got a chance to show what he could do early. Phil Jackson said the team gets ‘inspiration’ when he comes in the game, and the plan is to get him significant minutes early and see how he responds.
With fifteen of their first twenty games at home, most of them against non playoff teams, the Lakers future at the point guard and center position will get a chance to earn their spot in the rotation and become impact players for the Lakers much earlier than expected.
No matter how great the two young guys play though, the team goes as Kobe Bryant does. His ‘routine’ knee surgery kept him out four months, and getting to 100% is going to be a gradual process. By the time the Lakers long opening home stint is over, Kobe should be gearing into shape.
Phil Jackson’s hip replacement surgery still has him limping around somewhat, but the team’s early road games should be the only ones that he misses. With his nagging hip issue a thing of the past, expect contract extension talks to get serious at season’s end.
One of the only Lakers to not experience and injury this off season may have had a tougher summer than anyone. Lamar Odom was coming off his strongest play as a Laker, with hopes of being an all-star this season. These hopes came to an abrupt halt as his young son Jayden died in his sleep at the age of six months.
Odom is doing his best to become a better basketball player from this, saying on several occasions he’s play with his son’s soul inside of him. However, he’ll be asked of more this season than any other season before and with everything that happened in the off season considered; it may take Odom awhile to get going.
Just about everybody in the Laker organization helped recruit Vladimir Radmanovic. He was number one on everyone in the Lakers front office wish list, or at least it appeared that way. If his slap of the hand that resulted in a torn ligament that will require surgery is any indicator, Brian Shaw wasn’t as high on Vladimir as the rest. Joking aside, Vladimir was expected to give a big boost to the Lakers perimeter threat this year, but due to his hand injury he’s been shooting the ball poorly. Vladimir has said he’ll wait until the end of the season to get the surgery done, but if he continues to play poorly because of it that could change.
The Lakers have a young, deep, and talented team that includes the most dominant offensive player on the planet. If they can build on the chemistry they began to form last year and get healthy, they could make some noise in a western conference that is deep – but has no one dominant team. If they continue to harbor the injury bug like they did in pre season, it’ll be a long year with a deep draft as the reward in May.