The Los Angeles Lakers held their annual Media Day on Saturday in preparation for the 2013-14 season, and Sports Out West was on hand to get the pulse of the players and coaches.
Numerous challenges await as superstar Kobe Bryant is still without a timetable to return from a torn Achilles’ he suffered at the end of the 2012-13 season. General manager Mitch Kupchak, and everyone else for that matter, has been unwavering in the assertion that Bryant holds the key to the Lakers’ playoff chances and success in his hands.
While Bryant’s recovery is still in question, there were some takeaways during the media availability that signaled the start of training camp.
1. The starting lineup is a work in progress
There are a lot of question marks heading into the Lakers’ 2013-14 season, and one that didn’t come any closer to being resolved after Media Day was what the starting rotation would look like. With so many new faces and uncertainty with respect to injuries, there are numerous possibilities for personnel groupings before the Oct. 29 season opener vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.
From the players to the coaching staff, everyone shares the belief that the training camp competition will help reveal who will be in the starting rotation.
“We want to have a competitive camp,” assistant coach Kurt Rambis told Sports Out West on Saturday. “We’re not going to go into camp and already determine who that starting five is, we’re going to give everybody an opportunity.”
2. Training camp matters
Among the many challenges last season, one was the coaching change that took place just five games into the regular season when Mike Brown was fired after a 1-4 start. Without a training camp to get a diverse group of players on the same page from the start, a lot of things went wrong on the floor from an execution standpoint.
Training camp matters, and everyone in the building reiterated as much when asked whether or not having a full training camp will make a difference.
“It’ll help out a lot. Last year was kind of bizarre in a lot of ways,” Jodie Meeks said of having a full offseason to prepare. “Having a full training camp with coach D’Antoni will help out from the standpoint of his system and what he wants all of us to do, so I’m looking forward to it. There won’t be any surprises as far as basketball this season.”
Surprises are what the Lakers don’t need as they will fight for a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference. Head coach Mike D’Antoni . Continuity will be key, and they’ll have to be on the same page from the start.
“When a season gets underway, you don’t have the practice time to kind of start over and open up something new,” Rambis added. “You’ve got to do everything on the fly, and it’s really hard when you look at games being played and travel. You can’t beat the players up because they have to be ready for the next ballgame. So it’s always an advantage for a coach to go through a full training camp.”
3. Everyone has something to prove
Nick Young has bounced around in recent years, spending parts of the last two seasons wearing three different uniforms with the Washington Wizards, Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers before coming back to Los Angeles. Even though he’s a veteran, he like the rest of his teammates is entering his tenure with the Lakers with the enthusiasm of a youngster. He recognizes full well that it’s a chance to reinvent himself in his home town.
“That’s motivation for all of us. I feel it in the locker room, I feel it in the atmosphere,” said Young. “We’ve all got something to prove, and that’s a good thing.”
4. Media Day was the ‘day you’ll all look back at this and laugh’
Things were loose around the Lakers’ practice facility during Media Day. When the throngs of reporters spoke to D’Antoni, the coach smiled and joked, inducing laughter on several occasions among reporters.
He and everyone understands that last season was an anomaly, almost to the point where it was laughable. As the team was going through it, no one was smiling. But like many other periods of struggle, the mantra of “you’ll look back at this situation and laugh about it” seemed to hold true on Saturday.
Dwight Howard has come and gone, and now everyone, especially the head coach, understands how unpredictable the business of basketball is and how it’s important to take a light-hearted approach sometimes.
5. Players are excited about the system
The Lakers spent the offseason building their team around personnel who will fit into D’Antoni’s system. He figures to continue to spread the floor with shooters and athletic wing players. Young, Elias Harris, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Marcus Landry can all fill that role, and it should make for an intriguing training camp battle.
But the best thing about the Lakers’ newcomers is that they’re embracing the offense’s potential. Veteran forward Shawne Williams has a history with D’Antoni and enjoyed playing for him with the New York Knicks. Even the young players are going into the situation with optimism.
“It fits me well,” said rookie Ryan Kelly of the Lakers’ system. “As I learn more and more about this offense, I think that I can help this team.”
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