Story from Lakers.com – Is a Lakers 2nd 3-Peat in the near future? Lakers started training camp Monday and while all seems to be well on the Lakers front four days into training camp, with Kobe Bryant (knee) scrimmaging for the first time Monday night, Luke Walton (back) playing well with no limitations and Steve Blake (ankle) showing no signs of soreness from an ankle tweak, Phil Jackson still has a few tweaks in mind.
“I’d like to practice them a little longer,” said the head coach. “We’re going pretty short with them right now. Their learning and conditioning are the two things that have to be worked on.
The Lakers, in fact, had only one day (Monday) of two-a-day practices, and have just two more before the team hops aboard a charter plane to London, making it a bit more difficult for Jackson to push the conditioning angle. All the better, then, that everyone on the roster looks to be in pretty good shape, and save for Andrew Bynum — out at least four weeks recovering from right knee surgery — have all gotten on the basketball floor now that the two-time Finals MVP is back in action.
“(Bryant) looked good, he said he had no significant problem,” said Jackson. “A little swollen, obviously, but I think that’s it.”
When the media was allowed into Tuesday’s practice, Jackson was sitting in his chair watching eight-minute scrimmages take place between three different teams that looked something like L.A.’s starting line up, bench group and finally training camp signees:
Purple Team: Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Luke Walton
White Team: Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, Derrick Caracter, Theo Ratliff
Red Team: Devin Ebanks, Russell Hicks, Trey Johnson, Drew Naymick and Anthony Roberson
When asked who stood out, Jackson singled out the Slovenian.
“Sasha was like the hero today,” he offered. “Sasha made all his shots. Their blue team* looked good, and some of our younger guys played well.”
* Referees are required to refer to each team by a one syllable color so purple turns into blue when the team dons their road uniforms.
Vujacic wasn’t the only one hitting shots, as Blake nailed a game-winning three-pointer after focusing on setting up the White offense and getting teammates open looks in the final game against the Reds. Caracter stood out with his aggression on the glass inside, even adding a pretty reverse layup that had assistant coach Jim Cleamons crowing, while Ebanks was all over the place at both ends to help the Reds stay in the game, leading by two before Blake’s three in the final seconds.
The six-year veteran declined to pile onto Jackson’s praise, however, choosing to cite a general team effort (“We all played good”). Vujacic did at least allow that he feels good physically after struggling with various injuries in each of the past two preseasons.
“That’s the most important thing, to be healthy,” he said. “I took two weeks off after we finished the season, and I really worked on everything to try to be injury free as much as I can. I’m satisfied (so far) and am going to do my best to stay that way.”
After practice, Fisher spoke on more of a macro level, discussing his team’s mindset heading into the season, already focusing on how the Lakers can best put themselves in a position to win a third straight title. He acknowledged that the team knows how important having the seventh game of the 2010 Finals in L.A. was, and is already getting his teammates focused on having that advantage yet again. Fisher explained why he thinks the 2010-11 roster may have an early advantage towards that end over last season’s roster from an experience and hunger standpoint.
“I think when you have team dynamics in terms of individuals that whether it’s contract situations or playing time or other things that make it harder each year you try and push for a title, but that’s why I’m excited about this particular team,” he said. “The maturity and the wisdom we have on this roster, and the understanding that there is really only one purpose for us being together, I think it’s very clear early on.”
The Lakers certainly saw how an influx of hungry veteran blood could help last season…
“Ron’s desire and passion to be an NBA champion at times carried us and got us through some really good games,” the co-captain continued. “I think this season for Steve, Matt and Theo in terms of veterans, having not been in that position before where you legitimately have a chance to be a champion, I think they’re going to be excited, and they’re going to push guys when they need to be pushed. I think we all like the new faces that are here and we feel like we have a chance to be better than we were a year ago.”