Written by: Jacqueline Grant
The Lakers exit last season left fans with a bad taste in their mouth and a knot in their stomach. A sweep against the Dallas Mavericks was hardly the send-off Phil Jackson deserved. However, for a team who played in the finals the previous three seasons, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Lakers were simply burnt out.
All that extra basketball, including 77 post-season games over the past four years in addition to all the summer league games, finally caught up to them. So, with a long summer break for the boys in gold and an entirely new coaching staff, what can be expected for the upcoming season? Only time will tell, but here is a list of hopes, wants, and wishes for some of the players who have peaked my interest.
Andrew Bynum: A healthy knee please! Bynum has not had an injury free season since 2006-2007. The injury bug follows him everywhere, and naturally that has hindered his development. Bynum has kept quiet this off-season, focusing his energy into extensive training and conditioning, and reports have suggested that he will come back stronger than ever before. With a strong, healthy body his post-up moves, defense in the paint, and shot selection should be more consistent and reliable than in the past.
Derek Fisher: J.J. Barea exposed what Fisher could not keep up with during last postseason. Fisher’s hard nosed defense, shooting ability, and leadership have allowed him to keep his starting position this long, but unfortunately Fisher’s run with the Lakers is coming to an end. Fisher should mentor Darius Morris and groom him into the player the Lakers need. With Fisher’s natural leadership ability, passing down his insider knowledge to the younger players should come effortlessly.
Kobe Bryant: Kobe has always come into training camp in mint condition, notorious for his 4 AM workouts, and this year should be no different. This long off-season should have allowed Bryant to heal his numerous injuries. Moreover, Bryant will play with anger and zest, seeking revenge for what was taken from the Lakers.
Ron Artest: A little less Dancing with the Stars and Metta World Peace, and a little more basketball please. Artest’s attraction to craziness is like Mark Madsen’s dancing. While it’s entertaining, it certainly does nothing to improve his game. Instead, Artest should focus his energy towards this season and bring back a little bit of the edge the 2006 Artest had, minus the brawls. In doing so, Artest’s pesky, relentless defense should play a crucial role in Mike Brown’s agenda.
Pau Gasol: Gasol has kept himself busy this summer leading Spain in the European basketball championship. While Gasol received a fair amount of criticism for his lackluster performance in the Dallas series, I can only hope he uses that criticism for motivation. As one of the elite power forwards in the league and fundamentally one of the most complete players, Gasol needs to work on his mental preparation for the game. Gasol’s mental toughness has always held him back, and once he is more confident in his ability his talent will take over, and the Lakers offense will run much smoother.
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