The Lakers are definitely in a completely different position as they were last summer. Fans, players, and the teams actually know they have a full season ahead of them, since there is no lockout preventing that from happening. Unlike last off-season, management was able to communicate with players and their agents, and fortunately for us Lakers fans, they take full advantage of it.
Lakers fans sure have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season and for seasons to come. It is amazing what can happen in one off-season and with the right personnel in the team’s management. Yes, I’m talking to you Mitch Kupchak. So, I want to explore the top three influential differences that the Lakers made this off-season compared to last that will hopefully give a better understanding of what we as fans can expect come October 30th.
It is now known that the Lakers will use the Princeton Offense as their primary offensive strategy, along with what succeeded in the offense last season under Mike Brown. This plan is much anticipated from the Lakers since it was very apparent that the team continually struggled with Brown’s offensive system, especially as he is a more defensive minded coach. The Lakers needed a shakeup on offense, which was why Kobe Bryant pulled hard to bring in Eddie Jordan and his teaching of the Princeton Offense to the Lakers.
I’ll leave it to Pete Carril, the originator of the Princeton Offense and Eddie Jordan’s mentor, to say how the system will work in LA:
They have the right ingredients, all the passers. They have really good passers there. The only one I don’t really know much about as a passer is Howard. But [Pau] Gasol can pass and he can shoot, and of course Bryant and Nash can shoot, and whatever they call him now [Metta World Peace], I know he can pass. It all depends on Howard, and then what kind of bench they have.
I know Jodie Meeks is a shooter. He makes shots. And Antawn Jamison is not a shooter, but he can play. Eddie knows all about him from having coached him in Washington.
The New and Improved Roster
Unless you have been living under a rock, or actually even if you have, you probably know that the Lakers have improved and upgraded their roster this summer. First came the still shocking news that they traded future draft picks for Steve Nash. Yes, Steve Nash. It has been quite a while since the Lakers have had a point guard of Nash’s caliber. The two-time MVP brings so many benefits to the Lakers including: direction, passing ability, basketball IQ, shooting accuracy, court vision and ability to create something out of nothing. Having Nash join Kobe Bryant in the back-court not only is a major problem for opponents to defend, but makes every single of their teammates better as well.
Then, later in the summer the Orlando Magic finally made their decision to move Dwight Howard. Fortunately for Lakers fans, that move fell their way. Sure, the Lakers had to trade away Andrew Bynum to make room for Howard, but with all do respect to Bynum, it was absolutely worth it. Howard is without a doubt the best center in the league, and will continue to be after he fully recovers from his back injury. He represents a huge upgrade on defense, effort, drive and another credible threat on offense.
With all that said, the most crucial roster improvement was made to the bench. Adding Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks and re-signing Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks will have an immediate impact to the bench’s production. After all, upgrading the bench was the biggest need for the Lakers to address during the off-season, which management made sure to prioritize. The reserves now offer athleticism, youth and answers to the Lakers previous problems, such as depth, speed and the ability to spread the court.
This difference maker is the most influential in my opinion. Training camp is where tweaks and potential problems are ironed out and addressed. It is where players have the platform to get their body “game ready”. It is where coaches give insight into how players can be used to showcase their skills in order to benefit the team the most. It is where players and coaches come together and align with a shared commitment, goal, and mission.
What makes the opportunity to have a full training camp most influential in my eyes is that the previous two difference makers (the Princeton Offense and the new and improved roster) can come alive during training camp. Remember, last season many Lakers publicly remarked how difficult it was to adapt to Mike Brown’s offense after having the triangle as their identity for so long, and without having a full training camp and essentially no practice time due to a shortened season.
With a full training camp, the players will be able to learn and become comfortable with the Princeton Offense as their primary offensive system. Therefore, when it comes to actual game time, the team will be prepared and have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t for any given setup in the Princeton Offense.
Secondly, the roster looks very different this season, compared to last. Additionally, the new high-impact players (Nash, Howard, Jamison) change the team in the way in which they will operate, especially Kobe Bryant. Yes, on paper the Lakers’ starting five is the strongest in the league. However, they need to be able to take what’s on paper and translate it to the court. Training camp will be most beneficial for this to occur and for the players to familiarize themselves with their teammates.
There are many other improvements that can be thought of that will hopefully apply to the Lakers this season. However, I feel that the above mentioned initiatives will have the biggest impact to the team. Lakers management did an outstanding job at supplying all the pieces to the puzzle that will lead to success. It is now up to the players and the coaches to put that puzzle together that will lead to the organization’s seventeenth championship.