The Lakers enter training camp with a new head coach, largely the same roster as a year ago, and uncertain expectations. While the team they share the STAPLES Center with, the LA Clippers, enter the year a big national story and a potential NBA title contender, the Lakers enter the second year of a massive rebuild.
Here’s a look at three things to watch as the Lakers enter training camp:
Can Bryant and Nash stay healthy? Last year was largely a wasted one for both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Bryant never did quite come back from the torn Achilles he suffered in the playoffs the previous year, suffering a knee injury shortly into his comeback. Nash, a former two time MVP who was signed two years ago along with Dwight Howard with the hopes of bringing the Lakers a championship, has never been healthy as a Laker. The word out of the Lakers camp is that both players are in great shape and feel confident about the upcoming season. How long that health will last is the big question. Nash is forty and Kobe is on his way to forty. Both players are first ballot Hall of Famers and greats at their respective positions. What they have left in the tank will dictate how much the Lakers are able to contend this upcoming season.
Can Jeremy Lin re-emerge? The Lakers essentially replaced Jordan Farmar with Jeremy Lin. Lin, who burst onto the scene three years ago with the New York Knicks, earning a big contract with the Houston Rockets, has struggled the last couple of seasons. His inconsistent play had him fall out of favor in Houston, leading to his acquisition by the Lakers. If Lin can re-capture the form that made him the talk of professional basketball the Lakers will have a good compliment to Nash and an upgrade at the point guard position. Last season the Lakers suffered such an incredible glut of injuries at the point guard position that they never really had any semblance of consistency. If Nash can stay healthy and Lin can provide a steadying force the backcourt situation should be more settled.
Can Julius Randle have a breakout rookie season? Of all the members of the heralded rookie class, Julius Randle might have found himself in the most advantageous position. The Lakers are badly in need of young talent, especially athletic interior players that can make an immediate impact. While Bryant will remain option number one in Los Angeles, Randle has an immediate opportunity to seize big minutes and a major role on the team right off the bat. The key for the former University of Kentucky star is to get off to a fast start in training camp and take hold of a key role in the frontcourt, whether it be a starting position or the first option off the bench. Randle surprised many in the Las Vegas Summer League with his ability to handle the basketball, displaying a skill set that may earn him minutes at small forward as well as his more natural power forward.
The Lakers open training camp this coming week and kick off their exhibition schedule on October 6 in San Diego. Chris M.
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