Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol could have plenty of reasons to smile… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The wait's finally over. Lakers' media day, marking the start of training camp, is today. That means Lakers fans will finally have something substantive to talk about regarding the 2012-13 season. Below are the top five storylines as Lakers' training camp opens on Tuesday.
1. How will Dwight Howard's back rehab go? The Lakers don't expect this to be a long-term issue. They've reported no setbacks on his surgically repaired back. And indicative of his on-court workouts last week and a bit of dancing on "Ellen," it appears Howard has come a long way since going under the knife five months ago.
Still, Laker fans never like to wait. They want to see Superman officially wear a Lakers uniform. They want to get a glimpse of how his towering presence will immediately upgrade the defense. They want to see how his pick-and-roll mastery with Steve Nash will enhance the offense's productivity. For fans who will only see the Lakers in person during exhibition games, the urgency bodes even higher. Nonetheless, Howard and the Lakers maintain they will be patient.
It's already safe to pencil out Howard for Oct. 7 against Golden State (sorry, Fresno fans). But don't be surprised if Howard sits out the other seven preseason games, too. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Howard will target the season opener Oct. 30 against the Dallas Mavericks as his return.
2. How will the Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash dynamic play out? Usually, training camp marks a time for such veterans to enjoy an extra dose of rest before the real games begin. No one should expect Bryant and Nash to play heavy minutes. But their time on the floor takes an added importance. This will mark the first time Bryant and Nash will play together and figure out how to strike the right approach in Nash assuming primary ball-handling duties and Bryant moving off the ball.
This shouldn't become an issue later in the season for various reasons. Their basketball intelligence remains unmatched. Nash and Bryant excel at their particular passing and scoring roles. They're advanced enough in their careers that any sacrifice is worthwhile in the pursuit of an NBA title. But this dynamic could be an evolving exercise during training camp simply because of the nuances involved.
3. What balance between Princeton and pick-and-roll offense will the Lakers run? The Lakers will no longer bore fans at Staples Center with their offense. Instead, fans are imagining Showtime. That's because the Lakers plan to incorporate the Princeton offense under assistant Eddie Jordan. Nash's expertise in the pick-and-roll also opens up easier scoring chances for Bryant and Gasol.
But it will be interesting to see what balance they will run with those two principles. The Princeton offense could become valuable because it provides structure, emphasizes floor spacing and requires teammates to pass frequently. Yet the pick-and-roll offense will allow Nash to fully enhance his point-guard role. Lakers Coach Mike Brown has noted in various interviews that Nash will have the freedom to decide which sets to run once he crosses halfcourt. It's possible the Lakers will devote plenty of their preseason games ensuring they set the right balance between both offensive principles and have everyone immediately understand the reads.
4. Expect to see a better version of Gasol. For the first time in a year, Gasol won't have to worry about reports linking him to possible trades. At least during Howard's absence, Gasol won't have to wonder when he'll be featured in the post. Add in the likelihood that he learns the Princeton scheme quickly, and it's safe to bet that he will have a prolific preseason. Of course, Gasol will have to make further adjustments whenever Howard returns. But it's likely a productive preseason will boost his confidence.
5. Who will the Lakers pick as their backup point guard? Steve Blake presumably will provide some explanation at media day on the circumstances under which he injured he injured his left foot stepping on a parking lot spike strip. Blake will also find out if his expected three-week absence will turn out shorter or longer. But in the meantime, the Lakers will discover whether Chris Duhon or Darius Morris will look more suited as the Lakers' backup point guard.
Duhon has more experience and excels on defense. But his shooting and ball-handling remain questionable. Morris is more aggressive driving to the basket and has an improved handle and shooting stroke. But it's hard to gauge whether his insatiable work ethic will ensure the second-year guard is ready for the NBA game. Whenever Blake returns, it's possible Duhon and Morris won't play much of a role. But in the meantime, both players have a shot at showcasing their worth.
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