We’re just days away from the Los Angeles Lakers starting camp for the upcoming season.
Today, we’ll take a look at the roster and breakdown the expectations for each player.
Ron Artest (6-7/260, F, 12th year) – What can you say about Ron that hasn’t already been said? While Artest came through in the clutch, the Lakers would like to see a little more offensive consistency from the defensive stalwart. Ron Ron is still an elite defender who will again be asked to harass the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and that guy in South Beach.
Matt Barnes (6-7/226, F, 7th year) – Barnes has been the most controversial addition to the Lake Show this offseason. He’s been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons but Barnes is expected to be a key contributor off the bench.His Artest-like approach to playing D and his spot up shooting will both be important factors in the quest for three. Of course, Barnes has to put his legal woes behind him first. There’s no telling how Dr. Buss will react to seeing negative press about his team before the season begins.
Steve Blake (6-3/172, G, 7th year) – Was there a better fit for the triangle in free agency than Steve Blake? While he won’t be starting, Blake could see more minutes than Derek Fisher. Blake’s court saavy and size make him the best fit for the Phil Jackson version of the triangle offense. Having won at all levels, Steve Blaker is on a quest to get his first NBA championship ring. Blake, in this blogger’s humble opinion, was the best move Mitch Kupchak made this offseason.
Shannon Brown (6-4/210, G, 5th year) – So in love with Los Angeles is ShanWow that he passed up more lucrative offers after opting out of his old deal just to re-sign a similar contract with the Lakers. Despite his disappointing outing at All-Star weekend, Brown remains a fan favorite. With Blake in the backcourt, Brown should be able to play his more natural position as an off guard more but in the triangle he’ll still be expected to initiate the offense from time to time. Since joining the Lakers, Shannon has yet to experience a season that hasn’t ended with a parade through downtown. Let’s hope lightning strikes for a third time.
Kobe Bryant (6-6/205, G, 15th year) – How time flies. It seems like only yesterday Kobe was a skinny rookie shooting air balls in the playoffs. Now, he’s on the brink of getting on level terms in ring count with MJ. Bryant’s greatest trait of all is his ability to continuously find motivation to accomplish his goals. Now that he’s got one more than Shaq, KB24 has Jordan square in his sights. With 14 years of pro ball behind him, the only true concerns revolve around Bryant’s health. But, as he showed last year, when the lights are the brightest and the stage is the biggest, Bryant’s health serves only as yet another motivational tool for the best player on the planet.
Andrew Bynum (7-0/285, C, 6th year) – After toughing it out through the NBA Finals with a nagging knee injury, the questions about Bynum’s desire were quickly quelled. Now the only question is not if he’ll play through injuries but instead if he can avoid injuries. While he’s no Greg Oden, Bynum’s list of injuries is growing and for a young big man with a phat contract that is a concern. When healthy, Bynum makes the Lakers an unstoppable force. Is this year that the Altered Beast finally makes it through without missing a prolonged period of time? If so, that could mean a lessened work load for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom which in turn could equal fresher legs come the playoffs.
Derrick Caracter (6-9/265, F, Rookie) – Once a prized blue chip recruit; Caracter’s basketball odyssey has brought him to the most storied franchise in the game. With a contract clause linked to his weight, the rookie’s biggest challenge will be staying in shape. His skill set is unique for a man his size but his work ethic has been questioned at every stop he’s made. Given that Phil Jackson doesn’t like playing rookies, Caracter should spend his time wisely absorbing all he can instead of trying to crack the rotation. Some see Caracter as a Big Baby type but let’s hope he’s got the work ethic and not the emotional baggage of Glen Davis.
Devin Ebanks (6-9/215, F, Rookie) – Ebanks was, at one point, regarded as a potential first round pick. Well, that didn’t happen as the West Virginia swingman fell to the Lakers in the second round. He’s been compared to Trevor Ariza but that remains to be seen. Ebanks, along with Caracter, was a bright spot on the winless summer league team. Chances are he’ll rarely, if ever, suit up and won’t see much time at all. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t role for Ebanks down the road. For now, it’s time to go back to school and learn the ways of the NBA.
Derek Fisher (6-1/210, G, 15th season) – The ageless one seem finished some years ago when the Lakers let their captain go to Golden State. Low and behold, here is Fisher back again for a run at another three-peat. This time around, D-Fish could see less court time while taking on more of a coach-on-the-court type of role. Steve Blake figures to see significant minutes given his contract calling for almost twice what Fisher will make this season. None the less, Fisher remains one of the best leaders in all of basketball and while Kobe has proven he can win without Shaq, he has yet to hang a banner with Fisher.
Pau Gasol (7-0/250, F/C, 10th season) – The Spaniard has become a global hoops icon. His rise to stardom hasn’t diminished Gasol’s hunger however. Each year since joining the Lakers, Gasol has played in the Finals and each year his game has improved. One of the most efficient players in the game, Gasol’s next step in his progression will be to demand the ball more and get a little selfish from time to time. Easier said than done when you’re playing with Kobe Bryant but if it means another ring ceremony then KB24 will be happy to defer from time to time.
Lamar Odom (6-10/230, F, 12th year) – Odom has finally found his niche. After years of high hopes dashed by wild inconsistency, Odom has become an elite 6th man on a championship team. While Laker fans would love for Lamar to play with a sustained intensity, we’ve become accustomed to being happy with any meaningful contributions he makes. LO is as versatile a talent as you’ll ever see and his unique skill set makes the Lakers’ bench a dynamic force capable of extending leads while simultaneously changing the rhythm of a game and forcing the opposition to develop new gameplans on the fly.
Theo Ratliff (6-10/235, C, 16th year) – While not as big a splash as the acquisitions of Blake and Barnes, Ratliff’s arrival is just s important. Knowing the odds of keeping all the Laker bigs healthy during the year are long, Ratliff provides more size and an interior defensive presence. The Body Snatcher is one of the best shot blockers in the league and will be expected to give 5-10 solid minutes a night in the big man rotation.
Sasha Vujacic (6-7/205, G, 7th year) – What to make of Sasha? There was a rumor that the Lakers were looking to deal Sasha but either there was no interest or it was all speculation. Since signing a $15-million deal, Vujacic has fallen from grace. His jumper is wildly inconsistent, his decisions are usually poor and his emotions tend to get the best of him. Still, there he was, game 7 of the NBA Finals, calmly knocking down the two biggest free throws of his life. Chances are this is his Los Angeles swan song so Sasha will be auditing whenever he gets a chance to play. Too bad for him he’s now buried on the bench behind both Blake and Brown.
Luke Walton (6-8/235, F, 8th year) – Hard to believe Walton is entering his 8th year as a Laker. A nagging back injury has taken Luke’s career down a different path. Walton played in just 29 games last season averaging a career low 2.4 points-per-game. What his role will be this season is unclear and many see the triangle offense as the main reason why he’s had any meaningful role on an NBA roster. Still, Walton’s passing and court savvy make him a reliable option if Phil needs to dig deep into his bench.