- Andrew Bynum will be healthy (at least we hope).
Bynum averaged 13 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks a game in only 28 minutes a contest last season. He shot 64% from the field and was a steady big man in the middle for the Lakers not only on the offensive side, but on the otherwise weak Lakers defensive interior. He provided many of the Lakers defenders a last resort in the paint if their man got by them. He’s young, he’s tough and he’s shown he can bulk up and be the player that Kobe Bryant wants to play alongside of—as evidenced by his emergence early on this season.
- Kobe Bryant will be hungrier than ever to win another NBA Championship.
Not many players can say they have won three world championships. At the same time, not many can say they’ve lost 2 in a row, either. Kobe Bryant is the utmost competitor and you can be sure that he will be working hard all summer to make it back to the Finals. It’ll start with the Olympics, and I’m sure it will end with countless hours spent in the gym pumping iron while his pinky recovers from an inevitable surgery that will need to be performed. Jackson will continue to harp to Kobe the importance of team basketball (which evaporated from his mind during the Finals) and the need to develop young players. Expect Kobe to take fewer shots next season in favor of more assists, more rebounds and better defense. He’s won the scoring title with out Shaq, the MVP of the regular season without Shaq, and will be wholeheartedly determined to win that elusive Title without Shaq next season.
- Pau Ga-soft and Lamar O-Dumb will come into the season BIGGER and MORE FOCUSED.
There’s no doubt in any of our minds that these two players have the talent and the potential to be superstars in this league. In Pau’s case, he rolled through the playoffs in the West without many roadblocks, but encountered a much too physical, energetic and determined Kevin Garnett in the Finals. In the early stages of Game 6, Pau’s main drawback was brought front-and-center when he was nonchalantly tossed to the ground by a quick, physical move by Kevin Garnett. If the Lakers are going to win a championship against a team like the Celtics next season, Pau Gasol will need to hit the gym harder than he ever has this summer (and this will be hard because he will be playing for Spain in the Olympics), work with Kareem (Lakers Special Assistant Coach for big men) on his positioning and toughness on the block, and improve his soft defense. In Lamar’s case, the man just needs to be more focused and keep his head in the game for 48 minutes. Stupid fouls on the defensive side, overambitious drives to the hoop that result in offensive fouls on the offensive side, and just the general stupor that he usually finds himself in during big games HURTS the Lakers. Lamar needs to mature (and something tells me after this year’s Finals he will) and needs to understand exactly what the Lakers need from him—a focused intensity mirroring that of Kevin Garnett’s.
- The Lakers bench will improve with this experience.
Without the emergence of Sasha, Jordan and Ronnie during different parts of the season AND playoffs for the Lakers, LA probably wouldn’t have earned the Number 1 seed in the West and home court for that duration. The Lakers bench was completely unknown to the league before this year and going forward I believe the confidence and experience that many of the young players on the bench have collected will help them going into next season. Sasha should continue to improve his defense so that he can stay with the leagues premier SGs (Allen just clowned him last game). Jordan should look to put a little muscle on and improve his jump shot (especially his three). And Ronnie should continue working on his low-post defense and mid-range jump shot.
- The Lakers will improve their defense.
Lets be honest, the Lakers had no real trouble scoring against any team this year outside of the Boston Celtics. What they did have trouble with at times was TEAM DEFENSE. We all know Kobe has been All-NBA First Team Defense and that Lamar is a crafty defender as well, but the Lakers have really struggled with their spacing on defense. Routinely during the Finals, a player would get beat and nobody would be at home in the middle to help. I think Jackson and his entire coaching staff will begin to preach defense more and more this summer to the team. It will help enormously if Bynum can come back from his knee injuries and solidify the center of the defense like he did early on in the 07-08 season.
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