2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview
It was another championship, the 16th, for the Los Angeles Lakers (65- 17) in 2008- 2009. But this was not one of those Laker teams of yesteryear. Often, they just seemed to be there, existing, during the regular season and also into the playoffs. Remember how they lost to the Yao-less Houston Rockets in games four and six of the post-season? They were inconsistent champions-to-be who kicked it into high gear after that embarrassing sixth game versus Houston. Truth be told, when they were on their mark, the Laker three-man frontcourt rotation of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were tough to beat. Still, Bynum was hampered at times trying to recover from a mid-season injury. However, the big problem for the team was at the point spot where third-year man Jordan Farmer (6.4 PPG, 2.4 APG, 0.90 SPG), who played in 65 games, struggled. The aging Derek Fisher (9.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.2 APG) also had his problems. Backup Shannon Brown (4.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.8 APG) was a stabilizing force at times. Shooting guard Kobe Bryant (26.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.9 APG) was, as always, simply the best of the best.
Gasol (18.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG) is a player’s player with a fine shot, excellent penetration and deceptive quickness. Although not a banger, he can do just about everything else. The addition of Ron Artest (17.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.3 APG) should inject some toughness in the paint. Bynum (14.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.4 APG) could be one of the best “D” men around, but he has to stay focused, healthy and out of foul trouble. Odom (11.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.6 APG) will come in off the bench and wear opponent frontcourts down.
Bryant is a consummate talent who adapts well to changing game situations. Although not quite a one-man team, he is an amazingly versatile and, of course, smart player. Backup Sasha Vujacic (5.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.4 APG) hits frees 92% of the time. The Lakers’ point situation is to be determined.
The best thing that Los Angeles has going for it is its deep frontcourt. They have a slew of quality guys in the paint who can score, rebound and defend. At seven-foot-even, Bynum causes massive mismatches and Gasol can hit from inside, midrange and downtown. Add Odom and Artest into the mix and you’ve got a formidable mix of front men. The biggest concern for the Lakers continues to be at point. Los Angeles needs a healthy assist man who can control the tempo of the game and set up plays. Once again they look to Farmer to be that man.
A first-place finish in the Pacific Division and Western Conference are expected. The Lakers will continue to score a lot of points. Additionally, their defense and rebounding has improved over last season. If Farmer and Bynum put in solid years, this team could repeat as NBA Champions. This is a club that has an array of weapons. The one major warning has to do with age and health. Bryant is 31 and Fisher is 35. Wear-and-tear could take its toll on those guys. Still, it’s not like coach Phil Jackson doesn’t know this. Jackson has a fine mix of guys and knows how to utilize them.