We’ll have an online notebook later tonight with some tidbits on Chris Mihm, Sasha Vujacic and Andrew Bynum. Here’s the story from media day
By Ross Siler
EL SEGUNDO–All the hip replacements, off-season surgeries and personal tragedies facing the Lakers cant change the fact that they will open this season by playing 15 of their first 20 games at home.
To have any hope of building on last seasons 45-37 record, the Lakers must get off to a “resounding start, in coach Phil Jacksons words. Just to stay on pace for a 48-win season, the Lakers would want to win 12 or 13 of those games.
The window of opportunity starts Oct. 31 on opening night against Phoenix and stretches through the first week of December. The Lakers have 22 practices and eight exhibition games to come together amid a host of concerns as training camp opens today:
For starters, Jackson will undergo surgery today to replace his right hip, with the only expectation that he will be back for the season opener.
Kobe Bryant was cleared to resume running only recently and is a week or two away from practicing in full after undergoing right knee surgery July 15.
Lamar Odom has to become reacquainted with the game after a summer in which basketball was the furthest thing from his mind following the death of his infant son.
And Chris Mihm, who started 56 games at center, is slowly recovering from right ankle surgery and might not play until the end of the preseason.
With the schedule weighing on him, Jackson even considered delaying his hip replacement. He did not talk about the need for a fast start with his players Monday but conceded that the schedule offers no margin for error early.
“We really have to get off to a great jump this season, Jackson said, “if we want to have that kind of record that moves us up in the standings.
Unlike last season, when Jackson spelled out a goal of winning 44 or 45 games and returning to the playoffs, the coach left his expectations undefined Monday due to the teams health concerns.
“If it takes a little bit of time, Jackson said, “for us to get all those guys back together – - two weeks, three weeks into November – - thatll change some circumstances.
“But I see this team performing. Theyve got an idea of who they are, how to play and what roles they have on this team. I think thats really important — that they have some kind of role structure right now.
Jackson said his doctor told him he would be “walking with pride on opening night. He hoped to put off having his hip replaced but made the decision to do so after returning from his summer home in Montana.
“Things went backwards rather than forwards, Jackson said, “and I felt in the best interest of the team and for the success of our year, that Id do it sooner than later.
Jackson said he hoped to pay a visit to the team a week or so after undergoing the surgery. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis will run practices and be the designated head coach for the exhibition games Jackson will miss.
This training camp will be far different from last seasons back-to-basics version with him, Jackson added.
“This year, were trying to get focused on what we can do better as a team defensively, Jackson said, “and using our offensively flexibility to the best advantage that we have.
Bryant, meanwhile, debuted his No. 24 jersey, which he will wear for the first time after 10 seasons as No. 8. He averaged a league-leading 35.4 points per game last season but will start this training camp on the sidelines until his knee is fully recovered.
“It feels really strong right now, Bryant said, “so we dont want to do anything to set us back.
Bryant scored more than one-third of the Lakers total points last season and took nearly the same proportion of shots. Jackson said he hoped Bryant would take as many as three fewer shots than he did last season, when he averaged 27.2 shots per game.
For his part, Bryant said he thought the Lakers were better versed at how to move the ball and space the floor. The Lakers came together in winning 11 of their final 14 games last season and pushed Phoenix to Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think thats part of the reason why everybodys so excited, Bryant said, “because we felt like we were on the verge of doing something pretty special last year and we just want to keep that going.
Mihm said his ankle, which he originally sprained March 12, finally was “starting to feel like an ankle again after a summer of setbacks. Mihm hopes to be cleared to start running this week and might need another month to be able to play again.