The Lakers signed guard Thomas Kelati, boosting their training camp roster to 18 players. Kelati, who played at Washington State, spent last season with a Spanish club team. He also has played professionally in Poland and Belgium.
Boxing! Boxing? Boxing! Lamar Odom took up boxing this summer. He explained why today after practice: “I needed something combative. I was thinking about defense. It’s all footwork. I’m staying in there. I’m not a (wimp) anymore. It just made me think of competing at the highest level and that’s one-on-one. Warriors. I’m just waiting for someone to act up a little bit. I’m going to sneak one in at a real close range. Nah, I would never fight on the court. It’s all about footwork. I want to become a better defensive player.”
I went to media day today expecting the circus to be in town, with TMZ trucks and paparazzi hiding in the bushes outside of the Lakers training facility in El Segundo. While there were a few, shall we say, non-traditional media outlets asking some of the guys what kind of food was served at Lamar’s wedding, it was a mostly calm day. Calm by Lakers standards that is.
Two years ago, there was real drama as everyone waited to see if Kobe Bryant –who had blown a gasket over the summer –would actually show up to training camp.
Last season, there was all the talk about avenging the loss to the Celtics.
You know, real basketball issues. Now that the Lakers won the title, and things on the court are pretty well set, there really wasn’t much angst in the room.
I was joking with Luke Walton about it, who is always a good guy to joke with about stuff like that, and he was like, “I mean, I can start something if you want. Who do you want me to call out? Josh Powell. Man, I can’t stand Josh. He’s so selfish. I hate Josh. Is that good?
“Nah, but seriously, this is what makes our team so fun. We all get along, we have a great time and we’re looking forward to do it again.”
But Luke, what about all of us scribes bored with the Laker love-fest?
“We’ll figure something out,” he joked. “We’ll talk about it in the locker room and figure something real good out. By the end of training camp, we’ll have something good for you guys.
The Lakers held their annual Media day, which as ever resulted in precious little in the way of actual news. Lots of talk about Lamar Odom’s wedding. Plenty of talk about winning a second straight title, too. Kobe Bryant had some good things to say about getting back to work and staying focused on chasing another ring. So did Derek Fisher. Sasha Vujacic got a haircut. So did Pau Gasol. Jordan Farmar got a new number.
Bryant had this to say about the offseason and preparing for a title defense: “It was peaceful, got a lot of time to relax, a lot of downtime, just resting and recuperating. We understand. We worked really hard to get to this point. It took us a lot of time to get here, so this is something we don’t want to give up because of our inability to move forward or not take the season seriously. If somebody’s going to take it from us, we want them to take it from us with us being 100 percent focused and locked in. It was a different feeling. It was something we worked hard for from the bottom. The previous teams I was on that won, we had a lot of talent. We were always a favorite, every single year. This team, we grew up together. There weren’t any distractions last year or the year before. Everything will be smooth.”
Fisher on defending the title: “The bull’s eye becomes bigger after you become champions. So there’s more scrutiny with the ups and downs of the season. I think about last year and it seemed, like, can we really complete the mission we set out to accomplish? Even winning 65 regular-season games,, there are so many ups and downs and good stories and bad stories, and there will be much more of that this year. We plan on being better than we were a year ago.”
Vujacic on getting a haircut: “I decided to do it. I studied some DVDs from during the year .. I was playing with my hair too much. It was a big distraction to me. I just did it and I was, like, what the hell? After I played basketball, I felt really good. It’s not in my eyes anymore and I don’t have that compulsive thing, so I’m happy. Like a week ago, six days, last Thursday. I did it, yeah. I did it. When I cut my hair I didn’t have a beard, so I looked like I was even younger. I looked like Benjamin Button. I looked like a teenager.”
Farmar on changing to No. 1 this season after wearing No. 5: “It’s just the number I grew up wearing. I wore it in high school and won a championship. I got to wear it in my McDonald’s All-American game. I came to UCLA and my freshman year somebody had it, so I had to change it. I ended up changing it back my sophomore year and then a few people had it when I got here. When I got here, Smush (Parker) was No. 1, then Javaris (Crittenden) had it. You have to have your jersey three years when you get in the NBA because of all the rules and stuff like that. I just had to wait my turn to get it. Now I’ve waited my turn and I’m ready to have some fun.”
The Lakers signed four forwards today, including former UCLA standout Michael Fey, boosting their roster to 17 players for the start of training camp Tuesday. The NBA champions also signed Tony Gaffney, Mickael Gelabale and David Monds.
Fey played last season in the United Arab Emirates. Gaffney and Monds each played for the Lakers’ summer league team in Las Vegas. Gelabale played for the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ developmental league team last season.
None of the four is expected to make the team.
Kinda touched on this last week, but even the NBA champs have questions to answer as they prepare to make a run at a second straight title. Among them:
1. How quickly can the Lakers block out the many distractions created by Lamar Odom’s wedding to Bruce Jenner’s stepdaughter? Even in the calmest of seasons the Lakers run sort of a three-ring circus. You can add a fourth ring as training camp begins.
2. How quickly can they get Ron Artest into the fold? He was their lone addition during the offseason, filling the opening created when Trevor Ariza signed with the Houston Rockets to fill the void created when Artest departed for the Lakers.
3. How quickly can Pau Gasol recover from a whirlwind August and September, when he injured a finger while practicing with Spain and then led his country to the European Championship? He had only a week to rest and recover before the start of training camp.
4. Is Andrew Bynum’s knee in shape? Lakers coach Phil Jackson said last week that he saw the 7-foot center last week and believed him to be lighter and in better shape after a month of workouts in the heat and humidity of Atlanta.
5. How will the minutes be divided among the Lakers’ point guards? This might be the only significant competition as training camp opens, what with Derek Fisher expected to start and Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar set to battle for minutes. Jackson suggested last week he might go with a big lineup of Artest, Gasol, Bynum, Odom and Kobe Bryant in an overwhelming show of force. It’s always nice to have options.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said last week the team would limit the players’ use of Twitter and other social networking sites. Now the NBA appears ready to do the same, according to a report this morning on ESPN.com. Here are two key paragraphs from the story:
“The primary restriction of the policy is expected to prevent various team representatives from tweeting during games, after the stir caused late last season when Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva, then with Milwaukee, tweeted from the Bucks’ locker room during halftime.
“One source described the forthcoming policy as “very minimal” and “less stringent” than the guidelines announced earlier this month by the NFL, which now regards players, coaches and football operations personnel — or any third party representing them — to be in violation of league rules if they use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook from 90 minutes before kickoff through the end of the standard post-game access period for media interviews.”
In an attempt to give Sasha Vujacic a fresh start at training camp, Coach Phil Jackson said today he asked the backup guard to cut his flowing locks. Vujacic complied. Said Jackson: “Last year, Sasha got injured on the first day of training camp and it literally limited him for three weeks. So he got off to a bad start and never recovered. So we’ve asked him to cut his hair and he did. He’s going to have a new look. I think it’s a total fresh start. I think Sasha played with his hair more than he played on the court (last season).”
Phil Jackson said today that the Lakers’ No. 1 priorities for training camp are simple. “We want to try and make this transition for Ron Artest seamless, get our players playing at a level that they can approximate the chemistry they’ve had on the court in past years and get some of the players in condition, like Lamar (Odom), who’s been busy all summer.”
That was in reference to Odom’s upcoming wedding.
In a slightly more serious tone, Jackson admitted he is concerned about distractions derailing the Lakers’ chase for a second straight NBA title. He said the Lakers would attempt to curb the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites by the players.
“It’s going to be something we have to talk about, without a doubt,” he said. “I don’t expect them to leave it behind. There’s a tendency for those things to continue or follow us, but they’re going to have to get acclimated. There’s a certain amount of privacy we’re going to have to demand from that, so that our business doesn’t become street business.”
Jackson said he has not spoken to team owner Jerry Buss about a new contract. Jackson, who turned 64 earlier this month, is signed through the end of this season.
“I have not, I have not talked to Jerry about it (coaching beyond 2009-10),” he said. “You know, my concern obviously when I came back during the summer to shoot that (cellphone) commercial, it was very serious that Kurt (Rambis) was going to be chosen (to coach Minnesota) and to discuss with them (Buss) how we should approach that.
“And they felt it was an impossible situation to try to interrupt that process that was ongoing with Kurt leaving and becoming the coach of the Minnesota team and myself having a year left on that contract. So, we just had to let the business take its own course. When I suggested that it set up a lame-duck situation, they said they hoped the duck wasn’t lame. We’ll see how the season goes, right?”