Phil Jackson said this year’s training camp practices by the Lakers have been the most intense he has seen in his coaching career.
Think about that for a second. This man coached Michael Jordan, considered the most focused and intense practice player in the history of the NBA. He coached teams that have won 10 NBA titles and the Bulls team that won a record 72 games in one season. But he has never seen practices like these.
Despite that, the Lakers went out and laid an egg in a recent preseason game at the Forum, losing to Golden State and looking disinterested in the process. The next day the players called a team meeting to make sure that doesn’t happen again. After a meaningless preseason game.
All of this is a good sign for Lakers fans hoping for a repeat of last season when the Lakers on the NBA title. It's a quest that starts in a week (Oct. 27) against the Clippers at Staples Center, a night with a banner and ring ceremony to celebrate last season.
Often, teams coming off a title are a little comfortable, a little bit fat and happy, when the new season begins. That has not been the case so far — the Lakers are 4-1 in preseason (playing mostly backups) and then there are those practices. The Lakers bring back basically the entire team, simply trading out Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest at the small forward, a move that could well be an upgrade (particularly on defense).
Artest is part of all this — he is an intense guy anyway, and he is hungry for his first ring. While he has been tentative at times on offense as he learns a new system (and his teammates learn about him) he has brought his focus on the defensive end.
Artest, who is now on his fourth NBA team, said he has never seen practices like this.
Kobe Bryant said the same thing. He has won four titles himself and is not being discussed among the greatest players in the history of the game, and he thinks this year’s Lakers squad could be special.
If the Lakers are focused they could get off to a very fast start — their first 20 games are heavy with matches at Staples and light on playing the other powerhouses in the league. Things could look rosy early for Los Angles.
And if the practices are any indication, that hot start and intensity could carry over to a very special season again in Los Angeles.