The Los Angeles Lakers will return to Hawaii for preseason training camp in 2015, the team announced on Monday.
Kobe Bryant should be 200 percent recovered from his shoulder injury by that point. Speaking of which, Bryant offered his thoughts on his shoulder injury with one sentence: "I feel like I just returned a 100 yard kickoff in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl to win it all only to have my run called back by a flag on the play."
Back to the Lakers' training camp in 2015, Lakers coach Byron Scott needs to adjust and learn from the failed tactics of the 2014 training camp and first half of the 2014-15 NBA season. Hopefully, the Lakers do not repeat the same mistakes that wore down the 36-year-old over the first half of the 2014-15 season.
First of all, Bryant should be allowed to get himself into shape. The 36-year-old expended a great deal of energy going through Scott's rigorous preseason workouts, and frankly, Bryant should have been saving those sprints for games. A notoriously hard and discipline worker, Bryant should get himself into shape during the off-season, and the Lakers need not break his battered body with senseless running drills. Bryant is not the guy to beat into shape for the start of the season. He cares too much to show up out of shape, and entering his 20th season, Bryant has earned the respect to train on his own.
In the 2014 edition of training camp, Bryant's physical ability in training camp workouts gave Scott a false sense of comfort. Based on what he saw in training camp, the Lakers' coach came away believing Bryant could still play 36 minutes per game at 36 years of age.
Scott got it wrong on his first try, and he needs to get it right on the second go-around.
Although no link between a rigorous training camp and Bryant's shoulder injury exists, the Lakers should learn from all mistakes made in handling Bryant prior to the shoulder injury.
No one wants Bryant to get hurt during training camp. No one wants a repeat of Steve Nash or an injury-plagued final season. Training camp for the Lakers and training camp for Bryant should be two entirely separate experiences. Bryant should be on the beach getting well-earned massages while his teammates work on running drills to the sounds of ear-piercing whistles.
After training camp, Scott and the Lakers need to go one step beyond their current concessions. The Lakers should reexamine the idea of playing Bryant 32-33 minutes per game. Dropping that number below 30 minutes per game would serve to preserve Bryant and give him the opportunity to play more games by the sheer fact that he would have less time to injure himself on the court.
The ferocity of Bryant's desire on the court plays a leading role in explaining why he gets hurt. Bryant's competitive fire further explains how he plays through the pain. When Bryant tore his rotator cuff in his right shoulder, he decided to start shooting with his left arm. Of course, Bryant made his first left-handed shot. Somewhere in his head, Bryant had to be dreaming up trash talk based around beating his opponents left-handed.
"Warrior" is the word Bryant's colleagues regularly use to describe him. Often, a couple expletives precede the description of "warrior," but those expletives only serve to better describe Bryant's relentless spirit. He battles. Even in practice, he wants to rip out his teammates' hearts. When asked about how he approached playing against aging greats early in his career, Bryant offered no mercy.
"For me, it was like chasing a wounded gazelle. I really didn't care. I'm going to kill them," Bryant said with the memory of blood dripping from his serial killer smile.
In his final season, Bryant will be the wounded gazelle with a target pinned to his front and back. Scott's job will be to ensure Bryant arrives safely at the finish line, so he can be put out to pasture with respect. Bryant's pasture will probably be somewhere nice--like Hawaii, maybe...
So the Lakers will return to Hawaii for training camp for the 13th time since first going out to the islands in 1988. Most recently, the team held training camp in Hawaii back in 2007. That season, the Lakers started the year with Kwame Brown and finished with Pau Gasol in the NBA Finals.
The 2015-16 LA Lakers can only hope for a repeat of that sort of magic.