Lakers Training Camp
An NBA training camp moves along perfectly, with all the participants having a great time and some really hard work being done.
Not exactly headline material.
NBA teams love this time of year. Everybody is 0-0, as the cliché goes, and optimism rules the early October basketball world.
Fan bases get energized. Merchandise is snapped up. Plans are made to hit early-season games, and, hey, why not opening night?
The Lakers’ training camp, full of buzz and wonder from day one, was optimistic and hopeful from start to Thursday’s official finish.
The biggest (and smartest) move was LeBron James publicly deferring to Anthony Davis, saying the Lakers’ offense should run through the 26-year-old, not a soon-to-be 35-year-old.
Davis, the Lakers’ newest big-time acquisition in a decades-long line, was kind with his words too, complimentary of James and appreciative of the franchise that traded away most of its future to land him in June.
So far so good for the two that matter most.
In another corner, Dwight Howard played the role of a serious businessman trying to please his latest employer. It’s not a persona he adopted in his first tour with the Lakers, acting more the off-court comedian in his ill-fated 2012-13 season. He’s now on a non-guaranteed contract for the first time in his 16-year career and acting like it.
The star of camp was a rejuvenated Avery Bradley. After a few lost seasons, his defense has been rediscovered. He’s the players’ near-unanimous answer to “Who’s standing out in practice so far?”
There were some moments to remember.
Davis emerged with the perfect quip after experiencing his first large media scrum with local reporters ringed around him last Saturday.
“This isn’t New Orleans,” he said, shaking his head, mindful of the comparatively small local media that covered his first seven NBA seasons.
He was part of the highly publicized physicality that characterized the Lakers’ first few days of camp. Shortly after reporters were granted their first glimpse of Lakers’ practice this season, Davis and Howard tangled under the basket and crashed to the floor.
Davis rose more slowly than Howard, but eventually stood up.
That’s what mattered to Coach Frank Vogel, who mused after practice that the most important thing to him was simply, “Are they getting up?”
The defensive-minded coach went deeper into the concept of rough play.
“You're coming to play [against the] L.A. Lakers, you're going to get hit," Vogel said, adding that Howard probably overdid the physicality that day but, “He's knocking guys around. Look, you got to deal with that."
Flying elbows aside, the main setback for the Lakers was Kyle Kuzma’s stress reaction in his left foot. He first felt pain there six weeks ago, short-circuiting his run with Team USA and ending an active off-season that included some individual two-a-days at the Lakers’ training facility.
He’s not practicing right now and remains more than a week from a status re-evaluation. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready for the Oct. 22 regular-season opener vs. the Clippers, but there’s precious little practice time for him after the Lakers return from two pre-season games in China.
The extent of Kuzma’s on-court activity has been shooting one-legged three-pointers after practice while staying off his left foot. Entertaining to watch for sure, but Lakers fans are more eager to see him using both feet.
The rest of the Lakers are healthy. And physical. And, indeed, happy. It’s that time of the year once again.