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Note: this Lakers season preview contains both facts, opinions and statistics. If you have any comments for this preview that are not appropriate for a public forum, please email me at [email protected]. Thank you, and enjoy the season preview.

The 2005-2006 Los Angeles Lakers’ Off-Season Review & Season Outlook

The Road to Redemption

Last season was no fluke; the Lakers were bound to see the lottery, and it happened after Rudy Tomjanovich hit the road midway through the season. The purple and gold were left without a legit head coach, staring down a dark road filled with uncertainty and desperation. The triangle offense proved to be the wrong turn, and the Hamblen-led Lakers finished the season with a very disappointing record. However, the fingers pointed at Kobe Bryant, the one in the driver's seat, the man leading the charge...the player pulling a defeated Lakers squad into their final game of the season, picking them up and preaching to never quit.

Missing the playoffs may have been a shock to Bryant and the Lakers, as well as their fans, but it could be a blessing in disguise for the organization. A depleted lineup looked promising to Phil Jackson, and the Lakers used their lotto pick on Andrew Bynum. In fact, the team finally found a time to rest, take their mind off basketball, and think about the off-season for a change. That much-needed rest may have paid off.

This rocky road has been traveled since their last championship, where the Lakers have went from a dynasty to a mere regular season team. For now, the label "bust" will be applied to our newest face, Kwame Brown. Odom will be that underachiever for just a little longer. Chris Mihm can be nothing more than a backup to the rest of the league. Aaron McKie takes the role of "old man with no more left in the engine." Even Kobe Bryant can't win without the Diesel by his side...for now. This road to redemption will be that same rocky road, but it's up to Phil, Kobe and the Lakers to go out and prove their value, and furthermore, pave this road and find their way back into the West matter who stands in their way.


Off-Season Transactions

June 14th - The Lakers hire Phil Jackson as head coach (Story)
July 6th - The Lakers sign center Andrew Bynum (Story)
July 14th - The Lakers sign forward Ronny Turiaf
August 1st - The Lakers sign guard Von Wafer
August 2nd - The Lakers trade Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to the Washington Wizards for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit (Story)
August 2nd - The Lakers sign guard Smush Parker (Story)
August 10th - The Lakers waive forward Brian Grant
August 26th - The Lakers sign guard Aaron McKie
September 19th - The Lakers sign guard Will Conroy
October 3rd - The Lakers sign forward Corie Blount (Story)
October 6th - The Lakers waive center Vlade Divac
October 18th - The Lakers waive guard Will Conroy
October 26th - The Lakers trade forward Jumaine Jones to Charlotte for a second-round draft pick (Story)
October 27th - The Lakers waive guard Tony Bobbitt and center Adam Parada (Story)
October 31st - The Lakers waive forward Corie Blount (Story)

Departing players: Caron Butler, Chucky Atkins, Brian Grant, Tierre Brown, Vlade Divac, Jumaine Jones, Tony Bobbitt
Arriving players: Kwame Brown, Andrew Bynum, Aaron McKie, Smush Parker, Ronny Turiaf, Von Wafer, Laron Profit, Devin Green
Re-signed players: Luke Walton


2005 Preseason Review

10/11 - Lakers 101, Warriors 93
With Kobe Bryant scoring 24 of his 28 points in the first half, the new-look Lakers defeated the Warriors in their first preseason game of the year. Lamar Odom added 16 points, and Brian Cook chipped in 10. For the Warriors, Baron Davis notched 17 points, Jason Richardson 14 and Mickael Pietrus 13 in a game that pitted two Pacific teams that may end up fighting for the division title this season.

10/12 - Warriors 112, Lakers 81
Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown and Smush Parker logged 11 points each, but an impressive night by Baron Davis held off the Lakers in their second meeting with Golden State. Davis racked up 18 points, six boards and eight assists, while Mike Dunleavy scored 16 first-quarter points to provide a cushion for the Warriors, as they returned the favor to Los Angeles, 112-81.

10/18 - Lakers 111, Wizards 108 (OT)
The intensity was high in this overtime struggle, where former Lakers Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins found themselves staring opposite of the yellow jerseys, while former Wizards Kwame Brown and Laron Profit were in a similar position. Brown dropped 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists on his former team, with George shocking Washington with 22 off the bench, as the Lakers won an overtime thriller against Arenas and the Wizards.

10/20 - Nuggets 105, Lakers 94
Carmelo Anthony's 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes proved to be too much for the Lakers, who dropped their second preseason game to the Nuggets, 105-94. Kwame Brown led the way for Los Angeles, scoring 16 points on 7-8 shooting. Kobe Bryant added 15 for the purple and gold.

10/21 - Lakers 109, Bobcats 93
Emeka Okafor, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum were all watching from the bench in this handicapped contest, as the Lakers took a 21-2 charge in the 4th to defeat Charlotte, 109-93. Kobe tackled the Cats with 27 points in three quarters, while Chris Mihm and Brian Cook contributed 14 points a piece for the Lakers' third victory of the preseason.

10/23 - Lakers 98, Bobcats 97
With a returning Emeka Okafor and Raymond Felton, the Bobcats still found it difficult to run away with a victory against the Lakers. Kobe Bryant had yet another exceptional game, scoring an easy 25 points. Chris Mihm had his best preseason game yet, where he inked 14 points and 11 boards. Lamar Odom stood out with 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, as Bryant hit an eventual game-winning jumper to lead the Lakers to victory.

10/25 - Lakers 95, Jazz 85
The Jazz starters were held to a depressing 19 points and not one player in the game played over 30 minutes, as the Lakers cruised to a 10-point victory over the Jazz. Kobe Bryant fine-tuned the Jazz for 20 points, and Laron Profit surprised the crowd with 13 and seven boards in a game where turnovers and rebounds were too much for Andrei Kirilenko and the Boozer-less Utah Jazz.

10/28 - Lakers 105, Kings 103
In the final game of the preseason, and possibly the most exciting game of all, the Lakers defeated the Kings to end their preseason with a comfortable 6-2 record. If there wasn't enough purple and gold on the court already, the Kings were throwing Francisco Garcia and Kevin Martin to the wolves, and it turned out to be a success...for a while. Kobe led the Lakers on a 10-0 run, and a desperate last-second shot by Martin hit the backboard, ending the preseason for both Pacific Division teams.


Breaking Down the Lakers (Starters)

#31 Chris Mihm - C
7’0” 265 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $3,796,875
2004-2005 Stats: 9.8 PPG on 51% shooting, 6.7 RPG, 0.7 APG in 24.9 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 8.3 PPG on 50% shooting, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG in 26.2 minutes per game
Strengths: nice post moves, good hook
Weaknesses: foul prone, can be more aggressive, passing
Mihm-icking last season?
What the Lakers saw out of Chris Mihm last season was utter disappointment in the eyes of their fans, and that's our simple way of saying that Mihm was nothing more than backup material. Sure, he showed promise during the preseason, blocking shots and proving that we may have a defensive presence in the paint...but when the regular season rolled around, Chris' abilities were unclear. With Kareem working on Mihm's offensive and defensive game, there's yet another open door for Chris to approach and take another opportunity to become the starting center needed to operate the triangle offense. With this task comes hard work, and it all starts with Mihm's passing, which is something Phil and the Lakers need him to do this season. If our centers can't pass, we'll be approaching yet another year where the focus is on Kobe Bryant, and only Kobe Bryant. The West's elite have nothing to worry about, in that case, where all that's needed is a double-team. You shut down Kobe, and the Lakers go down hard.

Assuming Mihm's passing skills improve, he can be utilized more effectively, where our options don't always point to Kobe creating for himself (or for everyone). This would serve as new ground to our shooters, in fact, who would love to take advantage of the ball being kicked out frequently to the open man. Mihm can bring a strong offensive game sometimes, and with Kareem working with our big men, I wouldn't be surprised to see teams actually take Chris Mihm seriously once he receives the ball in the paint...which can translate into some easy buckets for the rest of our players, if Mihm's offensive awareness and passing abilities are vastly improved.

#54 Kwame Brown - PF
6’11” 248 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $7,500,000
2004-2005 Stats: 7.0 PPG on 46% shooting, 4.9 RPG, 0.9 APG in 21.6 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 12.1 PPG on 52% shooting, 6.1 RPG, 1.8 APG in 31.2 minutes per game
Strengths: shot-blocking, athleticism, a developing offensive game
Weaknesses: bad attitude, foul prone, inconsistent
What can Brown do for you?
He can do a great deal of damage, but it takes discipline. Kwame has a ton of potential to be a very dominating forward/center in the league, and it's been that way since draft night. However, the poor attitude seems to be his disability. We know he's got defense, that he was picked first in the draft for a reason...and anyone who has watched Kwame over the years will tell you that he can score at will, but the question stands: when will this be applied? For years, the Wizards were pushing the young Brown to play at his high expectations, and it may have backfired. Ask Michael Jordan. Is it fair to say that Kwame has had enough time to mature and become the player we all thought he could be? Everyone in Lakerland would love to answer that with a guaranteed "no."

When there's a will, there's a way, and a new environment can only be a positive for the already-defeated Kwame Brown. Who would've thought the Lakers would give up Caron and Atkins for a first round "bust" and Laron Profit? Well, it wasn't much of a shocker to some, because with Phil back in Los Angeles, and a teammate in Kobe Bryant, Kwame's game could do a complete 180. That crippling attitude may soon be washed away, revealing a Kwame we definitely could use on our way back to the top in the strong Western Conference. Kwame will be wearing #54 this season...let's hope that Brown can soon produce much like the man wearing #54 in Chicago in the 90's, Horace Grant, and then we can sit back and talk about how much of a steal it was trading for him.

#7 Lamar Odom - SF
6’10” 230 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $11,465,500
2004-2005 Stats: 15.2 PPG on 47% shooting, 10.2 RPG, 3.7 APG in 36.3 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 17.5 PPG on 48% shooting, 9.8 RPG, 4.1 APG in 35.9 minutes per game
Strengths: versatile, nice passing skills, solid rebounder
Weaknesses: injury prone, possibly holding back his offensive game
How far has he come along? Check the Odometer.
Lamar Odom's offseason surgery may have improved his shooting, according to his comments. In addition, Scottie Pippen has walked into the Lakers camp eager to work with Odom, targeting Odom's game, both offensively and defensively. Here's what Odom brings to the table this season: an oversized body that can play four spots on the floor, team leadership that is improving by the minute, and a hard-working player who will crash the boards and step up when our main star has taken a hit. What we expect is someone to score 20+ points per game, and 12 rebounds a night, which may be a little high. Why is that? Assuming Kwame develops into a solid power forward, we'll have three scorers...and because Odom is a prolific ball-handler and passer (for his size), 17 or 18 points a night is an accurate target, with 9-10 boards. Talk of being the next KG may have been stretching it a bit, but as fans, we can hope for Odom to maintain that goal in becoming an All-Star player out West, and a superstar in the near future.

Worst case scenario...should we even talk about it? Odom's shoulder surgery seems to be less and less of a concern, but just what if he doesn't fully heal, and both Lamar and the Lakers are brushing it aside a bit? During practices, Odom has spent his time going through cardiovascular exercises and combining those with drills set to intensify shoulder strength and durability...and even Odom says he's available for full-contact play, so maybe the rehabilitation has efficiently worked Lamar back onto the court. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that Odom will have a healthy (and strong) second season as a Laker, because we're going to need him more than anyone else not named Kobe.

#8 Kobe Bryant - SG
6’6” 220 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $15,946,875
2004-2005 Stats: 27.6 PPG on 43% shooting, 5.9 RPG, 6.0 APG in 40.7 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 30.2 PPG on 44% shooting, 5.9 RPG, 5.4 APG in 41.3 minutes per game
Strengths: clutch, perimeter play, a threat on offense and defense
Weaknesses: said to be uncoachable, selfish at times
A new beginning, in his 10th season.
What is there to say about Bryant? We know he'll get his usual statline, possibly more. We know he's our franchise player, a Laker for life, and that he'll be giving it his all night in and night out. What we don't know, however, is if Kobe Bryant can mature and become the next best thing to Jordan, or quite possibly the best player to don a Lakers' jersey. If you did get to read Phil Jackson's book, you may have a change of heart about Kobe, or you may be a fan who's unsure about the stability of their relationship this season. They both acknowledge that it's a business, and that they are in it to succeed...that there's a superstar player, and a great coach. If this is Kobe's chance to shine, as a team leader and as an individual, he'll take it and run, and there's no telling how far he can go with Phil by his side, not to mention the entire city of Los Angeles (as far as the Laker fanbase goes). Kobe has nothing to lose, after the horrible season last year, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that he'll make up for it this time around.

So what has Kobe done to prepare, and what role does he play in the triangle? These are great questions, but very unclear at the moment. His workouts have been quite impressive, where Kobe has put on muscle (which comes as no surprise) and has lost a great deal of body fat, making him look lean. His speed has increased as well. The good that comes out of this definitely outweighs the bad; less risk of an injury, more agility and endurance, and the availability to guard quicker backcourt players, including point guards. So far, he is doing just that...but offensively, he's not the primary ball-handler. Instead, Kobe's role is to play off pick and rolls, use screens and play off the ball more than he has ever done in the last 9 years. Is Phil attempting to model his game off of the great Michael Jordan, or bringing Kobe closer to fame using his own style and domination? Things will certainly develop as the season plays through.

#1 Smush Parker - PG
6’4” 180 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $719,373
2004-2005 Stats: 3.0 PPG on 42% shooting, 0.8 RPG, 0.9 APG in 9.0 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 6.2 PPG on 43% shooting, 1.6 RPG, 2.2 APG in 26.0 minutes per game
Strengths: ball-handling, shooting, size
Weaknesses: turnovers, playmaking, tries to play streetball at times
Smush-ing It Up?
Okay, so what if that doesn't make sense? Smush Parker will be the Lakers' starting point guard this season, although he may not see as many minutes as McKie. It's no secret that Phil Jackson likes Parker, after telling the media that he has done fairly well in practice and in the first few exhibition games, and describing Smush as having "a lot of moxie." Let it be known that Parker's greatest asset to this team is his defense, especially against the less-physical guards. Unless you were a zombie Laker fan last year, it was evident that our backcourt lacked the defensive abilities needed to lock down the opposing guards, where we found those teams dropping anywhere between 20-40 points a game using penetration and/or their slashing, scoring guards. Smush is a definite upgrade, defensively, over last year's starting PG, Chucky Atkins...and we couldn't have asked for a harder-working player.

The question remains: will Smush be the answer to our prayers? Can we depend on him to run the triangle and be our primary ball-handler? Well, to be honest, he won't be...but that's only because he will be there when Odom runs into a trap. That's right, Lamar Odom...our primary ball-handler. Smush's role is very important, where he'll be asked to dump the ball to Odom and Kobe, then play through the triangle and free himself up to either hit an easy shot, or to reset the offense, if Odom or Kobe do find themselves in trouble. Keep in mind that this is all new to Parker, who has never played the triangle offense, nor had a bigger role in his career. If he can provide the security in our backcourt on offense, and give Kobe a reason to defend one player instead of two back on defense, he'll be a great fit in the purple and gold starting five.

Breaking Down the Lakers (Bench)

#3 Devean George - SF
6’8” 235 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $5,000,600
2004-2005 Stats: 7.3 PPG on 36% shooting, 3.5 RPG, 0.9 APG in 20.4 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 10.3 PPG on 42% shooting, 2.4 RPG, 1.2 APG in 19.9 minutes per game
Strengths: versatile, good attitude, experience
Weaknesses: inconsistent, seems to be a shooter and nothing more
Why are we playing "Gump" this season?
The Minnesota native has proven to be less and less of a factor during his stay in Los Angeles...until this season. Devean's versatility and athleticism will be used quite a bit, believe it or not. While most of the Laker fans will argue that we do not need another three point shooter, an inconsistent one at that, George is a very dangerous player crashing the boards and attacking the hoop. One reason why the fans chuckle at this comment is because Devean seems to shy away from his natural abilities, relying on his shot and keeping his energy throughout the game. Sure, we can use a trey every now and then, but Devean's forte does not describe him as a shooter, but as a slasher. All we can do is have faith in Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, the two guys who are working with Devean, and believe that they will steer him in the right direction and open his eyes to a new style of play, one that we have yet to see Devean apply to his game, full-time.

We know Devean George can play two positions: his primary position, small forward, and his secondary, the two-guard. At the moment, it's unclear whether or not Devean will be coming off the bench to fill the wing, or even become the trigger man...but the least we can expect from him is a consistent three and crashing the boards on both sides of the ball. However, what we'd like is much different, and it starts with his defense. George's length can make him an above-average perimeter defender, but talk is cheap; he is almost always beat to the basket on a quick first step, and sometimes it's hard to tell if it's just laziness or lack of defensive skills. If George wants to be that impact player off the bench, it'll take an extra effort (and help from the coaching staff) to mold him into a pesty defender, and a consistent offensive threat.

#2 Aaron McKie - PG
6’5” 209 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $2,500,000
2004-2005 Stats: 2.2 PPG on 43% shooting, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 APG in 16.4 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 3.2 PPG on 44% shooting, 1.9 RPG, 2.0 APG in 15.5 minutes per game
Strengths: good defender, strong player, effective shooter
Weaknesses: quickness, average ball-handling, injury prone
Rags to riches? You never know.
In fact, we really don't even know if McKie will start anytime this season. However, we do know he will log in around 15-20 minutes a game, which isn't so bad for his age. McKie is our ideal point guard. He's oversized at the one, he's a smart defender, and he'd rather pass the ball than drive the lane. The Lakers' front office would give an arm and a leg for McKie to be 24 years old, but with age comes new advantages, such as experience and veteran leadership, two things the Lakers welcome with open arms this season. If Aaron McKie can walk in and assist our younger guards (especially Wafer and Vujacic) by helping them with their defensive and offensive awareness, as well as polishing their raw skills, their future could very well take a turn for the better.

Hate him or love him, McKie isn't just a bag full of positives. Laker fans could argue that he's more of a problem than he is a factor on the squad. McKie is one injury away from missing half a season, and even though this could be said about any player, star or scrub, we are talking about a veteran guard, logging a significant amount of minutes in a very mobile offense. This may be why you'll find Bryant guarding the faster point guards, instead of Aaron, but the wear and tear will find its way into McKie's body soon enough. On the other hand, with McKie finding his minutes off the bench, these guards may not do as much damage while Aaron is in the game, and being an underrated defender, he'll give us a consistent defensive effort to keep us in the game while our starters sit and rest.

#17 Andrew Bynum - C
7’0” 275 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $1,888,680
2004-2005 Stats: n/a
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 4.2 PPG on 48% shooting, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 APG in 16.5 minutes per game
Strengths: size, hands, the potential is there
Weaknesses: very young, no college experience, transitions are poor
Paint Bynum-bers...yes, he's still a kid.
Paint this picture, then: a seven-foot, 275-pound kid, with a great attitude and comparisons to Shaquille O'Neal. Are we kidding? Andrew Bynum was the obvious choice for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2005 NBA Draft, especially after running through nine other teams. Believe it or not, even Bynum has something to prove; a majority of Laker fans were screaming for another young sensation in Gerald Green, doubting Andrew's ability to become an average to above-average center in the league within five years. Determined to prove them wrong, he has hit the gym, working alongside new teammate Kobe Bryant and polishing a nice baby hook in the process. If that wasn't good enough, the kid has a legend by his side: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bynum could find himself playing more than he expected this season, with starting center Chris Mihm already showing signs of foul trouble in preseason games. Is it a wise decision? It could be too early to tell.

A huge question mark appears, however, because Phil Jackson has a reputation of sitting rookies for a couple of years before throwing them into the complicated mess we call the triangle offense. Assuming this is the case for the upcoming season, do we send Bynum to the D-League, or play him off the bench 5-10 minutes per game? Common sense would be to keep him benched, because even with the raw skills, Bynum is (at the very least) another body in the frontcourt. Who knows...maybe the high school giant will walk into the regular season lacking only experience, and leaving the hardwood each night with larger-than-life numbers. Unrealistic? Maybe, but there's no reason not to expect so much from a larger-than-life teenager.

#43 Brian Cook - PF
6’9” 258 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $865,800
2004-2005 Stats: 6.4 PPG on 42% shooting, 3.0 RPG, 0.5 APG in 15.1 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 7.1 PPG on 50% shooting, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 APG in 15.0 minutes per game
Strengths: range, hard-working, decent footwork
Weaknesses: bad defender in the paint, inconsistent shooter
Do you smell what the Cook is rocking?, but I do see that Brian Cook may be rocking back and forth, wondering what his role will be, come November. There are three key ingredients for this Cook to become a strong forward off the bench for the Lakers: a physical presence, a solid defensive stand, and athleticism. Okay, so maybe he's not Amare Stoudemire, but Brian is lacking in all three categories. What we do have is a player who likes to shoot, mid-range and beyond...when he's open. Cook shouldn't be so concerned with his offensive production unless we're talking about putbacks off a Laker miss; when you weigh nearly 260 pounds, there's no excuse for getting abused underneath the hoop. I don't know if it's because of his workout routines, or because he's still carrying around a bit of baby fat, but there's no better time than now for Brian Cook to stick out his chest and play tough-nosed defense, because it's the Lakers' main frontcourt "disability" right now, and Cook isn't the exception to this.

You say, "Well, I'm still glad we have the guy." That's very true...I believe Cook does have a few positives that I'd love for him to continue to work on, such as his rebounding. In limited minutes, Cook grabs three boards a game. Not bad, huh? In those 15 minutes, I'd like to see four or five, but hey...he's coming off the bench for a reason, so I won't push it that far. Cook also has the flawless ability to get open for a shot. If only he could hit them consistently, we could be a 60-win team, correct? Brian's off-the-ball play may seem a bit overrated, though, because of the double teams his teammates face, but he does pretty well losing his defender "oh so quietly" and sneaking into the corner for a freebie. The mobility he'll find in the triangle may work to his advantage, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Cook netting shots more consistently than before...but don't bank on it just yet, because Phil may soon change Cook's recipe, and we may see a whole different player in 2006.

#18 Sasha Vujacic - PG
6’7” 195 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $910,440
2004-2005 Stats: 2.9 PPG on 28% shooting, 1.8 RPG, 1.5 APG in 11.5 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 4.3 PPG on 42% shooting, 3.1 RPG, 2.3 APG in 14.4 minutes per game
Strengths: tall combo guard, good eyes, ball-handling
Weaknesses: inconsistent shooting, needs to hit the gym
Is he still a Vuja-stick?
Sasha's weight may not be much of a problem (remember, Michael Jordan was once 6'6" and 198 lbs), but he lacks muscle. However, Vujacic is a very smart player, an oversized point guard who loves crashing the boards, which he can do very well when given the opportunity to play. Last season, Sasha was a disappointment in the eyes of Laker fans, but maybe we didn't give the kid a chance; he was a late first-rounder, after all, playing half of his season in the triangle offense. His horrific shot selection didn't help at all, but he has seemed to improve this preseason, where he ran the point beside his backcourt teammate Aaron McKie. If this is any indication that he will be backing up our starting PG, Smush Parker, then we can expect much more from Vujacic in the 2005-2006 season.

There's a hint that Phil likes Sasha; as a tall guard with the ability to handle the ball and make plays, Vujacic could be a nice backup for the Lakers in due time, whether it happens this year or two years from now. The fans spend so much time bashing him for his size, and even I joined in a few times, but the fact remains that Sasha can only get better at this point. He may have little to no triangle experience (Hamblen's triangle doesn't exactly count, in my books), but it does help a bit that he did play a handful of games running the point, cutting and creating for others. The important thing is that Sasha knows his role in the offense, not as a scorer or a shooter, but as a passing guard who will crash the boards and use his court vision to find the open man. His defense needs a little work, because we know that bigger, thicker guards like Billups and Davis will completely pick him apart, but nothing comes free; it takes time and commitment, something I believe Sasha can give the Lakers organization in years to come, and hopefully turn out to be worth the time as well.

#14 Slava Medvedenko - C
6’10” 253 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $3,000,000
2004-2005 Stats: 3.8 PPG on 46% shooting, 1.8 RPG, 0.3 APG in 9.8 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 3.8 PPG on 45% shooting, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 APG in 11.1 minutes per game
Strengths: good shooting touch, has range, crashes the boards
Weaknesses: little defense in the paint, doesn't attack the basket much
Does he really deserve $3 million?
As a Laker fan, I'd say no way. If I were a coach, possibly in Phil Jackson's shoes, I may have a different opinion. Slava doesn't give us much as a backup center or forward, but in limited minutes, the man does pull down quite a few rebounds. Defensively, he's a ghost. When you're a big man, you'd like to be able to block shots and force players to alter their layups, but Medvedenko's presence on the defensive end is that of a mattress; he's very soft, and he actually adjusts to your shot, rather than you adjusting for him. This results in either a foul (which is why he's always in foul trouble) or an easy basket. Does this sound like Chris Mihm to you? Possibly, and this is why we find ourselves wondering how much help we have in the frontcourt when you take away Odom and Kwame. Our bigs are bench players at the most, some may even find it hard to make an NBA roster on another team, and Slava is no exception.

Can we safely say that he could be our backup center or forward this season? All of us would love to say yes, but we all know that Bynum and Cook can give us more in 20 minutes than Slava can, and when we think back to the 2004 NBA Finals, it's unfortunate that we had to rely on Medvedenko as a starter. However, I do believe that Slava is one of two big men we have (Cook being the other) that can hit shots outside of 15 feet, and with the triangle focused on spacing and versatility, he could become a decent shooting forward off the bench late in the game. Slava hits shots when he's open, and we've seen the guy drive to the basket a couple of times (in his career, anyways), so it'll be interesting to watch him work under Kareem and see what else the man can do for us this upcoming season.

#9 Laron Profit - SG
6’5” 204 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $835,810
2004-2005 Stats: 3.2 PPG on 44% shooting, 1.2 RPG, 1.8 APG in 10.2 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 2.1 PPG on 41% shooting, 1.0 RPG, 0.9 APG in 6.2 minutes per game
Strengths: decent defender, very athletic
Weaknesses: low expectations, inconsistent jumper
Making a Profit out of nothing...
Well, almost nothing. Phil Jackson kept Laron Profit not for a roster spot, but for his defense. You may not see Laron swat a shot out of bounds, or steal a ball and run a fast break, but his defensive presence is felt from a bench that lacks the effort. This guy may seem like a rookie to Laker fans, but it's only because he has been skipping from team to team since 1999, when he was drafted 38th by the Orlando Magic. Sure, this is no indication that Laron is a wanted player, but one that just can't find, or maintain, his role on an NBA team. However, in his biggest role yet in Washington last season, Profit did fairly well in 10 minutes a contest, and raised his shooting percentage by five from the previous season. While Laron may never be a sixth man in the league, or even a decent backup for a starting forward or guard, he doesn't deserve to be waived, and should always suit up no matter where he's at.

Laron Profit should enjoy the triangle in his limited minutes on the floor, especially the freedom it gives him to roam and play out of position. You can expect him to crash the boards quite a bit, and most of his points will come off his cuts and receiving passes from the Laker guards. Phil and the staff may even decide to let Profit defend the quicker guards late in the game to keep him active and pushing for a larger role throughout the season, which is part of Phil's coaching strategy, to encourage players such as Profit and Kwame, making them believe that they can be a part of success, rather than bystanders. Laron wants it bad enough, and if he continues to play like he did this preseason, he can do just that for the first time in his career, and there's no better place to start than in Los Angeles.

Breaking Down the Lakers (Inactive List)

#4 Luke Walton - SF
6’8” 232 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: n/a
2004-2005 Stats: 3.2 PPG on 41% shooting, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 APG in 12.6 minutes per game
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 7.2 PPG on 43% shooting, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG in 14.2 minutes per game
Strengths: strong passer, high basketball IQ, fan favorite
Weaknesses: shot needs work, doesn't look to score much
Luke...Bill is your father, but Phil is your daddy.
That's right, Mr. Walton...but think of it as a blessing in disguise. Game Two, Pistons versus Lakers, NBA Finals: Phil watched as Luke Walton headed into the game and controlled the tempo, handling the ball and creating shots for everyone not in a blue uniform. Is there any question why Luke was re-signed? Walton will see more minutes than he did last season, or at least play a larger role in the triangle, being that he's a pass-first player. It doesn't hurt to bring him into the game in pressure situations, either; what Laker fan doesn't cheer for Luke? He's a fan favorite in Los Angeles, and one to swing the momentum in favor of the Lakers at any given time. He may never surpass what his father did in his impressive career, but Walton has the potential to be a strong sixth man for any team in the league, and even though it may take 3-5 more years before he starts thinking about a role such as described, the Lakers should be thankful they put number four back into their roster for the upcoming season.

The sixth man role may not be for Luke just yet, but with him coming off the bench, the Lakers can cause some damage late in the second and early fourth quarters, where Luke can be the most effective player on the court. It's no joke; the bench could be the weakest in the NBA...or it could be the most underrated. With early suggestions that Walton could be a possible starter down the road, there's no reason not to have faith in Luke. Out of everyone on the bench, Walton does have a great deal of experience in the triangle, which gives the coaching staff one less player they have to spoon-feed the offense to. Word of advice: don't give up on Walton just yet.

#23 Von Wafer - SG
6’5” 210 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $398,762
2004-2005 Stats: n/a
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 1.8 PPG on 39% shooting, 0.9 RPG, 1.0 APG in 6.2 minutes per game
Strengths: athletic, nice shooting form
Weaknesses: attitude, poor shot selection
But we could've drafted a pure point guard...right?
Could've, would've, and should've...Von Wafer doesn't have time for that, and neither do the Lakers. Los Angeles needed a backup for Kobe Bryant, and that's what they get in Wafer. He may not be able to accept that role for a couple of years, but there's no question that this former Florida State guard can develop fast. He's a second-round draft pick, which could give you reason to doubt Von Wafer, but with a bench that most fans would consider nothing more than mediocre, if that at all, Wafer has the opportunity to contribute in the Lakers' backcourt. Unfortunately, Wafer will be fighting for that spot against a taller combo guard, Vujacic. Possible? Definitely, but don't expect a great deal of playing time in the works for Wafer, if he does find himself in the rotation.

Will Jackson give Wafer a shot at the point? I highly doubt it. If you do see Von bringing the ball up and defending the point guards, it will be late in the game, where Bynum and Sasha will be our feature players out on the court. Hey, don't chuckle...we may need these guys someday. Many will suggest that Wafer packs his bags and heads to the D-League. Either way, Wafer will gain knowledge and experience playing limited minutes alongside Kobe when, or if, he comes off the inactive list. The Lakers cannot afford to lose a starter this year, and if this happens, we have to rely on our reserves to step up and take bigger roles. In the case of Von Wafer, his impact at the college level brought him into the league, regardless of the time he was drafted, and that level will become a factor at a time such as this. Assuming that Wafer can come out and show potential, such as Marquis Daniels did in Dallas, we could be underestimating a very solid bench player in years to come.

#11 Devin Green - SG
6’7” 210 lbs.
2005-2006 Salary: $398,762
2004-2005 Stats: n/a
2005-2006 Projected Stats: 2.1 PPG on 40% shooting, 1.1 RPG, 0.7 APG in 6.5 minutes per game
Strengths: slashing to the basket, moves well off the ball
Weaknesses: forces shots, will try and take over a game
Who is Devin Green?
Devin Green is the first Hampton player to make an NBA roster since Rick Mahorn. If you aren't a college basketball buff, you may have never seen Green play. If so, you know why he made the roster. Green will begin the year on the inactive list, but he's an undrafted rookie, so it's understandable. Devin not only brings determination to this Lakers roster, but he's also a tough kid who wants to win. A former Mid-Eastern Atlantic rookie of the year and first-teamer, Green first impressed Phil Jackson during the summer league, where he averaged nearly 12 points and six boards. In addition, his play against the Kings in their final preseason game may have handed him a Laker contract, not because of his statistics, but because he was all over the court, back and forth, performing small tasks on both sides of the ball to disrupt the Kings' offensive and defensive efforts against Los Angeles.

There's no reason not to play Green, but he's just not ready to come off the bench just yet. Devin and Von Wafer may find themselves in the D-League, which may not be a bad idea at all by the Lakers, giving them a chance to develop more skills to apply on a professional level. The discipline is there, but the adjustments for Green, and the transition from Hampton to the Lakers, will take more than just a preseason, possibly more than a season. However, Green is still young, and his expectations are extremely low, considering a lot of analysts figured that he would be the odd man out of the Lakers' lineup for Corie Blount. If Green does get his big chance, he'll be behind Kobe Bryant, and there's nobody better to learn from than the best guard in the game.


Our Coaching Staff

Phil Jackson - Coach (Profile)
Frank Hamblen - Assistant Coach (Profile)
Kurt Rambis - Assistant Coach (Profile)
Brian Shaw - Assistant Coach (Profile)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Special Assistant Coach (Profile)


Get Well Soon, Big Man

Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.
- Leon J. Suenes


2005-2006 Laker Girls

First row, sitting left to right: Tiffany D., Angela, Jenna, Nancy, Allison
Second row, kneeling left to right: Shea, Shelby, Crystal, Carissa
Third row, on stools left to right: Brittany, Katherine, Jessica, Lindsey
Fourth Row, standing left to right: Danielle, Kristin, Jahnel, Tiffany F., Becky, Lynisha

continued below...

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