The Lakers are 3-0, including a pair of relative cruisers over Phoenix and Golden State. Kobe Bryant looks ever more spry, aided by a supporting cast doing much of the heavy lifting through the first week of the season. All without Andrew Bynum, who will be on the sidelines ... until he's not.
All told, it has been a pretty fast start, right?
"I consider a fast start to be, like, 10-0, not 3-0," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We're still a few days away here before we talk about a fast start. But it's nice to get out of the blocks."
Killjoy. For Jackson, the solid play early has, particularly on Sunday, offered a chance to tinker with his rotations, working to make sense of the new moving parts at his disposal. During the preseason, the reserves, particularly when heavy with newbies, struggled with spacing and rhythm. Granted a 20-point lead at the start of the second quarter, Jackson gave it a crack in a real game, starting the frame with Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Theo Ratliff, and Devin Ebanks. A 13-2 run later, he had his answer. "I was just trying to see if they could find an identity," Jackson said. "We’ll still have to work with that.”
The Lakers have the time and the raw material for these sorts of experiments, though Jackson wouldn't call this the deepest team he has ever had ( he gave that honor to the '99-'00 title squad). The additions of Barnes and Blake in particular improved the team not only from a personnel standpoint, but also culturally, scaling back the number of guys in the rotation looking to make names for themselves in the NBA. Once Bynum returns and (presumably, though it's not guaranteed) Lamar Odom returns to the bench, he'll do so without feeling the need to "captain" that group in quite the same way. "We have guys this year that are accepting of their roles," he said. "They're professional, a little older this year, a little more experienced. They'll police themselves. We're just gonna have fun, and continue to keep winning."
Jackson talks about some of these issues here, as well as the influence of Chuck Person:
Click below for more, including Jackson's take on Tuesday's Gasol vs. Gasol matchup, and whether or not extra shooting for players is always a good thing, particularly if that player is Ron Artest.
Pau has readily admitted playing against his brother can, at times, be uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, he has had a few poor games against the Grizzlies in the recent past. Never one to miss an opportunity to poke and prod, Jackson did both Monday afternoon. "A lot of times we say we traded the wrong guy, and tell him Marc is tougher, a more powerful player than he is," Jackson laughed. "I like to bring it to his awareness."
In the second part of the clip, Jackson comments on Artest, who spent some time practicing jumpers moving from the left elbow to the right, fading away at on the lift. Basically, the exact sort of shot you'd never want to see Artest actually take in a game.
Gasol, who has learned over the years to take Jackson's ribbing in stride, speaks first about what it means to play against Marc, then how he's developed his relationship with his coach.