Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:32 AM ET

Phil's back, but is his mojo?


Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Los Angeles Lakers finish in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.


Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

Kobe will play out of his mind, and Phil will get the most out of a limited squad.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
Everything I've seen suggests this will be a long, fruitless season. Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant insist it'll all come together. I'm compromising – which is always deadly – and having them eke into the playoffs.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
Coaching makes a difference, but over 82 games talent wins. Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown are question marks, both offensively and defensively. Who will play the point? The Lakers may improve on 34 wins, but I doubt they return to the playoffs.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
Phil Jackson is back and Kobe's promising to be on his best behavior. However, after Lamar Odom, the supporting cast is very thin. They're going to need a big year from Kwame to make the playoffs.
John Hollinger ESPN Insider
The return of the Zen Master is reason for optimism in L.A. The return of Aaron McKie as an NBA starter ... not so much. Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom will have to carry a talent-depleted roster.
Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2


This pick is more about Amare missing half a season than Phil coming back.

Tim Legler ESPN Insider

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2


If Kwame buys in, they could be the eighth seed.

Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
Phil Jackson, the master of the mental game, will need all his skills to start making Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom the 1-2 punch that MJ and Scottie Pippen were in the '90s. The emergence of Kwame Brown would help immensely.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
Has the "Master" taken the ultimate challenge? Would Kobe mind being called Grasshopper? Let's all take a moment to think. Don't forget to breathe. If Phil gets this team to the playoffs, it might be his best coaching job ever.
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
Can Phil Jackson and Kobe reunite successfully? The answer here is no, and we'll predict the following Feb. 22 conversation: "Hello, Mitch, it's Isiah. My final offer for Kobe is Steph, Crawford, Ariza and a No. 1."
Marc Stein ESPN.com
They have no bench, major PG issues and only one All-Star talent (Odom) besides Kobe. Yet for some reason I expect the Zenmeister to overcome all that and get Kobe back to the playoffs.

Your Turn, Kwame
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
After four years in D.C., Kwame Brown begins his second term under the bright lights in L.A. The Lakers hope the bulb comes on.

Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Lakers roster:

Starters: Kobe and Odom are good. Real good. But not that good.
7.7 and 5.5. His career averages in points and rebounds.
In 64 games he had 33 double-doubles (11th best).
Career stats (7.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg) are like a quarter for Shaq.
LA was 12-20 when he hoisted more than 20 shots.
OK shooter, OK D. Why's he starting? Not-so-OK roster.
Bench: Former starter Devean George joins Luke Walton, Brian Cook, Jumaine Jones ... forwards, forwards everywhere, unless you count Smush.



ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.

Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Lamar Odom
Player Efficiency Rating
vs. NBA Avg: +2.26

Lamar Odom didn't have the ball in his hands as much as he did in Miami. The cause is obvious -- with Kobe Bryant hogging the ball so much, Odom's touches almost had to go down. That dropped his scoring and assist numbers, and the murmurs from L.A. were that Odom was struggling because of his pairing with Bryant. In reality, it wasn't so bad. Odom had the second-best season of his career and it would have been better if his free-throw shooting hadn't slumped so bad -- a tough one to pin on Kobe.

Moreover, his lack of touches blinded some people to the other improvements in Odom's game. His development as a rebounder has been absolutely phenomenal; he has improved his Rebound Rate by 58 percent in only two seasons. Odom has worked on his body and become much stronger, and that's enabled him to become especially effective on the defensive glass. He was one of the 10 best rebounding power forwards last season, and I don't think anybody could have foreseen that two years ago.

Additionally, he's become a very solid defender. Odom doesn't have the zip in his step to get lots of blocks or steals, but he's learned how to use his size to contest shots. He also is quick enough to help out against the screen-and-roll and has added enough muscle to make post players earn their points.

So while some see his 2004-05 season as a disappointment, it was in many ways another step on his way to becoming an extremely well-rounded player. Odom may never be a 20-and-10 guy because he doesn't have the explosive quickness or deadly shot that most players of that type possess. But he's a pretty good second banana, and he's steadily getting better.

-- Lakers player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

AP/Ronen Zilberman
Nobody conducts a 1-on-5 aerial show quite like Kobe Bryant.

SportsNation Speaks
Besides bringing back Phil Jackson, the Lakers' most intriguing offseason move was the trade for former No. 1 pick Kwame Brown.

We asked SportsNation for their evaluation of the deal from the Lakers' perspective.

Thoughts on the Kwame Brown deal?
67.2% Risky move, but worth it
17.3% Great move
15.5% Terrible move

Vote: Lakers in 2005-06 | Results

Tim's Time
Legs on Lakers: Does anyone in their right mind think that Kobe Bryant will be any easier to play with this season just because Phil Jackson has returned? It's true, Lamar Odom will benefit from a stronger presence on the bench. I'll give you that. But Kobe is still the most difficult star player in the NBA to play alongside. He will come out strong after last year's debacle left L.A. out of the playoffs. But once it becomes obvious that the supporting cast is no better, Kobe will try to do it alone again.

For some reason Kwame Brown got a nice paycheck from Mitch Kupchak. In Washington, the former No. 1 pick in the NBA draft showed absolutely no instincts for the game and was inconsistent, often injured and beaten out by Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. How do you think Kobe will respond the first time Brown drops a pass or forgets a defensive assignment?

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider

Coach's Corner
Phil Jackson
Experience: 14 years
Reg. season record: 832-316
Playoff record: 175-69
NBA Titles: 9
Coach's profile

Jackson and his nine championship rings are back in Los Angeles and everything seems solid with Kobe Bryant.

Now Jackson, the master of the mental game, must figure out how to start making Kobe and Lamar Odom into the one-two punch that M.J. and Scottie were in the '90s.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN Insider

Hollinger's Q & A
What will L.A. do for a point guard?

Phil Jackson has always been a fan of big guards, but he may be taking things to an extreme this year.

The Lakers don't appear to have a single credible NBA point guard on the roster and instead will parcel out the ballhandling responsibilities between Bryant and a number of bigger teammates.

The de facto "point guard" appears to be veteran retread Aaron McKie, whom the Lakers pursued as a free agent despite his horrendous season in Philadelphia last season. McKie is a decent ballhandler and defender, but he was the league's least productive perimeter player in terms of scoring last season.

McKie appears to have the job by default because coming up with other contenders requires a liberal scraping of the barrel. Sasha Vujacic failed to impress as a rookie last season, shooting just 28 percent. However, the slender 6-7 Slovenian does own enough ballhandling skill to run the point and could be McKie's primary backup.

Laron Profit, acquired as a throw-in in the Kwame Brown trade, is another limited scorer who could be forced into action. Vagabonds like Tony Bobbitt and Smush Parker, each 6-4, also could challenge for minutes in what has to be the league's weakest backcourt rotation.

More Hollinger Lakers analysis Insider

Fantasy Fix

Sleeper: Kwame Brown has been named a sleeper before, but maybe all he needed was a change of scenery. Phil Jackson figures to give Brown 30 minutes a night and proper motivation. Brown did average 7.5 rebounds as a starter last year, and he's still only 23. Don't make him the cornerstone of your fantasy team, but he should be picked in the top 100.

Bust: Chris Mihm certainly had his moments last season, but the 7-footer saw his stats drop quite a bit after the All-Star Game. The Lakers figure to be more healthy and to score more now, so Mihm won't be asked to do much. Even as a second fantasy center, you're likely to be disappointed in 8 points, 5 rebounds.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index



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