Wednesday , Oct , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Los Angeles Lakers 2005-06 Season Preview

=== Los Angeles Lakers 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2004-05 FINISH: 34-48

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Kwame Brown (F) – Trade with Washington; Aaron McKie (G)
– Free Agent; Laron Profit (G) – Trade with Washington.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Chucky Atkins (G) – Traded to Washington; Caron Butler
(F) – Traded to Washington; Vlade Divac (C) – Waived; Brian Grant (F) – Signed
with Phoenix.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (10) Andrew Bynum (C, St. Joseph’s HS); 2. (37) Ronny
Turiaf (F, Gonzaga); 2. (39) Von Wafer (G, Florida State).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Aaron McKie, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Lamar Odom,
PF Kwame Brown, C Chris Mihm

COACH: Phil Jackson

(Sports Network) – It’s never boring when it comes to the Los Angeles
Lakers. A new soap opera could be ready to get underway, as Phil Jackson and
Kobe Bryant have been reunited for the 2005-06 campaign.

The Lakers re-hired Jackson as their new head coach on June 14. He has
returned to the club that he guided to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Jackson, who signed to a three-year contract, has 14 seasons of head coaching
experience in the NBA and has registered an impressive 832-316 record. He has
recorded 175 playoff wins, which are the most ever by a coach, and his .717
postseason winning percentage is also the best of any general.

Jackson guided the Chicago Bulls to six titles (1991-93 and 1996-98). He then
took over the Lakers for the 1999-2000 campaign and spent five years with the
club, posting a 287-123 regular-season mark. After the 2003-04 campaign in
which Los Angeles lost in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, Jackson and
the Lakers mutually agreed to part ways.

“Well, this is something I never thought could possibly happen, to be standing
back again, less than one year after having been part of the dissolution of
this organization and the changing of the guard, so to speak, and feeling so
comfortable stepping back into this position,” Jackson said at the press
conference introducing him as the head coach.

The challenge is a bit different this time around for Jackson, who does not
have superstar Shaquille O’Neal in the middle anymore. O’Neal won three titles
with Bryant and Jackson, but demanded a trade during the club’s demise in the
2004 offseason. With O’Neal in Miami now and Bryant, who has not had the best
relationship with the Lakers new head coach in the past, as his main piece of
the puzzle, Jackson will have his coaching skills and patience put to the
test.

Can Jackson make the Lakers winners once again with Bryant and forward Lamar
Odom as his one-two punch?

The Lakers are coming off a season that saw them win just 34 games, and they
missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994. The All-Star Bryant
averaged 27.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 66 games in the 2004-05
campaign. Bryant had decent season statistically, but he had to have realized
that he can’t win by himself.

The 25-year-old Odom averaged 15.2 points and a team-high 10.2 rebounds in 66
games for the Lakers. Odom, who was acquired as part of the Shaq deal in the
2004 summer, showed flashes of being a star. However, he needs to be more
consistent if the Lakers hope to get back to their winning ways.

LA added forward Kwame Brown and guard Laron Profit in a trade, as it dealt
guard Chucky Atkins and swingman Caron Butler to Washington to complete the
trade. Brown has never lived up to expectations since being chosen out of high
school by the Wizards with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft. In four
years with Washington the 6-foot-11 Brown, who was the first high school
player ever taken with the top pick, has averaged just 7.7 points with 5.5
rebounds and 0.7 blocks. His best season came in 2003-04 when he recorded 10.9
points and 7.4 boards in 74 games.

Veteran guard Aaron McKie, who spent the last seven-plus season with the
Philadelphia 76ers, joined the club via free agency. McKie can play both spots
in the backcourt and should be able to provide some much needed leadership.

Brian Grant, who along with Butler was also acquired in the Shaq deal, was
waived in the offseason. The aging forward, who averaged just 3.8 points and
3.7 rebounds in 69 games for LA in 2004-05, signed a deal with the Phoenix
Suns.

The Lakers gambled with their first round pick, as they selected center Andrew
Bynum out of St. Joseph’s high school with the 10th overall pick in the 2005
draft. Even though Jackson is back, the Lakers selection of Bynum could show
that they have accepted the fact that it is going to take some serious work
for them to get back to being one of the elite teams in the league.

Bottom line, with Jackson and Bryant back together there will never be a dull
moment for Lakers’ fans.

BACKCOURT

Bryant is still arguably the best shooting guard in the NBA. Even with all of
his past off-court problems as well as the turmoil within the Lakers, Bryant
puts up scary numbers and can win a game single-handidly. If Bryant views this
season as a fresh start, Jackson and the rest of the Laker family could be in
for an exciting ride.

The 33-year-old McKie’s best days as a basketball player are in the past. He
averaged just 2.2 points in 68 games in a limited role for Philly last season.
McKie, who played just over 16 minutes per contest in 2004-05, is a role
player who will fit in well with Bryant. The Temple product, who will backup
Bryant and play alongside him, is the consummate professional and may be just
the type of person this club needs when things get sticky on and off the
court.

LA does not have depth at guard. Profit, Sasha Vujacic and rookie Von Wafer,
who was selected out of Florida State with the 39th overall pick in the second
round of this year’s draft, will compete for minutes in the backcourt.

The 27-year-old Bryant will sometimes be the only guard on the court and will
have to play dual roles. Jackson does not have a lot to work with and will be
forced to have his All-Star guard work at both positions in the backcourt.

FRONTCOURT

Brown, Bynum, Brian Cook, Devean George, who can also play shooting guard if
needed,, Jumaine Jones, Slava Medvedenko, Chris Mihm and Odom makeup a very
average frontcourt. Brown and Odom will most likely start at the forward
spots, while Mihm will defend the middle.

The 26-year-old Mihm was solid in the paint for the Lakers last season. He
posted 9.8 points and 6.7 boards in 75 contests. The 7-0 center is serviceable
and will be backed up by Cook and Bynum, who will most likely be a spectator
during his rookie campaign.

Cook and Medvedenko will get minutes at power forward and could be used at
center in a pinch, while Jones and George will earn their keep at small
forward.

Like Bryant, Odom will get double duty. The 6-10 Odom will get time at both
forward spots and must be ready to carry a heavy load for his new head coach.
LA’s frontcourt is full of question marks, and with the exception of Odom does
not have any real threats.

OUTLOOK

Even with the return of Jackson, the Lakers will miss the playoffs for a
second straight year. Bryant is great and Odom can be part of a new winning
tradition. But, the Lakers need more. Look for 30-35 wins and a spot in the
2006 lottery.

LAL