Wednesday , Nov , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Bryant, Jackson 2005-06 soap opera ready to debut

=== Bryant, Jackson 2005-06 soap opera ready to debut ===

(Sports Network) – Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant start their mission to try
and get the Los Angeles Lakers back into the postseason, as they will open the
2005-06 campaign on the road against the Denver Nuggets at the Target Center.

It’s never boring when it comes to the Lakers. A new soap opera could be ready
to get underway, as Jackson and 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.

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.

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.

Twenty-five-year-old Lamar 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.

After tonight’s contest, LA returns home for two games. The Lakers are
scheduled to host Phoenix on Thursday and the Nuggets on Sunday.

Denver plays the second game of its season and its first of the 2005-06
campaign at the Pepsi Center. On Tuesday, Tony Parker scored 26 points and Tim
Duncan added 19 points and 10 rebounds, as San Antonio began defense of its
NBA title by posting a 102-91 win over the Nuggets in the season-opener for
both teams at SBC Center.

Carmelo Anthony had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Kenyon Martin
contributed 19 for the Nuggets, who have lost 16 of their last 18 games in San
Antonio. Denver played the game without head coach George Karl, who was
serving the first of a two-game suspension for a violation of the league’s
draft rules.

Karl will not be on the bench for the Nuggets tonight, but will return on
Friday when Denver hosts the Portland Trail Blazers.

On the injury front, Denver forward Nene left Tuesday’s game midway through
the second quarter with a strained ligament in his right knee and needed to be
taken into the locker room on a wheelchair. He is expected to miss tonight’s
contest.

Last season, the Lakers and Nuggets split four contests as each club won twice
on its homecourt. Overall, the Lakers have won nine of the last 12 meetings in
this series.

DEN LAL