Friday , Oct , 20 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Los Angeles Lakers 2006-07 Season Preview

(Sports Network) – Led by the coaching of Phil Jackson and the heroics of
superstar Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers finished 45-37 last season and
returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

The Lakers blew a 3-1 lead in the first round against the Phoenix Suns. They
fell in seven contests and were eliminated in the opening round for the first
time since 1996, when they fell in four games, 3-1, to the Houston Rockets.

Bryant had an MVP-type season, while Jackson returned to the Lakers bench
after a one-year hiatus. The Lakers also got a decent season from forward
Lamar Odom and a surprising campaign from guard Smush Parker.

Bryant, who scored an unbelievable 81 points on January 22nd against Toronto,
made his first trip to the postseason without All-Star center Shaquille
O’Neal, who was traded to Miami in July 2004, by his side. An eight-time All-
Star, Bryant proved that he can carry a team on his back.

The 28-year-old Bryant, who won three championships with O’Neal and Jackson
(1999, 2000, 2001), led the league in scoring (35.4 ppg) last season. He was a
one-man show and continued to build his legacy with his clutch performances.

Odom, who acquired from Miami as part of the Shaq trade, was second on the
club in scoring (14.8 ppg) and led the Lakers in rebounding (9.2 rpg) and
assists (5.5 apg). The 6-4 Parker, who has also played for Cleveland, Detroit
and Phoenix, surprised most with his excellent season, as he played in all 82
games for the Lakers and averaged 11.5 points and 3.7 assists per contest.

The Lakers lost swingman Devean George, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks
as a free agent during the offseason. However, forward Vladimir Radmanovic
left the Clippers to sign with the Lakers. The 6-10 Radmanovic is dangerous
from the perimeter, as he shot 39 percent from beyond the arc last season in
77 games for the SuperSonics and Clippers.

The new season of the Kobe show opens on October 31st at home against reigning
MVP Steve Nash and the Suns.

BACKCOURT

It’s all about Kobe. The Lakers’ success is on Bryant’s shoulders,
and the superstar guard knows that this is his team. Win or lose, Bryant
will get the credit or the blame.

Parker shocked the Lakers and the rest of the league last season. He
proved that he can score and his athleticism was also an added bonus. Sasha
Vujacic, 34-year-old Aaron McKie and rookie Jordan Farmar, who was selected
out of UCLA with the 26th overall pick in the 2006 draft, will compete for
playing time.

Bottom line here is that it all falls on Kobe. He will be expected to once
again do it all.

FRONTCOURT

With the exception of Odom, the Lakers’ front line has a lot of questions
marks. Odom, who turns 27 on November 6th, is versatile. The 6-10 Odom can
handle the rock and is solid in all facets of the game. He has jelled with
Bryant, which is what the Lakers were hoping for when they acquired him.

The addition of Radmanovic should really help the Lakers. His ability to drain
the three will stretch defenses even more and should make Odom more of a
threat. Teams will double-team Bryant no matter who is on the court, but
another threat from the outside will make life a lot easier in the low post.

A healthy Chris Mihm, who averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 59 games
last season for the Lakers, is critical for the Lakers’ frontcourt. He does
a lot of the little things that helps teams win. The 7-0 Mihm is strong off
the boards and can score around the hoop.

Twenty-four-year-old Kwame Brown, who emerged in the postseason, Brian Cook
and Luke Walton are all role players for the Lakers. They know its Kobe’s show
and they are on the court to do the little things that help teams pick up
victories.

OUTLOOK

The Lakers have the best player in Los Angeles, but do they have the best
team? The Clippers have made this an interesting rivalry with their new found
success.

Because of the unbelievable talents of Bryant, the Lakers can win 45-48 games
and should once again be in the postseason. Any success in the playoffs will
depend on Kobe.

It’s all about Kobe!

LAL