This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2007 issue
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: F-C Kwame Brown, F Vladimir Radmanovic, G Jordan Farmar, F Brian Cook,C Chris Mihm
Record: 42-40(7th in West) Points scored: 103.3 (5th in NBA) Points allowed: 103.4 (25th)Coach: Phil Jackson (third season with Lakers)
Center andrewbynum received one important stamp of approval during training camp. PeteNewell, the ultimate big-man guru, praised the way the 7-footer played at thebeginning of last season and said that Bynum's performance tailed off onlybecause of withering criticism from Kobe Bryant. "I think he was a littleconfused at the end because he was catching a little hell from Kobe,"Newell told the Los Angeles Times. "They've got to make it clear to Kobethat he's not the coach and he should be positive, not negative, when [Bynum]makes the mistakes that he made."
Bryant has sinceprofessed support of Bynum, albeit in a vanilla manner, but his harsh wordslast season--he was also caught on video in May ripping Bynum to two collegestudents--no doubt remain in the head of the impressionable Bynum, who justturned 20.
The criticism wasnot all unfounded, though. The conditioning and work ethic of the mild-manneredBynum, who was drafted four months before his 18th birthday, has beenquestioned by others besides Bryant, including coach Phil Jackson. But Bynum,entering his third year, says he spent considerable time in the weight room andon the track this off-season and feels stronger and "better able to hold myground in the post."
One presumes thathe will hold his ground, too, in the battle for a starting position, if one cancall anything that involves Kwame Brown a battle. Chris Mihm, back from rightankle surgery that caused him to miss last season, has joined the fray, butBynum has more upside to his game.
No matter howwell Bynum plays, though, trade rumors likely will dog him. Indiana's JermaineO'Neal has expressed a desire to play in L.A. So have many others--with thenotable exception of Bynum's most important critic, the teammate whosedemanding standards he has to meet.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Lakers
The only goodthing the Lakers have is Kobe Bryant, and he knows this is another year that hecan't win it all. And that's all he cares about--winning the title. I don'tlike his poor supporting cast, and I don't like what his attitude will be as aresult. . . . Their point guard situation is one of the worst in the league.None of them has a strong personality, no one has blow-by speed, no one canknock it down, no one is a great on-ball defender. They're all backups. . . .I've soured on Lamar Odom. He has the body and the tools, but does he have theheart to win? . . . Luke Walton is a 50-50 player who won't kill you, but hewon't help you win games either. He's a do-nothing-wrong, do-nothing-rightplayer as far as helping his team win. . . . It will be interesting to see howPhil Jackson handles things. He's used to being in the NBA Finals and deep inthe playoffs, and with his ego I can't see that he's going to like being inthis position where he has no chance.
For the secondseason in a row Kobe Bryant led the NBA in scoring after the All-Star break,averaging 36.7 points in that time. That's the highest average since the leaguebegan tracking the stat in 1990-91.