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PACIFIC

Dec. 05, 2011
Dec. 05, 2011

Table of Contents
Dec. 5, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NBA PREVIEW 2011-12
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
PRO FOOTBALL
  • A first-ever postseason berth is the righteous cause in Houston—but with two QBs already lost to injury, the Texans will need hard-charging, deep-thinking feature back Arian Foster to lead the way

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
SPECIAL REPORT
Departments

PACIFIC

LOS ANGELES LAKERS(57--25)

This is an article from the Dec. 5, 2011 issue

What they've got

Nothing helps a new coach more than championship-caliber talent, so Mike Brown should be fine. The core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace (né Ron Artest) remains from the team that won the 2010 title but was humbled by the Mavericks last May. Brown's pedigree is defense, but his arrival signals the end of the vaunted triangle offense in L.A.

What they need

A longer training camp, for starters, what with the new system to implement and all. Or perhaps some antiaging cream, seeing how Fisher is 37 and the mileage on Bryant's wheels goes beyond his 33 years. A deal for Dwight Howard or Chris Paul would do too.

Bottom line

It's still championship-or-bust here, so a slow start could spark major changes. This is a very different challenge for Brown, who reared a teenage phenom in LeBron James but must now gain the confidence of Bryant, who is as strong-headed as they come.

PHOENIX SUNS(40--42)

What they've got

Point guard Steve Nash, and not much else. The future Hall of Famer is surrounded by role players, with the Suns' long-term money tied up in the likes of Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Marcin Gortat.

What they need

On the heels of a 40-win season, perhaps Phoenix will see what so many others have for quite a while: It's time to trade Nash. The Suns have to find a motivated suitor while Nash's value is still high and get a package that includes his replacement, as restricted free-agent point guard Aaron Brooks signed a one-year deal with Guangdong of the Chinese Basketball Association that has no opt-out clause.

Bottom line

Even with a lift from Kansas rookie forward Markieff Morris, Phoenix is going nowhere fast. Just thank Nash for his last seven years of service to the Suns and let the rebuilding process begin in earnest.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS(36--46)

What they've got

Second-year owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber had an impressive hiring frenzy during the lockout, adding a rookie coach (Mark Jackson), a respected lead assistant (Michael Malone) and a brilliant consultant (Jerry West). Change starts at the top, and ownership is clearly willing to be aggressive.

What they need

A new roster to implement the Warriors' new emphasis on defense. That means one of their high-scoring guards, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, is destined to be traded to balance out the roster. Forward David Lee needs to be paired alongside a far more imposing big man than Andris Biedrins, so a serious push will be made for a free-agent center, such as Nenê (Nuggets) or Tyson Chandler (Mavericks).

Bottom line

Lacob was a minority owner of the Celtics during their resurgence, and he's determined to pull off a similar turnaround here. Don't be surprised if Golden State leads the league in bold moves.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS(32--50)

What they've got

Power forward Blake Griffin is the most dynamic young talent to enter the league since LeBron James. Fourth-year guard Eric Gordon is a building block in his own right (22.3 ppg, though he missed 26 games with a right wrist fracture). Point guard Mo Williams and center Chris Kaman are respectable placeholders.

What they need

First, the Clippers must maintain their strength in the paint by keeping restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan. Giving Gordon an extension should come next, followed by signing a small forward on the free-agent market. Tayshaun Prince (Pistons) would be a great fit, but he'll have many suitors. Shane Battier (Grizzlies) is another option.

Bottom line

They have hope, which is rare in this division, and plenty of salary-cap room should penurious owner Donald Sterling choose to use it. The onus will be on second-year coach Vinny Del Negro to forge significant improvement or face serious scrutiny.

SACRAMENTO KINGS(24--58)

What they've got

As if staving off relocation to Anaheim for at least this season wasn't reason enough for the locals to celebrate, they'll now get to cheer Jimmer Fredette at every turn. The former BYU sharpshooter--marketing dynamo is sure to energize what was already a compelling young core that includes center DeMarcus Cousins, guard Tyreke Evans and newly acquired J.J. Hickson.

What they need

Based on the terms of the tentative CBA, the Kings will be required to spend or acquire around $18 million in salary before the start of the season. Restricted free-agent guard Marcus Thornton, who averaged 21.3 points in 27 games after he was traded from the Hornets last season, tops Sacramento's wish list

Bottom line

Coach Paul Westphal enters the final year of his contract knowing that he must make serious strides on defense (104.7 ppg allowed on 47.8% shooting) and in the wins column.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (GASOL)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (NASH)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (CURRY)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (GORDON)PHOTOROCKY WIDNER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (EVANS)
SCOUT'S TAKE
"The Lakers are the cream of the crop. They fell apart against Dallas in the playoffs on defense, and [new coach] Mike Brown will focus on that."