Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Lakers pillars start off bit shaky
Still, Jackson and Bryant have been assured they will be ready for the regular season.
By KEVIN DING
The Orange County Register
EL SEGUNDO – Besides the coach and the star player, everyone else is just a guy right now.
Lamar Odom is Vlade Divac. Kwame Brown is Elden Campbell. Smush Parker is Sedale Threatt.
But Phil Jackson is Phil Jackson, and Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant ... and so the Lakers, as long as those pillars are in place, can dream of being the glorious Lakers again.
The problem is that one pillar is getting a prosthetic hip joint, putting him in the hospital instead of the gym when training camp opens today, and the other pillar has a surgically repaired knee that was just cleared to endure light running Monday.
And for the Lakers to progress from the team that won 11 of its final 14 regular-season games and took Phoenix to a Game 7 in the playoffs, they need Jackson to recover well from right hip surgery and for Bryant to rebuild strength in his right knee as soon as possible.
In addressing his players Monday, Jackson acknowledged he "put off" dealing with his hip pain. He later told reporters it was natural to hope to avoid surgery.
"Most everybody would say it's not something you would volunteer to do," Jackson said. "So you'd probably wait until you realize it's difficult. Am I more hard-headed and determined than an average person? I probably am; I probably have to fess up to that."
Although Jackson did mention a friend suffered a heart attack and died while getting his hip replaced, he said his mother had more than 20 years of good use from a prosthetic hip and was optimistic about recovery.
"I'll probably be here within the period of a week, at least, to observe something," Jackson said.
He has outlined practice plans for fill-in coach Kurt Rambis for only one week of a camp that will be dedicated more to defense than offense. However long Jackson is away, the Lakers will record each practice and have it for Jackson to study on his own.
"We'll have it all on DVD," Rambis said, "which when you go back and look at it, it might be incredibly boring. But he will have access."
Jackson has been told there's little chance he won't be ready to coach Oct.31.
"Dr. (Lawrence) Dorr, who's doing the procedure, tells me I'll be walking with pride at the opening night against Phoenix," Jackson said.
Another reason Jackson is OK with missing part of camp is he has a team leader in Bryant, who should push the Lakers to work.
"There's also that self-motivation that you want to see a team have, the maturity to discipline themselves and bring themselves forward," Jackson said. "And I think this team has the leadership to do that. They're not going to goof off; it's not the teacher away and a substitute teacher. I don't see that at all happening with this team."
Jackson estimated Bryant's knee will keep him out of full-scale practices "for maybe a week or so, maybe two (weeks)." Bryant didn't offer a timetable, but said he should be ready for Oct.31.
And while Jackson is recuperating and Bryant is doing more watching than practicing, the star player is prepared to get into the mindset of the coach a little bit.
"He and I have really become extremely close," Bryant said of Jackson. "We're talking, and he's really my mentor as far as leadership goes and how to lead a team and the philosophies that he employs. So I learn basically everything from him."