Lakers eye a `modest’ season

first_img The question, then, as the Lakers held their annual media day and left for training camp in Honolulu, was whether the coach with nine championship rings might have designs on something greater than the eighth seed in the Western Conference. “Phil is a winner,” forward Devean George said. “I don’t think he’s going to come back and expect us to be mediocre. I think he wants to come back and get everything out of us and himself that he can. At his welcome back news conference in June, Phil Jackson sent writers and fans alike racing to the dictionary with his declaration that he wouldn’t be a “panacea” for the Lakers this season. There was no confusion, though, when Jackson said he would be “most amazed” if the Lakers were contending for a championship by the last of the three years he is under contract to coach. He might not be a miracle worker, but sometime during Jackson’s season away, the Zen master turned into a master of managing expectations. He was at it again last week, speaking about winning 44, maybe 45, games and fighting for a playoff spot. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “I’m not sure if we’re satisfied with 45 (wins) as players. I don’t know, I think we want to make more of an improvement than 10 wins from last season.” After finishing 34-48 and missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, success can be measured modestly for the Lakers. Yet there are clues that Jackson expects greater things sooner, particularly if Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown develop this season. Jackson said last week that Brown, who underachieved in four seasons in Washington, could be the difference between being good and “really good.” There also is frequent talk about the redemption of the Lakers, something that would require more than a first-round playoff exit. He said Monday that the Lakers offered the best chance of being competitive in the shortest period of time as he mulled his return to coaching. He compared this season’s team to his 1994-95 Chicago Bulls that finished 47-35 with Michael Jordan returning for the final 17 games. The Bulls went 72-10 the following season. Even so, Jackson again played down expectations, though the Lakers do play in a conference where seven teams won at least 49 games last season. center_img “We don’t think that by and large that we’re anywhere close to a team that could step out and challenge in this conference that we’re in,” Jackson said. “This is a difficult conference. But we anticipate that in the next year, two years, we’re going to be able to develop that talent.” In between questions about relationship with Jackson, Kobe Bryant was asked Monday about his coach setting the bar so low. “I haven’t put a cap or a ceiling on what we can do,” Bryant said. “It’s one of those things where if the team gels and we’re executing the right way, you never know what may happen.” Odom, meanwhile, said he can sense many people already are counting out the Lakers. He said the only goal is getting to the playoffs, because that comes with the chance of playing for a championship. LAKERS NOTES: Bryant sounded almost compliant Monday in talking about Jackson, even declaring, “He’s the coach, I’m the player. He gives me things that he needs me to execute or things that he needs me to do, I do them.” … Odom estimated his left shoulder was about 85 percent and said he would not rush things in the preseason. Odom has not been cleared to play after undergoing surgery in April to repair a torn labrum. He might have to miss early exhibition games. … Forward Jumaine Jones, the subject of trade rumors, was not at media day after taking an elbow to the face over the weekend. A team spokesman said Jones would be on the Lakers’ flight to Hawaii. … Only a year after retiring as a player, Scottie Pippen will get his first taste of coaching over the next 10 days, asked by Phil Jackson to work with Odom in the triangle offense at training camp. Pippen’s official title is a consultant. … After reporting to camp last year at 230 pounds, Bryant is a lighter 214 this season. Bryant focused on increasing his speed this summer and the results have been surprising, strength coach Joe Carbone said. Bryant now is as quick as even the NBA’s fastest point guards, Carbone said. … The Lakers signed veteran big man Corie Blount, who last played for Chicago and Toronto in the 2003-04 season. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more