- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
HONOLULU -- Five early observations from Lakers camp:
1. Health of Kobe and Phil: The most overlooked reason to believe they'll get along better is that neither comes into this season plagued by physical pain.
Kobe Bryant had a full summer to train for the first time in several years and it is showing. While everyone dragged themselves off the court after the first practice session, Kobe didn't look as though he'd broken a sweat, despite repeatedly bringing the ball up against pressure.
"He was competing as if we're playing regular-season games, so you can tell he's kind of antsy to get started," said Luke Walton, who was part of a regular full-court run at the Lakers' training facility for most of September.
Phil Jackson, meanwhile, almost looks comfortable moving around the court and was active enough to work up a sheen of sweat on his forehead. Anyone who remembers him hobbling around as though one leg were several inches shorter than the other -- nearly a candidate for Monty Python's Department of Silly Walks -- will be astounded at how tall he actually is. (He was 6-foot-8 as an NBA player three decades ago.)
Jackson hinted that he had to be sure his health could endure a full season before he accepted the Lakers' job, and everyone assumed it was the heart problems he had two years ago.
Wrong. The spinal fusion he had as a player was the real threat to his comeback. The combination of deteriorating discs and the awful ergonomics of team benches, team buses and hotel beds have taken their toll.
After Lakers VP (and Jackson's girlfriend) Jeanie Buss suggested he buy a Segway to get up and down the court, Jackson got into action and began a rigorous physical therapy routine that includes a lot of ab work. He credits athletic performance coordinator -- I swear I'm not making these titles up -- Alex McKechnie for the workout routines that have him walking upright.
2. Still Looking To Deal: The Lakers were disappointed about Eddy Curry going to the Knicks because they were sure they made a better offer to the Bulls.
Lamar Odom's shoulder, the point-guard situation and the way the triangle will work are topics Ric Bucher addresses.