It remains to be seen if the Lakers will be a playoff contender this season, but if anything, it will surely be the best conditioned team in the league if day one of training camp is any indication.
On Tuesday, the Lakers held its first practice of the new season, getting a fresh start under new head coach Byron Scott, who gave the team a taste of what to expect under his watch.
“I want to be a great conditioned team. That’s the bottom line,” said Scott. “The thing that I told our guys, ‘We’re going to lose some games this year, but it’s not going to be because the other team is in better shape.”
Running was undoubtedly the word of the day as players went through conditioning drills throughout practice and finishing the day running suicides, leaving players, both veterans and rookies, bent over at the waist trying to catch their breath. At the very end, Nick Young tiredly took a seat under the basket, eventually asking rookie Jordan Clarkson to help him to his feet.
Kobe Bryant made his much anticipated return to the court, participating in an official practice for the first time since last December. According to Scott, Kobe went through three quarters of the practice before being asked to shut it down, despite Kobe’s wishes of wanting to continue.
“He wanted to go more, but right now it’s just a progression of going a little bit a day,” said Scott.
Despite Kobe sitting out the final 30 to 40 minutes of practice, the 36-year old admitted the running was more than he had experienced in his career.
“It’s probably the most running I’ve ever done in an NBA practice,” said Kobe. “Actually it is, for sure. I’ve never run this much.”
The good news for Lakers fans is despite the extra work, Kobe said he felt like himself and that the injuries are in the past. He understands that at an older age, he must monitor his activity level more closely in practice, in order to “have something left in the tank every single day.”
Defense was another focal point on the first day, which should not come as a surprise as Scott made it known in interviews that Lakers basketball must start on that end of the floor. The conditioning and defense are things that go hand in hand, according to Kobe.
“Running and conditioning, that’s the biggest part,” said Kobe. “Everybody wants to play defense, but when you’re not conditioned to play defense, you go back to your natural instinct which is to play offense first.”
On Wednesday, the Lakers will begin two-a-days which will include a scrimmage with game officials. Both Kobe and Steve Nash are expected to practice in the morning session, but not later in the day. Scott said Kobe would play in all eight preseason games, to get rid of the rust after playing in only six games last season.
The first preseason game will be Tuesday Oct. 6 in San Diego at Valley View Casino Center when they take on the Denver Nuggets.