Lak­ers back at it in blink of an eye

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Mike Bres­na­han

It’s strange how the months melt away so quickly, how a cham­pi­onship cel­e­bra­tion feels as though it hap­pened three days ago, not three months.

Even Kobe Bryant was dazed by the re­al­iza­tion it was that time again, the Lak­ers re­con­ven­ing Satur­day in El Se­gundo with hopes of turn­ing two con­sec­u­tive cham­pi­onships into that trade­marked Pat Ri­ley phrase.

In be­tween the rev­e­la­tions that An­drew Bynum would be out un­til late Novem­ber and Ron Artest was, in­deed, alive af­ter a sum­mer of cel­e­brat­ing, the Lak­ers looked into cam­eras, spoke into dig­i­tal voice recorders and pro­claimed the past was the past, no mat­ter how quickly 100 days had ex­pired.

“It’s kind of sur­real that we’re back here al­ready,” Bryant said. “It feels like just yes­ter­day we had the pa­rade.”

The Lak­ers be­gan train­ing camp with­out their 22year-old 7-footer, who said he wouldn’t be back for two more months, a timetable that con­tin­ued to shift for the worse in the eyes of Lak­ers fans, well be­yond the Oct. 26 opener against the Hous­ton Rock­ets at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

“I see more to­ward the

end of Novem­ber,” Bynum said. “The doc­tors are telling me this could be some­where around there.”

He said he would need four more weeks of re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing his knee be­fore he could even get on the court. He has been crit­i­cized by Lak­ers fol­low­ers and the me­dia for hav­ing the surgery so late, get­ting his knee drained af­ter the NBA Fi­nals so he could at­tend soc­cer’s World Cup in South Africa and take a Euro­pean vacation.

“Ob­vi­ously, [the crit­i­cism is] be­cause I could get the surgery the next day,” Bynum said. “But you kind of got to be ready to go into surgery. I don’t think that’s the thing you want to do com­ing off a long sea­son and com­ing off a cham­pi­onship. I kind of took my time with it, and I’m fine.”

The way the Lak­ers ex­plain it, Bynum’s per­sonal doc­tor, New York-based David Altchek, planned to cut away or shave a piece of torn car­ti­lage in Bynum’s right knee. But upon be­gin­ning the pro­ce­dure, he de­cided in­stead to sew up the tear, re­quir­ing a longer re­cov­ery pe­riod in re­turn for bet­ter long-term sta­bil­ity in the area.

If Bynum re­turns by Nov. 26, he will have missed 15 games, but the surgery news isn’t all bad for the Lak­ers.

Bryant, who turned 32 last month, said his right knee felt strong since an arthro­scopic pro­ce­dure in July to re­move loose bod­ies. The in­dex fin­ger on his right hand will, how­ever, be a lin­ger­ing is­sue as he en­ters his 15th NBA sea­son.

Bryant broke a bone in the top part of the fin­ger last De­cem­ber and was later both­ered by an arthritic joint in the lower part of the fin­ger. He pon­dered surgery but de­cided against it.

“It just takes too long to re­cover with the kind of surgery I need to do to fix it,” Bryant said. “To miss so much of the sea­son for an in­jury I could play with doesn’t make any sense.”

The pain is still there when­ever he is smacked on the fin­ger, last­ing a minute or two, Bryant said, but “I can han­dle it.”

Bryant might lightly wrap the fin­ger dur­ing games and prac­tices, but the wrap will not be as ex­ten­sive as last sea­son’s as­sort­ment of con­trap­tions.

“My shot feels a lot bet­ter,” he said. “I can fol­low through with my fin­gers on the ball and get a bet­ter feel for it now than I did last year.”

Satur­day was the equiv­a­lent of back-to-school day, with vet­eran ac­qui­si­tions (Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff) min­gling with fresh-faced rook­ies (sec­on­dround picks Devin Ebanks and Der­rick Car­ac­ter) while the Lak­ers took turns do­ing in­ter­views and photo shoots be­fore their first prac­tice of the sea­son.

In­ter­est­ingly, there was no talk of 72 vic­to­ries, a trendy topic a year ago when the Lak­ers con­tem­plated the Chicago Bulls’ in­deli­ble 72-10 mark in 1995-96. There was, how­ever, dis­cus­sion of the new-look Mi­ami Heat, and Bryant sided with LeBron James’ de­ci­sion to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.

“I’m just ex­cited for him be­cause he seems to be happy,” he said. “All that other [crit­i­cism] stuff I didn’t like, be­cause I thought ev­ery­body else was com­ing down a lit­tle hard on him.”

There was also Artest, whose post-Fi­nals ef­fer­ves­cence car­ried over into Satur­day, when he spoke of an off-sea­son con­sist­ing of dodge ball games, var­i­ous sing­ing per­for­mances and a jersey switch from No. 37 to No. 15, the num­ber he wore in col­lege and early in his NBA ca­reer.

Luke Wal­ton also was up­beat, hop­ing he over­came back is­sues that plagued him most of last sea­son, point­ing to yoga and Pi­lates ses­sions as ways he strength­ened his back this sum­mer.

“We’re pretty much go­ing into [the sea­son] as if noth­ing’s wrong and see how it re­acts,” he said. “I’ve been try­ing to put it in pretty ex­treme sit­u­a­tions and it’s been hold­ing up for me.”

All in all, Bryant’s point of view car­ried the day, as is of­ten the case.

“The prime fo­cus in­di­vid­u­ally has al­ways been just to for­get about what hap­pened the sea­son be­fore,” he said. “That’s what we did last year and that’s what we’re go­ing to do this year.”

Barnes talks

Barnes spoke pub­licly for the first time since he was ar­rested this month on sus­pi­cion of do­mes­tic abuse in an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing his fi­ancee in Sacra­mento.

“It won’t af­fect my play at all, or with missing any kind of games,” he said. “My [court] date has been set on the 18th of next month. We’ll find out what’s go­ing on then. But we’ve been co­op­er­at­ing and ev­ery­thing should be fine.”


Robert Gauthier

Cen­ter An­drew Bynum is re­flected in the NBA cham­pi­onship tro­phy at the Lak­ers’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity.

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