The Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the 2012-13 campaign with their media day Monday, Oct. 1, from El Segundo, the first time the new-look Lakers were all gathered together prior to the upcoming season.
Gossip regarding the Lakers has been a hot topic this offseason with L.A. having so many new pieces in key positions. Injuries, new players and a new system all are questions surrounding the Lakers in training camp as they prepare for the 2012-13 season.
In the following slides, we will address some of the latest Lakers training camp gossip while breaking down each one.
One of the questions facing the Lakers going into training camp was who would be Steve Nash's primary back up at point guard; incumbent Steve Blake or newcomer Chris Duhon, whom the Lakers acquired as part of the Dwight Howard trade.
Blake made the battle more intriguing a week before camp was set to open by stepping on a parking lot spike and puncturing his foot, sidelining him for three weeks. Blake was said to have the advantage in the backup PG battle having already played for Mike Brown last season, but his injury gives Duhon an opportunity to shine in the preseason and impress the coaching staff.
Blake's injury will also give a couple of younger Lakers looking to make the opening day roster a chance to get playing time in the preseason.
Rookie second-round pick Darius Johnson-Odom and second-year guard Darius Morris will most likely be competing for a spot at the end of the Lakers bench, and Blake's injury will allow them to prove their worth over the next few weeks.
The Lakers announced Monday during media day that they have signed 6'7" guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, a three-year vet who spent last season playing overseas. But with 19 players already on the deep training-camp roster, questions regarding the CDR signing were immediately raised.
Wing guard/forward is an area of depth already for the Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace as the starters and Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks and Earl Clark (to a lesser extent) as the primary reserves.
If anything, Douglas-Roberts will push Ebanks for minutes backing up MWP while also giving the Lakers more depth and size at shooting guard. The signing is a low-risk gamble if CDR can indeed make the roster.
They say you can never have enough size in the NBA, and luckily for the Lakers, they have size in abundance on their roster for next season. The question is which of their young big men will emerge from training camp and land a gig as the emergency big man.
Robert Sacre, Greg Somogyi, and Ronnie Aguilar were all brought in to compete for a spot at the end of the Lakers bench.
At this early stage, Sacre is the most likely to land a roster spot, considering that he was drafted 60th overall by the Lakers in June after averaging 11.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg for Gonzaga last season. Sacre also flashed some decent post skills and a solid shooting stroke from mid-range.
During the summer per the LA Times, the Lakers also signed Somogyi, a rookie 7-footer out of local UC Santa Barbara who produced little in college. Ronnie Aguilar and Reeves Nelson were also signed to non-guaranteed deals to fill out the training-camp roster.
If Dwight Howard can return to the court by the start of the regular season, that will definitely trigger the release of Somogyi and Aguilar. The Chris Douglas-Roberts signing makes Nelson expendable, meaning he will most likely land in the D-league. That leaves Sacre as the lone rookie 7-footer.
Sacre's skill and having played against better competition than the others in question give him an edge over the rest of the field. Also, given the Lakers' depth at the guard positions, ultra-athletic rookie guard Darius Johnson-Odom may be headed for the D-League to start the season.
Yahoo! Sports reported last week that Dwight Howard is targeting the Lakers opener on Oct. 30 against the Mavericks as his return date, a report that Howard refuted Monday at media day. But after watching his workout video the Lakers posted last week and his dancing on 'Ellen," a return by the end of the month seems to be very realistic.
Howard has been rehabbing from his back all summer after undergoing surgery in April. If he is indeed 85 percent healthy as the Yahoo! report indicates, the Lakers trainers have four weeks to get Howard ready for the opener.
Howard is a seasoned vet and won't need to play in the preseason, so the extra time off the court may be enough to get him back to full strength.
Once Howard is medically cleared to return to practice, the Lakers will still need to approach Howard's back rehab with caution, though. Rushing Howard back too soon (no pun intended) would do more harm than help, and Howard is a key piece to their championship.
Which leads us to our final training-camp storyline...
When asked the question Monday at media day about whose team the Lakers were, per ESPN LA Kobe Bryant answered in typical Kobe fashion:
"I don't want to get into the, 'Well, we share ...' No, it's my team. But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away, this organization can ride on as if I never left."
Now if you recall, during the season there were rumors that Dwight Howard was allegedly against a trade to the Lakers (per RealGM.com) because he didn't want to play second fiddle to Bryant. Apparently Howard is somewhat on board with Kobe's comments, and offered a similar response to the question:
"I'm willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest to ever play the game and I think it will be great," Howard said. "I think learning from a guy like Kobe, I know he's going to be tough on me, but I expect that and I want him to do that. So, I'll take all the heat that he's going to give me because I know at the end of the day, that's going to make me a better player and a better person and it's going to make this team better."
Howard's response is to be expected considering that he is the one joining a Lakers team that Kobe has been the alpha dog of for close to a decade now. Although it is interesting that Kobe spoke as if Howard signing with the Lakers long-term once the season is over is a certainty, despite Howard's reported history of indecisiveness that eventually led to his exit from Orlando.
Steve Nash seems to have the type of laid-back personality that won't have an issue taking a back seat to the huge egos of Bryant and Howard. The question is whether the all-business Bryant and the fun-loving Howard can share the locker room and attention as the leaders of the Lakers team challenging for a title immediately.
We also can't ignore Kobe previously having a rocky relationship with another joyful center that came to L.A. from the Magic, although at 34, Bryant is a bit more mature and knows he needs Howard's help at this stage of his career.
The current edition of the Lakers has a very small window to succeed. If they can find the right combination of lineups, remain healthy and on the same page, there is little stopping them from holding a parade next June as the 2012-13 NBA champions.