For the Los Angeles Lakers, training camp is the perfect opportunity for both the staff and the fans to accurately gauge the expectations they should have for the season.
With Steve Nash and Pau Gasol both apparently healthy and ready to go, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation, the Lakers have a whole roster of unproven talent outside of the two veterans to mold into a cohesive unit by the end of training camp.
Kobe Bryant's absence from training camp makes it unrealistic at best to expect him to return to the starting lineup by opening night. This means that there will be a lot of opportunities during training camp for the bevvy of guards on this team to step up and earn themselves some playing time.
At this point in the NBA season, the spotlight falls heavily upon Mike D'Antoni, who has a chance to prove his critics wrong by using this training camp to fully implement his system.
Although there are many things to watch for this training camp, perhaps the most obvious thing to observe is chemistry.
Last season, the Lakers had issues. Those issues centered around Dwight Howard's future, Howard's relationship with Kobe, D'Antoni's preference for Howard over Gasol and a myriad of other Superman- related things.
While it's unfair to label Howard the scapegoat, the team seems to think that the team chemistry is already better than it was last season, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. While you could point to Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace or any of the other players who have left, the biggest absent elephant in the room is obviously Howard.
It might not be the status quo for long, but Bryant's absence may enable D'Antoni to run a more equal-opportunity offense that should help with the morale and enthusiasm.
Setting the pace during training camp will make for a more fluid offense even when the Black Mamba has to be eased back into a prominent role in the lineup.
How healthy are Pau Gasol and Steve Nash?
Despite working a limited practice schedue, Gasol and Nash don't appear to be carrying over any of their lingering injuries from last season.
If they can maintain a steady pace during training camp, and if their minutes are adequately managed during the season, they should be more of a force than they were last season.
Perhaps just as importantly, if Nash and Gasol are able to develop a rapport resembling Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire's partnership, the Lakers will have a very dynamic combo to surround their shooters.
Despite the fact that Gasol isn't the athlete and rim-finisher that Stoudemire was, he's more competent in almost every other facet of the game.
Even at this age, Nash and Gasol can be a force on the offensive end if D'Antoni can really cater his system to both of their strengths.
Which player will step up?
From Nick Young to Jordan Farmar, there are a myriad of young talents on this team who could potentially make a big impact this season. It all starts during training camp, when players can shuffle their way into the rotation.
Without Bryant for the time being and with Nash working in limited practices, there is plenty of room for a young athlete like Young to impress D'Antoni and the coaching staff.
Outside of Nash, Bryant and Gasol, the rest of the positions are basically available for anybody to take.
Even Chris Kaman isn't safe as the incumbent starter: Jordan Hill has the potential to hustle himself into more playing time than Kaman.
Training camp is all about implementing a system and earning your stripes. If the young guns can outwork their peers, then players like Farmar and Young can usurp even more minutes from the aging starters.
What kind of offense will Mike D'Antoni implement?
While the structure of the roster points towards D'Antoni trying to resurrect his run-and-gun system, the Lakers found a lot of success last season when they utilized their big men.
Even without Howard this year, D'Antoni should still consider utilizing Gasol extensively in the post when the offense slows down into a halfcourt pace.
While it still remains to see if D'Antoni will lean towards this path during training camp, Gasol should still be an essential part of the system.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!