The NBA Finals have officially begun, and for the second straight year the Lakers disappointingly did not make it to the end. While Lakers management will be busy during the summer with the draft, free agency and trading players to enable the Lakers to compete at the top again next season, the players use the off-season as preparation for next year, or at least they should.
Since the players don’t essentially control where they end up, they maximize the fact that they can indeed control how they play each season. Today, I will begin a three-part series describing what certain players should focus on during the off-season. This article will detail the expectations and routines for Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum might look like.
As we all know, Kobe will be representing the United States of America in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kobe entered the games after a hugely disappointing loss in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics. The Olympics served as a way to revert his somber mood after losing to Boston, and directed his focus to winning and representing our country in the great game of basketball.
Bryant will hope to replicate this experience as he goes for his second gold medal. Additionally, the Olympics will serve as a great source of practice and conditioning in a perfect setting. Unlike last summer, Bryant and his teammates will be able to play the game under essentially the same NBA conditions with the true experience of a regular season game. Hopefully, this will help Bryant improve his shooting as the Olympics experience will be much more beneficial than a lockout off-season.
However, Bryant is getting older and must be careful not to put it into overdrive during the off-season. Still, this will probably be ignored by Kobe since he is the ultimate competitor. Bryant will return to Germany sometime during the off-season to receive Orthokine or Regenokine therapy on his knees, just as he did last year. The procedure did wonders for Bryant last season, and with a little rest, he hopes it will continue.
MT: Bynum has obviously had injuries in the past centering on his knees, but made it through this season healthy, missing only one game due to injury. He came in healthy, stayed healthy and is now healthy. Does that give him an advantage next season of staying healthy?
Vitti: Yes. It should. Andrew does have some alignment issues that are apart of his make up, but you try and make him the best that he can be. We worked at it as a staff, and he worked at it, and to his credit, he also played through some things this season that would have sidelined some guys in other years. He needs to be credited for that. He could have easily taken a game or two off due to swelling in his knee, but he did not. He gutted through it.
Gary Vitti also confirmed that Andrew Bynum will undergo the same procedure that Kobe Bryant had on his knees last summer (Orthokine or Regenokine). The biggest threat that has surrounded Andrew Bynum for years has been his ability to remain healthy. This will only multiply as Bynum continues to become a bigger contributor to the Lakers. Last season, Bynum was able to stay healthy and the results of this were evident.
Bynum increased his game to become the second best center in the NBA, and at times couldn’t be matched or guarded by anyone. However, Bynum struggled with immaturity issues that Laker fans are all too familiar with. Lakers management sent a message that Bynum is their future and is valued by the organization with their pick-up of the team’s option on his contract and the expectation that they will extend his contract in the off-season.
Therefore, Bynum will be expected to mature and to align his mental focus on the game with his physical abilities. The Lakers hold their players to a higher standard, as do the fans, because of the history and tradition that surrounds the organization. If Bynum is able to do this, his game will expand and could catapult to a whole different level among his NBA competitors.
Bryant and Bynum both have work to do to their game in the off-season. Bryant needs to improve on his shot selection and his shooting percent, as last season was his worst true shooting percentage performance in his career. Of course, as the team improves and new players are brought in to spread the floor, Bryant’s game and stats will change for the better.
Bynum needs to continually work to improve his footwork when getting into position with his back turned away from the basket. Additionally, he must work on dealing with double-teams on offense and defending against the pick and roll. Of course, both Bryant and Bynum must remain healthy and continue to condition their bodies in order for them to both return next season ready to lead the Lakers back to success.