DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
All-time NBA scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen are among the legends helping coach the Lakers.
Lakers bring back greats
Returning coach Phil Jackson calls on some big names from the past
Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors
Practices: Through Monday
Where: University of Hawaii (Lakers), BYU-Hawaii (Warriors). Practices are closed to the public.
Games: Tuesday and Wednesday, Stan Sheriff Center.
Tickets: Available at the Sheriff Center box office, via telephone at 944-2697, and online at etickethawaii.com. Prices range from $10 to $80.
With 17 of the 20 players on the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason roster 28 years old or younger, the focus of this year's training camp in Hawaii has been more about the team's development and chemistry.
It's an unusual position for head coach Phil Jackson, who returns to a Lakers club that features just five returnees from the team he coached two years ago. But while the names Shaq, Payton and Malone have been replaced by Odom, Kwame and Bynum, Jackson enters this season without the expectations of it being a "title or bust" year.
"We hope that something happens to this basketball club that we're thinking about (winning a championship) in March and April and May, but that's the farthest thing away from my mind," Jackson said. "Right now, we're just thinking about how to be a really competitive team."
Jackson isn't alone in trying to achieve that goal this training camp, as he's brought with him a Hall of Fame group to help coach this team, including former Lakers greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy and seven-time NBA all-star Scottie Pippen, who won six world titles under Jackson with the Chicago Bulls in the '90s. Abdul-Jabbar and Pippen rank 1 and 2 all time in career NBA playoff game appearances with 445 between them.
"They're the greatest players to learn from and to hear from," third-year forward Luke Walton said. "For a young team like us, it brings us together. People are willing to learn and listen to those guys."
It's a new position for Pippen to be in, having only retired from the game after the 2003-04 season. But his familiarity with the triangle offense, along with his relationship with Jackson and his interest in staying involved with the game after his playing career made the choice to come out to Hawaii an easy one.
"(Coaching) is just something I enjoy," Pippen said. "As a player I always tried to be a leader, and try to put my team on the same pages and get us all playing together. (Phil and Tex Winter) gave me the opportunity to become a complete player and a guy that could be a teacher out on the floor, so it's pretty much an easy transition."
It was a little unique for Pippen wearing the purple and gold colors of the Lakers, especially after battling them for so many years as part of the great Lakers/Bulls rivalries of the late '80s and early '90s.
"We had some great fights, great wars throughout my career, and being on the other side of the fence is a little bit odd, but I'm a basketball player, I'm not holding any grudges," Pippen said.
He has spent the majority of the first two practices working with Kobe Bryant, both in the post and on the defensive side of the ball.
"I've always looked up to Scottie, and I'm very excited to have him around to be able to learn from him," Bryant said. "Jerry West was a mentor of mine, Magic was a mentor, now I get to work with Worthy, show me the Worthy spin, and to have Pip out here showing me things defensively what to do, it doesn't get any better."
Abdul-Jabbar has taken a keen interest in first-round draft pick Andrew Bynum, a 7-foot center who just last year was playing high school ball at Saint Joseph in New Jersey. Despite Bynum being a lottery pick, the Lakers are toying with the idea of starting him out in the NBA Developmental League instead of wasting valuable learning time sitting on the bench.
"That's a great option for him and allows him to get some game experience," Abdul-Jabbar said. "The last time he played a full season, it was against 16-year-old kids, so physically it's going to get to him."
Added Jackson: "It's almost impossible for us to speculate on Day 2 where he's going to be on Day 28 after an exhibition season. We anticipate that with the developmental league there is great opportunity for him to learn the game down there too. Whether we send him there or not is not a given, but it's always an opportunity."
Other notable former players helping coach the Lakers include Brian Shaw, who was on the Lakers' three most-recent championship teams; Kurt Rambis, who earned four rings with the Lakers during the "Showtime" era; and Craig Hodges, who won two titles under Jackson with the Bulls.
"We have a Hall of Fame group of guys out here," Jackson said. "That's an obvious group out there that changes up everything."
As practice ended yesterday, Pippen, Hodges and Shaw were part of the last group to leave the court. When Bryant was asked what his team would do in a game against the veteran coaches, Bryant responded smiling, "Foul them hard one time. That'd remind them how old they are."
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Warriors went 18-10 after trading for point guard Baron Davis last season.
Davis hopes backcourt can lead Warriors to playoffs
Baron Davis will keep an eye on the Golden State Warriors' stat sheet this season, though he won't necessarily focus on the numbers beside his name.
Instead, the Warriors guard will measure his success by the production of his backcourt partner -- Jason Richardson.
"He is one of the top 10 scoring leaders and I plan to help him be one of the top five scorers in this league," Davis said of Richardson.
"I'm just really excited to be playing with him. Knowing how hard he worked in the offseason to improve his skills, it's making me step up my game too."
Davis was acquired by the Warriors in a trade last February and helped spark Golden State to a strong finish that raised expectations for the upcoming season.
Davis is taking part in his first training camp with Golden State at the Brigham Young-Hawaii campus in Laie. There, the Warriors are taking the first steps in what they hope will be a march to the playoffs.
"It's a challenge," Davis said. "This franchise has been challenged over the past 10 years as far as having a certain kind of expectations. We have the youth, we have the swagger, the guys have the work ethic and it's a matter of us going out there and applying it."
Golden State hasn't been to the postseason in 11 seasons, but an 18-10 surge that coincided with Davis' arrival last season has the Warriors eyeing a top-eight finish in the Western Conference this season.
"Nobody has any personal goals -- it's team goals first and personal goals second," said Richardson, a four-year veteran with the Warriors.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Point guard Baron Davis, who is starting the year with the Warriors for the first time, says one of his goals is to improve the scoring average of backcourt mate Jason Richardson, right.
Golden State sent Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis to New Orleans in exchange for Baron Davis at last season's trade deadline.
Prior to the trade, the Warriors averaged 95.2 points per game. That figure jumped to 105.4 with Davis in the lineup and Golden State went 14-4 in its last 18 games.
"We can do a lot of stuff with Baron that you can only do with a guard of his stature," Golden State coach Mike Montgomery said. "He can find people, he can finish at the basket, he's strong, he can shoot from outside. If he has the kind of year he's capable of and stays healthy it just makes us a whole lot better, because he makes everybody better."
Staying healthy was a challenge for Davis last season as the two-time All-Star averaged 19.2 points and 7.9 assists while battling through nagging injuries for much of the campaign.
Though he had ice packs on his shoulder and ankle as precautionary measures after yesterday morning's practice at the Cannon Activities Center, Davis said he's healthy entering his seventh season in the league.
"Not only do we get him for a full season, but he's healthy," Richardson said. "He went through all of last season pretty much hurting and did amazing things for us. So I can't wait to see what he'll do this year when he's healthy."
With Davis, Richardson and long-time Lakers guard Derek Fisher returning, the Warriors feature a veteran backcourt and a fan-friendly style that has contributed to an increase of 3,600 season-ticket purchases heading into this season.
Forwards Mike Dunleavy (13.4 ppg) and Troy Murphy (15.4 ppg) also posted their highest scoring averages of their careers last season.
"We were fun to watch last year because in order for us to win we have to score points," Montgomery said. "We're not going to be a banging, grind-it-out, half-court team. As a result, you're seeing us take a lot of 3s, you're seeing the ball move, and I think people like that style and basically people are hungry for a winner."
Along with learning to play with Davis at the end of last season, the Warriors also have a year of experience in Montgomery's system. The former Stanford coach led Golden State to a 34-48 mark in his first season in the NBA.
"There's a lot more familiarity with people," he said. "We know what we have, I know what guys can do, they know what to expect from me and the coaches. ... The proof's going to be in the pudding. You can talk all you want, until you start winning some games, that's going to be the real telling time."