The Los Angeles Lakers have made the playoffs 27 of the 28 years and last year’s team was no exception. They made it to the NBA Finals lost to the Detroit Pistons, a move that would change the Lakers forever. Coach Phil Jackson wasn’t brought back and was replaced by Rudy Tomjanovich. The team realized that Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe couldn’t play together so they traded O’Neal to Miami for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler. The team also traded point guard Gary Payton and small forward Rick Fox to the Celtics for Chris Mihm, Chucky Atkins, and Marcus Banks while managing to lure Vlade Divac out of Sacramento. Derek Fisher left the team to sign with Golden State and Karl Malone is still uncertain about his future.
The Lakers are in the Pacific Division with the Clippers, the Sacramento Kings, the Phoenix Suns, and the Golden State Warriors. The Kings have given the Lakers a run for their money over the last few seasons and with the departure of O’Neal, they might be the team to beat. The Suns, Clippers, and Warriors all improved in the off-season so the Lakers know they will need to be at their best the entire season to make a strong run in the playoffs. In the draft, they picked point guard Sasha Vujacic with the 27 th overall pick.
Kobe now has the team to himself but no one knows if he can play as well without the big man in the middle clearing the lane for him. He’ll start at the two with Chucky Atkins playing the point until Vujacic is ready. Vlade Divac will likely start at center and Luke Walton and Lamar Odom will see a lot of time at small forward and power forward. If Malone leaves or retires, Odom and Walton will play more of the three while Grant moves over to the four.
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