NBA Training Camp updates on the Lakers’ biggest challengers

10.02.10 7 years ago 15 Comments

Al Jefferson (photo. Bethany Gilbert)

As Week 1 of NBA training camp continues, we’re learning some things about the teams that will challenge the L.A. Lakers in the West. In Utah, Al Jefferson is looking less like Karl Malone and more like Carl Winslow, showing up to Jazz camp at 280 pounds when he was at 265 last year in Minnesota. It’s not exactly Mike Sweetney territory, but — as we were reminded in the conference semis sweep — the Jazz don’t have any margin for error if they’re seriously trying to knock off L.A. this time around. Jefferson says it’s not a big deal, that he wanted to put on a little more weight anyway to avoid getting pushed around in the paint, and he’ll lose the excess during camp … Jerry Sloan, meanwhile, apparently does think it’s a big deal. Sloan didn’t mention Jefferson by name, but the coach did say, “At this stage they’re probably a little bit tired. But I don’t really care. From that standpoint, they should be in better shape when they got here. If you’re going to spend your time getting conditioned in training camp, then you’re probably going to be trying to play catch-up the biggest part of the time.” … In San Antonio, Richard Jefferson spent the summer re-tooling his game and is getting rave reviews. Gregg Popovich went as far as comparing RJ’s dedication to that of a college kid looking for an NBA job. If RJ is playing like the guy the Spurs thought they were getting last season, you can’t count Tim Duncan‘s guys out of the championship picture … And in Denver, as much as we like Chauncey, the Nuggets are starting to compile all the ingredients for a disastrously disappointing season. The Carmelo trade/free agency stuff is going to hang over everyone’s head until a deal gets done, Kenyon Martin is feeling unappreciated and will get cranky, Birdman, Al Harrington and K-Mart are hurt, and J.R. Smith is still being J.R. Smith. “If (J.R.) throws out that deflating, depression, negative energy,” George Karl said yesterday, “I don’t think we’ll tolerate that.” Why don’t we see this ending well? … Meanwhile, over in the East, some big men are having problems. Erick Dampier was looking like he’d sign with Miami or Milwaukee, but now he’s reportedly down to Toronto and running out of options. And in Orlando, Daniel Orton is going to miss all of training camp with a bad knee. It’s the same knee Orton tore up in high school and missed his senior year. Magic GM Otis Smith said, “He probably should not have played (at Kentucky), and should have spent the time rehabbing. And had we known the depth of his problem, he probably shouldn’t have played this summer.” Translation: If we’d known it was that bad, we wouldn’t have drafted him … If you missed it on Thursday, the nation’s No. 1 high school ballplayer, Winter Park (Fla.) guard Austin Rivers (Doc’s kid), committed to Duke. For the last few months he’s been keeping a diary for High School Hoop, and in his latest entry Austin breaks down how and why he picked the Blue Devils … We’re out like J.R.’s leeway …

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