By Josh Tucker
What does it take in the offseason in order to complete a three-peat? For any other organization, coaching staff or team this would be a unique experience, but Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher have been here before. In fact, this is the fourth time that Phil Jackson will attempt this implausible “three-feat” and whenever Phil Jackson wins two championships he unequivocally turns it into three. They have grown accustomed to short offseasons after playing well into June for three consecutive seasons. Long seasons with a short recovery period can place a lot of wear and tear on athletes’ bodies. Naturally, the importance of physical fitness in the offseason is paramount to this Lakers team’s chances of three-peating.
Some Lakers spent this summer touring the world. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum took time to heal from a grueling post season by watching the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Over in Europe, Pau Gasol acted as an ambassador for UNICEF and Lamar Odom played a pivotal role in the US national team’s Gold medal win in Turkey. To manage the truncated offseason, Lakers forward Ron Artest was in the gym early and often.
Artest, former Defensive Player of the Year, said he balanced weeks where he rested with weeks where he was going to the gym four times a day. “You need to rest but still push yourself during the summer. I work harder and prepare my body for physical activity even tougher than an NBA game,” said Artest. Artest is the Renaissance man of fitness, partaking in yoga, swimming, weightlifting, and running. “I couldn’t take as many trips this offseason. I had to refocus sooner,” said Artest when asked about the sacrifices of getting back into shape.
Balancing rest and relaxation with focus and fitness was a sentiment echoed by other Lakers. Shannon Brown, who re-signed with the back-to-back champions this offseason sounds like a seasoned veteran.
“I let my body rest a little bit. I was lifting weights, but nothing with a basketball. I always focus on basketball, and on the task at hand. I don’t let too many outside influences get involved in what I’m trying to do on the basketball court. I’m a little bit older, a little bit smarter, a little bit wiser, not only in life but in the game of basketball. I’m trying to tune in to what is really going on, on the court.”
With the quiet additions of rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks, and free agent signings Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, the Lakers have revamped their roster and are focused on the season ahead.
The rookies are also dedicated to making an immediate impact this year. They aim to contribute whether it is minutes in games or hustle in practice. Rookie forward, Caracter, said that he changed his college lifestyle to prepare for the NBA.
“I’m grinding, working, working. I got with a nutritionist and cut down on what I was eating and dropped my college diet,” Caracter said. “I’m eating more efficient meals and found out through different research the proper way to train. I’m doing sprints instead of longer runs. Shorter, harder, and increasing the intensity of my workouts. It is a whole different type of conditioning to get ready for this level; physically and mentally preparing for the new situation, while keeping my confidence up. I’m leaner and meaner than ever before.”
Caracter has already cut down from almost 315 pounds to around 270. Devin Ebanks shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m doing a lot of running, calisthenics, and ab workouts, along with eating right,” Ebanks said. “I’m eating a lot of pastas and potatoes, and have cut down on fast foods. The coaches have me trying to keep my body fat count down.”
Ebanks, who turns 21 at the end of this month, has great admiration for the Lakers veterans.
“It’s amazing how they keep their work ethic. They are in their early 30s, yet continue to work. The way they still work and the drive they have keeps me motivated.”
Steve Blake and Matt Barnes find themselves in new colors, and in new cities, but neither have found the transition to be too difficult. Blake, whose last championship came with the University of Maryland Terrapins in 2002, spent the summer doing a variety of workouts. “I worked as hard this summer as I have always worked. I started my mornings in the weight room doing plyometrics. Then I would take a break, eat lunch then get back to basketball; two-a-days pretty much every day.”
Blake said it has not taken him long to adapt the triangle offense or Los Angeles lifestyle.
“It has been a pretty smooth transition. I appreciate the focus on the team and the offense rather than individual skills,” he said.
Matt Barnes, who is notorious for his passion, saw his 2009-2010 season extend longer than ever before. “I went to the Eastern Conference Finals [with the Magic] last year, which went to the end of May. This year I took a little more time off to let my body heal. In years past I got to work a little sooner. I’m thrilled to be part of great team that has won two championships in a row, so I’m just trying to fit in.”
While Pat Riley patented the term three-peat, Phil Jackson owns it. This year the Lakers embark on a journey to make history and reclaim their title with a rejuvenated roster and a focus on fitness.