BENCH: Steve Blake will back up Nash at the point and Meeks is the Lakers' top reserve at the No. 2 spot. Blake can manage a game quite well and D'Antoni is confident in the guard's skillset.
"When Steve Blake came back last year, we were pretty good," D'Antoni said. "We were 28-12 (actually 26-12) to finish the season. But we could never get both of our point guards healthy all year, as either one or both were out, including in the playoffs. That really hurt us."
The Lakers added some offensive firepower, too, in guard Nick Young, center Chris Kaman, rookie center Ryan Kelly and guard Jordan Farmar, who's back for another stint with the Lakers. Kaman and the rookie Kelly are expected to soak up most of the minutes inside. Young has proven he can score in this league from his days with Washington, but faltered in Philadelphia last season.
"You just try to figure out what the best line up that's most effective most of the time, and that's what you go with," D'Antoni said.
COACHING: D'Antoni wasn't a fan favorite at first when the Lakers hired him to replace Mike Brown. Many clamored for the great Phil Jackson to return, but the Lakers' front office didn't want to go down that road and opted for D'Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less philosophy. Getting the passionate Bryant on board was priority No. 1 and D'Antoni knew it.
"Everybody knows the accolades, how tough he is, how determined and all that. A lot of it for this season is going to depend upon when and how he comes back," D'Antoni said. "But he'll get back to where he was, and he had his best statistical year ever last year."
Good coaching is what leads teams deep into the postseason and the Lakers will need it. They were only the seventh seed last season, but did make the playoffs for an eighth year in a row. D'Antoni added some familiar faces to the coaching staff, bringing in Kurt Rambis and Johnny Davis. Davis sounded like the former head coach he once was when asked about what this team needs to be more competitive.
"The key is that we really and truly and sincerely have to be a team. Not just a collection of guys wearing the same color uniform, but truly a team so when you are practicing or doing anything, you don't want to let your teammate down," Davis said. "And you'll do what you're supposed to do to give the team the best chance at success. And do it consistently."
OUTLOOK: All doesn't appear good for the Lakers and a 40-win season may be asking too much. Bryant's timetable for a return is still unknown, leaving the Lakers no better than the seventh or eighth seed in the West. Several teams have started to move past Los Angeles in talent and there's nothing the Lakers can do about it. Gasol and Nash are poised for a productive season and so are some of the newcomers, but will it be enough to keep L.A. in the postseason even if Bryant misses time? The Lakers have enough talent to dispose of the lower echelon teams around the NBA and will struggle with the elite.