Lakers are playing solid at the beginning

Despite all the hand-wringing over two fairly important off-season knee procedures, the Lakers are off to a 5-0 start.

Is anybody really surprised?

The Lakers have been quick starters in their last five championship seasons under Coach Phil Jackson, including 17-3 the previous two seasons, as well as in 2001-02.

Five games are hardly enough for a sample size, but the Lakers are off to another solid beginning.

"This team, our time together has been well-spent. We know how to play off each other," said forward Lamar Odom, in his seventh season with the Lakers. "We have great chemistry right now. This is one of the outcomes of keeping a team together, keeping the pieces together. When one guy falls down, another guy can just step up."

Andrew Bynum will be back in late November or early December from off-season knee surgery, offering another big body to slowly work into the rotation while the Lakers are still in the easy part of their schedule. In fact, Jackson said Thursday that Bynum would begin doing on-court activity late next week, eventually transitioning to full-court scrimmages before appearing in games.

With Kobe Bryant apparently fully recovered from off-season surgery of his own, it would be surprising only if the Lakers' fast start didn't continue over the next few weeks. The Lakers don't have a game of national prominence scheduled until they play Miami on Dec. 25. Their next game after that is at San Antonio, and January brings their first meeting this season with conference contenders Oklahoma City and Dallas, not to mention a home game against Boston.

Jackson said isn't thrilled with the Lakers' defense, which surrendered 53 points in the first half Wednesday at Sacramento, but he acknowledged that things looked strong … for November, anyway.

"Offensively they're really in the flow and they have a real idea of what they want to get accomplished out there," Jackson said. "I guess there's a lot of momentum that comes from winning a championship."

Seeking an identity

The Lakers play Toronto on Friday, but who exactly are the Raptors?

They have a completely different look from last season, having lost free agent Chris Bosh to Miami and traded Hedo Turkoglu to Phoenix.

The results have been sour during a 1-3 start, but center Andrea Bargnani looks like a rising star, averaging 24 points a game.

"Bargnani has taken on a big role," Jackson said.

Earnin' Earvin

The Lakers did not practice Thursday, but Magic Johnson talked to the team as part of its annual "Business of Basketball" meeting.

Johnson, who became a wildly successful businessman after his playing career, warned players to be careful with their money. The average annual salary in the NBA is $5.8 million, but a surprising number of players end up in financial straits after their careers end.

Obviously not

Sacramento Coach Paul Westphal provided one last look into the Kings' attempt to re-create their rivalry of a decade ago with the Lakers.

"The Lakers don't even know who we are right now," Westphal said. "We would like to build a rivalry with the best team in the world. We've got to win some games before there's a rivalry."

The Lakers have won their last seven games against the Kings.

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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