Monthly Archive for December, 2007

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Things To Know: Bulls

Check out the Lakers Gameday Preview for injury reports, preview, and probable starting line-ups. For the opposing view, check out Bulls.com

What You Probably Know
After sweeping the defending champion Miami Heat in the Conference Semifinals last season, the Chicago Bulls entered the 2007-08 season with increased expectations and hope of finally shredding their “Baby Bulls” image to become an elite team in the league. Prior to the season, the Bulls were predicted by many experts to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals after a successful draft in which they selected Florida standout Joakim Noah with the ninth pick.

Over a quarter of the way into the season and the Bulls are anything but elite, only recently recovering from a horrible start to bump their overall record to a still underachieving 8-13.

Adding fuel to the fire has been the widespread trade speculation that had some combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas and other Bulls heading to the Lakers in exchange for Kobe Bryant. Although the trade talks never came to fruition, Chicago fans have refused to let up on their struggling Bulls, filling the United Center with chants of “KOBE” at various times throughout the season.

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Lakers Today: 12/18/07

The Lakers may have defeated the Clippers handily on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean it’s all smiles for Coach Phil Jackson. Even though Kobe scored 32 points and Andrew Bynum had 14 points and nine rebounds, a Los Angeles Times article said that Jackson was not particularly enamored with the efforts of his starters.

“I didn’t enjoy how the first unit played,” he said. “The ball stopped too often. They didn’t have good movement, didn’t play together, did a lot of individual stuff with the ball. As a result, there were turnovers and steals that lost us our momentum in the third quarter, which was difficult to watch.

Kobe seems unfazed by the inevitable media storm he will likely face in the next 24 hours as the Lakers take on the Chicago Bulls later tonight. The Bulls were at the heart of the rampant trade speculation with many insiders revealing that Bryant’s preferred destination was Chicago.

“It’s no different than any other game,” he said. “We’re going to get ready to go out there and punch the clock.”

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Road Trip Preview: Chicago to New York

The Lakers fly out to the Windy City today to open up a four game road trip against the Chicago Bulls tomorrow at 5:30. While the underachieving Bulls are always a tough challenge for the Lakers in the United Center, all eyes will be focused squarely on Kobe Bryant. Cue the media frenzy as Kobe will inevitably face a host of questions aimed at renewing this summer’s widespread speculation that #24 considered Chicago his preferred destination if the Lakers followed through with his trade request. With over a quarter of the season gone by with the last place Bulls reeling and the Lakers surprising, those same trade rumors have been quelled for the time being.

TUESDAY: Lakers @Chicago, 5:30 (KCAL/9 HD)
On the court, the Bulls are one of the hardest teams in the league to read at this juncture, as their 8-13 record is hardly an accurate indicator of how potent they are when at full strength. Led by Luol Deng — the piece most commonly thrown around in trade speculation between the two teams — the Bulls offer a balanced attack with Ben Gordon, Andrew Nocioni and Kirk Hinrich also averaging double figures in points.

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In the Rankings: Week 7

Every Monday the Lakers.com BasketBlog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.

The Lakers take a baby step up the rankings with a lot of the talk surrounding man-child center Andrew Bynum.

NBA.com
This Week: 6 | Last Week: 7 | Diff: +1

In his first two seasons in the league, Andrew Bynum had 10 double-doubles. He’s got 11 in 22 games so far this season, and he ranks fourth in the league in field goal percentage at .596. The kid is growing up quickly.

ESPN.com
This Week: 8 | Last Week: 8 | Diff: 0

Encouraged as the Lakers were to hear Kobe proclaim that he’s ”happy,” chances are that’s not the last word on the subject. Not with the Lakers about to walk into media sieges in Chicago and New York.

SI.com
This Week: 7 | Last Week: 9 | Diff: +2

Andrew Bynum has become the center Kobe Bryant never had. Well, OK, so maybe Bynum isn’t Shaq just yet. But the 20-year-old has averaged 14.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks over his last four games to help provide Kobe with a little of that help he craved.

Average Ranking: 7 | Last Week: 8 | Diff: +1

It Happened Last Night: Walton

While Kobe scored his usual 27 plus points and Andrew Bynum chipped in his increasingly more consistent 14 points and nine rebounds, it was forward Luke Walton who quietly finally showed signs of returning to form for the Lakers in their 113-91 blowout of the Clippers. Walton scored 15 points for the Lakers and appeared to regain much of the confidence he lost by a slow start as the game progressed.

Last season, #4 was arguably the Lakers’ second best player on the court behind Kobe for many games, compiling superb all-around averages of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists while garnering league-wide attention as one of the NBA’s most improved players. This season has been a different story altogether for Walton as he has struggled to find his way in the Lakers faster paced offense while also battling a myriad of injuries that have impacted his role with the team.

Last night, Walton was central to the Lakers dismantling of the Clippers, knocking down all six of his shots, including three from beyond the arc. The last stat is particularly telling as Luke has appeared timid for much of the Lakers’ first 23 games, frequently passing up wide-open threes. Last season, Walton shot 39% from three point land, nearly landing him a spot in the three point contest during All-Star Weekend. In a promising sign, Walton passed up his first open three of the game, but showed no hesitation whatsoever in nailing down his next three attempts.

After practice on Wednesday of last week, Coach Jackson called out Walton for his poor timing and all-around dismal practice session. If last night’s game is any indicator, it looks like the old Luke has arrived just in time for the Lakers’ four game road trip.

Lakers Today: 12/17/07

Both of L.A.’s promising young centers performed well in last night’s game, with Bynum getting the upper edge in the Lakers’ win.

Two young, ascendant centers — 20-year-old Andrew Bynum of the Lakers and 25-year-old Chris Kaman of the Clippers — were on display Sunday at Staples Center, and they didn’t disappoint.

“He’s so long and he’s got good timing in blocking shots. He got a couple of mine that I thought he wasn’t going to get. He surprised me a little there,” Kaman said. “He does a good job for them. He’s going to be very good. I have a good feeling about his potential.”

The Lakers held high hopes that injured center Kwame Brown would fly out with them on their four game swing back east, but he is still been unable to practice with the team.

He was supposed to travel on the Lakers’ upcoming four-game trip, but Coach Phil Jackson decided against it because Brown “couldn’t get on the floor and practice with us yet.”

A Daily News article on the same topic said that Brown was expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks — a figure he is still on pace for after missing his 14th game on Sunday.

“It’s like right there,” Brown said. “I can go straight ahead. Slowing down is a problem. When I have to react real quickly, my knee tends to give out a little. My ankle is a little better. Some days the ankle feels great. Some days it swells up.

The Lakers will play four teams with losing records on their road trip — a stat that Phil Jackson says should help make up for the difficult schedule the Lakers have faced to open up the season.

“We have extended road games later in the season, but this is a good swing for us at this time,” Jackson said. “It’s the right time for us to go out on the road and kind of balance our schedule out a little bit.”

Vladimir Radmanovic Injury Update

After hurting both wrists following a hard fall in the fourth quarter of tonight’s victory over the Clippers, Vladimir Radmanovic underwent X-rays on both hands. The results were negative and Radmanovic will fly out with the team for the Lakers upcoming four game road trip.

Lakers vs. Clippers Post-Game

Aside from the final few minutes of the third quarter, the Lakers dominated the inner city rival Los Angeles Clippers, outscoring them by 15 in the fourth quarter and eventually winning 113-92. Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers, finishing with 32 points to go along with eight rebounds. Andrew Bynum led the way for the Lakers on defense with six huge blocks in addition to his 14 points. Luke Walton showed signs of resurrection for L.A. with 15 points. Sasha Vujacic also came through in the fourth quarter for the Lakers with 14 points to energize the team in the final stretch.

After the game, Jackson praised the Lakers’ effort in the fourth quarter after a third quarter which he termed laborious. The Lakers led by 13 at halftime, but allowed the Clippers to climb to within six points after Corey Maggette’s Hail Mary shot from half court at the third quarter buzzer. Jackson said that he left Kobe in the game for extended stretches in the second half because he was weary of Maggette’s ability to drive with the Lakers already over the foul limit. Jackson said the Lakers were able to get the Clippers to turnover the ball in the opening half of the fourth quarter, effectively shutting down the Clippers’ comeback bid.

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Lakers vs. Clippers In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:

Clippers: Elton Brand, Sam Cassell, Shaun Livingston

Lakers: Coby Karl, Kwame Brown

1st Quarter:
12:00 After uncertainty over his playing status due to a strained groin, Kobe will suit up for the Lakers tonight.

11:18 Two consecutive blocks on the Clippers end results in an uncontested layup for Luke Walton. Only a minute of playing time’s gone by, but the Lakers look active to start the game, not showing any signs yet of taking the Clippers and their meager record lightly.

8:30 Kobe came up a little short on his first shot from about 20 feet out, but he just made a nice fade away to give the Lakers an 8-6 lead. So far, Kobe’s showing no ill signs of his groin injury which is a great sign for the team.

6:37 Andrew Bynum just electrified the STAPLES crowd, blocking Chris Kaman’s shot underneath the basket and rewarding himself by easily converting a shot over Kaman on the Lakers end. Two plays later, Bynum just threw down Derek Fisher’s ally-oop to continue his strong start.

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Lakers vs. Clippers Pre-Game

Before tonight’s game, Phil Jackson said it looks like Kobe will play despite straining his groin, surprising the coaching staff with successful pre-game workouts. Jackson said he put Bryant through defensive slides to test the groin since that exercise is a good indicator of the extent to which Bryant’s lateral movement is affected.

Tonight’s match-up with the inner city rival Los Angeles Clippers marks the first time the Lakers will see Clippers center Chris Kaman this season. Jackson said that Kaman always seems to play well against the Lakers, complimenting his work ethic and good hands. According to the Lakers coach, injured forward Elton Brand deserves some of the credit for Kaman’s breakout season as Chris is often overshadowed by the perennial All-Star when the two are on the floor together.

Although Jackson is not one to look ahead in the schedule, Jackson cited the Lakers’ momentum heading into their four game stint back east as a critical factor in predicting the team’s success on the road trip. Jackson said his previous team, the Chicago Bulls, are notorious for slow November’s, highlighting their success in December. The Bulls, like the Cavaliers — another opponent the Lakers will play on the trip — have been hindered by injuries and slow starts, but have recently shown signs of returning to form.

INJURY UPDATE: Jackson said that injured center Kwame Brown will not fly out on the trip for the Lakers.