Lakers – Bobcats in Anaheim: Running Diary

Hey folks, welcome back to the Honda Center in Anaheim. If you’re watching on TV, it must be on TNT, who has exclusive rights to the broadcast for the first of 11 times this season.

As such, the best team in the business – Kevin Harlan, Doug Collins and Cheryl Miller – is here to call the action, while our radio booth of Spero Dedes and Mychael Thompson can still be heard on your radio dial or via NBA.com.

As we reported a bit earlier, Kobe Bryant, Sasha Vujacic and Josh Powell won’t be playing tonight; it’ll be interesting to see who Phil Jackson starts in the place of No. 24. As the media salivates as if a Jackson’s lineup card were a Carl’s Jr. burger (at midnight), here are a few options:

A) Fisher, Odom, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
B) Fisher, Ariza, Radmanovic, Gasol and Bynum
C) Farmar, Fisher, Radmonovic, Gasol and Bynum
D) Farmar, Fisher, Odom, Gasol and Bynum
E) Fisher, Odom, Radmanovic, Gasol and Bynum
F) Fisher, Walton, Odom, Gasol and Bynum
G) None of the above

If it were only Kobe missing the game, perhaps Jackson would go with Vujacic, but the third shooting guard on the depth chart is Coby Karl, and it’s fair to speculate he won’t be starting. Ty and I have been discussing how Jackson might not want to mess with his Odom-Farmar-Ariza combo off the bench since Kobe’s going to be back almost immediately, but we’re not sure about the best alternative.

Any guesses?

Jackson went with option B. Fair enough.

First Quarter
At about 5 p.m., it looked to me as if one of the rims were off a little bit. Just slightly slanted. But apparently that wasn’t the problem in a five-minute delay before tipoff at 7 p.m. Instead, as reported by the seated-next-to-me Cheryl Miller, the wire inside of the rim broke, and lead official Bob Delaney was concerned that it might cut one of the players. Make it a 13-minute and counting delay.

No worries though, I’ll now look for a “Bayside Tigers” t-shirt online so I can be Zach Morris for Halloween. Don’t copy me – I already have unlaced high tops, stone-washed jeans and spiky blond hair with a Manhattan Beach wave.

Actual First Quarter Tip
OK. Only 14 minutes there for the two Honda Center guys that must have been sweating huge bullets trying to rush the rim-fixing job, which now features about 10 strips of very visible white tape keeping the net up. Gotta wonder if that distracts the shooter? Not Pau Gasol, who cleaned up an Ariza miss for the game’s first points. Remember, Gasol’s shooting 63.2 percent this preseason. He’s no Andris Biedrins, but that ain’t bad…

Joining Gasol in the lane defensively was of course Bynum, who combined with the Spaniard to contest three early Bobcat misses near the rim before a Vladimir Radmanovic three made it 5-0. If Vlad had stepped on the line, he would have equaled Tampa’s 4-0 World Series game two lead over Philly.

Charlotte wasn’t able to get on the board until Raymond Felton hit in the lane at the 7:59 mark, though Gasol quickly had an answer in the lane, plus the harm. It’s the first quarter of a preseason game, so let’s not get too excited here, but it’s telling that this Lakers team looks juuuust fine with its best player chilling in the locker room.

After Bynum drew a foul in the lane, an unusually loud roar erupted in Anaheim, which I tried to convince Miller was because they showed her face on the jumbotron (in actuality, Kobe emerged from the tunnel).

At the first quarter timeout, the Laker girls came out for a routine to a song I decided I liked and wanted to know whom it was by. So Ty pulled up this iPhone program called “Shazam,” pressed a button, and 10 seconds later a picture showed up on his screen detailing Fergie’s “Labels of Love” track. Absurd. Apparently, the program records whatever song is playing, and sends it to a database before producing the result that you can then download directly from iTunes if you so choose. If that doesn’t impress you, here’s your hoops update: Odom was the first Laker off the bench at the 5:04 mark with a 14-8 Laker lead, and his ovation from the crowd was quite loud.

First Bynum alley-oop of the game: 2:07 mark from Fisher. I’m interested in the points in the paint category tonight, as Charlotte won that category 48-38 on Tuesday after L.A. had dominated down low (and in transition) in its previous few games. I’ll check on that at the half. One interesting lil’ note from the end of an 18-14 Laker leading first quarter: Charlotte’s Andre Brown, in his third year out of DePaul, shoved Odom after Lamar was whistled for an offensive foul. Odom backed off, content to let Larry Brown take his namesake immediately out of the game, even though no technical was whistled.

Second Quarter
Gasol, continuing his propensity for making everything he shoots, scored four early points in the second quarter to give him a game-high nine. We’ve spoken a lot about how Farmar’s been fantastic this preseason – and he has – but if really and truly forced to pick one Laker as the best performer thus far, I’m taking Pau in a race much closer than the somewhat more important one ultimately involving an oval office.

Quick stat highlights from the first: L.A.’s eight turnovers were the biggest reason it wasn’t a big lead; Charlotte shot just 26.3 percent from the field; Bynum grabbed five boards and dominated the defensive paint; Vlad had two steals; Fish had three dimes. Miller’s in the crowd interviewing Nuggets head coach George Karl, in town surely to watch his son Coby, who incidentally has had a productive few minutes. In random news, Daunte Culpepper says he’s ready to come back to the NFL. I could see Ariza – who just dropped a hanging J in the lane to make it 32-23 – could play some QB.

Just checking into the game is one of the few players in the league that’s skinnier than Ariza, Alexis Ajinca of France. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re in the majority; he was the 20th pick in this year’s draft, a 7-1 kid who looks like he could reach the top of a giraffe’s head by simply extending his Gumby arms. With 2:50 remaining in the half, Jason Richardson finally hit his first shot after going 0-of-6 to start the game, making it a 32-26 contest.

I think TNT’s shown Kobe in street clothes 756 times so far. Wait, there’s another one. 757. Meanwhile on the radio, which I’m listening to online, Thompson and Dedes are discussing whether or not Okafor is worth the richest contract in Charlotte history. Tough to say, because 70+ million for a guy that may put up double-doubles but doesn’t particularly change the game like. What do you think??

Crap. Sun Yue, who’s been in the game for a few minutes and still hasn’t scored this season, could not have come closer to dropping a three. A somewhat rough first half in which Charlotte shot just 27 percent, the Lakers at 40.5 percent and the teams combining for an absurd 34 turnovers, resulting in a super-low 36-30 score for the purple and gold. Time to check out the halftime media room spread…

Stat Sheet Check
- 10-of-37 for Charlotte from the field, including 1-of-7 from three, and 9-of-13 from the foul line (69.2 percent). Ouch.
- The Bobcats had 11 turnovers in the second quarter alone, including one each from six bench players. That has to be some sort of record for futility. The Lakers were, however, gave the ball away nearly as much, with eight TOs in each period.
- Not one player on the floor reached double figures.
- L.A. did have a slight advantage in the paint, 16-12, though they managed no fastbreak points.

Third Quarter
Not sure why I waited so long to mention this, but here are some things that are better looking than Charlotte’s off-orange uniforms:
A) Freddy Krueger’s face
B) Photo-shopped celeb shots in trash magazines (National Enquirer and such)
C) Any octopus
D) Zubas
E) Tampa Bay’s 90s light orange unis (OK, maybe not that one).

Perhaps taking offense, the ‘Cats scored the first six points of the quarter to tie things up at 36 before a Vlad/Bynum four-point run as L.A. quickly reclaimed its lead. Moments later, a nice defense-offense stretch from Okafor, who blocked his third shot and trailed the play for a fastbreak dunk at the other end. The response to Charlotte’s lead-snatching this time came from Pau’s 13th point, then a gorgeous outlet pass from Odom to Ariza for a layup, and finally an Odom block causing a 24-second violation. Some nice ball movement out of a timeout resulted in a Farmar three after the ball swung from Bynum (who was doubled) to Ariza and finally to Jordan. Bynum followed up with another swat in the lane, and Odom punctuated a 10-0 run with another three from the top of the key.

OK, sorry Lamar, spoke too soon again. There’s another swat from Lamar and a Bobcat foul … and another Odom bomb from deep. Odom’s been fantastic since checking in this quarter, and it’s 55-43 good guys. In 15 minutes, Odom’s filling up that stat sheet: six points, four assists, three boards, two blocks and a steal. And Bynum, in 19 minutes, has 10 boards and three blocks. You like that, don’t you.

Oops. There’s a quick Bobcat 8-0 run, courtesy of two threes and a layup, to make it a seven-point game with 1:15 to go, prompting Jackson to stick Gasol back into the action. Walton scored three points and Ariza two free throws to push it back to 10 before J-Rich hung and hit on the baseline.

That wasn’t it though … The player who always seemed to hit buzzer-beaters last season – Jordan Farmar – did it again, this a dead-on three to make if 66-55 heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
Some San Diego flavor at the beginning of the period with Walton going at Dudley … This round goes to the former ACC Player of the Year at B.C., who baited Luke into a charge.

Moments later we saw Odom at his best in the open floor on consecutive possessions. The first found Odom feeding D.J. Mbenga for a firm right-handed dunk, and the second an and-1 left-handed finish from LO, who now has nine points, four boards, five dimes and those two blocks. A big Laker run continued in the form of Farmar, who streaked past the Halloween jerseys with a pretty finish off glass with his right hand on the left side of the rim. That’ll make it 73-56 Lakers with about nine minutes to go. Too early for a dagger call?

If that weren’t the dagger, it came at the 7:29 mark when Farmar finished a tough left-handed layup in traffic … Or when Walton drained a J from the junction to make it 77-60. If you’ve been keeping track, L.A. will now win its fifth consecutive preseason game after dropping the first two, and it’s been without exerting any great effort. It’s like the talent on the floor hasn’t been able to slow itself down.

Meanwhile, during a time out, one of the loudest ovations of the night (not shockingly) came from the “Kiss Cam,” which was certainly enjoyed by Harlan and Collins, both beaming while checking the jumbotron as the cameras went back to an old couple at least four times. Did I mention the game’s over despite the 6:15 on the clock?

The Lakers buried the ‘Cats with Farmar, Walton, Karl, Mbenga and Mihm on the floor, highlighted by a huge dunk from Karl off a Farmar feed that made it 85-68 at the 2:38 mark. TNT wisely cut to Karl’s father, whose huge smile was no surprise.

Come on Sun. Knock ‘em down …

Pshew! Finally a point for Sun Yue, on the second of two free throws after Farmar found him in the open court. He then went up for a dunk again in transition, but was fouled hard by a trailer, this time hitting both shots from the charity stripe. Nice to see for the youngster from China, whose suddenly confidence-filled jumper juuust rimmed out from about 15 feet. He’s still 0-for-preseason from the field, but getting closer every time.

Final score: 88-77 Lakers, who head to Ontario for the final preseason tilt tomorrow evening. We’ll see you there.