Monthly Archive for November, 2008

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Lakers 105 – Suns 92: Postgame; Ariza Audio

I was all set to talk about Vladimir Radmanovic’s 5-for-5 from three evening, Pau Gasol’s nine assists or L.A.’s 43 bench points … Until I saw the most telling stat of the evening: The Lakers turned the ball over just seven times.

In fact, after Kobe Bryant (who scored 24 points) turned the ball over twice in the first few minutes of the game, the Lakers gave the Suns the rock just five more times in 46 minutes. Couple that with 46.7 percent shooting and consistently solid low-post defense, and you have yourself an easy win, even in a hostile environment that got decreasingly loud as the Lakers increasingly stepped up their lead to as many as 18 points.

Facing a tough four-five combination of Shaq and Amare Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum, Gasol and Lamar Odom held up extremely well, ceding just 36 combined points on 33 shots from the Suns low-post combination. For two guys that shoot very high percentages, the 36-33 stat is terrific, and some additional credit needs to go Odom’s way for taking the battle with much bigger dudes.

OK, Let’s go back to Vladi’s threes … What a boost from a guy who’d been shooting terribly in L.A.’s 8-1 start. Phil Jackson and Trevor Ariza were particularly impressed with Radmonovic’s rainbows. On second thought, even someone who doesn’t know basketball was impressed with Vlad’s shooting (isn’t it pretty watching the ball go up and down like that? That kind of stuff should go in baby cribs, on repeat). When Vladi’s stroking like that, opponents literally have no way to defend the purple and gold.

To sum things up, here’s some audio from Trevor Ariza, who finished with 10 points, three boards, three assists and a block in 22 minutes:

The Lakers are back in action in just a few hours, Friday night at STAPLES Center against the Denver Nuggets. See you there.

Lakers – Suns Running Diary

Hello from Phoenix everybody … We should all be in for a fun one tonight, yes?

Since I just got up to my seat after barely navigating through lots of orange and purple, carefully dodging a plethora of “Beat L.A.” signs, I’ll have to get right to the starting lineups:

Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Matt Barnes, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal

First Quarter
As we’re waiting for TNT to actually start the game, I have a few minutes to feed you some information from the mouth of Lamar Odom, whom I talked to for a few minutes in the locker room before the game. I asked Lamar whom the focus should be on with this Suns team, and he said: “Steve Nash, but not because of talent … He just has the ball all the time.”

So, while Phoenix now seems to run it’s offense mostly through Shaq, Nash remains the guy that many opponents focus on, according to Odom. After chatting about that for a bit, Odom and I spent a few minutes talking about how many players around the league are still judged by their scoring totals, after I mentioned his box-score-filling performance in just 22 minutes the other day. Finally, Odom said he’d probably spend some time on Amare Stoudemire today, particularly if Gasol or Bynum got in foul trouble.

Game time: Four early minutes delivered a 7-7 tie, complete with matching threes (Barnes and Radmanovic), a Shaq dunk and a Bynum jumper. The fans here go nuts on every Suns hoop, but it’s interesting to hear a loud minority of Lakers fans expressing themselves on every Laker bucket. Sure, Lakers fans exist everywhere, but it’s still impressive to me to see in person.

The first extended timeout found Phoenix up 24-18 behind eight points from Stoudemire and two threes from Raja Bell, but immediately afterwards, the Lakers went on an 8-0 run capped by a slashing drive from Trevor Ariza to make the score 26-24 after one. The run commenced with an Odom finger roll in the lane that preceded a beautiful Bryant drive and finish that closed the gap to two. Gasol then converted over Amare before Ariza’s hoop, leaving me thinking this: Neither team’s been able to do much defensively to affect the other team, and the quarter’s been about who’d made more of their open looks.

Slightly less interestingly, the Arizona State marching band and cheerleaders came on to perform at the quarter break. What is that about? Clearly it was a shout to’s own Ty Nowell, an ASU grad. I have no other explanation.

A few stats stood out early: Shaq made only 1-of-4 field goals, while Bryant was 2-for-6. Both Radmanovic and Bell made each of two three-point attempts, a nice sign especially for Vladi, who’d been struggling with his shot. Every Lakers starter scored, while Steve Nash managed to amass six assists in the quarter.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Suns Running Diary’

Lakers – Shaq Pregame

Shaq, Shaq and more Shaq.

The Big Cactus dominated Phil Jackson’s pregame chat, which is summarized below. But one quick note before we get to that: Trevor Ariza told me he’s feeling much better than he did in (probably) his worst game of the season. Clearly, he was slowed by an upper respiratory ailment, and it reflected in his play, but shouldn’t be tonight. Here’s a Phil summary.

  • Jackson explained that the Suns are getting the ball to him in his comfort zone, and Shaq’s making good passes out of the post. Furthermore, Phil thinks he’s working better with Amare Stoudemire than he did last season, and that “the season hasn’t worn on him yet, he’s still pretty active.”
  • Other than a lull in 2003-04, Jackson said that the rivalry has been highly competitive with the Suns.
  • The most entertaining part of the presser came when Shaq actually pushed himself through the assembled media to give Jackson a hug and whisper something into his ear. Jackson chalked that moment up to the great times the two enjoyed during L.A.’s championship run in the early 2000s.
  • Phil said that the reason Shaq left L.A. was purely economic, and that had his deal been re-structured, it shouldn’t have been assumed that Kobe Bryant would have returned, as that’s what Phil said the owner had in mind (retaining both).
  • Among several other comments about Shaq, Jackson said that he never worried that the Diesel could accept a secondary role, adding that Shaq still has two or three more playing ability thanks to his athleticism.

    As far as the game itself, Phil didn’t have much to say, as we’ve already covered it extensively the last few days at practice. If you’re looking for a reminder, check the Lakers Gameday page.

    Here’s the audio:

  • Road Routine: Chris Mihm

    Chris Mihm

    Every NBA player has a different routine on the road. For Chris Mihm, it involves, primarily, working out and napping. That’s about it.

    The former University of Texas center sat down with us to first answered a few of my questions about that routine, and second to discuss the extent of his gameday workout. How much should an individual player workout on game day before he’s putting too much stress on his legs, anyway?

    MT: Take me through you gameday routine…
    Mihm: My routine includes getting a good sweat at morning shootaround, making sure to get my shots up, so I can get my blood flowing. Then I come back and get a good lunch in me, and when I’m on the road, I always like to get a good nap in. I’ll lay down for about an hour and a half or two hours, to kill time and also refresh myself.

    MT: But not any longer than that?
    Mihm: Yes, any more than that and I’m too groggy, but I notice when I don’t lay down as well. Then I’ll get on the bus to the arena, go out on the court and try to get as good a warm up as I can so I can keep myself activated and warm throughout a whole game, when I know I’m going to be sitting quite a bit.

    MT: I remember when Michael Jordan started lifting on gamedays, and since then hearing about or seeing more and more players really get after it before games. You?
    Mihm: I’ve never liked to lift on gameday myself – I’ll save that for the day before. But some guys, it doesn’t seem to bother them. Still, lifting is very important; I’ve noticed with myself that if you don’t do it, your body breaks down faster.

    MT: Plus you see me getting bigger, and you want to make sure I don’t surpass you in size?
    Mihm: I have to stay bigger than you. That’s kind of what motivates me.

    MT: All right. But how much working out is too much? Obviously you don’t want to expend energy you might be called upon to give in the actual game?
    Mihm: There’s no exact science to it. Some nights you’re going to come out and feel great, and others you have to play through the heavy legs. I’ve been doing this a long time now, and there’s no exact routine or amount of work that I’ve found that can guarantee how you’re going to feel out there. You just have to keep a routine, and work with the coaching staff. Phil (Jackson) is really good with that, and understands the fine line between making sure he’s working guys and that we’re lively and ready to go at the same time.

    Previewing the Suns with Kurt Rambis

    Assistant Coach Kurt Rambis previews the Phoenix Suns before Thursday night’s showdown. Check out Lakers Gameday for the full preview.

    Daily Trivia: Top 10s

    Play the Trivia Contest on Lakers Courtside Connection every day (Monday-Friday) for your chance to win great Lakers prizes.

    Today’s question is:
    How many Lakers teams were named to the Top 10 Teams in NBA History in the 1996 list?
    (Answer Here)

    If you think you know the answer, login to Lakers Courtside Connection and see if right. Then come back tomorrow to test your knowledge on Lakers history again, while making a run towards really cool prizes.

    Wednesday Practice

    Before the Lakers headed to the team plane bound for Phoenix, Phil Jackson stopped to talk to the media about last night’s win over the Bulls and Thursday night’s showdown with the Suns.

  • Phoenix isn’t the run-and-gun team that they were under Mike D’Antoni but that doesn’t mean they can’t score. They still like to get out and push the ball and light up the scoreboard.
  • Vladimir Radmanovic has been struggling with his shot, the numbers show it. Much of that can be attributed to how his teammates are setting him up. Vladi only took four shots over the course of 26-minutes last night (making one) and Jackson commented that only one other was a good look. “He’s a great shooter, we all know it, he’s got great range. How we set him up is important.”
  • In commenting on the trade that sent Shaquille O’Neal to Phoenix from Miami last season Phil said it was more about the Suns reaching a high point with their current group. That point wasn’t a championship so they made a move to give themselves a shot at reaching a higher point. “To go any farther towards the goal that is the championship they thought that maybe they should make the change. It was a philosophical change of a basketball philosophy that I think makes sense. They had knocked at the door a little bit and hadn’t got past the finals in the West. This is probably the time for them to try and get it while the window is still open, so to speak, with the group they have.”
  • The Lakers don’t have anyone seriously injured at the moment but a lot of guys are nicked up. “That’s what the season’s about. Working through injuries and getting back to as close to 100% as you can be,” said Jackson. Andrew Bynum walked out of practice with his knee wrapped but it doesn’t appear to be serious. “He’s alright. This is something he’s going to go through a little bit now and then. He got a little bang in the knee. We’re always conscious about that part of it,” Phil mentioned. Sasha Vujacic and Radmanovic are also less than 100% but will play through their ailments.

    Click below to listen to Phil or check out our video page here to watch it.

  • Daily Trivia: Who Drafted Kareem?

    Play the Trivia Contest on Lakers Courtside Connection every day (Monday-Friday) for your chance to win great Lakers prizes.

    Today’s question is:
    Which team originally drafted Lakers’ legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
    (Answer Here)

    If you think you know the answer, login to Lakers Courtside Connection and see if right. Then come back tomorrow to test your knowledge on Lakers history again, while making a run towards really cool prizes.

    Lakers 116, Bulls 109: Postgame

    Gasol Runs Like a Deer (not a Bull)
    Before Tuesday’s win against the Bulls, Phil Jackson talked about how his team should look to feed Andrew Bynum on the low block, and take advantage of a relatively small Bulls lineup. In fairness, he was asked about Bynum, and not Pau Gasol. Because while Bynum was very effective with 18 points and nine boards and three more blocks, it was Gasol for whom the Bulls had no answer.

    The Spaniard knocked down 14-of-21 shots, often from within six feet of the rim, and made 6-of-8 free throws for a game-high 34 points. Kobe Bryant added 21, while Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar combined for 22 off the bench.

    But the thing that stood out most to me, at least, in Gasol’s game was how many easy buckets he earned himself simply by busting his behind up the floor in transition. It was often Bryant (six assists) who rewarded the trailing Gasol with a pass (including two in flashy behind-the-back fashion), but the credit must go to Pau.

    After the game in the locker room, I asked Bryant if Gasol got enough credit for his ability to run the floor, and Bryant thought for a second before responding that Gasol might be the “best in the league at doing it.” That’s worthy of a separate article … note to self.

    Phil Jackson Postgame
    L.A.’s head coach summed the game up by saying that his squad came out in the second half with the kind of energy they needed to win, which showed up in the stat sheet with a 7-0 run. He also noted the Lakers’ nine first half steals and the gameplan to go inside to Bynum and Gasol as keys to the win.

    Jackson wasn’t happy with a few of the layups afforded to Derrick Rose, though he was explicitly impressed with Rose’s quickness and basketball acumen.

    Number Cruncher
    18: First quarter points for Pau Gasol, who finished the game with 34 points, six boards and three assists.

    19: Total of Lamar Odom’s boards (nine), assists (five), steals (three) and blocks (three) in just 22:14 of playing time as Odom fouled out early in the fourth quarter.

    25: Points for Derrick Rose, coupled with nine assists. The NBA’s No. 1 pick in 2008 doesn’t look much like a rookie.

    27.3: Ben Gordon’s shooting percentage on 6-of-22 from the field, including 3-of-11 from three-point range.

    64: Points in the paint by the Lakers, many of which came in transition for a team that forced 22 turnovers (16 steals). Chicago, however, had 60 points in the paint of its own.

    80: Percent of the 10 free throws taken by Andrew Bynum that went through the net, en route to his 18 points, nine boards, three blocks, two assists and a block in 30 solid minutes.

    1,000: Career rebounds for Bynum, who became the 8th youngest player in NBA history to reach that milestone.

    Lakers – Bulls Running Diary

    Check back throughout the game to keep up with the game Live from STAPLES Center. Click refresh on your browser to see the latest entry.

    Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
    Lakers: DJ Mbenga, Sun Yue
    Bulls: Kirk Hinrich, Michael Ruffin

    Hey folks.

    To be honest with you, I’m actually hoping that the Lakers miss their first shot (before Bynum hammers home an offensive board), because I just spilled ice cream on my tie, and don’t want that to be a notion of good luck as the season goes on (dry cleaning a tie costs like $6).

    Here are your starters:
    Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Pau and Bynum
    Bulls: Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Dwight Gooden and Joakim Noah

    First Quarter:
    Pshew, I’m safe. With 73 games remaining after this one, I would have been down $432 with all that dry cleaning had Kobe not helped me out with a miss on the game’s first shot. Bynum didn’t follow with a dunk, but Gasol followed a Fisher miss with an and-1 on the next possession. And off went Pau from there … Moments later, Pau’s jumper from the top of the key made it 7-6 Lakers, and at the 8:21 mark Gasol converted his second and-1 of the first four minutes after getting hacked by Noah. Chalk on a free throw on the next offensive possession, and Gasol was on pace for about 132 points (11 in four minutes). So that’ll play for L.A., but meanwhile, the Lakers were conceding the same wide-open jumpers that allowed Detroit to build a lead, and Chicago converted 6-of-10 to tie things up at 13 (including 4-of-5 perimeter Js from Gooden, a la Rasheed Wallace on Friday).

    Here’s what should bode well for the Lakers as this game continues: L.A.’s primarily taking shots from 15 feet and in, while Chicago is taking all of its shots from 15 feet and out. You have to like the percentages there if the trend continues – and it should continue, considering that L.A. has players that can score on the block, and Chicago does not.

    Ariza Note: Before the game, Trevor Ariza said he wasn’t feeling well, and has his head wrapped in a towel on the bench. He did check in near the end of the quarter, however.

    Your first big time highlight play came at the 3:43 mark when Kobe made a Bull strain his groin with a crossover, then whipped a behind-the-back dime to Gasol, who finished with a flush at the rim. In related news, Gasol had already scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting with 4-of-6 free throws.

    FGA Update: Ben Gordon’s on the floor to shoot. I know this. You know that. But seriously Ben … I expected better than 1-for-7 in the first quarter when you knew I was going to be looking very closely at your production. I went as far as to add up Ben’s FGAs for the season, and subtract his blocks, steals, assists and rebounds. It’s not a great number compared with most any NBA player (in terms of efficiency), but to be fair Kevin Durant’s number is worse. More on this later.

    The quarter closed with L.A. holding a 30-29 lead behind Gasol’s 18 points, while Gooden led the Bulls with nine. Derrick Rose, however, was easily the best Bull. His six points, four assists and two boards were nice, but most impressive was his burst that twice brought him to the rim before L.A.’s post defenders even realized he was coming. Yet and still, Rose and Gordon didn’t give the Lakers too much trouble with dribble penetration, as had been worried about heading into the game.
    Continue reading ‘Lakers – Bulls Running Diary’