Monthly Archive for January, 2009

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Lakers To See A Hungry Wolves Squad

FoyeHaving won 10 of their 13 games in January after suffering a 13-game losing streak in December, the Minnesota Timberwolves are eager to test their mettle against the team they consider among the elite few in the league.

“They’ve got Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, great shooters and a great bench,” said Wolves guard Randy Foye after Friday’s shootaround. “But we’re just trying to stay consistent. No matter who we’re playing against, the Lakers or Boston, we believe we can win.”

The culture change in Minnesota since Kevin McHale took over as head coach is what Foye and many of his teammates credit more than anything else for the team’s turnaround.

“Kevin McHale’s a great coach, a great guy, a player’s type of coach,” Foye explained. “He played in the league and he knows what players want to hear and what they don’t want to hear.”

Foye’s recent improved play has been another reason the Wolves have been chalking up wins, but things might not come as easy on this night as he’ll have to deal with an angry Kobe Bryant after the MVP fouled out in the first overtime of L.A.’s Tuesday evening loss.

For a complete breakdown of what the Lakers can expect to see from the Wolves Friday night in icy Minnesota, we spoke with Wolves TV analyst Jim Petersen. Just click on the “Lakers.com Preview” in our gameday page:

Lakers Gameday Preview

Tipoff’s at 5 p.m. Pacific time, before the Lakers head to Memphis for the tail end of a back-to-back on Saturday evening.

On the Road with Clem

81330572CC010_2008_NBA_FinaHow does an NBA assistant coach prepare for a six-game road trip? Which opponents does he focus on, what occurs on “off days” and what are his particular methods and tricks to impart information on his players?

On the road in Minneapolis, we spent a little time with Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons to talk about those topics and more.

Here’s what Clem had to say:

Pau Talks All-Star

*UPDATE: Gasol has officially been named a reserve for the Western Conference All-Stars.

Lakers big man Pau Gasol is still in the dark about where he’ll be spending his All-Star weekend.

“They’re not telling me anything,” Gasol said after Wednesday’s practice. “The year that I made it they told me a day or two prior to the official time.”

All-Star reserves will officially be announced on TNT tonight prior to the Cavs/Magic game.

“I’m looking forward to know just so I can be really excited and happy about being apart of it or I can be maybe a little disappointed and upset about it.”

As we’ve outlined in the past, the numbers seem to indicate that Pau should be making a trip to Phoenix as a Western Conference All-Star. Gasol’s numbers aren’t gaudy, neither are his minutes played (just 35.4 per game, good for 50th in the league), but his impact to the team with the best record in the West is undeniable. The national media seems to have taken notice.

ESPN’s Marc Stein focuses on what Gasol has meant to the Lakers as a whole in his selections.

You will find All-Stars with gaudier numbers than Pau’s 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and 55.7 percent shooting — and injuries to Carlos Boozer and Carmelo Anthony have created frontcourt openings that might not have been there otherwise — but Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson would be the first to concur that the Spaniard’s arrival, as much as anything, is what has pitched the Lakers so far ahead of everyone else in the West. He has to be in Phoenix.

Ball Don’t Lie’s Kelley Dwyer points out Pau’s ridiculous efficiency.

Before you accuse me of handing a slot over to a borderline All-Star just because he’s on a very good team, check the stats: 17 and nine rebounds and 55 percent shooting in only 35 minutes? That’s efficient, brilliant, basketball. Throw in three and a half assists and a block, and you have an All-Star.

Finally, NBA.com’s Dave McMenamin talks about the Spaniard’s overall meaning to the Lakers and backs it up with some nifty stats.

Gasol has been a huge part of the Lakers’ success this year. Los Angeles is 13-3 this season when Gasol scores 20 points or more and 13-3 when the mop-topped Spaniard secures 10 rebounds or more.

Bynum’s Flagrant Upgraded and Practice Notes

Head coach Phil Jackson explained in his post-practice interview (click below for the full audio) that Andrew Bynum’s foul on Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace was bumped up from a flagrant one to a flagrant two by the league, but Bynum was not suspended and will play Friday night in Minnesota.

Trevor Ariza is scheduled to travel with the team to Minnesota, but has yet to be cleared to practice.

The rest of the talk at practice surrounded Tuesday’s disappointing loss to the Bobcats and the upcoming six-game road trip. Check out the video above and the audio below for full details.

Ariza Update: Thursday Morning

Trevor Ariza again met with team physician Dr. John Moe on Thursday morning, and again showed slight improvement from the concussion he suffered Tuesday against Charlotte.

Ariza has not been cleared to practice, but will join the team flight to Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon. He’ll be re-examined once again on Friday morning.

Lakers Missing Rookie Game

Sun YueLakers rookie Sun Yue has appeared in only nine games this season, receiving 2.9 minutes of playing time in each appearance. While the Chinese point guard is high on potential, he’s not quite there yet with Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.

So, when the rookie and sophomore teams were announced on Wednesday – as selected by assistant coaches around the league – there were no cries of horror around Los Angeles … except perhaps from UCLA Bruins fans who saw Kevin Love left off the first-year squad (more on that in a minute).

But for the Lakers, it’s the first time in a few years that no youngster will participate, as Jordan Farmar played in the previous two Rookie Games and Andrew Bynum competed as a sophomore in 2007. Farmar ripped it up with 17 points and 11 assists in a 136-109 S’mores win last year in a competition that began in 2000 and has resulted in a 7-2 old guys edge.

Here are this season’s nine-man squads:

2008-09 NBA Rookie Team
Derrick Rose
Brook Lopez
Greg Oden
Russell Westbrook
O.J. Mayo
Eric Gordon
Marc Gasol
Rudy Fernandez
Michael Beasley

2008-09 NBA Sophomore Team
Kevin Durant
Al Horford
Rodney Stuckey
Jeff Green
Luis Scola
Al Thornton
Aaron Brooks
Wilson Chandler
Thaddeus Young

No Love for Kevin?
Clearly, Minnesota’s Love is the best player left off either team. Perhaps the most telling measure of how the rookies are Kevin Lovedoing as a whole comes courtesy of ESPN’s David Thorpe, who updates his “Rookie Rankings” weekly. Thorpe has Love as the second best rookie in the class, behind only Westbrook, and a full seven spots ahead of Gasol.

Not only are Love’s season numbers just as good as Gasol’s and better than Beasley’s, but he’s been tearing it up in January now that he’s getting minutes. Check out his game-by-game numbers this month, which are particularly meaningful since the Wolves are an NBA-best 10-3 in 2009. Perhaps in protest, Love hung up 17 points, 10 boards and four assists in 26 minutes against Detroit after being snubbed.

Now that the Love-fest is over … The rest of the rosters are fine, and even though the rookies have more overall talent than the sophomores (by far), it’s tough to picture Durant, Horford and Stuckey letting their team lose.

We’ll be there in Phoenix in person to let you know how it goes.

Injury Update: Trevor Ariza

After suffering a concussion during Tuesday evening’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Lakers forward Trevor Ariza saw team physician Dr. John Moe on Wednesday morning.

Ariza showed slight improvement but is still suffering from some symptoms of the concussion. He’ll be re-examined on Thursday morning to determine whether or not he’ll make the team flight to Minnesota on Thursday afternoon.

Midseason Review: Mitch Kupchak

Mitch Kupchak

After 43 games of the 2008-09 campaign, the Lakers have 35 wins. No matter how you think L.A. is playing, it’s certainly it’s hard to expect anything more from the win column. To reflect on the season’s first half, we welcomed Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak onto Lakers.com.

MT: After advancing to the NBA Finals last season without Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, you knew you had a very good team. To what degree have the Lakers lived up to your expectations at the season’s midpoint?
Kupchak: The expectations were great, and I think there was a curiosity factor with a healthy Andrew Bynum. People didn’t know what to expect based on Trevor Ariza’s short window of opportunity with us last year; I’m not sure there was much expectation there. But certainly with Andrew coming back, people were very curious, and as I would expect myself they’d expect us to be a stronger team. We’ve had our share of small knickknack injuries and we haven’t really faced any extreme adversity so far. Jordan Farmar especially, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic all missed time and Kobe Bryant’s probably the most banged up of anybody but he continues to play. So where we are today, overall, we’re pleased. But we’ll be evaluated on how we conclude the season, not where we stand in January.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Kobe Regains NBA’s Top Selling Jersey

Kobe Jersey 2Kobe’s back on top.

After ceding the NBA’s most popular jersey for a season to Boston’s Kevin Garnett, Kobe moved past KG to regain the league’s most popular jersey. Furthermore, Lakers forward Pau Gasol moved all the way up to No. 6 from No. 15 last year, and the Lakers also head the honor of having the top total team sales in the league.

Below is the press release from the NBA:

The Los Angeles Lakers’ 11-time All-Star Kobe Bryant has the most popular jersey in the NBA, moving past the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett to regain the No. 1 spot on the NBA’s Most Popular Jersey list. With the Western Conference best record, the Lakers top the list of Most Popular NBA Team Merchandise. The rankings are based on sales at the NBA Store in New York City and NBAStore.com since the start of the 2008-09 NBA season through January 2009.

Garnett drops one spot to No. 2 while the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James holds on to the No. 3 spot on the list. The New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul and Detroit Pistons’ Allen Iverson round out the Top 5 at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose is the only rookie on the list, debuting at No. 9, while the New York Knicks’ David Lee enters the list for the first time at No. 14. Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers moved to No. 6, up from No. 15 last year.
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Kobe to be Honored by Asia Society

Kobe BryantAs provided by the Asia Society:

Asia Society Southern California will honor Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Olympic Gold Medalist and the 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player, on June 30, 2009 at its annual gala dinner in Los Angeles. Bryant’s popularity extends beyond the United States and Asia.

As a consummate bridge builder, Bryant’s popularity has risen along with the growth of basketball worldwide. Last summer, Nike China launched a reality TV show called Kobe Mentu or “Kobe’s Disciples.” The finalists traveled to the U.S. and their experience learning about basketball from Bryant became a six-episode documentary. Bryant’s jersey is the most popular piece of NBA licensed apparel in China.
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