Monthly Archive for April, 2009

Page 5 of 9

Phil Jackson Pregame Audio

Lakers head coach Phil Jackson spent much of his seven-minute pregame media session talking about his championship rings, as this is the first playoff round he’s not worn the 2002 ring since 2003.

Though he revealed that there’s little that hasn’t already been covered regarding the Jazz, he spoke briefly on the matchup as well.

Game 1 Scouting Report

The way we prepare is to first look back at some video edits of how our gameplans against the Jazz worked during the three regular season contests. A key question is whether the loss at Utah on February 11th was due to a glitch in the gameplan, the execution, or both. It is often said that NBA playoff action is a game of adjustments. While this is true it is also extremely important to enter game 1 of the first round with a solid approach that if executed properly will simply require small adjustments as the series rolls on. We know the Jazz are not your typical 8th seeded team (if they were in the eastern conference they would be the 4th seed) and there will be no ‘quit’ with that team.

CLICK HERE to read the full Scouting Report on Lakers Courtside Connection.

Playoff Podcast #2: Ross Siler

Ross SIlerHaving covered the Lakers for the L.A. Daily News and as the current beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune covering the Jazz, Ross Siler is in a unique position to analyze the coming first round series. We called Siler on Friday afternoon to talk about Mehmet Okur’s playing status, Jerry Sloan’s mind games and the matchup as a whole.

Farmar Day-to-Day with Foot Pain

Lakers spokesman John Black said that Jordan Farmar has been experiencing pain in his right foot lately, and was sent to see Dr. Phil Kwong on Friday.

X-rays, a CT scan and MRI all came back normal; Farmar is listed as day-to-day with tendonitis.

Okur Still Recovering from Hamstring Tweak

Mehmet OkurA day after Phil Jackson singled out Mehmet Okur as one of the major keys to Utah’s attack, we learned from the Salt Lake Tribune’s Ross Siler that Okur may not recover in time for Sunday’s game from his strained right hamstring that he aggravated against the L.A. Clippers on Monday.

“Mehmet is starting to be a pretty big question mark for the Jazz,” said Siler, who joined us for a playoff podcast Friday afternoon. “He said he’s not getting a lot better, he still has a lot of soreness and tightness in his hamstring. He hasn’t done any court work, and today was the Jazz’s last chance to have a full practice because (on Saturday) they’re going to hold what would be the equivalent of a shootaround since there isn’t time for one before (Sunday’s game).”

In a telling move, the Jazz recalled rookie center Kosta Koufos from the D-League – the Utah Flash are in the middle of the playoffs – to provide some low post depth in case Okur can’t go. Siler said that from what he learned after Utah’s practice, he wouldn’t expect Okur to play because he simply “Can’t do any running.”

Yet it’s the playoffs, and the Lakers will prepare as if Okur – who averages 17 points and 7.7 boards a game – is playing. They’ll adjust accordingly if he’s on Sunday’s inactive list.

And, if Okur can’t play, it’s a big loss for the Jazz, particularly because his 44.6 three-point shooting percentage (sixth in the NBA) forces opposing bigs to step out of the lane. Though Pau Gasol’s adept in that area, it remains a tough thing to focus upon since it’s so unusual. Okur’s absence would also hurt Utah’s low post defense on a team that’s already undersized.

The Next Two Days…

Phil Jackson - TeamWhat exactly is Phil Jackson hoping to accomplish with his team heading into Sunday’s first round playoff matchup with the Utah Jazz?

Let’s ask him:

This is an intense period. It’s very much like football would be when you have a week or two weeks to prepare. There’s a scout team, there’s on court activity that replicates what Utah does even though we don’t have the same personnel, it’s the same actions … We hone up our execution offensively. I try to give the heavy-minute guys a few days off so they really get fresh legs – that’s important. Then we start working on end-game situations, and on significant things that would cut down opportunities for the other team (like turnovers) and increase our awareness in the offensive end, especially on side outs and half court, or halftime and quarter-ending sequences.

More accurately, Lakers radio voice Spero Dedes asked him at yesterday’s Lakers Town Hall meeting, which went out on a live video stream from (you can watch by clicking HERE).

With Mitch Kupchak to his left, Jackson went on to identify three things on which L.A. will focus when it comes to Utah:

A) Stopping Mehmet Okur, particularly from the perimeter
B) Containing the penetration of Deron Williams
C) Keeping the Jazz off the free throw line.

At Friday’s practice (CLICK HERE to watch), Jackson acknowledging that finding Okur is definitely an area of focus for the defense, but said that he feels confident in the ability of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to track Okur to the three-point line. On Thursday, he expanded on each of the three keys:

One of the interesting things is that we ended the season with Utah being our last opponent, and the one key to their team that’s the X-factor is Mehmet Okur, who was not at that game because of a hamstring. His stat last year was that if he gets 15 points, they win, basically. If he gets less, they don’t win. That’s kind of a significant factor about how they play. We wanted Andrew (Bynum) and Pau (Gasol) to have that mixed responsibility about who was going to cover Okur in the situation where he trails down the floor – he’s their leading three-point shooter and he’s a 7-footer. But we did see Deron Williams busting down the middle of the floor and getting to the basket … Utah leads the league in layups and assists, and that says something about them, so those are big issues. The other issue that we saw in this ball game was that Utah got to the free throw line 29 times in the first half and 47 times in the game – you cannot allow a team to have that many free throws in a ball game. It’s going to change the outcome of how you play because it’s going to generate energy off the free throw line. Those are things we’ll try to correct leading up to the game.

Kupchak also weighed in, suggesting that while the basketball ops office is focused primarily on preparing for the 2009 NBA Draft to take place in late June, he is also on hand to assist the coaching staff when it comes to dealing with the league.

“He’ll come in after a ball game and say, ‘Did you see anything out there that you thought was inordinate that I need to draw attention to the league from,’” explained Jackson. “Because Mitch becomes the liaison between our team and the league as far as officiating, he’s constantly checking in with us.”

In just two days more days, the theories will be tested in reality.

You can follow our extensive playoff coverage at our Playoff Central page, featuring a full scouting report on the first round series with Utah.

Playoff Podcast #1: Kevin Ding

Kevin DingKevin Ding of the Orange County Register and Phil Jackson both came to the Lakers at the same time, and it’s unclear who brought championships to L.A. We spoke to Ding about the playoffs and changes in covering the team over a nine-year period.

Live Feed: Town Hall 2009

Here’s a reminder that at 3 p.m. today you can go to (CLICK HERE) to watch Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson answer questions at Lakers Town Hall 2009.

Play-by-play radio voice of the Lakers Spero Dedes will be on hand to host as L.A.’s brain trust collectively answer wide-ranging questions about the team and individual players.

See you there in a few.

First Round Schedule

Here’s the schedule for the Lakers first round matchup against the Jazz:

Game 1 at Lakers: Sunday 4/19, 12:00pm, ABC
Game 2 at Lakers: Tuesday 4/21, 7:30pm, TNT/FS West
Game 3 at Jazz: Thursday 4/23, 7:30pm, TNT/KCAL
Game 4 at Jazz: Saturday 4/25, 6:00pm, ESPN/KCAL
Game 5 at Lakers: Monday 4/27, TBD, ESPN or TNT/FS West
Game 6 at Jazz: Thursday 4/30, TBD, ESPN or TNT/KCAL
Game 7 at Lakers: Saturday 5/2, TBD, TNT/FS West

Stay up to date throughout the playoff run on Lakers Playoff Central and get a preview of the series by clicking here.

Lakers 125, Jazz 112: Postgame

Kobe BryantSo the Utah Jazz will head back to Los Angeles in a few days for the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.

L.A. made sure of that with an impressive final performance en route to its 65th regular season win. Utah’s head coach Jerry Sloan, for one, wasn’t too excited about that prospect.

“Well we didn’t give much of a battle and knowing that we’re going to have to play them again, it looks pretty bleak,” he said. “Hate to say that but it’s one of those things.”

Heading into its finale, L.A. surely knew the potential playoff scenarios: Beat the Jazz, and you see ‘em in the first round. Lose, and New Orleans or Dallas could be the first round opponent if either team lost its final game on Wednesday. Bringing a full effort in a still-meaningless game position wise wasn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world, particularly with a Jazz team pushing its pedal to the floor in hopes of avoiding a return to STAPLES, but after Deron Williams got aggressive in the third quarter, the Lakers almost couldn’t help themselves.

How’d it happen? Well, L.A. looked pretty peaceful in the first half, managing to hold a one-point lead despite Utah’s 29 trips to the foul line, and quickly pushing the lead to eight early in the third quarter. Then an 8-0 Williams-inspired run tied the game at 68 with 5:42 remaining, capped by some trash talking heading into a timeout.

That, essentially, awoke the beast.

The Lakers started firing from all cylinders until the lead eventually swelled to 19 early in the fourth when Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic hit back-to-back triples, the latter of which gave L.A. a 104-85 lead, and stuffed some tissue in Utah’s saxophone.

It was a team victory in the truest sense, as every Laker scored at least a bucket while five players hit double figures, including Sasha Vujacic and Lamar Odom off a bench that combined for 53 points.

Andrew Bynum had his best game in his four back from injury, playing 30 minutes and putting up 22 points with four boards and three assists; Pau Gasol went for 20 points, nine boards and six assists while Kobe Bryant settled for 16 points and five dimes in 26 minutes.

“It feels great, I feel well-rested,” said Bynum. “I am very, very, very excited. I have never played in an NBA playoff game, well I played in Phoenix for a minute but that doesn’t really count. I think I have a great chance to help push us over the hump.”

Of course, what’s most interesting is how much different the matchup with Utah will look in less than a week when L.A.’s real season commences.

Until then, a few digits:

Lakers point guards who hit a three pointer in the game.

Points scored by Andrew Bynum on 8-of-13 shooting with 6-of-7 free throws, plus four boards and three dimes. Surely the Lakers have to be happy with how good ‘Drew’s looked in his first four games out of the knee injury.

Free throw attempts averaged per game by the Jazz.

Free throws attempted by the Jazz in the first half, a season high, as the Lakers were often a step slow on defense and at times were forced to resort to reaching.

Season high assists tossed by the Lakers.

L.A.’s shooting percentage in an offensively efficient first half in which Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

Bench points for the Lakers, led by Lamar Odom’s 16 and Sasha Vujacic’s 15.

Regular season wins for the Lakers in the 2008-09 season.