Monthly Archive for October, 2009

Gasol Out On Sunday

Phil Jackson said after Saturday’s practice that Pau Gasol would not play on Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s the third straight regular season game missed by the Spaniard, who strained his hamstring in the preseason.

Talking Soccer At STAPLES Center

SOCCER-WORLD/Few NBA teams have as many soccer fans on their roster as the Lakers.

Here’s the short list:

- Kobe Bryant loves the game he grew up playing in Italy, and still follows international and club soccer closely. The world’s best basketball player has soccer skills, too.
- Pau Gasol is from Barcelona, Spain, home to some of the world’s greatest players and one of the world’s best club teams (FC Barcelona, also Kobe’s favorite squad).
- Sasha Vujacic played soccer in his native Slovenia and while playing professional basketball in Italy as a teenager.
- Adam Morrison is possibly the NBA’s best FIFA 2010 (video game) player, while Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton aren’t far behind. The three are occasionally joined by Lamar Odom four two-on-two games of FIFA on the team plane.

There are plenty of soccer players that are big fans of the Lakers as well, including respective stars of L.A.’s two Major League Soccer clubs: David Beckham (L.A. Galaxy) and Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA). Both players attended Friday evening’s Lakers loss to the Mavericks, and are bracing for a big L.A. soccer showdown on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m., Galaxy @ Chivas USA on ESPN2).

This in mind, we spent some time chatting with Bornstein about how Kobe’s soccer skills help his hoops game, the massive goal the defender scored to send the USA to the World Cup and how it’s made him a hero in Honduras (the Honduran President called him).

Bornstein, a big Lakers fan who grew up in Torrance, CA (before moving to Los Alamitos in Orange County) and starred at UCLA, sat down with us at halftime. Here’s a transcription of our conversation:

San Jose Earthquakes vs Chivas USAMT: So when you sit here and watch Kobe, do you recognize how some of his body movement is similar that which you might see on the soccer field?
Bornstein: Oh yeah, whenever I watch Kobe, he’s more free flowing than many of the other players. He moves around the court very similar to how you react when you’re on the soccer field. You also see that with Steve Nash, another player who’s very interested in soccer and grew up with a soccer mentality. They incorporate that into their basketball game and obviously they’re really great players.

MT: And I suppose it goes the other way with you and your USA National Team teammates, who often have an edge athletically on other countries as many Americans played other sports – like basketball – growing up?
Bornstein: I completely agree with that. I played every sport growing up – baseball, basketball, football, soccer. My body type was such that I fit into soccer the best. I’m obviously not that tall (about 5-9 and 1/2) but I can dunk a tennis ball.

MT: I know Kobe’s been to a few Galaxy games…
Bornstein: Yeah, he’s friends with David Beckham and Beckham’s coming to America has brought out a couple of big time athletes in other sports, but it would be amazing to see Kobe come to a Chivas game wearing Chivas gear. I think it’s great when other sports support each other in the same city; I try to go to as many Dodgers and Lakers games as I can. We all are competing for the same goal – to win championships.

MT: I know that everybody’s excited for the coming World Cup this summer in South Africa, particularly with the full coverage on ESPN and ABC all in HD…
Bornstein: Definitely. ESPN coming in is huge for soccer, and we’re already seeing more and more highlights on SportsCenter, which may show that there are more and more fans in America. The World Cup can only keep that going.
Continue reading ‘Talking Soccer At STAPLES Center’

Lakers 80, Mavericks 94: Postgame

58783766Only twice last season had the Lakers failed to score more than 80 points; only five times had they lost at home; and only seven times had they lost by double-digits.

Then there was Friday night.

Because when the Dallas Mavericks came into Los Angeles sporting their brand new powder blue alternate uniforms on the day before Halloween, it was almost as if they’d brought along a few bright blue smurfs to sit on the rim.

LA just couldn’t find the bottom of the net – nor keep it out of its own – in a somewhat lethargic effort, and the purple and gold fell by 14 to a swarming Blue Man Group.

“That’s one of the longest nights we’ve had here in this building,” said Phil Jackson. “Every time we got momentum, somehow or other we shot ourselves in our own foot.”

The first quarter served as a harbinger for the rest of the game, as the Lakers opened by hitting only 7-of-24 shots (29.2 percent) before Jordan Farmar broke through (the smurfs) for five straight points in under a minute to salvage the quarter trailing by only three.

That was nothing compared to the third quarter, when the Lakers committed more turnovers (seven) than they made field goals (six). That resulted in 15 points, while the Mavericks went the other way in scoring 26 to open up a 22-point lead that was mercifully cut to four with a Kobe Bryant layup and Josh Powell put-back in the final minute.

58783831Now, if the Lakers were looking for excuses, a few obvious ones were readily available: Pau Gasol, so key to their offensive rhythm, missed his second straight game (hamstring), and the team hadn’t played a game in three days since the season opening victory over the Clippers, including a Wednesday off from practice.

That certainly didn’t impress Phil Jackson, who found a more tangible explanation for the loss.

“Our rhythm wasn’t good on offense,” said he of 10 titles. ” Defensively we didn’t read this team well at all. Their defense was solid, and we just tried to do things with one pass and hope to beat somebody one-on-one rather than playing team basketball on the offensive end.”

L.A. did finally come to life in the fourth, scoring the first eight points to cap a 12-0 run – which included a monster put-back slam by Shannon Brown – that almost became 15 when Ron Artest’s corner three rimmed out. Instead, Nowitzki converted a layup to get the lead back to 14 at 80-66, and Dallas never looked back.

Bryant’s struggles from the field were emblematic of the team’s, as he managed just 6-of-19 for the game. Derek Fisher fared no better, converting only 2-of-9 shots, while Ron Artest missed five of the six shots he took, committed five fouls and was whistled for a technical.

Perhaps the only good news for L.A. is they have to wait only a day before getting back in the mix for a Sunday game against Atlanta.

Until then, some numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
2 Double-doubles in as many games for Andrew Bynum, his 14 and 10 coming in the first three quarters before he found a permanent seat on the bench.

5 Home losses for the Lakers in 2008-09, the best in the league.

7 Times the Lakers lost by double-digits last season.

12 Points off L.A.’s bench from Shannon Brown, who was very effective at both ends. He hit two threes, grabbed three boards, dished two assists and gathered two steals, all punctuated by a monster put-back slam when he climbed high into the air and finished with two hands.

18 More free throws taken by Dallas (32) than L.A. (14), as L.A. was whistled for 29 personal fouls to 21 from the Mavs.

39.5 L.A.’s shooting percentage for the game.

41 Bench points scored by Dallas, paced by 16 from Jason Terry and 12 from J.J. Barea. L.A., by comparison, scored 28 bench points.

Ronnie Lester Donates To Alma Mater

PRESS RELEASE FROM EL SEGUNDO:

Los Angeles Lakers Assistant General Manager Ronnie Lester will donate $100,000 to the University of Iowa Foundation to support the Carver-Hawkeye Arena Enhancements Campaign.

“As a member of the Carver-Hawkeye Arena campaign committee, I am pleased to step forward to make this gift,” said Lester. “Coach Lickliter has the program moving in the right direction, and I want to do my part to help this important project.”

Lester is a member of the committee that is leading the fundraising effort to upgrade the 26-year-old facility. The goal of the Carver-Hawkeye Arena Enhancemens Campaign is to raise at least $20 million to modernize the current facility, despite no state funding.

“We are thrilled to receive this gift from Ronnie Lester,” said UI Director of Athletics Gary Barta. “He is one of the all-time great basketball players at Iowa. It’s always special to see former student-athletes reach back and support the Hawks.”

At the request of Lester, the UI Department of Intercolegiate Athletics will name the training room at the remodeled Carver-Hawkeye Arena in honor of longtime UI athletic trainer John Streif.

“John Streif has been a terrific friend to me for more than 30 years. He has worked tirelessly to support me and numerous other athletes over four decades now,” said Lester. “His dedication to the Hawkeyes is legendary, and I’m honored to name the training room for him.”

“On top of his generosity, it is terrific that Ronnie has chosen to honor John Streif,” said Barta. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”

A former two-time All-American standout from the University of Iowa, Lester left the university as the Hawkeyes’ all-time leader in both points (1,675) and assists (480).

Video Scouting Report: Mavericks

Prior to every home game, we sit down with whichever Lakers assistant coach prepares the scouting report for that night’s opponent, which in this case is the Dallas Mavericks.

Jim Cleamons joined us after practice yesterday to talk about the addition of Shawn Marion, what to do defensively with Dirk Nowitzki in Pau Gasol’s absence and how the improvement in Jason Kidd’s outside shooting makes him a different player.

You can also listen to our Mavericks Season Preview with Dallas play-by-play voice Mark Followill by clicking here.

Gasol Injury Update: Thursday

After Thursday’s practice in El Segundo, we learned that Pau Gasol would miss his second consecutive game when the Mavericks come to town for a 7:30 PM tip at STAPLES Center.

Phil Jackson, however, remains unconcerned with Gasol’s hamstring strain and said that the team is simply being overly cautious to ensure that the Spanish big man is entirely comfortable when he returns.

“We’re not worried about it,” he said. “We’re just taking it real slow. Don’t you worry about it.”

Jackson also suggested that Gasol might be able to play in Sunday’s game against Atlanta.

But until Gasol plays, the very capable Lamar Odom (16 points and 13 rebounds in L.A.’s opening win) will slide into Pau’s spot in the rotation, and against Dallas be charged with defending Dirk Nowitzki, which Gasol did very well last season. Jackson added that having Ron Artest – who can also guard Nowitzki – on the roster makes it easier to be cautious with Gasol, since Artest is so versatile at both ends of the floor.

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Postgame Quotes: Lakers 99, Clippers 92

Lakers - ClippersThe Lakers controlled most of the their season opener against the Clippers despite the narrowing of a double-digit lead to just a point at the third quarter’s close, ultimately winning by seven behind 33 points from Kobe Bryant and double-doubles from both Andrew Bynum (26 and 13) and Lamar Odom (16 and 13).

Below are the postgame quotes from both head coaches and several players from L.A.’s two basketball teams:

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson
On tonight’s game: “I thought we had a pretty good run in the first quarter. Second quarter, their second unit really outplayed us quite consistently there for the first four, five, six minutes. We got the momentum back and carried it into the second half. That third quarter was a real letdown for us which is not an issue we’ve had before. We missed a lot of easy shots and gave up a lot of opportunities to them and they came storming back in the game. I thought that second unit in the fourth quarter with Lamar out there really got things going and in the fourth we were able to sustain it. A long game for a lot of these guys and a lot of minutes for a number of starters.”

On the pre-game championship ring ceremony:
“It was a nice ceremony. I think it’s always tough to play games after those kind of ceremonies. I think some of the energy is always difficult to maintain because there is a lot of energy that’s dissipated I think when you go out in that and have that kind of ceremony and this kind of re-living the last year and you’re not ready to step up and march to the tune of this season right yet. We got it back. We did okay.”

On the performance of Ron Artest: “Ron did really well. I thought he shut down defensively really well. Some offensive things he had opportunities on he didn’t complete, but I thought he looked like he was in the mix and knew what was going on most of the time and felt comfortable with what we were trying to do.”

On Andrew Bynum’s defense: “He did pretty well. The first half we talked a little bit about our rotations and help defense and I thought Drew was much better in the second half giving help.”

Tex WinterLakers Forward Ron Artest
On atmosphere of first game and where he stood during ring ceremony: “I just waited back here and waited for them to enjoy their moment, and after they enjoyed their moment I came out and enjoyed it with the team”

On if ring ceremony gave him extra motivation: “At this point there’s no extra motivation needed. I’m already motivated to win.”

Lakers Forward Lamar Odom
On his reaction to the ring ceremony: “It felt good, part of history… I guess when we won, I got caught up in the moment a little bit and the parade as well, and today realized what we accomplished and was really proud of it. The company we’re in now… have a banner up that I’m a part of, it feels good.”

On former Lakers legends in attendance for ring ceremony: “This is an amazing franchise to be a part of and to be in that company is a big deal for a kid from Queens.

Continue reading ‘Postgame Quotes: Lakers 99, Clippers 92′

Western Conference Preview: Phoenix

Nash Stoudemire Odom FisherSeven seconds or less is back in Phoenix.

Of course, the same level of talent that existed in the Valley of the Sun during the team’s magical run may no longer be in place, but with the presence of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix can still get up and down the floor.

In fact, Suns TV play-by-play voice Tom Leander told us that Head Coach Alvin Gentry sets the practice shot clock at 18 seconds, and the team is expected to continue the running pace that produced 100+ points in 27 of the team’s final 31 games last season.

For those details, a health update on Stoudemire/Nash and more, here’s Leander:

Western Conference Preview: Oklahoma City

Durant - KobeThe Oklahoma City Thunder promise to be a very good basketball team sometime in the near future … the question is, can that possibly be this season? Too early?

With a talented young roster spearheaded by Kevin Durant (who could well lead the NBA in scoring in 2009-10), the Thunder started last season on a horrid 3-27 pace, but rebounded to win 19 games to 30 losses after January 1. Durant put up 25.5 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting and 42.2 percent from three, plus 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals, while rookie Russell Westbrook and second year forward Jeff Green served as solid complements.

To look more closely at the Thunder, we called radio play-by-play voice Matt Pinto.