Monthly Archive for October, 2009

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Western Conference Preview: L.A. Clippers

Blake GriffinNext up in the West is the team that shares a building with the Lakers, but wears red and blue instead of purple and gold.

With a roster that’s certainly talented enough to contend for a playoff spot in the West, the Clippers are an intriguing bunch that the Lakers will see immediately, on Ring Night.

To catch the temperature of the Clippers, we enlisted radio play-by-play voice Brian Sieman, who told us what we can expect from Blake Griffin, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and the rest of L.A.’s other team.

Bryant “Probable” With Sore Foot

A quick injury note: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant missed Monday’s practice with a sore left foot, but is listed as “probable” on L.A.’s injury report.

Bryant is expected to start against the Clippers for L.A.’s 7:30 p.m. tipoff at STAPLES Center.

Western Conference Preview: Denver

Melo Kobe ChaunceyTo get the best idea of what the Lakers will be dealing with in the Western Conference heading into the 2009-10 season, we enlisted team broadcasters and beat writers from all 14 opposing Western Conference squads to preview their respective teams.

With our audio device recording, we began the process with L.A.’s Western Conference Finals opponent, the Denver Nuggets.

To do so we sat down with Benjamin Hochman, the Nuggets beat writer for the Denver Post, to talk about Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Co.

Sunday Practice Report

Andrew BynumAfter a long practice on Sunday morning, assembled reporters learned that Andrew Bynum is absolutely ready to play on Tuesday, that Pau Gasol may not be and that Ron Artest is very happy to be in L.A.

Before the round up, here’s the audio from Head Coach Phil Jackson:

Jackson said that Bynum “did well” and “had no problems out there” in practice, after the young center had missed consecutive preseason games while recovering from minor shoulder and leg issues.

Bynum concurred.

“I felt good,” he said. “I came in early yesterday and got a lot done … I’m excited for (Tuesday’s game). I want to get the ring, go through the ceremony, then take care of business at night time and really go at (the Clippers).”

Gasol, on the other hand, spent the day doing only cardio, though he was in good spirits when speaking to reporters. He reiterated what had been reported on Friday in San Diego: while his hamstring injury isn’t something that he’d call serious, he wants to make sure he’s not pushing it too hard, too fast.

“It’s most important that I get myself healthy at this point in the year so I can go through the whole year,” said the Spaniard. “If I put myself in a risky situation then I won’t be helping my team in the long run.”

Jackson seemed to share Gasol’s sentiments.

“We have three days in between our first game and our second one,” said Jackson. so if worse comes to worse, we have a really great replacement for (Gasol) with Lamar Odom.”

Skeptics that had expected Ron Artest to be doing his own thing on the court for L.A. saw a collective counterexample from the forward throughout eight preseason games.

The evidence is in the statistics, which showed Artest taking fewer shots per game than five other Lakers, and found him placed second on the team only to point guard Jordan Farmar in assists.

In 25 minutes per game, Artest averaged 7.9 points, 3.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.38 steals.

After Sunday’s practice, he had this to say about preseason play:

Lakers Waive Tony Gaffney

From the public relations desk:

EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers have waived Tony Gaffney, it was announced today.

Gaffney, an undrafted forward out of Massachusetts, finished his senior year at UMASS averaging a double-double with 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. The 6-8 forward was ranked 3rd in the nation in blocked shots (3.8) and was named the 2009 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year. Gaffney was a member of the 2009 Lakers summer league team where he averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in four games played.

In seven preseason games with the Lakers, Gaffney averaged 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.7 minutes.

The Lakers roster now stands at 13 players.

Lakers 105, Nuggets 119: Postgame 2

Sasha Anthony CarterAfter a hotly-contested Western Conference Finals between L.A. and Denver last season, and now back-to-back preseason games in Southern California just four days before the regular season opener for LA, the opposing squads were enjoying each other about as much as the Yankees and Red Sox on Friday evening.

In fact, trash talking and light shoving took up more time in the second quarter than actual basketball, beginning with an extended delay as Lamar Odom took exception to a Chris Andersen elbow (plus a little Kenyon Martin on the side). After respective assistant coaches had cleared players off the floor, play resumed for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before separate flagrant fouls were called on Denver’s Joey Graham and L.A.’s Shannon Brown. Furthermore, there were six technical fouls called in the game, three for each team.

Some basketball was played, however. L.A.’s starters, which in this case included D.J. Mbenga and Odom in place of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol (sitting with minor injuries), played well out of the gates to build a 25-19 lead, but Denver promptly went on a 16-0 run and held on to build a 57-49 lead at the half against the Laker bench.

Joining Bynum and Gasol on the pine in the second half (and second quarter) were Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, as the Lakers were more interested in simply getting through the preseason than pushing for a victory.

Yet the half had to be played, and L.A.’s reserves ended up spotting Denver’s subs a 62-56 edge before the final whistle (finally) blew.

Mbenga scored 14 points in three quarters on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, while Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar combined for 29 points and six assists. It was Vujacic’s 18 that led all Lakers, while Adam Morrison (11) and Luke Walton (10) were also in double figures. The Lakers had all kinds of trouble with rookie point guard Ty Lawson, who was terrific in scoring 29 points with five assists to lead Denver.

After the game, Phil Jackson said that it was likely L.A. would get Bynum back for the season opener, though Gasol was less of a sure thing as he continues to strengthen a strained hamstring.

Only one number tonight:

4 Days until Ring Night.

Pau Gasol Injury Update

Prior to the second half in L.A.’s preseason finale against Denver in San Diego, Lakers forward Pau Gasol addressed the team’s beat writers outside the Lakers locker room to update his condition.

Here are the Spaniard’s more significant comments:

Q: On whether he’ll play in the opener:
Gasol: It’s not out of the question … I’ve just got to let it heal. Hamstring injuries are tough. If you don’t heal it right, it can become a long-term issue, and that’s something we don’t want to do at this time of year.

Q: On how it responded to Wednesday’s practice:
Gasol: It got a little worse, it got a little aggravated so we took a step backward. Now we’re just trying to let it heal so I can go back out there.

Lawrence Tanter Remembers…

Prior to L.A.’s final preseason game at the San Diego Sports Arena, I was having a chat with longtime Lakers PA announcer Lawrence Tanter (he of the golden voice).

LT quickly brought up a memory of Magic Johnson’s first game right here in this arena back in 1979, and we turned on the audio recorder as Tanter reflected.

You can listen by clicking below:

Lakers & Nuggets in San Diego

DJ MbengaGenerally, the only time NBA teams would see one anther in consecutive games is in the midst of a playoff series, and not without a day off in between.

Yet this is the preseason, and the Lakers are set to face off against their Western Conference Finals opponent on back-to-back nights, the second taking place Friday night in San Diego at 7:30 p.m. on the heels of a 106-89 Lakers victory over Denver on Thursday in Anaheim.

Perhaps the most interesting element of preseason basketball for a team that already has its ducks in order (i.e. returning nearly an entire championship team with one change) comes on the medical report, which has been a bit more detailed than most would like to see.

After all, a large part of L.A.’s success comes thanks to its trio of skilled big men – Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – all of whom have missed at least a game in the preseason. Bynum and Gasol both were absent from Thursday night’s game, and Gasol will miss the San Diego affair as well while Bynum is a game-time decision*. Odom, however, not only returned from a two-game absence caused by a bruised shin, but nailed five three-pointers … in the first half … in Anaheim.
*For details, click here.

Although Odom’s career high in a regular season game is four threes, Kobe Bryant wasn’t surprised.

“He’s improved his shooting, it’s something he’s worked on diligently to become a more consistent shooter,” said Bryant after the game. “It’s not something that surprises me, because he was a big shooter for us in the playoffs last year and I have no doubt he’ll continue to get better.”

So while Odom appears good to go, the questions remain about Bynum and Gasol … But the Lakers certainly don’t seem worried.

“Oh they’ll be fine,” said Bryant. “I’m sure. I don’t think it’s something that’s going to linger or anything like that, I think they’ll be fine.”

Phil Jackson said more than once that he’s “not worried,” while the third center on L.A.’s depth chart, D.J. Mbenga, also said that he expects both Bynum and Gasol to be there when it counts. That, of course, didn’t keep Mbenga from swatting seven shots in an impressive 26 minutes of playing time that also produced eight points, two rebounds and two assists against Denver.

While Jackson said that Denver’s return trip from China – where the played two preseason games – probably threw off their rhythm, it was impressive nonetheless that the Lakers handled the Nuggets so handily despite the absence of 14-feet of talent. Another reason? The play of Ron Artest, who has found ways to contribute despite not taking many shots (2-for-7), throwing five assists, grabbing three boards, snatching a steal and blocking a shot while – most importantly – playing tough defense on Carmelo Anthony, something Bryant had to do often in the playoffs.

Bryant, in turn, is very pleased about how well Artest has fit in with the champs.

“It’s been effortless,” said the Finals MVP. “He’s really blended in extremely well. It’s been a seamless transition.”

The other element about which Bryant and Jackson can be happy is the solid play of a hungry bench throughout the preseason. Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell, Adam Morrison, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and a newly-returned Luke Walton (back) have each contributed in a notable way, combining for 49 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists on Thursday evening. In fact, even undrafted rookie Tony Gaffney has found ways to be productive in his limited minutes.

It’s all added up to a 6-1 preseason record for the Lakers, who you can watch on ESPN at 7:30 P.M. or listen to on L.A.’s new radio partner, 710 ESPN.

Finally, to make sure you’re prepared for the regular season opener on Tuesday just as the team is, spend some time going through our player-by-player Season Preview, which feature a summary of last season, commentary on each Laker from assistant coach Jim Cleamons and a look at outstanding numberes and statistics.

CLICK HERE to check it out.

Lakers vs Nuggets Scouting Report – 10/23/2009

Pre-Season Game #8

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (a reference for those of you still enjoying vinyl), we know that the first major threat from the Nuggets is their transition game. They do such a great job of looking up-court once they get possession of the ball. This thrust creates mismatches and puts defensive communication to the test. In the game last night there was a clear example of how they hurt us in this fashion last night. In the play, the Nuggets get the rebound and immediately get the ball to their quarterback, Chauncey Billups. Whether the first pass is up the floor or in this case after Billups takes one dribble, they always look to pass the ball up the floor to create an early scoring opportunity. In this case they got the ball to Carmelo in a scoring position and on the weakside of our defense we had a breakdown in communication. This leads to an easy dunk for Denver. We must do a better job of limiting these types of baskets.

We also saw in the game a good example of a basic sequence within our triangle offense. One of Lamar Odom’s special skills is that he can rebound the ball on the defensive end and initiate the transition. In this example he gets us into our offense with a dribble entry. One of the principles of our offense is to simply pass the ball to the first open man you see. As Lamar pulls the ball to the wing to set up the strong side triangle he sees Derek Fisher open at the top as his man has decided to play off him in order to help clog the paint. Fish gets the ball and immediately passes to Artest at the position we call “pinch post”. The fact that Fish makes a hard cut also helps keep our offense flowing effectively. On the weakside, the defender guarding Kobe gets caught “playing the play”. What that means is that he knows that Kobe is supposed to pop up off the screens and the defender anticipates this and changes his positioning. Kobe correctly reads and reacts to this mistake and cuts hard to the basket opening the passing lane for the unselfish Ron Artest to make the assist on Kobe’s reverse lay-up. This play is a good example of how some simple basketball fundamentals executed within our offense can create an easy scoring opportunity.