Monthly Archive for November, 2009

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Artest Thrilled With Gasol, Team

Artest - PauAfter Tuesday’s shootaround in preparation for the New York Knicks, Ron Artest shared his feelings about Pau Gasol, after two games playing alongside the Spaniard in L.A.’s front court.

“It feels great to play with him,” said Artest. “He’s so tough, he’s very versatile, and he can pass the ball. He just makes us better. We’re not even playing great yet.”

Artest explained that with Gasol’s inclusion, he thinks the Lakers are “the best team on the basketball court in a long time,” and that he couldn’t be happier with his situation.

Video: Monday After Practice

Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol talked to reporters after Monday’s practice, leading into Tuesday’s contest against New York, when the Lakers look to win their fourth straight game at home. Here’s what we posted on TwitVid:

PHIL JACKSON
Jackson got in and out of the post-practice interview in just over a minute (a new record for this season), explaining the importance of taking the season one game at a time, Kobe’s “interesting plays” and addressing his level of encouragement about the team.

KOBE BRYANT
Here’s Kobe talking about his slew of crazy shots and his ongoing left-handed shooting contest with Pau Gasol:

PAU GASOL
In two parts, Gasol told us that he’s feeling more comfortable “little by little,” his thoughts on Kobe’s trick shots, how the Knicks have been playing better than advertised (“they can get hot and be tricky”), playing with Andrew Bynum and his level of conditioning:

Bryant Named West’s Player of the Week

Kobe Bryant POW 500Kobe Bryant was named the Western Conference Players of the Week for games played Monday, Nov. 16, through Sunday, Nov. 22, by the NBA. It’s the 23rd time in Bryant’s career that he’s earned such an honor.

Bryant was terrific in leading the Lakers to a 3-0 week, averaging 29.8 points (second in the West), 6.7 rebounds and a team-high 6.7 assists. Furthermore, with his free throw at the 6:07 mark of the third quarter on Nov. 19, Bryant moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176) for second on the Lakers’ all-time franchise scoring list; Bryant trails only Jerry West (25,192). On Nov. 17, Bryant recorded his fourth 40-point game of season in a 106-93 win over Detroit, which doubled as the 100th 40-point game of his career.

Here is a game-by-game recap of Kobe’s week:

Nov. 17 vs. Detroit: Tallied 40 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 106-93 win over the Pistons.
Nov. 19 vs. Chicago: Posted 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a 108-93 win over the Bulls.
Nov. 22 vs. Oklahoma City: Scored 26 points (including a few H.O.R.S.E. shots) and added six rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a 101-85 win over the Thunder.

LeBron James took home P.O.W. honors in the Eastern Conference. Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, Houston’s Luis Scola, Memphis’ Rudy Gay, New Orleans’ Marcus Thornton, New York’s Al Harrington, Orlando’s Vince Carter and Phoenix’s Amar’e Stoudemire.

Bryant, Brown Produce Highlight Reel

Kobe ReverseAnytime you want to check out the highlights from a Lakers game, you can click on our Gameday Page and watch from there.

The win against Oklahoma City featured so many fun moments – courtesy in large part of Kobe Bryant and Shannon Brown – that we wanted to make sure you didn’t miss it.

Take a peek if you didn’t catch Kobe’s behind-the-basket surprise, left-handed buzzer beater or Brown’s crazy alley-oop (and more) the first time, or if you just want to watch again.

Lakers “Got A Feeling” In Silencing Thunder

58990803Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

A few hours before L.A. tipped off against Oklahoma City, Lakers Executive Vice President, Player Personnel Jim Buss was asked to what extent the current Lakers squad was designed with superior size in mind.

“Absolutely,” he said. “One hundred percent.”

While there is no overstating the impact that Kobe Bryant makes on a basketball team, the thing opposing teams have literally had no answer for when facing L.A. is the combination of size and skill in seven footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum plus the 6-10 Lamar Odom off the bench.

It’s like trying to eat ice cream with a butter knife. You can do it if you have to (full dishwasher?), but it’s probably not going to end well.

When adding Ron Artest to that frontcourt, neither Jim Buss nor his father Dr. Jerry Buss, when addressing L.A.’s beat reporters, could think of a better front line dating back to the 1986 Boston Celtics that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton off the bench.

58989868Last June, even with Bynum still making his way back from a midseason knee injury, the Lakers took the Bryant + Bigs formula all the way to a championship.

This season, after waiting 11 games for Gasol to begin his 2009-10 campaign, the recipe appears to be back in full effect after L.A. backed up a running of the (Chicago) Bulls on Thursday with a silencing of the Thunder on Sunday.

The game was so clearly over early in the fourth quarter that Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas performed an impromptu version of “I’ve Got A Feeling” as Fergie, Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees and B-Real from Cypress Hill flanked him at courtside (only in L.A., right?).

Oklahoma City didn’t have to wait long to see what the Lakers can do when firing on all cylinders; L.A. put together perhaps its best quarter of the season and bursting to a 35-16 lead. Bryant began what would be a particularly entertaining evening by converting three fantastic displays of offensive skill that including a behind-the-basket, um, floater?** Meanwhile, Bynum put up 11 points and five rebounds, while Gasol kicked in six points, three boards and three assists.
**Like, from behind the basket while standing almost on the baseline. Bryant said that he hadn’t made such a shot in a game since high school.

“It was pretty crazy tonight,” said Bryant, referring to his moves, the Black Eyed Peas and two more ridiculous Shannon Brown hammer dunks***. “Pretty crazy. We had our rabbit foot on.”
***See postgame numbers for explanation.

As it were, OKC didn’t quit after the early barrage, but L.A.’s lead wasn’t remotely threatened as a 14-point second quarter differential would be as close as the visitors would get.

“Any time you play against the Lakers it’s a humbling position to be in,” said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. “We weren’t making shots tonight and that was because they were defending us throughout the game very well.”

The Lakers found good shots, the Thunder finished the game at a 37.2 percent clip. Kevin Durant, the league’s fifth-leading scorer, made only 2-of-9 first half shots with Ron Artest draped to his hip, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting thanks only to a 6-of-11 third quarter.

58989873“I thought there were some inspiring basketball actions tonight,” said Phil Jackson. “There were some things that we felt we did really well defensively … I really like the way Ron plays defense. He got out there and really shut down some of their scorers and it really helped us.”

Artest added seven points, seven boards and three assists to his defensive effort, while Bryant finished the game with 26 points on 11-of-23 shooting, plus seven assists and six boards.

The twin towers? Bynum (despite being a game-time decision after jamming his ankle late in Thursday’s game) was a beacon of efficiency in nailing 9-of-11 shots for his 25 points, plus nine rebounds and two blocks, just missing his 10th double-double in 11 games. Though Gasol rimmed out more than a few times, he still managed 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting with six assists, seven boards and a block.

To good, too long, too strong.

The Lakers go for their third straight terrific all-around effort on Tuesday against New York, but until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 L.A.’s new streak of victories while wearing the white jerseys, which ended last week against Houston after the team had won all of their Sunday and holiday games last season.

3 Absurdly cool moves by Kobe Bryant in the first:
A) While falling out of bounds after he thought he was fouled, Bryant floated a jumper over the backboard and straight through the net.
B) Starting on the right wing, Bryant flew past his defender, twirked his body around a few more bodies and finished a reverse layup.
C) To end the quarter, Bryant corralled a loose ball and quickly threw it up from 15 feet … with his left hand. Off glass, then net.

9 Lakers turnovers in an impressive display of ball control. By comparison, Oklahoma City had 19.

45 Approximate inches jumped by Shannon Brown when throwing down Jordan Farmar’s alley-oop with one hand. “I honestly didn’t know how high the ball was. I knew he was going to throw it, so I made eye contact. I saw him make an undercut on one side so I did an undercut on the other side and when he threw it up there I just tried to get it.” Moments later, “TNT Legs,” as Bryant described him, added another baseline one-hander for good measure.

81.8 Andrew Bynum’s shooting percentage with an impressive 9-for-11 performance that netted 25 points.

2,382 Consecutive games officiated by Dick Bavetta after Sunday, currently in his 35th NBA season. Bavetta will be 70 years old on Dec. 10.

Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

‘Sheed Around the League – Nov. 20

Rasheed HazzardLast season, Lakers advance scout Rasheed Hazzard often joined us to discuss L.A.’s coming opponents, as he spent much of his year on the road evaluating NBA teams and players.

This season, Hazzard has a new title – “special assistant coach*” – that has him focusing some of his time on developing Lakers’ players, yet his league-wide knowledge hasn’t dipped a bit.
*Hazzard is also an assistant coach for L.A.’s D-League squad, the D-Fenders.

While taking a look at the current league standings, Hazzard helped give us an idea of L.A.’s biggest potential threats out West, discussed which teams are better or worse than their current records, and more.

Click below to listen to the podcast:

Gasol Stars Against Bulls In Return

58965453Kobe Bryant had a quick response for reporters when asked what L.A. missed most about Pau Gasol early in the 2009-10 season: “He’s one of the top players in the world.”

Top 15, yup. Top 10, maybe? Either way, he’s really good at basketball.

In an impressive 2008-09 campaign, Gasol earned third-team All-NBA honors, was the second-best player on the NBA champs and finally the MVP of the European Championships (definitely Top something).

But it’s not like the Lakers were bad with the Spaniard sidelined since October 13, missing the team’s first 11 regular season games while healing fully from a hamstring strain. L.A. occasionally looked terrific (e.g. vs. Phoenix) and sometimes the opposite of good (e.g. at Denver), but generally just found different ways to win eight times in 11 chances despite the proverbial target on the purple and gold jersey.

It ended up taking just over five weeks – 36 days to be exact – before Gasol made his season debut, on Thursday at STAPLES Center against the Chicago Bulls.

It took about 36 seconds for Gasol to remind us what we were missing.

58965571In his opening six-minute run with the starters, Gasol sank 4-of-5 shots from the field and two free throws for 10 points, grabbed four rebounds and ran the floor with no discernible hesitation.

That was just the start.

Prior to the game, Phil Jackson said he would be very happy if Gasol lasted 25 minute, but the seven-footer looked so good, Jackson left him on the floor for 35 minutes*. Gasol rewarded his coach with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and a block on a typically efficient 9-of-15 (60 percent) from the field and 6-of-6 from the line.
*Another reason – Andrew Bynum jammed his right ankle in the third quarter, but does not expect to miss any time. He will practice on Saturday and play against OKC on Sunday.

Bryant, who just missed a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, couldn’t have been happier to have his friend back in the fold.

“Having Pau back is huge,” said Kobe. “The game is so easy for him. It’s not like he’s in Memphis where he’s getting double- and triple-teamed. We spread the floor out for him extremely well and give him the ball in positions where he can be effective quickly, and with his talent, with this squad, it’s lights out for him.”

“He’s incredible,” added Lamar Odom, who went back to being arguably the league’s best bench player with Gasol’s return. “Incredible scorer, incredible touch, his size. The pressure he puts on the defense is incredible.”

Emphatic praise that at least the home crowd could agree with after gleefully cheering the return (standing ovation style) of so much basketball skill to the defending champs. Gasol, meanwhile, was simply glad to be out of his dress clothes.

“I’m just glad I could be out there,” he said. “I had a lot of fun playing again, playing with my teammates. We have such a great team that it’s a pleasure.”

Gasol explained that he wasn’t expecting to be as effective as he was, simply playing his game (it’s not that easy for everybody…). His conditioning, of course, wasn’t where he’d like it to be.

Pau Gasol“I was looking forward to the first time out and was glad it was a nationally televised game because the (time outs) were a little longer,” he conceded.

Yet Gasol scored on put-backs, lefty hooks, jumpers and fastbreak layups. He cleared defensive boards, filled the paint defensively and helped off his man as the Bulls struggled to get anything going inside, getting just 40 points in the paint for the game to 60 for L.A. In fairness, Gasol had a major matchup edge with 6-9 rookie Taj Gibson trying to guard him, but then again, Gasol almost always has an edge on opposing NBA power forwards.

“He’s really good,” said Jordan Farmar, glad to have yet another seven-foot option to feed. “Everybody knows it. He was kind of hesitant to do too much, but he did a great job. His touch is right there. He just has to get his wind back.”

Looking to help him out with that wind, Jackson said he’d hold practice on Saturday, one he’ll often cancel prior to another game on Sunday.

Nonetheless, how many players in the world could put up 24 and 13 just in the flow of their first game in a month and a half?

Ten, yup. Fifteen, maybe?

POSTGAME NUMBERS
0 Shots missed by Derek Fisher, who made all five of his attempts, including two three-pointers.

6 Lakers players in double figures on the night: Pau Gasol (24); Kobe Bryant (21); Ron Artest (15); Fisher (12); Andrew Bynum (11) and Lamar Odom (11).

7 Offensive rebounds for Gasol, half of L.A.’s 14. Joakim Noah, the league’s leading rebounder, grabbed five of Chicago’s 10 offensive window cleans.

8 Assists for Bryant to lead both teams. He added nine rebounds, second only to Gasol’s 13 on the Lakers and Noah’s 15 for Chicago.

24 L.A.’s biggest lead of the game, coming early in the fourth quarter on Jordan Farmar’s pull-up jumper.

60 Lakers points in the paint, a 20-point edge on the Bulls (40).

Podcast: Bulls.com’s Sam Smith

Sam SmithLegendary hoops scribe Sam Smith, who covered Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan’s reign in Chicago while working for the Chicago Tribune, now writes exclusively for Bulls.com.

He joined us before the Bulls took on the Lakers on Thursday evening to talk about the trade scenarios he’s fond of igniting, his reflections on covering Phil Jackson and what about Kobe Bryant makes him think of Michael Jordan.

Video: Lakers vs. Bulls Pregame

Assistant coach Brian Shaw joined us to discuss Chicago’s slow offensive start to the season, the health of Derrick Rose, integrating Pau Gasol back into the Lakers and more.

Walton Undergoes Back Procedure

Luke Walton underwent a facet rhizotomy – a procedure designed to shut off pain signals that nerves send to the brain through a needle injection into the back – on Thursday morning performed by Dr. Michael Port.

The procedure does not change the timing of Walton’s recovery, as the Lakers forward is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks. According to team sources, Walton is in a considerable amount of discomfort and will be away from the team for a few days while recovering.

CLICK HERE TO READ WALTON’S INITIAL REACTION TO THE INJURY