Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Page 5 of 6

A Chat with Marc Gasol

Marc GasolPrior to L.A.’s Friday night win over the Memphis Grizzlies, we spent a few moments with the younger half of what could end up being the most potent brother combination in NBA history (really … check the numbers).

Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies center and younger hermano of L.A.’s own Spaniard, told us about his close relationship with Pau, what it’s like playing against him and more:

MT: You’re averaging 17.6 points on 60 percent shooting along with 12.6 boards per game, good for fourth in the NBA. Anything in particular that helped you make such a leap from your rookie year?
Marc: Just trying to get better every day, pretty much. I’ve started strong, but it doesn’t really matter when your team is 1-4. We’re trying to win games, not just have me get better.

MT: Your brother Pau is constantly talking about you and obviously cares a great deal about your development. How would you describe your relationship?
Marc: We’re very close. We come from a small family, and we have always been very close just like we are with our little brother (Adria), our parents and our grandparents. We hang out all the time together and talk all the time on the phone, pretty much every day.

MT: Pau has told us before how much of an impact the 1992 Olympics had on him in terms of playing basketball as a youth, but you’re five years younger than Pau (Marc was born in 1985, Pau 1980).
Marc: I started playing when I was young, about six years old, because my parents played and Pau played and many of my classmates played. I always played with older kids and had a lot of fun.

55461777MT: Pau is one of the best players in the world. Some would say top 15 or 20, I think top 10 after his defensive improvements last season. Did you realize how good he could be growing up?
Marc: He achieved a lot of things that you didn’t think he would very fast. I think every time he had a challenge, he overcame it, and he plays above everybody’s expectations. He has no limit, and it’s something that we can not take for granted. He’s a winner, a competitor, and a great example for a lot of people.

MT: Do you talk to Pau about his hamstring?
Marc: He’s getting better, it’s just a muscle injury. You don’t want to carry that type of injury all season, you want to be ready to go, so the Lakers of course need him but they have a very deep bench.

MT: You won’t get to do it tonight, but what is it like playing against your brother?
Marc: On the court you don’t have any friends. You are trying to win. You’re trying to help your team, and that’s all that really matters. It doesn’t matter how many points you get or anything like that. I try and play my game against him and try to get him to be less effective, but he is a very effective player that always shoots a very high percentage. He knocks down the outside shot, can drive past you going to the basket, can post you up with his back to the basket … he has so many moves that you can’t just scout him. You have to try and be very physical.

MT: Did you mimic any of his moves growing up?
Marc: Yes of course. He is one of the most skilled players that plays close to the basket so of course you want to learn some moves that he does, but you have to make your own adjustments because you have a different body, a different way to play. I look at him and I also look at Tim Duncan or any other big names around the NBA, or from all-time.

MT: Can you give us an idea of what it’s like playing with Pau on the Spanish National Team, which won the European Championships for the first time last summer?
Marc: It’s easy to play with Pau. He’s obviously our leader, and he has been for so many years that we’re all very proud and happy to be on his team. It was tough for me because I was often on the bench, but anything to help our team win. He plays the five all the time … In Europe there isn’t much space in there without the defensive three second rule, so everybody sits in (the lane). It’s different.

MT: How is it going back to Spain with the growth of basketball that you and especially Pau have helped inspire?
Marc: That’s thanks to Pau. I think he made this sport very big (back home). He broke so many borders around Spain and Europe. Everyone back home is very proud of Pau.

Bryant Leads L.A. Past N.O.

blog_091108kobebryant_headerWatch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

We used the title “No Gasol, No Bynum, No Problem!” when L.A. dusted Memphis on Friday evening, crediting L.A.’s impressive by-committee approach in a solid team effort.

Of course, Kobe Bryant’s 41 points didn’t hurt the cause. He’s pretty good.

Bryant’s scoring came so easily, we nearly forgot that he also dropped 41 points in two of the three Lakers wins prior to Friday, against Atlanta at home and then in Houston three nights later.

So while adorned in his Sunday white uniform against New Orleans, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see Bryant filling up the twine yet again for 26 points in the first half on 10-of-16 shooting, helping his squad to a 55-42 lead at halftime. He was scoring so readily that one wondered why New Orleans wasn’t sending a double-team his way … And sure enough, that’s what Byron Scott would do in the third quarter, turning Bryant into a ball mover as his teammates took over in the second half.

“We had a little easier time tonight than I had anticipated,” said Phil Jackson. “A lot of it due … Kobe’s 26 point first half, they really came out to double to take the ball out of his hands and we were able to get some three-point shots and make them.”

58866893The Lakers canned eight of their 12 threes in that second half, while Ron Artest and Lamar Odom combined for 17 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 points in 30 minutes of burn each. Shannon Brown and Luke Walton pitched in 26 total points, all but five of which came in the latter half as the Hornets struggled to find an answer.

“This was a game that we believed was going to be a really tough game,” said Bryant. “I think because of that, everybody’s antennae were up, everyone was extremely focused and ready to go.”

No one more than himself.

Sure, Bryant didn’t hit the 40-point mark for the fourth time in five nights (a surprise despite only 12 second half minutes), but his initial burst was more than enough. D.J. Mbenga was so enamored with Bryant’s play that the center said he almost wished he were on the bench, as he might be with a healthy team, so he could just sit there and watch Bryant. Instead, Mbenga put up his first career double-double, a 10-point, 12-rebound effort capped off with four blocks … Even if he had to focus more on protecting the paint than marveling at Kobe.

“Well nothing surprises me anymore,” said Phil Jackson. “So I’m honestly not surprised at all … (Bryant is) the kind of guy [where] it doesn’t matter if things are going well like that. He’s going to want the ball and make them have to come double team him, make them play him in a way … He’s been doing a good job.”

Though Bryant is as much a stranger to scoring binges as peanut butter is to jelly, last season he didn’t score 40 points until Dec. 20 at Orlando (41), and only did it four times for the entire regular campaign*. After seven games this season, he’s just a game away from matching that pace.
*Other three times: 40 at Utah on Jan. 2; 61 at New York on Feb.; 49 at Phoenix on March 1.

One simple explanation for Bryant’s burst of points (other than the fact that he’s the world’s best player) is the convergence of two things: he spent much of his offseason working on his post game, and the block is wide open for his use with Bynum and Gasol in street clothes.

58867046After the game, Bryant was asked how much of his offseason workouts focused on his low post game.

“More than usual,” he said. “I always concentrate on it, but more than usual.”

Not a shocker. By the way, ceding the block to either seven-footer when they return isn’t exactly the plan.

“They know I eat first,” said the Finals MVP. In other words, this isn’t just a temporary experiment.

Case in point: in the second quarter, Bryant so easily laid in and banked home respective shots on post ups of New Orleans shooting guard Devin Brown that Brown just sort of stopped and looked around, his face resembling the female lead of “Paranormal Activity” after the door of her bedroom door closed randomly in the middle of the night.

Brown wasn’t sure how to make it stop, but then again, who is?

1 Year of college basketball played together at UCLA for Jordan Farmar and Hornets back up Darren Collison. Farmar’s five assists helped lead to 46 bench points for L.A.

4 Blocks for D.J. Mbenga, not to mention 12 rebounds to lead L.A. in both categories in relief of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

5 Free throws attempted by the Hornets in a first half dominated by the Lakers, showing how New Orleans largely settled for jump shots.

12 Three-pointers hit by the Lakers, eight of which came in the second half. Luke Walton and Shannon Brown nailed three apiece.

33.6 Kobe Bryant’s scoring average so far this year, tops in the NBA.

40 Points scored in STAPLES last January by Hornets forward David West in a Hornets’ win; L.A. held him to just 11 on Sunday.

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

Lakers – Hornets Pregame

Assistant coach Jim Cleamons sat down with us after shootaround to talk about L.A.’s Sunday evening matchup with Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets, detailing how to go at the shifty point guard, the addition of Emeka Okafor and elements of the Hornets’ Princeton offense.

We also learned from Phil Jackson that Pau Gasol (hamstring) would be inactive for the sixth straight game, while Andrew Bynum (elbow) would be active but would very likely miss his second-straight contest.

Jackson went on to discuss the contributions of D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell, the two reserves charged with picking up the collective slack left by L.A.’s two regular starters. He seemed impressed with Mbenga’s play, which has come despite a nagging injury around his hip/groin area, and credited another hard working offseason for Powell’s continued improvement.

Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. at STAPLES Center.

Gasol, Bynum Don’t Practice Saturday

Neither of the Lakers nicked-up big men were on the court with their teammates as the team practiced Saturday afternoon in preparation for their game against the New Orleans Hornets Sunday night.

On Wednesday, Pau Gasol was cleared to resume on-court activities, and had been working out, but sat out today’s workout after feeling some residual pain in his hamstring according to head coach Phil Jackson.

“Last night (he) felt some residual pain and was concerned about it today, so he hasn’t been out on the court with us today,” said Jackson.

Andrew Bynum continued to receive therapy on his sprained right elbow.

As for either of them playing on Sunday, “Doesn’t look good right now but it’ll still be a game time decision,” said Jackson.

Both are officially being listed as doubtful.

After Sunday the Lakers enjoy a rare three day break before returning to action next Thursday against Phoenix. “I can’t see any reason why this should be that extended that it would go on past that time,” offered the head coach.

No Gasol? No Bynum? No Problem

58851788Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

No Pau Gasol?

OK, it’s never good to miss one of the world’s best players, but L.A. had managed to go 4-1 without him heading into their sixth game of the season Friday night against Memphis.

No Andrew Bynum?

Less good, especially since Bynum was averaging 20.0 points and 10.6 rebounds in L.A.’s first five games, making him one of only three players in the league (Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman) on that pace.

But L.A. still had Kobe Bryant (he’s pretty good). Still had Lamar Odom … Ron Artest … Derek Fisher … Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga. Etc.

In other words, no problem.

58851622Bryant’s blood should have been checked for warmth after another 40-plus point effort, his third in six games this season after sinking 19-of-30 shots for 41. In the process, Bryant became the youngest player to 24,000 points and vaulted him past Allen Iverson for 16th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He was particularly effective from the low block, where the Finals MVP repeatedly caught entry passes and went to work on whomever Memphis sent at him. In fact, Bryant didn’t even attempt a single three-pointer, content to take what the Grizzlies were offering.

“What can I say,” wondered Phil Jackson. “This is a guy who sees a weakness in a team and exploits it. It was killer instinct.”

Meanwhile, Mbenga, L.A.’s third-string center who is best known around the team for being funny, owning a black belt, swatting shots and loving to pop jumpers in practice, showed a new element to the Lakers depth by grabbing nine rebounds* (a career high) and swatting two shots … in the first eight minutes. That helped the Lakers run out to a 17-10 lead, which they’d momentarily give up late in the second quarter before dominating the Grizzlies 38-24 in the third quarter to establish firm control of their fifth victory.
*Mbenga finished with a team-high 13 boards and four blocks.

“The way he started the game that strong gave us a dominant feel inside,” said Jackson. “So (Memphis) thought (they) could exploit it inside and it was the reverse.”

L.A. got a little (or a lot of) something from everyone who played, highlighted by another solid effort from Artest, who was very efficient offensively in going for 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting plus six boards and a team-high seven assists while providing his usual stanch defense. The Mbenga – Josh Powell combo combined to offer 18 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks, while Luke Walton was very effective in producing seven boards and seven assists in just 20 minutes.

58852357Powell continued what’s been a very effective effort off the bench this season, drawing praise from his head coach.

“He has been our most reliable substitute this year off the bench,” said Jackson. “He is shooting the ball well and he is much more comfortable playing this offense, he knows the niches he can find and our players know how to use him well too.”

Should we mention again that L.A. was missing one of the league’s best players and a 20-10 center?

That, of course, doesn’t mean that every Laker won’t be more than happy if Gasol, Bynum or both are able to play on Sunday against New Orleans. We’ll have to wait until then to find out.

In the meantime, some numbers:

24,000 Point total Kobe Bryant reached for his career in the second quarter, the youngest in NBA history to do so. He also passed Allen Iverson, who scored eight points for Memphis, for 16th on the NBA’s All-Time scoring chart.

99 Time Bryant has scored at least 40 points in his career after his third 40-plus point effort in six Lakers games.

35 Assists for the Lakers, compared to just 13 from the Grizzlies for a whopping 22-dime difference. Three Lakers had at least seven helpers: Luke Walton, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher.

14 Scoring margin in the third quarter in L.A.’s favor, spurred by 15 points from Bryant and 11 from Artest, plus five each from Josh Powell and Derek Fisher.

12 Lakers edge on the glass (49-37), which included an 18-13 advantage on the offensive boards. Mbenga led the way with five offensive boards and eight defensive.

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

Phil Jackson Pre-Memphis

A summary of Phil Jackson’s pregame presser:

On Andrew Bynum’s availability: “I’m still hoping that Andrew is going to walk in and say, ‘I’m OK I can play tonight,’ but we’re assuming that isn’t going to happen.”

On Pau Gasol’s potential of returning: “Pau indicated to us that he wasn’t going to be ready for us tonight.” Jackson added that he thinks Sunday is a possibility for Gasol’s return.

On combating Memphis’s low post players: “It’s about foul situations, basically. We have to stay out of fouls and try to limit them so we don’t get into trouble. Lamar (Odom) has a big job because Zach Randolph is a prolific scorer. We may have to double team down in the post and try to create situations where they (have to) shoot from the outside.”

On who will start in the absence of Bynum and Gasol:
“I talked to D.J. (Mbenga) about the starting role. He had a couple of starts in the preseason and I thought he did OK. I think he feels that it can be a good opportunity.”

Video: B-Shaw on the Grizz

On paper, the Memphis Grizzlies are among the most interesting of squads.

While they rank 7th in the NBA in scoring and have three players averaging at least 20 points (O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph), they are 30th (that’d be last) in the NBA in points allowed (115.2) and 29th in both opponent field goal percentage (50.5 percent), three-point percentage and assists per game. Translation: they don’t play good defense.

There’s a reason, after all, that Memphis is 1-4 on the season.

Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw put it like this: the Grizzlies play offense downhill and defense up hill.

Yet that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous, particularly in the likely absence of starting center Andrew Bynum (elbow) and power forward Pau Gasol (hamstring), both of whom are listed as doubtful.

For more on the matchup, check out our (above) pregame video with Shaw.

Happy Birthday, Lamar!

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom was born on November 6, 1979.

Thirty years later, he has a championship ring and a wife to cap a fantastic personal year.

Happy Birthday Lamar!

Pau Gasol’s Thursday Workout’s Ty Nowell had the camera rolling during Pau Gasol’s post-practice workout on Thursday afternoon, which shows the nimble seven-footer to be moving quite well.

Over on the main website, we took a closer look at Gasol’s hamstring and Andrew Bynum’s elbow, with video from the two seven footers, plus Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom.


Western Conference Preview: San Antonio

SpursWhen the San Antonio Spurs added Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and rookie DeJuan Blair to their trio of All-Stars (you know, Tim Duncan – Tony Parker – Manu Ginobili), pundits around the NBA took notice.

Through three games, the Spurs have won two and lost one as not a single player is averaging 20 points or 30 minutes per game, making it difficult to predict how the team will play later in the season … Which is why we brought in Spurs radio man Bill Schoening, who let us know what was happening down in Texas.

And, of course, he gave us his (courtside) take on Manu Ginobili’s bat incident. Here’s the audio: