Monthly Archive for December, 2009

Thursday Practice Notes

59062895The Lakers resumed practice after a Wednesday away from the gym, in preparation for a rematch against the Sacramento Kings on Friday afternoon.

A few jottings from the media session:

- Ron Artest spent some time shooting and going through other basketball activities, but did not run, and continues to experience dizziness from his Christmas Day concussion. Phil Jackson said that it’s “very doubtful” that Artest will start against the Kings.

- Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher both opined on how much the Lakers miss Artest. Fisher noted that aside from Artest’s obvious physical strengths, it’s the dogged mental approach and general intensity that L.A. feels lacking. In other words, Artest’s play is contageous.

- Jackson mentioned that the contributions from Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic have been helpful in Artest’s, though as always he’d like to see more consistency.

- Phil on the big lineup: “They get off to some pretty slow starts,” adding that he “might” consider a different lineup.

- Josh Powell missed practice with an upper respiratory condition similar to the one with which Andrew Bynum dealt in the past few weeks. Powell, the primary locker room DJ, was missed as Metallica blasted loudly out of the weight room (Adam Morrison was in charge).

3rd Returns: Bryant Leads, Gasol In The Hunt

blog_091231allstarreturnsCLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW, VOTE DAILY!!!

To no one’s surprise, Finals MVP Kobe Bryant’s bid to go wire-to-wire as the leading All-Star vote getter is still going strong. Bryant’s more than 1.6 million votes put him ahead of Cleveland’s LeBron James and Miami’s Dwyane Wade as voting nears it’s conclusion on January 18th.

In the Western Forwards category the bad news was that Pau Gasol’s slim 700 vote lead on San Antonio’s Tim Duncan evaporated as he now trails Duncan. But there is good news, both closed the gap on second place Dirk Nowitzki, who’s Dallas Mavericks are hosting All-Star Weekend this year. Being that only the top two make it automatically, that’s all that really matters. Don’t forget to VOTE FOR PAU, VOTE FOR PAU, VOTE FOR PAU

Only 17 days to go.

More info below.

Continue reading ’3rd Returns: Bryant Leads, Gasol In The Hunt’

Ron Artest Injury Update

On Wednesday afternoon at L.A.’s practice facility, Ron Artest did around 10 minutes of walking on a treadmill, but is still experiencing dizziness and has not yet been cleared by the neurologist with whom he meets each day.

L.A.’s starting small forward addressed reporters for the first time on Tuesday evening to go over what details he remembered of his Christmas day fall that caused a concussion and mandated stitches to his head and elbow.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO.

Kobe Bryant, who was the first person Artest thought to contact (via text message) after his fall, had this to say Tuesday’s game: “He’s a warrior like I am, he plays through everything, so for him to be out it has to really be bothering him.”

Artest is still listed as “day-to-day,” and will continue to meet with the neurologist until he is cleared to play.

Bryant Drops 44, Odom Finds Game, L.A. Wins

Lamar OdomPhil Jackson had been the exact opposite of happy with L.A.’s near 21-foot frontcourt lineup of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

“I don’t think there’s been anything that’s been good about it,” he said before Tuesday’s contest against Golden State.

Fair enough (can’t argue with 10 championships).

But with Ron Artest out for the third consecutive game (concussion), Jackson was compelled to roll out his giants yet again against a Warriors squad that preferred to run-and-shoot like Warren Moon’s Houston Oilers.

As it turned out, the Warriors did in fact run right by the Lakers … but only in the first half, scoring 35 first quarter points and 60 at the half before Bryant led the Lakers to 71 second half points of their own in a 124-118 victory.

Bryant, brilliant as he’s been so often this season, scored a season-high 44 points on 13-of-27 shooting (48.1 percent) and a perfect 16-for-16 from the foul line. Oh by the way, he added a season-high 11 assists and four rebounds.

“That guy is amazing,” said Warriors Coach Don Nelson. “To be able to shoot like he did with the (avulsion fracture of his index finger) on his shooting hand, it’s amazing … I love watching him play.”

59204463As for that big lineup?

Gasol played well throughout, notching 27 points (his own season high) and 12 rebounds. Bynum saw only 24 minutes of playing time, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds but according to Jackson struggled to stay with the Warriors at times. It was Odom, however, who was the X-factor with an excellent second half. This after – by his own admission – he was, well, really bad in the first half (0-for-5, two rebounds).

“He just has to remember sometimes what a great player he is,” said Bryant. “He kind of starts to doubt himself too much, which he shouldn’t.”

Odom remembered right from the third quarter jump, sporting a newfound aggression at both ends of the floor. And when he’s playing like that, the Lakers really become the Lakers.

He attacked the glass (six rebounds in the first six minutes), drove into the paint and dished (two assists), blocked a shot, then stole a perimeter pass and converted free throws at the other end. It wasn’t a coincidence, of course, that during Odom’s hot stretch the Lakers started the quarter on an 23-11 run to open a 76-71 lead after Odom’s foul shots.

Then after a short rest, the lanky lefty returned in the fourth to make three key plays down the stretch that helped seal a victory. First, he took advantage of his size to drop a lefty hook over Corey Maggette to give the Lakers a three-point lead with 3:28 to play. Then came a key defensive swat of Anthony Morrow near the rim, and finally an offensive rebound and immediate put-back bucket with 1:45 left to again give L.A. a three-point cushion. All eleven of Odom’s points came in the second half, as did 9-of-his-11 rebounds.

Finishing off the home team’s three-pronged attack was, fittingly, the Bryant-Gasol All-Star duo, which combined to swish six free throws en route to a six-point victory.

59204539The effort of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic off the bench shouldn’t be forgotten, as Jackson inserted both players into the game with 3:41 left in the third quarter and kept them on the court for the duration with Derek Fisher and Bynum resting on the bench.

“Jordan was active and aggressive,” said Jackson. “I thought he played a pretty good game tonight. Sasha had matchups that we could use. It was the direction that we wanted to do things out there.”

Farmar nailed an important three-pointer with 2:44 remaining and finished with 12 points and five assists, while Vujacic added six points, two boards and two assists. Both players helped counter Golden State’s athleticism in the backcourt with solid transition defense, a key second half factor towards the ultimate outcome.

In the process, the Lakers improved to a league-best 25-6, which they’ll put on the line with upcoming games against Sacramento, Dallas and Houston.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
7 40+ point games for Kobe Bryant this year, after only four such efforts last season.

15 Fast break points for the Warriors in the first half, key to their 60-53 advantage as the Lakers managed only two.

22 Second-chance points on the Lakers, a full 16 more than their opponents thanks in part to 12 offensive rebounds.

30.4 Bryant’s points per game averaged thanks to his season-high 44, pushing him past Carmelo Anthony (30.0) for the league lead.

71 Second half points for the Lakers, to 58 for Golden State. Bryant had 27 in the period, while Odom, Gasol and Farmar all added double figures (11, 11 and 10, respectively).

Video: Lakers – Warriors Pregame

Though the Golden State Warriors just welcomed big men Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf back into the fold, their attack centers upon guard Monta Ellis, who leads the team with 25.6 points, 5.2 assists and 4.37 turnovers per game (clearly, he has the ball quite a bit).

The Warriors also like to work through Corey Maggette, among the league’s best at getting to the foul line (11 attempts per game), and utilize the shooting talents of Anthony Morrow (45 percent from three) and and rookie Stephen Curry (40 percent).

Assistant coach Brian Shaw joined us on LakersTV to break it all down.

Podcast: Warriors’ Morrow Talks Kobe

Anthony MorrowWarriors guard Anthony Morrow came out of nowhere last season to lead the NBA in three-point percentage (46.7 percent), even more impressive considering he was an undrafted rookie free agent.

Deservedly earning a spot for keeps on the roster, Morrow hasn’t slowed in his sophomore campaign, during which he is shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc en route to 12.2 points per game.

Growing up in North Carolina, Morrow was always (of course) a big Michael Jordan fan, but it was Kobe Bryant who was starring in the NBA during his formative years.

As such, Morrow joined us to talk about Kobe, his approach to shooting and more.

Lakers 103, Suns 118: Running Diary

59201661CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE LAKERS’ GAMEDAY PAGE
We took a look at the Lakers – Suns contest in Arizona while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their sixth straight road win.

Inactives
Lakers: Ron Artest
Suns: Taylor Griffin, Jason Collins

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Odom*, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Amar’e Stoudemire.
*Odom started his second straight game in place of Ron Artest, out with a concussion. Phil Jackson said that Artest is still experiencing dizziness, but is hopeful he can return to for Tuesday’s game.

Odom Embraces Planet Orange
About a month ago, the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding wrote about Lamar Odom’s new penchant for scarfing oranges, an idea first proposed by new teammate and old friend Ron Artest. As it turns out, that habit has gone nowhere, as Odom said before the contest that he still goes through at least two oranges on game days. Last year, he was more likely to be found eating peach candy (or, really, any other sweet/sour candy) before games, but no more. Appropriately, the major marketing slogan in Phoenix is “Planet Orange.”

59201615First Quarter
12:00 Phoenix still announces Amare Stoudemire’s self-appointed nickname, S.T.A.T. (Standing Tall And Talented), which I always enjoy. Stoudemire’s charged with defending the bigger Andrew Bynum, while Channing Frye must deal with Pau Gasol. It was the Spaniard who struck first, just as he did in Sacramento last night, with a little turnaround jumper.

6:47 Kobe Bryant appeared to take a blow to his finger while slashing to the hoop and drawing a foul, but after a time out sunk both to put L.A. up 12-10 early. The right elbow strain he suffered against Sacramento almost made us forget about the avulsion fracture on his right index finger.

2:58 Bynum scored six straight points as the Lakers took an 18-13 lead, but didn’t get a touch for the next three possessions as Phoenix reeled off a 7-0 run. As if to prove the point, Bynum got the ball on the next Lakers’ possession and promptly drew a foul, sinking both free throws to get to nine points with six rebounds and a block in by far his best stretch of late.

Second Quarter
8:44 A good start to the second quarter it was not, as Phoenix scored the first seven points before pushing their lead to 10 points. L.A. turned the ball over twice after posting not one turnover in the first quarter, including a failed 2-on-1 fastbreak with Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown miscommunicating (robbing us of a potential Brown dunk, sadly).

5:09 Joining Bryant in the injured finger department was Odom, who sprained the middle and index fingers on his right hand. He is a lefty, we should note, and returned to the game.

0:09.5 With L.A.’s offense stalling at about 30 percent from the field, Bryant went off, making 7-of-his-last-8 shots to get to 17 points, 13 in the quarter, to bring L.A. within six at the half (56-50). In other news, the Human Slinky performed at halftime – always a crowd pleaser.

59201526Third Quarter
9:58 Like in the second, the Suns came out red hot to start the quarter, nailing 4-of-5 shots (including a pull-up J from Nash) to re-open a 10-point lead. I, however, was still thinking about how the Slinky started its career. What was the motivation?

2:05 Unfortunately for L.A., the Suns didn’t slow down much as the quarter continued, nailing five three pointers to push their lead to 19 points at 87-68. Perhaps “unfortunately” isn’t the operative word, since it was turnovers and missed defensive assignments that led to many of the open looks.

0:28.3 At least one Laker was still playing great. No surprise that it was Bryant, who rolled off L.A.’s final nine points to bring ‘em back within 12 heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
9:35 Robin Lopez out-maneuvered Gasol for an offensive board and put it back in from the baseline, drawing Phil Jackson’s ire from the bench. It’s not often that Gasol has the team’s worst +/-, yet he did at that point (-16).

6:14 Jared Dudley, a Southern California native (San Diego), hurt the Lakers in the second half with 11 of his 19 points, including three long-distance bombs. The Suns had connected on 11-of-33 triples at that point, not a great percentage, but still damaging to the Lakers.

3:27 Up 16, Phoenix put Nash and Stoudemire back into the contest to seal the deal, and that they did. First, Amare made an and-1 bucket, leading to a pull-up three from Nash on the next possession for the biggest Suns’ lead of the game. Jackson had inserted his subs minutes before the run, content to try things again against Golden State on Tuesday night.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
(-) 21 Pau Gasol’s plus-minus rating for the night, a shocking number considering his level of skill. The Spaniard managed only 13 points and five rebounds on the evening.

3 Lakers that played over 30 minutes: Kobe Bryant (36:10), Pau Gasol (35:26) and Lamar Odom (barely over, at 30:12).

12 Three-pointers hit by the Suns in 32 attempts, including nine in the second half, to only six makes from the Lakers.

13 In your dubious stat of the night, L.A. managed only 13 assists on 40 field goals, compared with 25 on 43 from Phoenix.

34 Points from Kobe Bryant, who nailed 14-of-26 shots (53.8 percent), and added seven rebounds.

48.9 Field goal percentage for the Suns, quite a departure for the league’s best FG defense in L.A.

Bryant Wins 2nd Straight Western P.O.W. Honors

Kobe BryantFor the second straight week, third time this season and 25th time in his career – an NBA record – Kobe Bryant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, Dec. 21, through Sunday, Dec. 27.

Bryant averaged 37.7 points per game to lead the NBA, and added 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.7 steals (first in the West), leading the Lakers to a 2-1 week. Bryant continued his terrific play despite a motley crew of injuries, including an avulsion fracture of his right index finger and most recently a right elbow strain that occurred at the close of the third quarter of L.A.’s Saturday victory in Sacramento, which featured his two three-pointers in double overtime.

Here’s a recap of Bryant’s week:

Dec. 22 vs. Oklahoma City: Poured in 40 points and added eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in a 111-108 win over the Thunder.
Dec. 25 vs. Cleveland: Recorded 35 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and two steals in a 102-87 loss to the Cavaliers.
Dec. 26 @ Sacramento: Posted 38 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 112-103 win over the Kings.

LeBron James earned the nod for his work in the Eastern Conference, and other nominees included Atlanta’s Al Horford, Cleveland’s Mo Williams, Dallas’ Erick Dampier, Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Kaman, Memphis’ Zach Randolph, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Portland’s Brandon Roy.

Bryant’s Elbow is “Fine”

Kobe BryantPhil Jackson offered an anecdote from Saturday night’s 112-103 double overtime victory in Sacramento that explained how Kobe Bryant feels about coming out of basketball games, no matter what the injury.

“At one time, I asked (Head Athletic Trainer) Gary Vitti to check with him in a time out,” said Jackson. “He came back and said, ‘If I tell you that he can’t play, he’s going to break my arm.’”

Bryant, who had essentially been playing with his left hand before nailing back-to-back three-pointers in the second overtime, eventually figured out how to adjust his shot to the pain.

“I thought he could play through it and help the team, and that was the important part,” said Jackson. “Pain is an inhibitor, and your body will react through the pain. He’s a guy that’s capable of doing that.”

Bryant didn’t go into as much detail.

“The elbow’s fine … next question,” said Bryant before reporters even had a chance to ask. “It’s not like a lingering thing, just a stinger that will go away.”

Kobe concluded that he doesn’t expect the elbow (or his finger, or knee) to inhibit him when the Lakers face the Suns on Monday night in Phoenix.

Ron Artest Improving

Monday, December 28
****Update: Ron Artest continues to improve, but will not join the team in Phoenix for Monday night’s game against the Suns.

Sunday, December 27
The condition of Ron Artest, who suffered a concussion after falling down stairs in his home, has improved.

Artest visited the neurologist office on Sunday, but will need to go once again on Monday before being cleared to play against the Suns.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll play tomorrow,” said Phil Jackson. “But he has to be seen (by doctors) and go through that process.”

Jackson added that he hasn’t spoken to Artest personally, but has been informed that he’s doing “much better now.”

The head coach is also unsure as to whether he will again start Lamar Odom in place of Artest if Ron Ron isn’t able to go.