Monthly Archive for December, 2009

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Bryant On Knee: “I’m Fine.”

Lakers Nation took a collective gasp (!!) when Kobe Bryant appeared to hyperextend his left knee late in Tuesday’s victory over Oklahoma City.

But Bryant, after (in his words) self-checking his MCL and ACL, simply got up, walked it off, and resumed playing the rest of the contest as if nothing had happened.

After the game, No. 24 said that he was “Just fine,” thanks to amazing range of motion in his knee, and that he’d be ready to practice in advance of L.A.’s Christmas Day game against Cleveland.

“Yea, he’s all right,” said Lamar Odom. “If he breaks it or pulls (anything), he’s just going to play anyway. If he has the flu or a cold, it doesn’t matter. He’s already playing with a broken finger. He’s a trooper.”

You can check Lakers.com later for the full Bryant postgame interview.

Video: Lakers – Thunder Pregame

Clem Breaks It Down
As the Lakers brace for their third meeting already this season against Oklahoma City, assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to talk about defending Kevin Durant, how to best utilize Pau Gasol and what L.A. plans to do with the Thunder defense (see above video).

Last Time They Played
When L.A. defeated the Thunder 101-85 on Nov. 22 in Gasol’s third game since returning from injury, the purple and gold jumped to a 35-16 lead to basically bury OKC right out of the gates. Cleamons warned that the Lakers can’t expect such a slow start from Scott Brooks’s team on Tuesday night. One other nugget: that Nov. 22 meeting was also the night that Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas sand “I Got A Feeling” at courtside while Fergie, Alex Rodriguez and B-Real from Cypress Hill stood nearby.

Thunder Stats
The Thunder are led by Durant’s 27.2 points, which ranks fourth in the NBA behind Carmelo Anthony (30.5), Kobe Bryant (28.8) and LeBron James (28.6). Point guard Russell Westbrook adds 15.9 points and a team-high 6.6 assists (ninth in the NBA) while power forward Jeff Green contributes 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. From a team perspective, OKC ranks 23rd in scoring, 14th in rebounding and eighth in steals, but they are one of the league’s better defensive teams, allowing the seventh fewest points in the NBA and the sixth worst field goal percentage.

Farmar Shows Off SAG Card

Jordan Farmar SAG CardAs Jordan Farmar recorded a bit for LetShannonDunk.com after Monday’s practice, I made reference to how smooth he can be on camera.

Legitimately media savvy, Farmar needs but a little prompt before rolling off a 30-second sound bite that sounds like he had written it down and rehearsed several times.

Alas, after I said that, Farmar promptly pulled out his Screen Actor’s Guild card*, suggesting that it’s no accident.
*Farmar appeared on the CBS show “Numb3rs.”

Fair enough.

Lamar Odom: Mr. Locker Room

Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest benchThat Lamar Odom is a great guy to have in the locker room isn’t exactly breaking news for anyone that’s been around the jovial swing man.

On the contrary, Odom has long been as one of the league’s most well-liked personalities by players, coaches and media members alike.

But after his pregame hilarity in L.A.’s locker room leading into Sunday’s game in Detroit – when Odom spent several minutes serenading his teammates with old school Bone Thugs -N- Harmony joints – it felt appropriate to mention his locker room aptitude once again.

Let’s ask Luke Walton.

“No question is he the best locker room guy I’ve ever been around,” said Walton as Odom rolled off “First of the Month” in the background. “That’s easy. It’s just how Lamar is.”

What does “best locker room guy” mean, exactly?

Well, if the locker room is really just the team, and the word “best” doubles as “most likeable,” the explanation becomes more simple. Odom, in essence, keeps the Lakers loose when they get uptight, finds ways to be boost their (or his) collective energy when they appear tired, serves as a mediator of disputes and pumps guys up if they’re feeling individually down.

Basically, he does whatever he needs to do to help the team off the court from a mental standpoint, always intent upon bringing everyone together. And since he’s such a likeable person, there’s no acting necessary.

Lamar OdomCase in point: the Lakers barely got out of the East Coast snowstorm on Saturday evening, arriving after 3 a.m. on Sunday morning in Detroit, and the team was collectively weary prior to that night’s game against the Pistons. Odom’s natural inclination was to pull out some Bone Thugs while skipping around the locker room, pausing to slap guys on the butt, encourage participation and what have you.

Such episodes from Odom are certainly not rare.

Another Lamar anecdote occurred at the close of Monday afternoon’s practice back in Los Angeles, while Odom was taking part in an always-heated game of four-on-four between players not named Kobe, Pau, Derek or Ron.

As game point approached, Shannon Brown took exception to Jordan Farmar’s trying to draw a charge, and began to let the accused know what he thought about it.

Odom shouted (to be more accurate, he yelled-out-in-a-non-accusatory-and-gentle-yet-somehow-still-firm way) out the following: “Just play man, come on!”

Instead of arguing or complaining further, Brown said, “My bad man, my bad” to Odom, and kept on playing. You see, nobody’s arguing with Odom; they all like him too much.

Of course, such conversations between Brown, Farmar, or fill-in-the-blank other teammates happen approximately 768 times per practice. That’s just how it goes when some of the world’s most competitive people are trying to beat one another.

But having perhaps the league’s best locker room guy to keep everything cool?

That’s certainly never a bad thing.

Bryant Named West’s P.O.W. … Again

blog_94569071No. 24.

It’s Kobe Bryant’s jersey number, and now, the number of times he’s been named the Western Conference Player of the Week in his career.

For the second time this season, the NBA awarded the honor to Bryant in the West, while 2009 Finals opponent Dwight Howard of Orlando took the accolade in the East for games played Monday, Dec. 14, through Sunday, Dec. 20.

Bryant, despite dealing with an avulsion fracture on the index finger of his shooting hand, led the NBA in scoring (34.5 ppg) and added 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals (second in the Western Conference) in leading the Lakers to a 4-0 week on their Eastern Conference road trip.

Bryant kicked off his week in style with a 42-point effort in L.A.’s 96-87 win in Chicago, reaching his season high in scoring and marking the fifth time he’s scored at least 40 points in 26 games. Against Milwaukee on Dec. 16, Bryant scored 39 points, added seven boards and four assists and most notably swished a game-winning 15-footer in overtime, propelling the Lakers to a came Bryant’s buzzer-beating 15-footer in overtime, as his

On Dec. 19, last season’s Finals MVP recorded a double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 103-84 win over New Jersey, adding five helpers to the cause. The next night, Bryant tied his season high with five steals Dec. 19 in a 93-81 win over the Pistons, adding 28 points, three boards and four assists.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Cleveland’s LeBron James, Memphis’ Zach Randolph, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Phoenix’s Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire and Portland’s Brandon Roy.

Lakers 93, Pistons 81: Running Diary

59182970CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE LAKERS’ GAMEDAY PAGE
We took a look at the Lakers – Pistons contest in Detroit while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their fourth straight road win.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (17th straight game)
Pistons: Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Pistons: Rodney Stucky, Chucky Atkins, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace

Phil Jackson Pregame
No need to make notes. CLICK HERE, and you can read Phil’s entire pregame presser.

First Quarter
11:45 Of interest in Jackson’s pregame presser was a quick line about Bryant’s finger, which he said hurt his star more in last night’s game than it did two games ago. In essence, any kind of contact can make Kobe’s finger feel like yours would if you stuck it in hot soup (too random?) … but his opening jumper, from 20 feet, swished through the net.

591830296:08 After a slow start offensively (we’ll chalk it up to the 4 a.m. hotel arrival), L.A. reeled off seven straight points when Artest hit a three-pointer as Ben Wallace refused to close out on the shot, and Gasol hit 1-of-2 free throws courtesy of Bryant’s trailing pass out of a fastbreak to make it 11-9 for the road team. In unrelated news, the Pistons PA announcer remains, by far, the loudest PA guy in the NBA (FYI).

3:49 Lamar Odom came off the bench and promptly committed two personal fouls in 49 seconds, but to be fair, he’d done some good work in the locker room before the game, singing some Bone Thugs & Harmony songs in hope of boosting his squad’s energy. Luke Walton then confirmed that Odom is the best locker room guy he’s ever been around. The quarter ended with Jordan Farmar’s step-back 3 over Villanueva, which put the Lakers up 31-19 after one thanks in part to seven Pistons turnovers, including three Artest steals.

Second Quarter
8:28 It was a better Bynum in Detroit, punctuated early on by a fierce put-back slam of Shannon Brown’s miss, then a big swat of Will Bynum at the other end. Bynum had made all four of his field goal attempts for 10 points, with two rebounds, an assist and two blocks as the Lakers led 40-28.

5:53 Other than Detroit’s plodding pace, here’s the reason an hour had already gone by: 30 combined free throws taken, including 21 by the Lakers. After Kwame Brown’s miss, Odom nailed a corner three and Artest a put-back layup to put L.A. up 47-33.

0:40.5 Both Bryant and Artest made unselfish extra passes to produce an easy layup for Gasol, who used glass to put L.A. up 18 points, 56-38, at the half. The Pistons committed an almost absurd 17 team fouls, putting the Lakers on the line 25 times, for the stat of the half.

Third Quarter
8:57 A nice defensive play from Bynum turned into a Bryant layup as the center blocked his third shot of the game on an Atkins three-point attempt, gathered the ball and then found Bryant streaking ahead of the pack. Meanwhile, the refs stopped calling some of the touch fouls that were earning free throws in the first half.

591830305:02 Artest’s driving dish was corralled by Fisher, who promptly floated a three-point swish into the air to keep the Pistons at bay, down 17. Artest was quietly having a very solid all-around game, including 14 points, six assists (team high), five steals and five boards. Meanwhile, as Artest sunk his fourth field goal, a waiting-to-check-in-at-the-scorer’s-table Odom entertained a light-hearted conversation with a fan about his new bride.

2:38 Adam Morrison, in his first action of the night, immediately stuck a wide-open 18-foot jumper, courtesy of defensive attention on Bryant and Gasol (Jackson’s been doing an admirable job of keeping his bench players engaged by varying the minutes). Morrison was the opposite of thrilled, however, after rimming out an end-of-quarter three-pointer that was also wide open, again courtesy of Bryant’s drawing of attention off penetration. Still, L.A. led by 21 after a 27-24 quarter.

Fourth Quarter
9:28 Bynum stuck a tough turnaround hook over Kwame Brown to get to 16 points on an uber-efficient 7-for-8 from the field, plus seven boards and three blocks to that point as Gasol, Bryant, Fisher and Artest watched from the bench with L.A. up 19.

7:51 D.J. Mbenga completed Jackson’s emptying of the bench by subbing in for Bynum, joining Farmar, Brown, Morrison and Odom on the floor … At least until the 5:59 mark, when Jackson re-inserted Bryant, Gasol, and Artest alongside Josh Powell and Brown with L.A. up 15. Taking no chances to seal off a four-game road winning streak.

1:05 The Pistons went on a big run to climb within eight points of L.A., but Bryant and Gasol combined for back-to-back buckets down the stretch to officially close the door, earning a 93-81 victory for the Lakers that doubled as the team’s fourth consecutive road win.

Next up is a Tuesday tilt with Oklahoma City in L.A., before the Christmas day contest against Cleveland. Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Field goal missed by Andrew Bynum in a 7-of-8 performance for 16 points, plus seven boards, three blocks and two assists.

6 Steals for Ron Artest to lead the Lakers, who collectively played the role of thief all evening, finishing with 15 team swipes. Kobe Bryant added five steals of his own to the effort.

19 Points scored by the Pistons in both the first and second quarters. Without Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, perhaps Detroit’s three best scorers, the going was tough.

22 In direct relation to No. 6 above, the Pistons committed 22 turnovers on the evning, to 15 by the Lakers.

25 First half free throw attempts by the Lakers in one of the slowest periods of the season. The Lakers made 19, including five each from Gasol and Artest, while the Pistons managed just 7-of-13.

Phil Jackson Pre-Pistons

Phil JacksonPrior to each and every game, Phil Jackson takes some time to address assembled media. His roughly six-minute conversation in Detroit is summarized below:

On his message to the L.A. beat writers that couldn’t make it out of the East Coast snowstorm:
Jackson: Too bad, so sorry. They’ll have to write about it from New York.

On the team’s energy level:
Jackson: We got a run out of our second unit in the second quarter last night, kind of saved our starters for the second half (in New Jersey) and hopefully for tonight, so we didn’t burn them out. We’ll see how it goes.

Oh his thoughts about the Pistons:
Jackson: They’re on a little bit of a losing spell, they have to come out and stand up and we know that. They’ve been winning at home … they’re a physical team, an aggressive team, they play a physical game so we have to meet that physicality in the game.

On if seeing the Pistons a month ago without Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton helps prepare for Detroit despite limited time:
Jackson: They’re starting (Chucky) Atkins and (Jason) Maxiell, so they put different guys in the starting lineup and we have to be prepared for that. We anticipate that (Ben) Gordon might play tonight – I’m not sure what it’s going to crank out to be. Hamilton’s been in and out, we were anticipating perhaps he might be (ready) for this game. But we have to be prepared for drive and screen roll, those are the things that are going to be at us tonight.

On how Kobe’s finger continues to affect him:
Jackson: He said last night it bothered him more than it did two games ago, the game prior to that. Those are the kind of things where if he gets hit, it irritates him, but he’s found a way to play through it.

On how big of a factor Pau Gasol has been:
Jackson: He just gives us so many options. He’s a great passer, and when he plays a power forward role with Andrew (Bynum) in the game, he’s capable of playing outside guys, inside big players … his speed is good enough to get back on defense so we don’t get hurt transition wise, and his screen-roll defense is very good for a big guy. When Andrew goes out and he moves over to the post, he can play a variety of things from high post to low post. It changes up our offense, makes us really flexible.

On if this is as complete a starting five as he’s had:
Jackson: Well, we’re a little clumsy. We lost speed with (Ron) Artest, we don’t have that outright speed or fastbreak that we had, the capability of breaking games like that. But Ron gives us a defensive player that really is a lock-down guy. He can get on a guy and limit his touches, limit his offensive productivity, so that’s a whole different aspect of our game. Trevor (Ariza) was a good defensive player, good at (getting steals), but Ron is good on bodies and getting to guys, so that’s a great aspect for our team.

In From Jersey, Lakers Brace for Pistons

Josh Powell, Shannon Brown, Will BynumOn Saturday night, the Lakers beat not just the New Jersey Nets, but also a major East Coast snowstorm, escaping from Jersey on a late-night flight that arrived in Mo-Town at approximately 3:02 a.m. Sunday morning.

Lakers beat writers Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, Mike Bresnahan and Brad Turner of the L.A. Times and Elliott Teaford of the L.A. Daily News weren’t so fortunate, with most flights out of the East being canceled due to the plethora of white fluff.

But don’t worry … Lakers.com will be there for you (you can follow us on Twitter: @LakersReporter). Also in town is radio voice Spero Dedes, who took a one-game hiatus to call the UCLA – Notre Dame game for CBS.

This will be the second and final time the Lakers face the Pistons, whom they beat 106-93 on Nov. 17 behind 40 points from Kobe Bryant, who was “recovering” from a tweaked groin earlier that week. Andrew Bynum had a nice game with 17 points and 12 rebounds as Pau Gasol had yet to play due to his strained hamstring.

Since Gasol’s return, however, the Lakers have been (knock on wood) among the league’s healthiest teams, while the Pistons are just the opposite. Detroit was without veterans Richard Hamilton (hamstring) and Tayshaun Prince (back) in the November matchup, and both of whom will miss tonight’s game as well. Meanwhile, gunner Ben Gordon is a game-time decision with an injured ankle, leaving Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva to handle the scoring load.

Speaking of scoring … it’s not something the Pistons have done well this season, averaging just 93.7 points, also known as 27th in the NBA, while allowing 95.7 points against them, which is the sixth fewest (think: slow pace). The Lakers, meanwhile, rank seventh in points scored (103.7) and fifth in points allowed (95.1) for a league-second-best second place in point differential (+8.6), all while allowing the worst field goal percentage against in the NBA (42.3 percent).

The game tips off at 3 p.m. Pacific, and can be seen on KCAL and heard on 710 ESPN.

We’ll see you there.

Lakers 103, Nets 84: Running Diary

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

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (16th straight game)
Nets: Yi Jianlian, Jarvis Hayes

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Nets: Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Trenton Hassell, Josh Boone and Brook Lopez

Pregame Notes
- Nets big man Brook Lopez ranks first among all NBA centers in scoring at 19.7 points per game, and has amassed 15 double-doubles in 26 games. He had six straight double-doubles heading into tonight’s game. He’s also ranked first at the free throw line (85.1 percent) among all centers.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts ranks fifth among all second-year players in scoring at 16.2 points per game, behind lottery picks Lopez, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose.
- Pau Gasol has been rebounding like a madman of late, grabbing 20, 20, 16 and 22 in his last four games.
- The Nets rank second in the NBA in road games played to start the season, trailing only the Suns (17). L.A., on the other hand, is playing its eighth game away from STAPLES Center.
- Phil Jackson answered questions about a potential return next season, stating (as usual) that he won’t decide until this season is over, but adding that winning the championship again would positively impact the chances he would return.

Kobe Bryant NJFirst Quarter
10:00 Two minutes into the game, it became clear that the Lakers wouldn’t haven’t much trouble getting good shots as Bynum, Bryant and Gasol all sank relatively open jumpers.

2:07 Bryant scored six early points, then turned on facilitator mode, finding teammates four different times for buckets, including a pretty pass to a cutting Odom (in for Bynum after two quick fouls) in transition that put L.A. up 24-17.

1:42 Adam Morrison, whom we just talked to about staying sharp despite not playing, checked in alongside Jordan Farmar for his first action in five games. With 30.5 seconds remaining in the quarter, Morrison found himself open on the baseline, and stuck his jumper to help L.A. take a 29-21 lead into the second.

Second Quarter
8:51 They call him “Congo Cash” for a reason, folks. D.J. Mbenga, in as Bynum picked up two early fouls to help deal with Brook Lopez, swished a 17-foot jumper.

5:52 When Josh Powell checked in for Mbenga, every active Laker but Sasha Vujacic had checked in for Phil Jackson, 11 in all. Though L.A. largely held onto an eight- or nine-point lead, the Nets rallied to cut it to four with 3:36 remaining.

0:25.4 New Jersey continued its solid second quarter throughout the last five minutes, getting more love from Harris, who sank all seven of his field goal attempts in the period for 17 points, good enough to give the Nets a surprising 48-46 lead. The Lakers were on the lackadaisical side in the period, seemingly content to turn the engines back on in the second half.

Gasol NJThird Quarter
11:00 Andrew Bynum, playing in front of his home state, continued to struggle with foul trouble by committing his fourth early in the third to get Odom back into the game. L.O. would respond with a solid run of play, grabbing five boards and scoring two buckets in the quarter.

4:37 That Bryant would score 11 of L.A.’s 21 points to turn a halftime deficit into a 10-point lead certainly wasn’t a surprise (consider the engine revved up). Against some of the weaker NBA teams, the Lakers will sometimes conserve full energy for portions of the game, but always pick a time to really turn up the defensive pressure and capitalize at the other end. We saw that in the first eight minutes of the third, led by Bryant.

1:24 Consecutive hoops from Bryant and Gasol allowed the Lakers to match their biggest lead of the game at 12 points, capping an impressive stretch of defense that ceded just 16 points from New Jersey in the quarter. L.A. also much-better dealt with NJ’s matchup zone, thanks in part to two three-pointers from Fisher and Bryant’s work along the baseline.

Fourth Quarter
9:05 Bryant earned his third “MVP!” chant of the night after a pretty up-and-under reverse layup off glass, plus the foul, as he reached 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in yet another impressive effort.

7:33 Gasol’s 12th rebound was somewhat anticlimactic, after the Spaniard grabbed 20, 20, 16 and 22 boards in his last four games. This one came just before Shannon Brown’s pull-up jumper put the Lakers up 21 points, their biggest lead of the evening.

5:00 New Jersey’s Douglas-Roberts went down really hard on his ankle, rolling it over pretty good before a two-minute injury timeout and your proverbial adding injury to insult. The Lakers continued to cruise, building their lead to 24 points as Jackson emptied his bench.

The final score: Lakers 103, Nets 84, thanks to a 57-36 second half edge.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
3 Lakers with double-digit rebounds, including 10 from Kobe Bryant, 12 off the bench from Lamar Odom and 14 from Pau Gasol.

11 More rebounds grabbed by the Lakers in the second half.

14 Points off the bench for both Jordan Farmar and Odom, both of whom made 7-of-9 shots. Odom added four assists in 25 minutes, and Farmar three in 21 minutes as Jackson praised the effort of both.

29 Points to pace the Lakers, in 35 minutes thanks to 12-of-23 shooting from Bryant, who also added five assists and the aforementioned boards.

37.8 New Jersey’s FG percentage, compared to 49.4 from the Lakers. That’s what happens when you pit the league’s top defense against the league’s worst offense.

Bill Macdonald To Sub for Dedes in NJ

Lakers play-by-play voice Spero Dedes is calling the UCLA – Notre Dame game on CBS at 2 p.m. on Saturday, while Los Angeles sports personality Bill Macdonald (a.k.a. Billy Mac) has joined the team in order to call the Lakers – Nets game alongside Mychal Thompson.

Dedes had this to say before heading to South Bend, Indiana:

It’s bittersweet, to be very honest. You grow up dreaming of one day calling a game on national TV, and CBS has given me this opportunity. I’m thrilled to be in this spot. But on the other hand, I’ve always been very apprehensive about missing Laker games. If the Lakers weren’t as supportive as they’ve been, I wouldn’t be doing this. Billy Mac will hold it down. I’m just praying Kobe doesn’t go for 82.