While winning three straight games has made the road a bit less weary for the Lakers*, the team was nonetheless a bit on the tired side after a morning flight out of Philadelphia to Boston prior to the team’s first full practice since the current trip began on January 20.
*Eleven of 13 days and seven of eight cities: check.
We took some notes during pre-practice interviews with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to make sure you didn’t miss anything important:
- Jackson explained that the Lakers – Celtics rivalry is still alive, even if it’s different from how it was back in the 1960′s and 1980′s. “It’s a more civilized crowd,” he said, after referencing old fighting in the stands, beer throwing and the like.
- To Phil, Ron Artest can certainly continue to play as well as he did in Philadelphia. Jackson quipped that perhaps it was due to the presence of Artest’s father, though we learned last night that Artest is simply feeling healthy, finally.
- Jackson failed to attribute too much to Boston’s two-game losing streak through Orlando and Atlanta. “They’re still a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs,” he said.
- Kevin Garnett missed the first nine games in January with a knee injury and may not be back to 100 percent, but Jackson said that L.A. will still approach him as if he were. “He’s still a rover defensively, and he’s still a guy that’s going to hit those shots from 20 feet – you have to account for that.”
- Bryant said that he’s feeling OK after tweaking his knee and ankle in Friday evening’s win at Philly. He explained that it was his knee that hurt at first, but he simply walked it off until the pain was gone about five minutes later. His ankle began to get sore as the game wore on, but is not an issue for Bryant, who said he’s looking forward to trading blows with the Celtics.
- To Bryant, L.A. simply needs to match Boston’s intensity and energy on Sunday. It’s not so much about playing a specific style (i.e. a physical style), but bringing effort.
- The 2008 Finals loss isn’t something Bryant really thinks about; he focuses more on the fact that Boston simply plays very well at home.
- Bryant said that his finger is feeling about 80 percent better than it was at its worst point, and demonstrated to reporters that he has a bit better range of motion. Of course, it still looked pretty swollen, but to Bryant it had undergone “an improvement.”
- On the affect of losing in the Finals: “Last season we played the way we were supposed to. We played hard, and we carried the frustration from the year before. Hopefully we’ll do the same (on Sunday). It’s a game we look forward to, a game that’s going to be extremely hard.”
- Gasol said that while this is certainly a game L.A. would like to win, it’s not something that’s going to define a season one way or the other. Jackson and Bryant have echoed that sentiment as well.
- On attacking Kevin Garnett: “My understanding is that his leg is not completely healthy. I’ve seen him play, and I don’t know how much he’s struggling and hurting with it, because his injury was never clear to the public. But I’m just going to try and be aggressive with him no matter how his leg is doing. He’s playing, he’s a competitor and he wants to help out his team; I think he’s a good leader, and his team needs him.”
- Since Brown was traded just a few days after the team’s win in Boston last season, he’s yet to face the Celtics while wearing a Lakers jersey. Yet he already realizes that the stakes are different: “I never had the chance to play in this matchup, but I’m definitely excited to be apart of it. You still have to take the approach of respective them as a basketball team while just playing our own game. But maybe a little bit more focused.”