Monthly Archive for January, 2010

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Kobe’s “Still Grindin’, Still Hustlin’”

Kobe Bryant - WashingtonSo maybe rapper Maino’s “All The Above” featuring T-Pain came out over a year ago, but it still makes regular appearances in my top rotation.

In fact, during the team’s flight from Washington D.C. to Indiana after Tuesday night’s 115-103 victory over the Wizards – Kobe Bryant posted 26 points and eight assists – I couldn’t help but think of No. 24 when this T-Pain verse came up:

Now if I’m up in the spot (spot)
Or if I’m out on the block (block)
I hustle hard cause it’s all the same
And you know that grind don’t stop
Just ’cause I rose to the top
And everybody knows my name
Still grindin’ (still grindin’),
Still hustlin’ (still hustlin’)
No more pain (no more pain),
No more sufferin’ (no more sufferin’)
For my ladies and my shorties and my thugs,
keep that task, and the shine, and the love

That works, right? Who else but Kobe is “still hustling and grinding” after reaching the top, after all?

Kobe BryantDespite numerous injuries, including his current broken finger, Bryant has not missed a single Lakers game since the 2006-07 season, when he was forced to skip a March 7 tilt against Milwaukee due to a suspension after a tussle with then Timberwolves guard Marko Jaric.

The last time Bryant didn’t play in a game due to an injury was in 2006 against Atlanta on Dec. 9, when he sat with a sprained ankle on which he couldn’t run. Of course, he returned for the next game.

Since Bryant played in all 82 Lakers games during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, and all 45 this season, when you take the 20 games after that Milwaukee contest, he’s played in 229 straight (not to mention his supreme effort en route to two straight trips to the Finals and an Olympic gold medal).

Still grindin’. Still hustlin.’

Lakers 115, Wizards 103: Running Diary

59415762Click here for the Lakers Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Wizards contest in Washington D.C. while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to get back into the win column after Sunday’s loss in Toronto.

Inactives
Lakers: D.J. Mbenga
Wizards: Gilbert Arenas, Jarvaris Crittenton

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Wizards: Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood

Phil Jackson Pregame
Check out Jackson’s pregame particulars by CLICKING HERE.

59416084First Quarter
11:50 In Toronto, the Lakers watched Pau Gasol play one of his more aggressive games in taking 22 shots, and it was good to see that continue with the game’s first bucket, plus the foul.

5:16 Remember in New York on Friday night when neither the Knicks or the Lakers missed often in the first quarter? It’s like they’re replaying that game, but in Washington with Wizards jerseys as the Wiz opened 8-for-12 from the field and L.A. 6-of-9 in a 18-16 lead for the home team. Washington got seven points from Jamison, L.A. seven from Gasol.

0:00.7 Kobe Bryant’s pull-up jumper thanks to a nice outlet from Odom gave the Lakers the final four points of the period – capping a 14-7 run – that produced a 30-29 lead after a hot shooting first quarter from both teams. The Lakers canned 11-of-17 shots (64.7 percent) while the Wiz made 13-of-24 (54.2 percent).

Second Quarter
10:00 Odom continued a hot individual start to the game by canning his fourth field goal in as many attempts to get to nine points, matching his buddy Pau Gasol. In less good news for L.A., Jordan Farmar (who had 17 points against Toronto) committed his second foul and had to go right back to the bench.

7:02 Vujacic, trying to play his way back into Phil Jackson’s rotation, nailed his first field goal attempt of the game from 18 feet, capping a quick 6-0 Lakers run that made it 46-37 while Kobe rested on the bench. The Slovenian followed up that play by, in feisty fashion, tying up Haywood for a jump ball. You had to love the determined expression on his face.

3:11 An impressive quarter continued for the Lakers as Bryant scored a tough and-1 bucket at the basket and moments later, Shannon Brown hammered home his third big dunk of the half, flying in to stuff Bynum’s missed free throw home to create a 55-41 lead for L.A. The Lakers would close the half up 60-44 after Fisher buried a corner three; Fish did go down on the floor for about 20 seconds on the ensuing inbounds play, holding his groin area, but seemed fine while walking to the bench under his own power.

59416074Third Quarter
4:53 Remember that gravity-defining hanging runner off glass that Bryant nailed over Dwight Howard in Game 5 of the NBA Finals? He just pulled off a similar move over Haywood. Pretty stuff.

3:59A pretty passing play resulted in an alley-oop dunk from Bryant to Gasol, moments after Artest had nailed a three-pointer and Fisher had picked off a Foye pass. The Lakers often seemed to be toying with Washington’s defense, not allowing their lead to fall below 10 points at any point of the quarter.

0.04.0 Haywood hit 1-of-2 free throws to cap a solid offensive quarter for Washington featuring 28 points on 57.9 percent shooting. Their problem was that the Lakers shot a ridiculous 71.4 percent (10-of-14) to score 27 points of their own, allowing just one point chipped off the 16-point halftime edge.

59415761Fourth Quarter
9:30 It’s not often that someone gets under the skin of Pau Gasol, but Andray Blatche managed as much early in the fourth with some post-whistle extra-curriculars. The resulting double technical seemed to re-energize Gasol, who went hard to the basket on Blatche moments later and drew a foul, hitting both foul shots to reach a game-high 24 points and put L.A. up 11.

6:35 After a Brown three capped a 7-0 Lakers run, Farmar went on a 5-0 run himself after Foye managed a jumper. The second bucket was a three-pointer, and that’s no surprise since he’s been scorching hot from three of late, hitting at least one in seven straight games and going for 46.5 percent in January after shooting just 31.6 percent in December.

2:39 A very impressive all-around Lakers effort was punctuated by a nasty one-handed alley-oop jam from Gasol to Odom, who threw down with his favored left hand to put the Lakers up 112-94. The game would end with a 115-103 margin for the Lakers, who now head to Indiana for an always difficult game at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
59.5 L.A.’s shooting percentage for the game on an impressive 44-of-75 from the field, including 9-of-22 from three.

38 Bench points for the Lakers, who got terrific games from Lamar Odom (15 points, eight rebounds) and Shannon Brown (11 points, three assists) and a nice fourth quarter from Jordan Farmar (seven points).

26 Points for both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to lead the Lakers. Bryant added a team-high eight assists, and Gasol a game-high 10 rebounds.

9 Turnovers for L.A., which was too busy making shots to turn the ball over.

3 Huge dunks from Shannon Brown, all in the second quarter, including a rebound flush-back of a missed free throw.

Lakers Reach Out to D.C. Community

DC Kids 2Before each American championship-winning sports team visits President Obama at the White House, they are enlisted to do a service event as part of the President’s “United We Serve” campaign that encourages everyone to give back to the community on a year-round basis.

For the Lakers, that time came on Monday morning at Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center – prior to the team’s afternoon visit to the White House – when the Lakers put on a fitness and basketball clinic for 31 fifth graders from Southeast D.C.’s Stanton Elementary School.

As the Purple and Gold’s Community Relations Director Eugenia Chow explained, the Lakers used the opportunity to partner with City Year, an organization that places students or college graduates with schools.

“City Year is a wonderful organization,” said Chow, who also works with City Year’s L.A. branch. “The Washington D.C. branch has 100 corps members that are 17-to-24 year olds who commit to a year of full-time service.”

Executive Director of City Year Washington D.C. Jeffrey Franco explained that City Year’s corps members act as tutors, mentors and role models to kids such as those gathered with the Lakers.

dckids_gasol“They help the kids with one-on-one tutoring, group tutoring, in-class support and creating a positive climate at the schools they’re at,” he said. “They’re generally in schools that are high-need schools, and our members are in the school every day from the morning bell through the after school program.”

Part of the mission for both City Year and the Lakers is to create opportunities for kids that they might not otherwise get.

“Following along with the theme of a mentor and a role model, these kids see the basketball players as role models, so when they do something with them in the community, it also creates a very positive impression upon the kids,” said Franco.

Luke Walton would agree.

“It’s always great to get the kids having fun playing basketball, and hopefully you can encourage them to exercise more, be more active and that kind of thing,” said the Lakers forward. “And if you talk to most guys on (the Lakers), we grew up having to do well in school before being rewarded with basketball, so we want to use it as motivation.”

It certainly seemed to be working on Monday, as fifth grade teacher Lora King noticed immediately.

“This is definitely motivational for our students,” she said. “They’re excited to meet the players, they’re excited to get their shirts and I think this is something that can help them stay motivated because we’re going to start a basketball team at Stanton.”

King said that Stanton is trying to create positive opportunities for the students that make them excited both about health and fitness and about going to school, and having the Lakers join that cause is very exciting.

“It’s just nice to see smiles on their faces,” concluded Walton. “We had a great time with the kids, and I hope they can take some of these lessons back to Stanton.”

Phil Jackson Pregame – Washington

Prior to L.A’s Tuesday evening contest against the Wizards, a local media member asked him where he would you put this year’s team up against some of his better teams, and Jackson’s answer was interesting enough to quote directly:

It kind of feels to me like a team that’s won a championship and … having been to the Finals the year before the championship (also) and knowing the grind the season’s are, sometimes they don’t present the intensity (about) regular season games that I’d like them to.

Perhaps the good news is, Jackson’s early decade championship teams went through much of the same before going on to win; he has no reason to believe his 2009-10 version won’t ultimately lock in.

One thing that helps, thinks Jackson, is the road, where opposing crowds and teams have it out for the Purple and Gold.

“We got stagnant at home a little bit,” he said. “Now that we’re on the road we want to find some traction.”

A few other notes prior to tipoff:

- Jackson wasn’t worried that the team would have any letdown after an emotional day at the White House. He was, however, concerned with the team’s lack of practice time due to the crazy schedule of late.

- Jackson emphasized that the Lakers absolutely couldn’t take the Wizards lightly, noting a few players in particular: “(Antawn) Jamison and (Caron) Butler are very good scorers, and they have a track record of playing well against us. I don’t know if we’ve ever stopped (Earl) Boykins.”

- Phil revealed that he voted for Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Paul for the All-Star team, but wouldn’t divulge his other picks.

- The head coach tempered his criticism of Ron Artest’s shoes, disclosing that he was purely speculating about why his forward was suffering from plantar fasciitis.

- Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser from ESPN’s “PTI” program stayed after the media session to catch up with their frequent guest.

The Lakers Meet President Obama

President Barack ObamaAfter an exciting day at the White House that included a private tour of the residence, President Barack Obama addressed a full house in the building’s East Room with the NBA Champions gathered behind him.

“Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for winning your 15th NBA title and fourth in the last 10 years,” said Obama. “I still get enormous pleasure from watching great athletes, and nobody exemplifies excellence in basketball better than the Los Angeles Lakers.”

There are only so many people in the world that can command complete control of a room that also features Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, but many of the players could hardly contain beaming smiles as the President praised their accomplishments.

“I think they’re in awe,” said Phil Jackson. “I really do.”

“A lot of us never thought we would see this day,” said Jordan Farmar before even attending the event. “I feel very special to be apart of it and to have the chance to share this with my teammates – we all get along and really care about each other, so it’s really meaningful.”

The team, in unison, could easily agree upon that sentiment after the ceremony.

During a typically terrific nine-minute speech, Obama also managed to engender frequent laughs from both the audience and the team. Perhaps the funniest part of his address came after he conveyed his excitement about meeting Phil Jackson, when he mentioned Lakers legend Magic Johnson (standing next to Kobe Bryant) while acknowledging Jackson’s championships.

“I do want to point out that six of them came with the Bulls,” said Obama, a big time Chicago fan. “You remember that, Magic?”

Magic - ObamaThat one had all in attendance cracking up, particularly after Obama turned towards Magic to pantomime Michael Jordan’s right-hand-to-left-hand layup in the 1991 Finals, when Jackson’s Bulls defeated Johnson’s Lakers 4-1.

“It was really a special moment in time that I’m going to always remember that the President of the United States trash-talked Magic Johnson,” said Johnson. “And me restraining myself not to come back at him. He was the only man on earth that ever trash-talked me and I (didn’t) say anything … it was a great moment.”

Obama, of course, promptly went on to praise Johnson.

“We’re honored to have one of the all-time greats in NBA history, Magic Johnson,” he said. “Magic did pretty well during his time with the Lakers – he wasn’t bad. Part of what makes Magic special wasn’t just how he played on the court but also his infectious enthusiasm about life and what he’s now doing with businesses in black communities, he’s just been an outstanding leader in our country for a long time.”

Next up, Kobe Bryant.

“Of course I have to acknowledge Kobe Bryant, one of the most competitive players I’ve ever seen,” said Obama. “He has MVP’s under his belt, he’s the youngest player to ever reach 25,000 points in his career, and he’s playing with a broken finger.”

Bryant explained that in an exchange between himself and Obama before the speech, they shook hands, but Obama immediately pulled his hand back to make sure he wasn’t squeezing Kobe’s finger too hard. Bryant certainly appreciated that the President was so aware, as did the rest of the players and assistants when Obama called them all by name.

“It was nice that he had done his homework,” said assistant coach Brian Shaw. “He knew a little bit about everybody from Kobe to the coaching staff … I was impressed.”

“Absolutely,” Bryant agreed. “I know that everybody understood the significance and the magnitude of it. It’s great to see that … (President Obama) is someone who I obviously got behind and he’s in charge of the country, so it’s just a special feeling being the first NBA team to come to the White House.”

Yet Bryant, whose smile from the ceremony remained on his face as he addressed the press afterward, was most excited to share the experience with his family.

“To me that’s the coolest part about it,” he said. “To see my wife and my two daughters sitting there. They’re fully aware of who he is, and it’s pretty cool to see. It was perfect.”

Obama went on to describe that while the Lakers clearly never lost their focus on the court last season – even citing the “1-2-3 Ring!” chant led by Odom before each game – they also recognized the impact that can be made off the court.

“This team knows that being a champ is about more than trophies and rings,” he said. “It’s about being a winner off the court, and giving back to those that are less fortunate. The Lakers and the NBA have always been about serving others … and that tradition continued last week when the NBA players association, led by Derek Fisher, pledged to donate one million dollars to support relief efforts in Haiti.”

The President also specifically mentioned the contributions of Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and thanked the team for putting on a Monday morning community event with fifth graders from a local Washington D.C. school.

Shaw noted the irony in that visit at the Verizon Center, when the kids looked up to the Lakers much like the Lakers looked up to the President.

“Just how the kids were kind of starry eyed when we were trying to get them organized so that we could do the clinic, I jokingly said (to the players at the White House) that now we’re the kids at the clinic,” explained Shaw. “Everybody’s looking at him just like they were looking at us.”

And so it was as Obama offered the last words.

“I want to thank the entire Lakers organization for your service, for the great joy that you have given the city of Los Angeles and also the incredible competition that your organization has graced the basketball court with for decades now.

“If this season is anything like the last one, I know you have your sights set on the NBA Finals, so we might see you here before long.”

Lakers Excited to Meet President Obama

Before the results to the 2008 Presidential election became official on Nov. 4 of that year, many of the Lakers players were almost as plugged into the outcome as they were the team scouting reports heading into NBA Finals seven months later.

Then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama won in November, and the Lakers followed suit by defeating Orlando in Game 5 in June to secure not just the NBA title, but a trip to the White House to meet the President seven months later a day before L.A.’s Tuesday night game against Washington.

Among Obama’s numerous supporters within the NBA community is Derek Fisher, who relayed his and his team’s sentiments about Monday’s meet and greet prior to L.A.’s Sunday evening game in Toronto.

“We’re all excited about it,” said Fisher. “It’s one of those rare times in an individual lifetime where there is an election or an event that changes the course of the next 30, 40, 50 years.

“A lot of people, including us, feel like President Obama’s election was one of those moments. So to be the first team that gets to actually go and meet him, see the White House and be apart of the entire event is pretty cool.”

Fisher’s backup, Jordan Farmar, expressed similar feelings.

“I’m really excited,” he noted. “I’ve never been to the White House, and being a guest there will be special.“

Farmar actually had a chance to introduce President Obama before a speech in Newport Beach in the summer of 2008, and said he jumped at the opportunity after his agent set up the details.

“It was really special, and President Obama was really cool,” said Farmar, who spoke to Obama for about 15 minutes before the speech. “We talked basketball right away; we had just lost to Boston in the Finals then, but we’ll have something better to talk about this time.”

Yet in his haste to pack for L.A.’s eight-game road trip (three down, five to go), Farmar forgot to pack a suit to wear to the ceremony.

“I had to go get one made (Sunday in Toronto),” he said. “You can’t just go to the White House in jeans and a t-shirt.”

Fortunately, Farmar’s suit was delivered during the game in Toronto; he certainly couldn’t afford to be less than sharp as the first team in what is a predominantly African American professional league met the country’s first African American President.

“A lot of us never thought we would see this day,” said Farmar, who like Obama comes from a bi-racial background. “I feel very special to be apart of it and to have the chance to share this with my teammates – we all get along and really care about each other, so it’s really meaningful.”

One of those teammates, Lamar Odom, responded immediately to a locker room question about his favorite president.

“President Obama, in a land slide,” he said before offering some perspective. “My grandmother was born in Georgia in 1923 … A lot of people coming up didn’t have hope … I’m looking forward to going tomorrow and meeting him face-to-face.”

While Odom joked that he also loved Obama because he was a fellow lefty, his eyes sparkled a bit as he imagined taking a photo with the President.

“Just having that picture in my house in Queens where I was born and raised … that will be a big deal to my family.”

Lakers 105, Raptors 106: Running Diary

59393758We took a look at the Lakers – Raptors contest in Toronto while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to win their second straight road game.

Inactives
Lakers: D.J. Mbenga
Raptors: Marcus Banks

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Raptors: Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani

Canadian Home Court Edge
The Raptors have been one of the league’s best home teams this season, particularly of late. In fact, they had won 8-of-9 games at Air Canada Centre heading into Sunday’s game, including five straight against Western Conference teams (Dallas, San Antonio, New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota). We should recognize the vigor of the home crowd, which is very festive (much like a European soccer crown, minus the extra curriculars).

59393751First Quarter
5:07 Pau Gasol capped a very aggressive personal open to the first with a nasty one-handed dunk in transition off the feed of Derek Fisher to make it 14-5 Lakers. The Spaniard would close the quarter with a game-high 10 points in the period on 5-of-9 shooting. Unrelated: did you know that Subways in Canada don’t have spinach or olive oil? I found out the hard way.

2:07 Ron Artest struggled to find his range throughout the quarter, missing all five of his attempts from various spots around the perimeter. Perhaps this is because Celine Dion, of whom he’s a big fan, was not here to sing “Oh Canada”? Just a guess.

0:02.9 It took a while, but the Raptors finally started to hit some shots near the quarter’s close after opening just 2-of-10, getting a Chris Bosh hoop and a end-of-shot-clock Marco Belinelli three-pointer to keep Toronto within three (24-21) at the quarter’s close. By the way, the Canada Dry ginger ale in the media room tastes quite good, not surprisingly.

Second Quarter
8:51 Jordan Farmar, who had made at least one three-pointer in five straight games, nailed another thanks to Bryant’s penetration. Farmar’s shooting around 43 percent in January, and has been fairly consistent. In related news, he’s been spending considerable time at the gym at night shooting with his personal trainer.

3:31 Sticking to the ol’ game plan in the second, the Lakers repeatedly pounded the ball inside to Bynum, who responded with 13 points in the quarter as the Raptors were left literally without an answer. Bynum had three separate and-1′s, all helping the Lakers to a 48-41 lead when Odom took his place.

0:01.9 Kobe nailed three jumpers all in the final minute of the quarter to put a dent in Toronto’s first hot stretch of the game that had produced 14 points since a 48-40 Lakers lead. His final J gave the Lakers a two-point edge heading into the half. Bryant closed the half with 14 points, eight boards and five assists, and was on triple-double watch (he had 16 in his career coming into the game).

59393754Third Quarter
9:45 The Lakers brought some California heat to the start of the third quarter, getting consecutive buckets from Gasol and Bynum before Bryant atoned for his missed dunk with a corner three. That capped a 7-0 run to start the third, creating a nine-point cushion.

4:32 L.A.’s lead briefly reached 10 when Fisher canned a corner three, but the Raptors responded with a 6-0 run to cut the margin to 73-69 and force a Phil time out. Jarrett Jack was key in the run, scoring twice at the rim and feeding Bosh for a baseline jumper. Random note: I learned that Canada native Kiefer Sutherland’s grandpa is a famous/important politician from our cab driver to the arena.

0:08.9 DeMar DeRozan’s baseline jumper capped a quick 4-0 run to close the third for Toronto, cutting L.A.’s lead to two points – as it was at halftime – heading into the final quarter. Bryant was within only two assists of his triple-double with 21 points, 12 boards and eight assists, not to mention an explosive baseline dunk and big swat of Bargnani.

Fourth Quarter
8:25 Speaking of Bargnani … the Italian and former No. 1 overall pick nailed his third field goal in the opening minutes of the quarter to tie the score at 88. He was one of five Raptors in double figures at that point (Bosh, DeRozan, Jack and Belinelli), as the Lakers gave Bryant a rest in favor of Shannon Brown.

7:13 Just moments after failing to see Luke Walton’s alley-oop pass, Farmar atoned with his third three-pointer of the game. It also answered Bargnani’s three at the other end, a rainbow that had given Toronto its first lead of the game at 93-90, sending the crowd – which easily ranks in the NBA’s top five – into a relative frenzy. Fast forward to the 3:23 mark, when Farmar got a tough runner to go (17 pts) at the end of the shot clock to put the Lakers up 103-100 in a terrific up-and-down final quarter.

0:01.2 A crazy final few minutes as Bryant put the Lakers up 105-101 with a shot over Turkoglu, but he missed his next two jumpers – including a fade away with a second left on the shot clock – to give the Raptors a chance to go ahead with 11.4 seconds left in a 105-104 game. As it turned out, Turkoglu managed to draw a foul heading to the bucket with just 1.2 seconds to go as the ref whistled a push in the back (Gasol’s hand was on his back, but the Turkish forward appeared to be out of control and set to dive towards the hoop). Alas, he made both foul shots, and Bryant’s desperation three-pointer from 38 feet rimmed out to give the Raptors a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

Before L.A. plays the Wizards on Tuesday, they’ll go visit with President Obama at the White House on Monday … and before that, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Assist shy of a triple-double for Kobe Bryant, who scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-24 shooting.

3 Players scoring at least 20 points, with Bryant’s 27, Pau Gasol’s 22 and Andrew Bynum’s 21. Both Bynum and Gasol grabbed nine rebounds as well.

12 L.A.’s edge on the glass, 51-39.

15 More free throw attempts for the Raptors (26) than the Lakers (9).

16 Career high regular season rebounding total for Bryant. Both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum added nine rebounds for the Lakers.

17 Points off the bench for Jordan Farmar in 22 minutes on 7-of-11 shooting, plus four rebounds and all of the crunch time minutes at point guard.

Artest Suffering From Plantar Fasciitis

Phil Jackson acknowledged before Sunday’s game against Toronto that Ron Artest is suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet.

“We haven’t had any conversation about sitting out, but if it continues, he may have to,” said Jackson.

Artest, who generally prefers not to discuss his injuries, is averaging 11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists while leading the team in three-point shooting at 39.6 percent, boosted by his 3-of-3 from distance against the Knicks on Friday.

Lakers – Raptors Pregame Notes

Chris Bosh - Lamar OdomA few things to know about the Raptors before the 3 p.m. tipoff:

- Phil Jackson described the Raptors’ style of play: “It’s about their spacial relations on the floor rather than being a running team. This is a flow team. They’re not particularly about fast break (offense) or running the ball up the floor; they get a lot of points because they open the floor up. (Chris) Bosh will be on the post, but there are relatively few guys on the post, so as a consequence you have to cover a wide open court.

- Andrea Bargnani, who ranks second on Toronto in scoring and rebounding with 17.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game (and is tied with Hedo Turkoglu for the team high in three-pointers made [69]) will start. He had missed Toronto’s last game with a sore lower back and was questionable to play.

- Bosh is one of two NBA players (Zach Randolph) averaging 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds, with marks of 24.1 points an 11.1 boards.

- Jarrett Jack, who began starting at point guard 22 games ago when Jose Calderon sat with an injury, has continued to start since Calderon returned and put up a season-high 27 points during Friday’s win over Milwaukee. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 4.7 assists.

- Toronto’s defense has improved significantly since early in this season: during the first 21 games, opponents averaged 110 points per game against the Raptors, but since Dec. 5 at Chicago, the Raptors are conceding an average of 99.7 points per game. On offense, meanwhile, the Raptors are the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference with 103.6 points per game.

- The Raptors have won five consecutive games against Western Conference teams, defeating Dallas, San Antonio, New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota all at Air Canada Centre.

Farmar Kicks Up Charity Effort

100116jordanfarmar_homedepotcenterOn Friday evening in New York, Jordan Farmar joined teammate Pau Gasol in donating to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which came on top of his previous $2,500 donation to Haiti Relief that resulted from his sinking a 50-foot put earlier in the week.

But even that wasn’t the first time he’d done charitable work in January, because on the 17th at the Home Depot Center, Farmar (pictured above in the lower center) participated in the second annual Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra Celebrity Soccer Challenge.

The event, which helped raise nearly $200,000 for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation, was designed to raise funds and awareness primarily for bone marrow disease, to which Hamm’s brother lost his life in 1997.

Farmar, who shares the same agent as the greatest female soccer player of all time, supported the effort from the sideline in order to ensure his basketball health.

“Mia and Nomar are great people and it was for a great cause,” he said. “We didn’t have a game that day so I was happy to get out there and support them.”

Farmar said the highlight of his day came at halftime, when patients suffering from life-threatening diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma were introduced to their bone marrow donors for the first time.

“It was a lot of fun just being there and especially seeing some of the kids that were there that got helped out by their donors,” Farmar explained. “Just to see how much one person can change another’s life is pretty cool.”