Monthly Archive for January, 2010

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Clem’s Road Trip Preview

Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons sits down with’s Mike Trudell to preview the team’s eight game road trip that starts in Cleveland tomorrow against the Cavaliers.

Bryant Retains #1 Spot on Jersey List

Kobe Jersey 2From the NBA:

NEW YORK, Jan. 20, 2010 – The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant has retained
the top spot on the NBA’s Most Popular Jerseys list, the ranking he has
held since the start of the 2008-09 season.
The rankings are based on sales
at the NBA Store in New York City and since the start of the
2009-10 NBA season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James maintains the No. 2 spot, while the
Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose appear in
the Top 5 for the first time. Howard makes a dramatic jump, moving from No.
10 to No. 3 on this year’s list. Rose’s popularity continues to grow and
moves into the No.4 spot from No.11 last season. The Miami Heat’s Dwyane
Wade rounds out the Top 5.

Shaquille O’Neal makes his way back into the Top 10 for the first time
since June 2008 at the No. 9 spot, while Kevin Durant re-emerges on the
list for the first time since January 2008. Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony
also moved up the list from No. 15 to No. 11.

The Los Angeles Lakers once again top the list of Most Popular NBA Team
The Boston Celtics hold on to the No.2 spot for the second
year in a row while, the Cleveland Cavaliers move up from No. 4 last season
to No. 3.

1. Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
2. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic
4. Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls
5. Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
6. Kevin Garnett – Boston Celtics
7. Chris Paul – New Orleans Hornets
8. Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics
9. Shaquille O’Neal – Cleveland Cavaliers
10. Pau Gasol – Los Angeles Lakers
11. Carmelo Anthony – Denver Nuggets
12. Steve Nash – Phoenix Suns
13. David Lee – New York Knicks
14. Allen Iverson – Philadelphia 76ers
15. Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City

Lakers Bench Keys 98-92 Win Over Orlando

59329453When the Lakers and Celtics met at STAPLES Center last Christmas, it was L.A.’s first chance to avenge a 4-2 NBA Finals victory by Boston in 2008. The purple and gold certainly had that contest circled on the schedule, and proceeded to win 92-83.

This season, after winning the 2009 Finals 4-1 over Orlando, the Lakers had already been on the other side of a “revenge game” three times, losing to first round opponent Utah, second round victim Houston and Western Conference Finals loser Denver once apiece.

On Monday night, the Magic came to Los Angeles.

“We knew they were going to come out and be ready to basically get some revenge from the series,” said Shannon Brown, who’d play a major role in the rematch.

As it turned out – at least for one night – Orlando couldn’t join the revenge trend.

Not after a 15-0 Lakers burst out of the fourth quarter gates turned a four-point deficit heading into the final period to a 79-68 lead that ultimately closed at 98-92 thanks to some too-little-too-late Orlando three-pointers.

Leading the way for the Lakers wasn’t Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol, but subs Brown and Jordan Farmar, who combined for 20 second half points and inspired a major shift in energy.

“Tremendous letdown in the third quarter, but we played an inspired fourth,” summarized Phil Jackson. “I told (the bench) they’re the reason why we got this game.”

59329476In the first half, the Lakers opened a 13-point lead, but a fierce third quarter charge from Orlando turned a five-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead late in the period. Enter the backcourt bench duo, who together inspired a 21-2 run from the 3:16 mark of the third quarter to the 6:38 point of the fourth.

“We told each other, ‘Now’s our time, let’s go. Let’s do it,’” said Farmar. “We just wanted to go in there and really be aggressive and play with a little more energy. Everything was a little flat and lackadaisical and they had all the momentum. We had to change that up.”

That they did. In fact, after consecutive Lamar Odom put-backs allowed L.A. to tie the game at 68 after a 68-64 deficit at the start of the fourth, Farmar reeled off nine straight points himself with a three-pointer, a jumper, a layup and two free throws.

“Jordan had a real inspired 6-8 minutes there,” said Jackson.

Brown, meanwhile, only finished with a career-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting on the same day that his presence in the 2010 NBA Sprite Slam Dunk Contest was requested (he accepted, don’t worry), leaving Jackson to praise his growth as a player since his trade from Charlotte last February.

“I think it’s maturity,” said the head coach. “I think it’s opportunity … and it’s responsibility. He’s a young man who’s very diligent about his work. He puts in the effort and it’s paying off for him.”

Brown and Farmar combined with Odom (nine points and 16 rebounds) to outscore Orlando’s bench 42-15, helping the Lakers overcome a tough shooting night for the finger-injury-saddled Kobe Bryant, who made just 4-of-19 shots from the field but led L.A. with seven assists. Bryant also noted L.A.’s improved defense of Dwight Howard in the second half, after the All-Star big made 9-of-12 first half shots for 18 of his 24 points.

“We wanted to limit those (interior touches) and make it a lot tougher for him to catch in the paint,” said his Olympic teammate. “Pau (Gasol) and Andrew (Bynum) both did a great job, and our weak side helpers were very solid wrapping him up and making him (go) to the line.”

Howard’s first half had kept the Magic in the game despite 3-of-12 shooting from three-point land, where as the Lakers managed to hit their first four from distance and 5-of-9 in the half. L.A.’s shooting vanished in the third quarter (5-of-22, 22.7 percent) but returned in a fourth quarter (12-of-25, 48 percent) that featured nine Lakers free throws and seven Magic turnovers, L.A.’s total for the game.

The Magic won’t get another attempt at revenge until March 7 in Orlando, while the Lakers must now pack for their longest road trip of the season that takes the purple and gold train through Cleveland, New York, Toronto, Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia, Boston and Memphis.

Tiring just to look at, right? Alas, until then, your numbers:

0 Games the Lakers have lost this season when leading at any point during the fourth quarter, out of 32 wins. By comparison, no other team has lost fewer than four games when leading at any point of the final period.

7 Lakers turnovers, tying the team’s season-low. The Magic, on the other hand, had seven turnovers in the game-deciding fourth quarter alone.

27 L.A.’s advantage in bench scoring (42-15) thanks to 22 from Shannon Brown, 11 from Jordan Farmar and nine from Lamar Odom, who added a game-high 16 rebounds and five assists.

44.5 Brown’s vertical jump, used here to signify his invitation to the 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk contest. Brown led the Lakers with 11 first half points and finished with a career-high 22.

24,981 Kobe Bryant’s career point total after he scored 11 against Orlando, leaving him 19 away from being the youngest player to score 25,000.

Vujacic Feeling Better

Quick update on Sasha Vujacic…

The Lakers guard, who strained his hamstring last week, said prior to Monday’s game against Orlando that he’s “feeling better.”

Vujacic explained that as long as he has enough time to warm up, he doesn’t expect the hamstring to hamper his ability to play his game, and that it does not affect his jump shot.

The Slovenian is coming off a 10-point performance against the L.A. Clippers that included two three-pointers and raised his three-point shooting percentage to 40 percent (18-of-45).

Shannon Brown Selected to Participate in 2010 Slam Dunk Contest

Let Shannon Dunk

As any Lakers fan, or regular reader of this blog, knows, Shannon Brown can rise. The NBA has taken notice of his dunks this season, as well as the groundswell of support the fans have shown through, and put the Lakers guard into the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest along with Nate Robinson, Gerald Wallace and the winner of the new “dunk-in” comepetition between DeMar DeRozen and Eric Gordon.

Here’s the official release for the Lakers PR staff:

Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown was selected to compete in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest which will take place on NBA All-Star Saturday Night, Feb. 13, at American Airlines Center (8 p.m. ET on TNT) in Dallas, it was announced today.

Brown, who will be the first Lakers player to compete in the contest since teammate Kobe Bryant won the title as a rookie in 1997, will go against the 2009 Sprite Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks as well as the Charlotte Bobcats’ Gerald Wallace. The final competitor in the contest will be decided at the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In, a single-round slam dunk competition that will feature Eric Gordon of the Los Angeles Clippers and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors and will be held at halftime of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam on Friday, Feb. 12.

The website was created to help bring attention to Brown’s wide array of dunks so far this season, while also giving NBA fans across the world the opportunity to get to know the 6-4 guard from Michigan State.

Brown, who has played in all 40 games this season, is currently averaging 7.3 points and 1.1 assists in 18.4 minutes.

Video Preview: Lakers vs Magic

The Magic haven’t been playing their best basketball of late.

In fact, they haven’t been much worse in the last two seasons: they come into Los Angeles having lost two straight, 4-of-6 and 6-of-10 to fall to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Yet as we discussed with assistant coach Brian Shaw, the Magic will have a 4-1 Lakers beating in the 2009 NBA Finals on their minds on Martin Luther King Day. Translation: throw everything out of the window; Orlando’s coming to play.

Just as Utah, Houston and Denver have all exacted playoff revenge on the Lakers this season (as L.A. did against Boston), the Magic have plenty to motivate them.

Shaw broke down what to expect in the above video (one key: get the bigs back quickly in transition), which you can view for every home game on the Lakers Gameday page.

Lakers Widen Lead in West

Kenyon Martin - Dirk NowitzkiThough the Lakers (31-9) have yet to play their best basketball, the defending champions have widened their lead in the Western Conference to five games over second place Dallas and Denver (both 26-14).

Various injuries to Pau Gasol (hamstring), Kobe Bryant (back, finger, etc.), Ron Artest (finger, head, foot) and Luke Walton (back) have limited L.A.’s chances to play at top form, at times affecting the W/L column. Other times – as is customary and necessary in the grueling 82-game schedule – the Lakers simply haven’t played well irrespective of injuries, particularly in January losses to Portland, the Clippers and San Antonio.

Yet the purple and gold won their other six games in January (and final game of December), including an impressive road win in Dallas last Wednesday and a 40-point thumping of the Clips at home on Friday. Meanwhile, none of the other teams currently occupying playoff slots in the West have fared better than 6-4 in their last 10, so L.A.’s 7-3 has afforded a degree of midseason* breathing room:
*Don’t look now, but the regular season is nearly halfway over.

Rank, Team: Record, Win %, Games Back
1) L.A. Lakers: 31-9, .775, 0.0
2) Dallas: 26-14, .650, 5.0
3) Denver: 26-14, .650, 5.0
4) San Antonio: 24-15, .615, 6.5
5) Portland: 25-16, .610, 6.5
6) Phoenix: 24-17, .585, 7.5
7) Utah: 23-18, .561, 8.5
T8) Houston: 22-18, .550, 9.0
T8) Oklahoma City: 22-18, .550, 9.0

Shannon Brown- DirkDallas had been within three games of the Lakers before losing twice this month to L.A. and finishing 5-5 in their last 10; Denver beat Utah on Sunday evening to tie Dallas and win for the sixth time in 10 games; San Antonio and Portland both are 6-4 in their last 10 to keep pace; the Suns and Jazz, like Dallas, have gone 5-5, with Phoenix losing three straight; while Houston (4-6) has dropped steadily in the standings while the Thunder have risen (6-4).

What exactly does a 5-game lead signify?

In some ways, a 5-game lead is like a 10-game lead since wins and losses affect teams by a half game. Each win improves a team by .5 a game, and each loss knocks off a .5 game. So if the Lakers win their next game, they’d improve to a 5.5-game lead over Denver and Dallas, then either go up to 6.0 or down to 5.0 depending on the results of the Nuggets and Mavericks.

That the Lakers have a decent cushion comes at a good time, since the team is about to embark on its longest road trip of the season, an 8-game swing through the East Coast that includes stops in Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and New York.

In the Eastern Conference, there’s more parity at the top, with the 31-11 Cavs holding just a 2.0-game lead over Boston (27-11), 3.5-game lead over Atlanta (26-13) and 4.0-game margin over Orlando (26-14), whom the Lakers face on Monday night.

We’ll be there to cover the action on

Bynum, Gasol Play Big in 40-point Blowout

59291950It’s no secret that the Lakers like to pound the basketball inside.

That’s like saying that “The Situation” from MTV’s “Jersey Shore*” just “likes” to lie in tanning beds and call girls, or that DJ Paulie D “likes” to apply copious amounts of product to his hair and spin records.
*Since the cast of the show was at STAPLES enjoying the game, we’re allowed to mention them. It’s in the rule book.

Of course, if Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were on your squad, wouldn’t you want to throw the rock in the paint as much as possible?

Unfortunately for the Lakers, that combination had been on the floor for only 22-of-39 games this season, due primarily to the left (six games) and right (11 games) hamstrings of Gasol. Yet with Gasol on the bench, Bynum had been playing some of his best basketball of the season in averaging almost 20 points and 12 boards in respective Pau-less stints, while he had failed to register a single double-double when playing alongside Gasol.

59291112That left assistant coach Frank Hamblen (among others) wondering aloud on LakersTV at Friday morning shootaround what we would see against the Clippers at 7:30 p.m., when all 14 feet of big men were once again in the starting lineup.

“We’ll just see with Pau coming back if there’s enough room for both big guys in the paint to succeed,” he said.

As it turned out … there was plenty of room.

In what turned out to be the team’s biggest victory of the season (126-86, to be exact), L.A. wasted no time using their length as Bynum and Gasol combined for 16 of the purple and gold’s first 18 points, all of which came in the painted area.

“It’s good when we’re able to set the tone early as far as pounding the ball inside to get Andrew going and get myself going,” said Gasol. “Then the ball will come out of the post because they’re going to start double teaming and we’re going to get open shots for the guys on the outside.”

After their squad was temporarily derailed in the second quarter (falling behind by nine points) the Lakers did precisely as Gasol described, nailing a plethora of open jumpers as the game rolled on and the Clips collapsed inside, including seven second half three-pointers, outscoring L.A.’s other team a whopping 73-36 in the second half after holding just a four-point lead at the half.

In that third quarter, Bynum and Gasol transitioned to the backboards, outrebounding the Clippers 7-3 themselves over the first ten minutes of the period as the Lakers found themselves quickly up by 22. ‘Drew and Pau even found themselves sharing the same statistical line with 2:19 left in the third: 18 points and six rebounds apiece.

“Always, every time you make a mistake, they have a guy that can make you pay the price,” said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy. “That’s the thing about their team that if you’re giving weak side help and you come up on one of the bigs, (the other is a) pretty easy target to find.”

59291021Gasol’s night would end after the third quarter with 20 points, seven boards, three blocks and three assists, while Bynum checked out for the final time with 8:36 left in the fourth after posting 20 points, seven boards, two assists and two blocks.

Alas, while Bynum was three boards short of that double-double, he played only 28 minutes and was an efficient 8-of-13 from the floor, while Gasol hardly looked like he hadn’t played in two weeks and took up none of Bynum’s space on the block.

“I thought they looked great,” said Kobe Bryant of his bigs. “I made it a point to tell Andrew, ‘I don’t want you to be passive, you gotta be aggressive, you can’t think about stepping on toes.’ Pau’s a phenomenal player, he’ll figure his way through it as I do.”

While those bigs were doing their thing, Bryant overcame back spasms that plagued him in Texas to score 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including four three-pointers and 6-of-8 free throws. When Kobe sat down after 38 minutes, the bench caught fire in the fourth and outscored the Clippers 37-19.

“When we play together and move the ball, play defense the way we did especially in that second half, we’re a tough team to beat,” said Gasol. “Things are working out.”

The same could be said about the team’s collective health, finally. Since Luke Walton, who’d missed the bulk of the season with a back injury, played in his first home game after appearing in both Texas matchups, the Lakers had all 13 players on the roster available for the first time.

A 40-point victory was a good enough way to celebrate that health, particularly the 14 feet in the middle of the paint.

Up next for the Lakers is a matchup with 2009 Finals opponent Orlando on Monday night at STAPLES Center. Until then, your numbers:

8 Game-high rebound total from Derek Fisher in only 19 minutes. Fish added six assists, a team-high, and four points and received Phil Jackson’s “Player of the Game” postgame praise.

11 Minute played by Lamar Odom, in which he produced seven points, two boards and two assists. The Lakers will surely need him for further minutes in a tough slew of games in the second half of January.

12 Pau Gasol’s free throw attempts, and makes, in his first game action since Jan. 3. He finished with 20 points, seven boards and three blocks.

28 Lakers bench points in the fourth quarter alone, including 10 from Sasha Vujacic, seven from Shannon Brown, six from D.J. Mbenga and five from Jordan Farmar.

30 Points from Kobe Bryant, looking like his back never bugged him, in 38 minutes on 10-of-20 shooting and 6-of-8 from the line to lead all scorers.

40 Victory margin in L.A.’s impressive 126-86 effort, the biggest Lakers victory of the season (previous was 35 over Dallas on 1/3).

Pregame Clippers Update

59233458Clippers radio play-by-play voice Brian Sieman joined us for a few minutes prior to Friday evening’s game to give us a “State of the Clippers” of sorts.

Some of his finer points:

- The Clippers will play through the unfortunate Blake Griffin news, and it shouldn’t affect the team mentally: “Blake hasn’t been here since the preseason and they’ve won against Boston and the Lakers without him. It would be another thing if it were Chris Kaman (20.4 pts, 9.4 reb) to go down for an extended period.”

- Speaking of Kaman … Sieman said that his recent back strain is a “question mark.” He may well start tonight, though Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said that Kaman was “doubtful” for the game. Sieman thinks it will be tough for the Clips to run with L.A. without their starting center. The problem isn’t considered serious and has no relation to any of the center’s previous ailments.

- Baron Davis (16.6 pts, 8.1 ast.) is “locked in,” said Sieman. “He’s not shooting the ball particularly well, but his energy, his focus, his leadership – I think he has player’s ears, which I’m not sure he had last year.” Sieman added that Davis appears to be improving with his burst on a game-by-game basis, though he isn’t quite there yet according to the Clippers’ coaching staff.

- Craig Smith (5.9 pts, 3.1 reb), who killed the Lakers in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to the Clippers, is according to Sieman still figuring out how to fit in to a new team (he came over from Minnesota last season), but the bottom line is he knows how to score the basketball and seems to have made a breakthrough in the past few weeks.

- Sieman acknowledged that the Clippers realize the Lakers are a wholly different team with Pau Gasol in the lineup.

Video Preview: Lakers – Clippers

The Clippers had been on impressive run last week, winning four straight games – including a 102-91 victory over the Lakers last week – and pushing for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Then came tough news about No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, and a two-game road losing streak through Memphis and New Orleans.

The Clippers will look to bounce back against a Lakers’ squad that is getting a major boost with the return of Pau Gasol, who went through Friday morning shootaround without incident and is expected to start.

Assistant coach Frank Hamblen joined us on LakersTV to look at how the Lakers hope to contain Baron Davis (who was terrific in last week’s game), how to better operate in the low post through Gasol and Andrew Bynum and more.