Monthly Archive for February, 2010

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Lakers – Celtics: Numbers Preview

56405312Heading into LA’s second and final regular season meeting with the Celtics in the 2009-10 season, we compared the teams through the prism of numbers:

1,000 Career victory total reached by Phil Jackson when the Lakers beat Boston 92-83 on Christmas Day last season.

97 All-time Celtics wins against the Lakers, to 83 losses, since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles.

68.4 Phil Jackson’s winning percentage (13-6) against Boston in his Lakers tenure.

42 Wins for LA, to 13 losses, putting them six games clear of Denver in the Western Conference.

33 Wins for Boston, to 18 losses, pitting the Celtics 8.5 games back of first place Cleveland.

19 Points by which Boston beat LA at STAPLES Center on Dec. 30, 2007, Boston’s last win in Los Angeles.

9.6 Rajon Rondo’s assist-per-game average, good for fourth in the NBA. Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers with 4.6 assists, less than half of Rondo’s total.

4 Boston’s rank in field goal percentage, compared to L.A.’s 12th. Kendrick Perkins leads the NBA with his 60.8 percent average, while Andrew Bynum is sixth at 57.1 percent. Kevin Garnett (53.7 percent), Rondo (52.5 percent) and Pau Gasol (51.9 percent) are also over the 50 percent mark.

3 Straight regular season wins for the Lakers over Boston.

2 LA’s rank in rebounding, compared with Boston’s 29th, an obviously major discrepancy.

1 Boston’s rank in points allowed per game. The Celtics, however, play at a slow pace, and are only 18th in points scored per game. LA, on the other hand, ranks fifth in scoring and ninth in points allowed, the second best differential in the NBA after Cleveland (Boston is fifth).

Bryant Expected to Miss Celtics Game

After Wednesday’s practice, Kobe Bryant said that his strained peroneal tendon would have to improve drastically overnight for him to play against Boston on Thursday night, but that doesn’t appear to be the case, as we learned after Thursday morning’s shootaround.

When asked if he expected Bryant to play, Phil Jackson said: “Not that I know of.” Assistant coach Frank Hamblen then told us that LA had prepared its scouting report under the assumption that Bryant would not play.

Since the Lakers don’t play their next game until Tuesday in Memphis, it appears that Bryant will have gone 18 days since last playing against Denver on February 5.

Bryant Likely Out Against Boston

While wearing a pair of sandals that signified his lack of participation in Wednesday’s practice, Kobe Bryant said that he doubted he would be able to play in Thursday’s game against Boston.

“Right now it’s a no,” he said. “(It’s*) still sore … Can’t push off enough to play, so I’ll take my time.”
*UPDATE: Bryant was referring not to his ankle sprain, but a strained peroneal tendon in his lower left leg suffered on Feb. 3 against Charlotte.

Bryant conceded that if he wakes up tomorrow and feels drastically different, he’ll play, but doubts that will happen. On the other hand, he has been very pleased with how his teammates have played without him – they’ve gone 4-0 – and said that’s made it easier on him to take his time recovering fully.

“I think they’re playing with a great sense of urgency,” he said. “They’re playing extremely well at both ends of the floor.”

If Bryant does not play on Thursday, he will have four more full days to recover until L.A.’s two-game road stretch through Memphis and Dallas that takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 23-24, 18 days removed from his last game (Friday, Feb. 5).

That, however, does not affect his playing status, as his injury philosophy remains the same.

“If you’re healthy, you play, it doesn’t matter what the upcoming schedule is,” he concluded.

Fisher Six Points From 9,000

After scoring 11 points against Golden State on Tuesday, Derek Fisher moved to within six points of 9,000 for his career.

With the Lakers, Fisher has scored 6,202 points to vault past Wilt Chamberlain (5,985) into 17th place in franchise history. Next up for Fish is Elden Campbell (16th, 6,408).

Kobe Bryant Nets GQ Cover

Kobe Bryant has nabbed the March cover of GQ for an extended feature story, detailed below by the magazine:

For fourteen grueling seasons, Kobe Bryant has cracked, fractured, strained, torn, cut, bruised, nicked, and risked every party of his finely tuned self. And he’s got the rings – and the scars – to show for it. In the March issue of GQ (on newsstands nationwide February 23), J.R. Moehringer sits down with the notoriously private, Lakers co-captain to discuss his many injuries, going to the Olympics, and his famously volatile relationship with Shaq.

Here’s the cover:


Lakers Pull Away Late From Warriors

59632269Regular season win No. 42 wasn’t exactly pretty.

Playing without Kobe Bryant for the fourth straight game due to his left ankle injury, the Lakers on Tuesday night were at times as sloppy as Phil Jackson had described after the team’s practice on Monday.

Yet thanks to a 15-5 run to close the fourth quarter, LA improved to 26-4 at STAPLES Center with a 104-94 victory that counts the same as impressive Kobe-less W’s against Portland, San Antonio and Utah.

“We weren’t very sharp tonight,” said Pau Gasol after the game. “But we fought and pulled it through in the end.”

“Oh boy,” added Phil Jackson. “It’s just one of those games, but we managed to play the best with the two teams in the last three-and-a-half minutes or so.”

59631935The team’s lack of consistency didn’t affect Shannon Brown, however, who started in place of Bryant and scored a career-high 27 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – plus a career-high 10 rebounds. His first ever double-double, which came on an efficient 11-of-19 shooting night, was particularly enjoyable for Brown after a disappointing performance at the Slam Dunk Contest.

“I did not know Kobe was out or that I was going to start until we had our pregame talk,” said Brown. “So I just had to come out and be aggressive. We know that coming back off of All-Star break it is usually one of those times when everything is not clicking right the way it was leading into the break, so we just had to come out and show skills on both ends of the court and we got a victory.”

His play certainly pleased his coach.

“Shannon had a real fine game and it was a real benefit to us,” said Jackson. “I just thought we needed the speed, the quickness and speed. Shannon gives us that and a little extra hustle all the time which helps our defense out and helps our total game.”

Joining Brown on Jackson’s individual list of praise was Andrew Bynum, starting for the first time in two games (bruised hip). The seven-footer joined Brown in making up for a poor offensive night from both Pau Gasol and Ron Artest by hitting his first seven shots and finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

59632056With Bynum’s return to the starting lineup came Lamar Odom’s return to the bench, but that didn’t keep the lefty from grabbing a game-high 18 rebounds (vaulting his season average to 10.0 per game) and adding nine points. While Gasol (5-of-14 field goals) and Ron Artest (5-of-13) struggled to score, they did combine to toss 11 assists, and Artest matched Bynum’s three steals at the defensive end.

Early on, the game didn’t look like it would require a fourth quarter push for the Lakers, who quickly built a 36-24 lead after the first quarter thanks to Bynum’s 4-of-4 and Brown’s 5-of-7, but the Warriors pushed back with a 27-18 second quarter. Then LA, re-focused, opened a double-digit lead in the third quarter before once again conceding the lead early in the fourth quarter before the game settled to an 89-all tie.

From that point on, L.A. would concede only five points while scoring 15, including six straight from Gasol leading into the team’s final eight points, all from Brown, that shut the door.

Up next for the Lakers is a Thursday showdown with Boston, but until then, your numbers:

27 Shannon Brown’s career-high point total, made better by his career-high rebounding total (10) in his first ever double-double.

19 Turnovers for the Lakers, resulting in 23 Warriors points, helping Golden State stay in the game.

18 Rebounds for Lamar Odom in 29 minutes off the bench, bringing his season average to 10.0, good for 12th in the NBA.

17 LA’s advantage on the glass (53-36).

15 Second chance points for the Lakers, compared to four by the Warriors, who managed just three offensive rebounds.

Video Preview: Lakers – Warriors

After an impressive three-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break despite the absence of Kobe Bryant (left ankle), the Lakers found out Tuesday morning that they’d likely be without Bryant for at least their first game out of the break.

That information had yet to come in when we talked to assistant coach Brian Shaw about the matchup (above), detailing why Golden State can still be dangerous despite injuries of their own (most notably Monta Ellis), looking at rookie Stephen Curry and explaining what LA’s coaches would like to see at both ends of the court.

Kobe Bryant Doubtful for Warriors

58932081Kobe Bryant (left ankle), who has missed LA’s last three regular season games in addition to Sunday’s All-Star Game, is doubtful to play in Tuesday’s game against Golden State.

This comes as somewhat of a surprise considering that Bryant participated fully in Monday’s practice, leading to these comments from Phil Jackson.

“He said he didn’t have the normal strength he’d like to have, but it’ll come back,” Jackson said. “That is just getting back in the flow and getting some strength there again, reconditioning it. He hasn’t played in two weeks, so there’s a lot of things that he was trying out and trying to figure out … but he’ll come (around).”

At Tuesday morning’s shootaround, however, the team was disappointed with how Bryant’s ankle responded to Monday’s practice, according to Lakers spokesman John Black.

Bryant will continue to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

Monday’s Practice Update

Lakers head coach Phil Jackson met with reporters for the first time after the All-Star break on Monday in L.A. after a full session that included participation from Kobe Bryant (ankle) and Andrew Bynum (hip), both of whom are expected to play against Golden State on Tuesday.

Thanks to 710 ESPN’s Beto Duran, who provided the audio as was en route from All-Star in Dallas, here is a synopsis of Jackson’s comments:

- For starters, here are Phil’s comments after a question about if he were satisfied with how Bryant moved around: “I think so. He hasn’t played in two weeks, so there (were) a lot of things that he was trying out, trying to figure out, passes that went awry and shots he was reluctant to shoot. But he’ll come (along). He’ll come.

- The head coach said that the Mavericks trade with the Wizards improved Dallas, giving them more depth in the front court through Brendan Haywood and another scorer in Butler. “I think they helped themselves in that trade” was the quote. However, as Jackson elaborated, the move doesn’t really affect the Lakers or the team’s potential activity or lack there of around the trade deadline.

- Overall, the practice didn’t please Jackson, who said that the players looked like they’d jut gotten out of school or knew that recess was coming. That’s natural, however, after a layoff, and he thinks the team will be fine to go against Golden State on Tuesday.

- Luke Walton’s back injury will keep him out for an indefinite amount of time, though Jackson hopes to have him back sometime later in the season. He mentioned more potential minute for players like Sasha Vujacic, who changed the game in Utah (said Phil), and Adam Morrison.

- The team’s focus: “I put four games up on the board (Golden State, Boston, Memphis and Dallas), and we want to stay focused on short term right now,” said Jackson. Of course, gaining home court advantage and staying healthy are always key areas of focus.

Pau Gasol Post All-Star Quotes

Pau GasolAfter his Western Conference team’s narrow 141-139 loss to the Eastern Conference in the 2010 All-Star Game in Dallas, Lakers forward Pau Gasol – who scored 13 points with six rebounds – joined respective media members for a Q&A session:

Q: On accomplishing his dual goals of having fun and staying healthy:
Gasol: We accomplished both goals. It was fun game, an unbelievable crowd, incredible stadium. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. I was tearing up. I couldn’t believe how many people came to the game and supported us and enjoyed the game. Really, really pleased that I had a chance to experience this. I look forward to continue to be apart of other All-Star weekends.

Q: On always playing to win:
Gasol: Sometimes I think about it, but it’s hard to get loose out there. You try not to make mistakes, even though it’s a game (where) you have to try and put on a good show. My goal is always to try and help the team win.

Q: On the crowd:
Gasol: It looked like a lot, a lot of people. It’s hard to get a feel for how many were there. We thought there were going to be 90,000-plus, but we didn’t know there were going to be over 100,000. It was great to feel the love.

59603495Q: On playing 20 minutes and 18 seconds:
Gasol: You can always play more, you can always play less. I’m thankful that the coach put me out there for as long as he put me out there.

Q: On shooting in a different type of stadium:
Gasol: It’s a different feeling, but once you get over that … because the dimensions are so different and the crowd is so far away and the building is humongous, you get used to it and it’s still just basketball.

Q: On Kobe Bryant looking a bit antsy on the sideline:
Gasol: I’m sure he would have loved to have been apart of the game. He would have enjoyed it. I’m sorry that he missed it, especially in close games. I (thought), oh I hope it doesn’t get too close, because he loves those kinds of shots in those kinds of situations … You always miss one of the best players in the world.

Q: On the potential of playing the All-Star game in a European city one day:
Gasol: I’m sure there are a lot of (good venues). Obviously, personally I would love for it to be in Barcelona, so (the people) would get to enjoy this kind of environment and this party of basketball. Anywhere would be interesting, but it’s hard to do it in the middle of the season.

Q: On the whole weekend:
Gasol: There was a lot going on, a lot of media availability, a lot of commitments and appearances. They keep us pretty busy, but at the same time, it’s fun to be apart of it. I think it’s a great honor to be named an All-Star, and it’s a party of basketball. It’s a good break from the daily routine that we go through, and now it’s over and we have to get back to work.

Q: On L.A.’s momentum heading into the post-break stretch:
Gasol: The momentum is there. We finished with a nice three-game swing and we were playing really well. Now we want to continue to play well and build on it. We’re ready for those 28 regular season games that we have left, and then getting back a playoff mindset.

Q: On the stadium:
Gasol: Unbelievable, incredible. I’ve never been to a football stadium before, I’ve been to a couple of soccer stadiums. But never like this, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us.