Monthly Archive for May, 2010

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5-16 Injury Update: Andrew Bynum

D072144011.jpgWith L.A.’s health being among the few malleable things from practice-to-practice in a six-day span without games, Phil Jackson was asked by a reporter after Sunday’s session how his team was coming along from that standpoint.

“We’re good,” he said. “We’re as good as can be.”

Most notably, Jackson’s statement didn’t exclude Andrew Bynum, who did not participate on Sunday but suffered no setbacks from his run in Saturday’s practice.

“I think he came through yesterday’s practice quite well,” Jackson said. “I thought he played well. We’re hopeful that he’s going to be at that level tomorrow.”

That was good news for the Lakers, as Bynum had told reporters that his knee was “getting a little worse,” but that it would not keep him from playing throughout the remainder of L.A.’s postseason.

In the regular season, the 22-year-old center found considerable success against Phoenix, averaging 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds on 61% shooting in roughly 32 minutes per game.

The small tear in the lateral meniscus of Bynum’s right knee and more playing time for Lamar Odom against Utah’s smallish front line limited the seven-footer to 24.8 minutes per contest in Round 2 (in which he averaged 7.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.75 blocks), but Jackson expects that ‘Drew will be available for almost-regular duty.

“If the times and the minutes are parsed out in a way that doesn’t put any real heavy time on him, like 12, 14 minutes in a row, he can play (30 minutes),” said the head coach.

The Suns have an injured center of their own in second-year man Robin Lopez, who has not played in a game since hurting his back on March 26, but is expected to start on Monday night. Channing Frye, however, is expected to get the majority of the “center” minutes, though he spends much of his time on the perimeter offensively.

Playoff Podcast: Spero Dedes

59129266Lakers play-by-play radio voice Spero Dedes joined us from his house to discuss what we normally go over on the airplane…

What’s happening with the Lakers; what to expect in the next series; the coaching brilliance of Phil Jackson; Pau Gasol’s ridiculous level of play and more. And so on.

Dedes, keeping busy studying the Suns with so many days between the Western Conference Semi’s and Finals, also offered his thoughts on the matchup.

To listen, click below.

Gasol Back to Practice, Vujacic Expecting Return

Lakers big man Pau Gasol was back on the practice floor with his teammates Friday afternoon after being sent home from Wednesday’s session with sinusitis.

“Feel good. Got a good practice in. Got a good workout in,” said Gasol.

Pau participated fully, including the final five-on-five scrimmage where he ran with the first team.

“He looked like he probably missed a day or two here and there, but he got better as the practice went on,” added Phil Jackson.

The extra days off have given some Lakers time to heal up and strengthen various ailments. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum were held out of practice for the second consecutive time, but Jackson indicated that their participation would ramp up leading into Monday’s Game 1.

“They’ll be doing some stuff on the court tomorrow. Participating in a full out practice? Probably not. Shooting the ball and doing some things like that, we’ll get into that,” said Jackson.

Sasha Vujacic, who has been sidelined since the beginning of the playoffs with a severe left ankle sprain, practiced again today.

“He’s doing alright,” said Jackson. “He’s got some residual things that came out of his ankle injury. He had to leave the court today but he came back out and played.”

Vujacic himself expects to be ready for Monday and noted that the extra days off have helped strengthen older injuries.

“I’ll be active and I’m ready to go. That was my fourth practice or so. I’m really excited. I can’t wait.”

The opportunities for Sasha could be immediate according to Phil Jackson.

“I basically told him that theres an opportunity for him to play in this series if he gets himself back and healthy. He’s got an idea of what this series is like and how he’s got to play.”

Playoff Podcast: TNT’s Kevin Harlan

56725913As the play-by-play man alongside analyst Doug Collins on TNT’s national coverage of the NBA regular season and playoffs, the always-on-point Kevin Harlan frequently watched both the Lakers and Suns from his courtside seat.

Harlan joined us for a Playoff Podcast to discuss myriad topics, including what he has learned about L.A. from pregame discussions with Collins and Phil Jackson (production meetings), what he saw from Phoenix in the first two rounds, the dominance of L.A.’s post game and his prediction for the Western Conference Finals.

You can listen by clicking below:

Lakers – Suns Matchup Spotlight: Kobe & J-Rich

59088020Early on Tuesday morning, we posted a preview of the Lakers – Suns Western Conference Finals, focusing on the individual matchups at each position, and giving L.A. the edge at the shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center positions.

In four regular season meetings between the two teams (3-1 Lakers), no matchup was as one-sided as the shooting guard position:

Kobe Bryant: 27.5 points, 54.4% FG’s, 28.6% 3′s, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists.
Jason Richardson: 8.8 points, 30.9% FG’s, 14.3% 3′s, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists.

While Bryant steadily recovered from various injuries to score at least 30 points in five straight playoff games beginning with Game 6 against Oklahoma City, no Sun picked up his play from regular to postseason more than Richardson, whose scoring went from 15.7 points in 79 games to a team-high 21.9 points in the playoffs.

As might be expected, nobody is more aware of that fact than Bryant, who began his video study of Richardson and the Suns as soon as L.A. swept Utah.

“He’s playing extremely well,” said Bryant. “He’s playing like he was playing in that year when he was really comfortable in Golden State, with a lot of confidence, shooting the ball extremely well. He’s been a big, big key to how well they’re playing.”

While Ron Artest could see Richardson from time to time, it’s Kobe that’s bent on curtailing the production of the ever-important third scorer alongside Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

On Tuesday afternoon, we posted a podcast with Lakers Scout/Director of Video Services Chris Bodaken, who’s been rolling through tape from the four regular season matchups (and just cutting a surplus of Suns video in general). We touched base with Bodaken once again on Wednesday to specifically discuss what he saw on tape from the Bryant – Richardson matchup, and he had some interesting info.

One reason that Richardson’s numbers were so bad against L.A. was that he simply missed some wide-open looks, particularly from three, in some cases because Bryant allowed him to shoot were he struggling early in games.

Another is that Bryant is simply too strong and smart to give Richardson what he often gets against other opponents.

“Richardson likes to come off a screen and step a bit off the post to catch the ball, and either face up and make a move or back down,” said Bodaken. “But he doesn’t get that against Kobe because Kobe’s too strong. Richardson can overpower some guys, but not Kobe.”

One thing that makes Kobe so great is his ability to dominate games on defense as well as offense, and his matchup with Richardson will certainly be something upon which to keep an eye trained once the series begins on Monday at STAPLES Center.

Playoff Podcast: Chris Bodaken

59894465Lakers Scout/Director of Video Services Chris Bodaken began dissecting the Suns on film before L.A. had even finished off the Jazz, and shared some of what he saw with us on the latest version of our Playoff Podcast.

Bodaken also happened to be the guy who picked Kobe Bryant up at the airport when he was a 17-year-old kid, and he told us a story about meeting Kobe before detailing how their long-time relationship has made it easier for Bodaken to know how No. 24 likes to get his video cut. Furthermore, Bodaken offered his thoughts on working for Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson and alongside L.A.’s assistant coaches, which in the case of Phoenix is Brian Shaw.

To listen, click play below:

Lakers Sweep Jazz, Advance to Western Finals

60411789For the eighth time in their last nine tries, the Lakers closed out a playoff series with a chance to advance on the line, looking a lot like the defending champions in taking apart the Utah Jazz 111-96 to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third straight season.

Leading the way were the team’s two All-Stars: Kobe Bryant scored 32 points – his fifth straight 30-point playoff game – and Pau Gasol posted a season-high 33-point, 14-rebound double-double, to spearhead an imposing all-around team effort that delivered the team’s sixth straight playoff victory.

“They have about everything you want,” said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. “They have experience (in big games), they have guys that are long and big, they have a lot of guys that can pass the ball. Every shot you get is tough. They make you earn it. That’s why they won a championship.”

60411601Lamar Odom added 10 points and five rebounds, Shannon Brown 12 points (including two fourth quarter threes) and three boards, Derek Fisher 10 points with three steals, Andrew Bynum six points and seven boards and Ron Artest five points and three assists for L.A.

Fittingly, it was Gasol and Bryant who combined for 19 of L.A.’s final 25 points to seal the deal.

“Pau had a really terrific game and Kobe was persistent and aggressive,” said Phil Jackson. “(Utah) really came out and attacked us, we just had to wall the ball off and we got a couple of stops that changed the tide.”

While the game ebbed and flowed, the Lakers controlled tempo throughout.

Utah came out of the gates charging hard to go up 23-21, but L.A answered with a 22-6 run to open the game up early in a second quarter, building its lead to as many as 22 points. The Jazz, however, refused to relent, cutting L.A.’s lead to just five with a furious third quarter run in the only portion of the game Phil Jackson didn’t like.

“We had one of our better games tonight,” Jackson said. “They came out in the third quarter and got into it. (I was) a little disappointed with how we handled it, but we recovered and came back at the end of that quarter and were able to finish the game the right way.”

That recovery started with a 10-2 run to close the third, changing a 70-65 lead into an 80-67 margin, and the Jazz would get no closer than 10 for the rest of the game.

Afterwards, Jackson described how the Lakers were able to steadily build themselves back into the team that won the 2009 title after a sluggish finish to the regular season.

“I think it’s the experience of our team,” he concluded. “This is our third year of going deep in the playoffs, and these guys know you have to save the best for last.”

Until the Western Conference Finals – which begin on Monday, May 17 at STAPLES Center – here are your numbers:

3 Straight trips to the Western Conference Finals for the Lakers, thanks to a 4-2 series win over Oklahoma City and 4-0 sweep of Utah.

5 Straight games of at least 30 points for Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 against the Jazz on 11-of-23 shooting alongside four assists and three boards.

6 Straight wins for the Lakers, from Game 5 against Oklahoma City onward.

6 Turnovers for the Lakers in an impressive display of ball control. They turned Utah over 13 times, meanwhile.

33 Season-high point total for Pau Gasol, who was terrific throughout in making 12-of-18 shots not to mention a game-high tying 14 rebounds (Carlos Boozer) and two blocks.

Lakers – Suns WCF Schedule

58900593The Lakers will matchup with the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. All games will be broadcast on TNT and can be heard on 710ESPN. (All Times Pacific)

Game 1 – Monday, May 17 – Suns at Lakers – 6:00pm
Game 2 – Wednesday, May 19 – Suns at Lakers – 6:00pm
Game 3 – Sunday, May 23 – Lakers at Suns – 5:30pm
Game 4 – Tuesday, May 25 – Lakers at Suns – 6:00pm
Game 5 – Thursday, May 27 – Suns at Lakers* – 6:00pm
Game 6 – Saturday, May 29 – Lakers at Suns* – 5:30pm
Game 7 – Monday, May 31 – Suns at Lakers* – 6:00pm
* if necessary

Lakers 111, Jazz 96: Game 4 Running Diary

60411615Lakers – Jazz Gameday Page
The Lakers looked to close out a series for the eighth time in nine tries in Game 4 against Utah at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (ankle)
Jazz: Mehmet Okur (Achilles)

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Kyrylo Fesenko

Game 2 Video Preview
As NBA coaches will tell you, the close-out game in a playoff series is always the toughest contest to claim. With the Lakers up 3-0 heading into Monday evening’s Game 4 in Salt Lake City, Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen fell in line with that sentiment, and went on to explain why. CLICK HERE to watch.

60411782First Quarter
8:20 It was a much different atmosphere in Energy Solutions Arena than that of Game 3, as the fans were not only louder but more loose, cheering with more fervor on Jazz hoops and not panicking on Lakers buckets. That was nearly balanced out, however, by an bevy of Lakers fans that quickly bought up additionally available tickets to the contest. In game action, Kobe Bryant’s 12-foot jumper made it 7-6 Utah.

2:51 On Saturday, Utah super aggressively double-teamed and crashed the paint, a tactic that helped hold Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to just 22 total points. Yet the Lakers’ coaches have long been among the league’s best in game-to-game adjustments, and with improved spacing, Gasol scored six, Bynum four and Odom two in the first 10 minutes, the Spaniard’s short jumper putting L.A. up 21-20.

2:14 Bryant, meanwhile, was as clinical as he’d been throughout the series, making 4-of-5 shots before sitting down. That upped his shooting percentage in the series to 55.7 percent after he shot just 40.8 percent against Oklahoma City. In related news, Bryant continues to get healthier. Meanwhile, L.A. went on an 8-1 run to close the quarter, resulting in a 29-24 lead.

60411801Second Quarter
9:33 Bynum, who got involved early in the first thanks to the passing of Gasol, began to show himself increasingly on defense by destroying consecutive Jazz shots, first a baseline jumper from Boozer (volleyball swat), then a driving layup attempt from Ronnie Price (Manhattan Beach 6-Man volleyball spike). Meanwhile, the Lakers were scoring on the other end, using Shannon Brown’s second he-just-violated-Salt-Lake-City-air-space dunk and Bynum’s tip-in to open a 33-24 lead.

6:14 L.A. continued to look everything like the defending champs as 1-of-2 Odom free throws capped an 8-0 run featuring Ron Artest’s long jumper, Brown’s baseline floater and another Odom hoop that put the Purple and Gold up 43-29. The run was 22-6 since Utah led 23-21.

2:50 Now that was just unfair. Gasol whipped out Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake” move on the baseline to put L.A. up 53-34. Beyond pretty to watch. Moments later, Gasol’s tip-in of Kobe’s near miss pushed L.A.’s lead to 21 and got Gasol to a game-high 14 points on 7-of-9 field goals. The building was essentially dead at that point, other than those wearing purple and gold. Utah did manage seven points in the final two minutes to cut L.A.’s lead to 17 heading into halftime at 58-41.

60411753Third Quarter
9:15 Utah managed a 5-1 run to start the third, which went against L.A.’s hope to slam the door shut early, though Bryant’s beautiful step-through erased some of that momentum. While the Jazz continued to score, Kobe answered with back-to-back baseline fadeaway swishes on opposite sides of the hoop to keep the lead at 15…

5:47 … At least before another push from the home team, who reeled off a 9-0 run behind a Carlos Boozer tip-in (just his second field goal in eight attempts), C.J. Miles three, Williams transition layup and Matthews transition dunk that cut L.A.’s lead to six at 65-59. Of course, it was no surprise that Jerry Sloan’s team reeled off a furious pride-defending run after the Lakers had so thoroughly dominated the early action.

3:03 A possession after Fisher nailed a triple from the same spot as his Game 3 game winner, Bryant successfully drove to the hoop to put L.A. up 72-65. The constantly-seeking-Lakers-blood Utah crowd then reached a new crescendo as Miles ate up a transition layup attempt by Fish after L.A.’s co-captain stripped Williams, but Bryant nailed a jumper out of the time out as L.A. retained possession. Next came a spirit-crushing corner three from Odom after Boozer turned it over, 1-of-2 Kobe free throws and a Gasol tip-in answer to Millsap’s layup to put the Lakers up 80-67 after three.

In short, Utah offered a furious push to get the lead down to five, but L.A. answered with a late run to tack eight points back on their margin.

60411592Fourth Quarter
10:20 How much does Fisher love the right wing? He nailed another three from that favored spot, his second of the game after the dagger in Game 3, then drew a foul on Williams while attempting a corner three. Making all three, Fish pushed L.A.’s lead back to 17, though Utah promptly went on a 7-0 run to once again stay in the game.

6:25 Bryant was whistled for an offensive foul after lowering his shoulder as Matthews collapsed, but it was only L.A.’s sixth turnover of the game, an impressively low number. L.A.’s lead remained at 12, as two Kobe free throws got him to a game-high 28 points with the Lakers bracing for perhaps one final push from a defiant Jazz team.

2:22 Shutting the door in fitting fashion for L.A. were Gasol and Bryant, the Spaniard going off for 11 of his season-high 33 points down the stretch, and Kobe reaching 30 points for the fifth straight playoff game to open a 109-87 lead thanks to a 16-6 run. Utah had refused to quit throughout, but L.A. was too long, too skilled, too good.

With the 111-96 victory, the Lakers swept the Jazz, won their sixth straight playoff game and advanced to the Western Conference Finals to face the Phoenix Suns.

Vujacic could return for L.A.’s next game

60157707The Lakers could get Sasha Vujacic back in their next game, whether it’s Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi’s against Utah or Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix.

Phil Jackson relayed as much prior to Game 4 of L.A.’s series against the Jazz, and Vujacic confirmed his head coach’s words in the locker room.

The Slovenian said that his ankle remains tender, but he thinks it will be at least good enough to do something positive for the Lakers and for himself after an injury-riddled 2009-10.

“Sasha has had one injury after another, all season long,” said Jackson. “Starting in the summer time when he was working with the Slovenian team (through now).

“Every time he’s come back, he’s played well and he’s had an opportunity to help us, and then gotten injured again. We hope he has the same attitude when he comes back this time.”

It’s not offense, for which Vujacic initially earned his “Machine” moniker, but defense that Jackson and his staff are most looking forward to getting back into the rotation.

“We really look at his defense,” said Jackson. “Covering guys coming off picks with his quickness and ability to focus on guys.”

What remains to be seen is whether the players Vujacic will cover are named Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews of the Jazz or Leandro Barbosa and countryman Goran Dragic of the Suns.