Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Kobe Dialing Long Distance in Playoffs

60745742NBATV has been kind enough to run condensed one-hour versions of L.A.’s 2010 championship run this past week, and one thing that stood out upon a quick review (fast-forwarding through free throws) was how many three-pointers Kobe Bryant nailed.

With many of his triples swishing through the net at key times for the Lakers*, the five-time champ hit a career-high 49 throughout the playoffs, connecting at least once in all but five of 23 games, including 12 straight from the start of the Western Conference Finals through Game 7 against Boston.
*Game 6 @ OKC, Game 3 @ Utah, the whole Phoenix series, Game 4 @ Boston, etc.

In fact, the 19 triples Bryant hit against Phoenix were more than the total number of three-pointers he connected on in six full playoff runs throughout his career. His previous high came in 2009 when he dropped 37, though in fairness he also attempted more triples in 2010 (131) than in any other playoffs.

Only Boston’s Ray Allen – who set the NBA Finals record with eight triples in Game 2 – made more triples that Bryant, as Allen connected on 56-of-145 (38.6 percent).

The winner of two straight Finals MVP awards shot his best percentage in 2003 when he made 25-of-62 threes for a 40.3 percent mark, but his 2010 total was just under twice as many without a significant drop in percentage.

60766871Here’s a run down of Kobe’s long-distance bombing from year-to-year, starting way back in the 1996-97 campaign when Bryant was just 18 years old:

1997: 6 for 23 (26.1%)
1998: 3 for 14 (21.4%)
1999: 8 for 23 (34.8%)
2000: 22 for 64 (34.4%)
2001: 11 for 34 (32.4%)
2002: 22 for 58 (37.9%)
2003: 25 for 62 (40.3%)
2004: 24 for 97 (24.7%)
2006: 14 for 35 (40.0%)
2007: 10 for 28 (35.7)
2008: 32 for 106 (30.2%)
2009: 37 for 106 (34.9%)
2010: 49 for 131 (37.4%)

Matthew Berry Off-Season Podcast

matthewberry_250x200Lakers season ticket holder Matthew Berry – you may know him better as ESPN’s “Talented Mr. Roto” joined us via podcast to reflect upon L.A.’s championship run, detail where he keeps his signed Sun Yue jersey (not his office), praise Kobe at LeBron’s expense and more.

Click below to listen.

Video: 1-on-1 with Matt Barnes

We sat down for a few minutes with Matt Barnes following his introductory press conference with the team to chat on video, discussing his tattoos, days as a All-American high school wide receiver … and of course what it will be like to play for his favorite childhood team.

To view, click play above, or head over to the Lakers.com homepage, where team videos can always be found.

Matt Barnes Presser Highlights

Matt Barnes became the latest Laker to be introduced in press conference format at the team’s practice facility, sitting in the seat occupied most recently by new teammates Theo Ratliff and Steve Blake on Tuesday afternoon.

Below are the highlights from the interview of Barnes, who averaged 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds on 48.7 shooting in 25.9 minutes for the Orlando Magic last season.

- (Opening statement): “It’s a lifelong dream to be a Laker. Growing up in California in the 1980′s, you had no choice but to love Laker basketball. I grew up a huge Showtime fan … Magic, Worthy, Kareem, Byron Scott. It’s come full circle now. I’ve had a hell of a road to get here, but I’m very happy to be a Laker. I just felt this was the best situation for myself and my family to succeed … historic franchise, coming off two championships looking for the third, I just felt that this was a good fit.

- Barnes said his role on the team doesn’t matter to him, that he’s going to do whatever he has to do to the best of his abilities.

- Barnes said that he doesn’t try to get under the skin of opponents, but that he simply plays hard. He added: “I respect all my opponents but I fear no one.” Barnes explained that he is essentially a football player playing basketball. Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant like to fancy themselves fantastic potential football players, but Barnes actually caught 28 TD’s to lead the nation as an All-American high school wide out in Sacramento.

- Barnes said he couldn’t ask to play with a more competitive player than Kobe Bryant, and said all the “issues” between the two on the court were overblown. He explained that there is clear mutual respect between the two. And also: “I play with a lot of the same fire he does … I’m finally done guarding him … except in practice.”

- (On playing for Phil Jackson): “He’s the best. I’m very excited to learn from him. The success he’s had in the league is second to none, and I’m looking forward to being a part of history.”

- Barnes pointed to some of the All Star players he’s played with: Allen Iverson, Shaq, Grant Hill, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Vince Carter. Now he gets Kobe, Pau and (soon enough) Andrew Bynum.

- As Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak later confirmed, Barnes and the Lakers have had a mutual interest for years.

- Barnes, one of the league’s better perimeter defenders, pointed out how elite L.A.’s perimeter defense already was, then compared the Lakers with Miami’s expected offense: “To find three perimeter defenders like myself, Ron and Kobe in the league on the same team … I’d say Miami has a lot of firepower offensively … we have the same offensively, but we’re tough on D as well. So I can’t wait.”

- Along those lines, Barnes recognizes the benefit of playing with a shot blocker, as he did with Dwight Howard last season: “Absolutely (allows me to be more aggressive). Getting a chance to play with Dwight last year, he erased a lot of my mistakes. I was a very aggressive defender and took advantage of having that security blanket last year, but now I have two seven footers, not just one. I can really go out there (on the perimeter) and get into somebody, knowing that (those guys) have my back.”

- Barnes said that there isn’t a specific reason for him wearing No. 9, other than the fact that his previous number, 22, is retired by the great Elgin Baylor, and that no one’s wearing Magic’s 32.

- Finally, Barnes said that he is getting a new tattoo drawn up to honor his mother, who passed away in 2007. His current favorite of many is the foot imprints of his twin sons on his neck.

Matt Barnes – Top Games of 2009-10

D070800031.JPGMatt Barnes had a solid 2009-10 while playing for his seventh NBA team in as many seasons, averaging 8.8 points on 48.7 shooting with 5.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes for the Orlando Magic (59-23).

We took a look at some of Barnes’ better games from the campaign, looking to focus on contests in which his minutes remained relatively low, because it’s likely that he will stay around or below the PT he averaged in Orlando.

Like fellow new Laker Steve Blake, one of Barnes’ better all-around games came against L.A., No. 8 on our list:

1) 11/4 vs. Phoenix: 13 pts, 11 rebs, 5 asts, 2 stls, 32 min
3) 11/13 vs. New Jersey: 13 pts, 13 rebs, 5 asts, 1 stl, 1blk, 37 min
4) 12/10 @ Utah: 17 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts, 25 min
5) 12/16 vs TOR: 20 pts, 6 rebs, 3 asts, 1 blk, 30 min
6) 1/2 @ Chi: 23 pts, 5 3-pointers, 4 rebs, 3 asts, 30 min
7) 1/13 @ Den: 28 pts, 9 rebs, 3 stls, 37 min
8) 1/18 @ LA: 13 pts, 8 rebs, 7 asts, 2 blks, 37 min
9) 1/20 vs Ind: 10 pts, 16 rebs, 6 asts, 3 stls, 38 min
10) Mar 1 – Mar 5*: 14.6 pts, 72% FGs, 5.3 rebs, 1.0 stls, 1.0 TOs, 24 min
*Three-game stretch equaled ideal production for the Lakers in an average of 24 minutes.

Podcast – Schuhmann on Odom, Team USA

After five days in Las Vegas with Team USA, Lakers forward Lamar Odom has emerged as what one reporter called a likely starter heading into the World Championships in Turkey, which begin in late August.

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, who was there in Sin City covering Odom and the rest of America’s roster through four practices and an intrasquad scrimmage, joined us via podcast to discuss what he saw.

Schuhmann detailed why he thinks Odom is likely to start either at power forward or center, explained how playing center in international play is different from doing so in the NBA and broke down the rest of the lineup he thinks Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski may utilize.

To listen, click below:

Odom’s Versatility a Key for USA

61139458With an advanced skill set almost entirely unique to his 6-10 frame, Lamar Odom has made himself indispensable to the Lakers, a player capable of offering a motley crew of functions critical during two straight championship runs.

Rebounding at both ends? Check. Passing? Check. Scoring from the post or on the perimeter? Perhaps not consistently, but sure. Defense on bigs in the paint? Yup. Defense on the perimeter? Indeed. Ball-handling, shot blocking, creating turnovers with steals, or locker room humor? You got it.

But unlike teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Odom’s never won a gold medal on the international level*, something he’d like to remedy with team USA at August’s World Championships in Turkey, no matter where he plays.
*Odom played for the (disappointing) bronze-medal winning team at the 2004 Olympics.

61139451“I don’t have a true position,” he told NBA.com’s John Schuhmann while in Las Vegas for USA camp. “Whatever you need me to do. If this was baseball, they would call me a utility guy.

“I’ve always looked at basketball like that. Do as many things as possible. That way you can help the team. What about if you’re off shooting? You’ve got to rebound, still defend. That’s the game of basketball.”

Such words are familiar to anyone who’s listened to Odom speak in a basketball setting.

And while playing just 16 minutes in a Saturday evening intrasquad scrimmage in Vegas, Odom’s final line showed him to be doing a bit of everything, even as he was obviously playing himself back into basketball shape: 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 points, 1 steal, 1 block.

With the Lakers, Odom is almost always flanked by Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, but for the U.S., he started at center, a relative term at least to a degree in international basketball. The style of play and wider lane make it more difficult for post play, and since the remaining true centers on the team – Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez and JaVale McGee – have less experience and versatility than L.O., he seems almost a certainty to make the squad.

The roster of 19 players is set to be cut to 14 or 15 by Monday in advance of training camp – opening Aug. 10 in New York – for the world championships.

Stay tuned until Monday afternoon, when we’ll be posting a podcast with Schuhmann detailing the rest of Odom’s week in Vegas.

Theo Ratliff Introductory Presser

The largest of L.A.’s three recent free agent additions to the team, 15-year veteran big man Theo Ratliff, portrayed his excitement to be joining a two-time defending champion during his introductory press conference on Friday.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “To have the opportunity to come to a franchise like this – it will be my 16th league in the league – and to be wanted by a team that has won a championship two seasons in a row is a great feeling.”

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was similarly happy with bringing Ratliff in.

“Theo has long been considered to be one of the best defensive big men in the league,” said Kupchak. “He is a consummate professional and a welcome addition to our team. Together with Bynum, Gasol, Odom and Artest, he gives us a formidable and deep front line.”

Below are the highlights of Ratliff’s presser:

- Ratliff on what he hopes to bring to LA: “I definitely want to come in and do everything possible that I need to do to help continue this legacy. My role doesn’t change, every team I’m on, I’m noted for being a defensive stopper. Plugging that middle, rebounding and being a tenacious defensive player and altering shots.”

- (On having the chance to play in LA): “To have this opportunity is a blessing. All the things that I’ve been through as far as injuries, all the workouts, the rehab that I’ve done has always been to try to get to the point where I can win a championship, be on a great team and just enjoy the game. I enjoy playing the game so much, it’s the only reason why I still play. Still getting that rush is something that I continue to enjoy.

- Ratliff described how his body feels, and how important taking certain vitamins and minerals has been to him: “I’ve stayed charged up, taking my minerals and vitamins every single day and that’s been a big key to my success (staying healthy). That’s been pretty much my savior, learning about mineral deficiencies that my body was going through, why I was breaking down throughout my career. Being able to get with a doctor to be able to change that has me at this point to where when people see me play, they don’t see a 37-year old guy that went through five or six major injuries.” Ratliff said he still has a lot of pop in his step, a lot of leaping ability and the same tenacity he had when he was younger.

- (On playing with and leading a young guy like Andrew Bynum): “Oh yes (I enjoy it). Just the manhood knowledge that I have as far as the things I’ve been through in this league, I always try to mentor the young guys and try to show them the right path that a lot of the successful people in the league (have done). A few guys listen, some don’t, and then they come back later on and say, ‘Yeah man I wish I would have listened.’

- Ratliff also described what he sees in Bynum: “He’s a great young player. Very, very big guy that has great skills. He could be one of the top centers to play this game, in my opinion. Going through those injuries, I know how it goes, is rough on you, and I wish him all the best in his rehab. Hopefully he can get himself back 100 percent and we can do this thing.”

- The Wyoming product got quite excited when asked about playing for Phil Jackson: “Oh man. That’s always been a dream of mine. To be able to play under Phil … You can ask anybody who’s talked to me about basketball. When they talk about a coach like Phil Jackson – who’s going to win, who’s going to lose in the playoffs and different things of that nature. It’s unprecedented on how he gets guys to step up to the plate. From the top guy to the 12th man on the bench. He’s a guy that always gets the best out of his players and that’s something I’ve always admired, my wife’s always admired about his coaching style.”

Derek Fisher Presser Highlights – 7/23

Lakers point guard Derek Fisher addressed assembled media members for the first time since re-signing with LA on Friday afternoon, taking a quick break from his basketball camp for kids.

You can head over to Lakers.com to view video of Fisher’s comments, in addition to viewing a summary of the comments as listed below:

- Fisher’s opening: “I definitely feel like I made the right decision.”

- As Fish said in his statement, Kobe Bryant played a big role in Fisher’s return to L.A.: “Kobe and I worked extremely hard to be in a position where we are now in our careers. Obviously he’s much more accomplished than I am, but we have a bond that I just didn’t want to break. I think we can lead our team to another championship this season and that was a big motivating factor.”

- On his communication level with Kobe throughout the free agency period: “I told him that I would keep him in the loop in terms of anything that he didn’t know was going on that he’d heard or read … we talked for the most part on a daily basis. I just felt it was important for him to understand my thoughts as the process unfolded so that if I did choose to go somewhere else, if I wanted anybody to understand it fully I wanted him to understand it.”

- Alluding to the offseason recovery periods specifically for Bryant and Andrew Bynum, Fisher said he thought the team could be healthier than it has been in the last two years, which is exciting to him.

- Along those lines, Fisher’s always one to use the offseason to prepare his body for the rigor of an NBA season, and said he began training about nine or ten days ago. “Just waking the body up again after a few weeks off, and starting to key in on some things that I want to improve on this offseason. That’s all I know how to do … I’m right back at it. I’m committed to being the best that I can be. I didn’t sign a three-year contract by accident because I fully expect to continue to help my team in a major way for the next three years.”

- That last quote may have been the most interesting from Fisher on the day, so we asked a follow-up question alluding to the fact that he’s brushed off any talk of retirement for the past two seasons, suggesting he wanted to keep playing for a while, wondering if that was a primary consideration with the contract he signed: “Definitely,” he said. “There was no desire just to sign a one-year contract and do it one year at a time. That’s not how my body feels, that’s not how my passion for helping this team feels, and so, regardless of who we have, what my role is, who’s coaching, whatever the situation is … for me personally I’m working hard to keep getting better. I’ll mend and mesh and adapt my abilities and talents based on the team that we have, and that’s the job we all have to do in the offseason as well as in the season. We have to come together for the common goal, and that’s winning titles.”

- Fisher said he “seriously considered” his other free agency options before ultimately choosing the Lakers based on a few factors including his relationship with Kobe, the community and the city of Los Angeles.

- Fisher touched on the negotiation process with the team, neglecting to use a media-suggested word of “frustration,” and simply saying that he’s been around long enough to know how the process works.

- Generally, Fisher keeps his comments simple about new players out of respect for those that have left, but he did say that he thinks the pieces L.A. was able to add were “key for what we need.”

Mitch Kupchak Presser – 7/23

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak addressed media members prior to Theo Ratliff’s introductory press conference.

Below is a summary of his comments:

On the players L.A. has added: “We are pleased. Steve Blake was our first piece that we thought was necessary, and we’re pleased to have him to shore up our back court, another ball-handling guard. To add a player like Theo with his experience in the front court … obviously DJ (Mbenga) won’t be returning, so to have a player that will take that position with (Ratliff’s) experience (15 years), ability to defend, rebound, he’s good in the locker room. That will bode well for what we hope to do at that position.
“And Matt Barnes was not something that we planned on weeks ago. Free agency is kind of topsy-turvy for a player sometimes. I’m not sure even he knew where he’d end up, but it came about quickly. In particular with Luke Walton’s health issues, we felt adding a player like (Barnes) would give us great insurance at the position. Although he can defend some bigger guards, he’s basically a small forward, and we feel fortunate to have added him at the last minute.”

On adding a fifth guard: “We’re still talking to Shannon (Brown). There’s a good chance that in the next couple of weeks we can have some resolution with Shannon. I’m optimistic. If that does come about, that would be the fifth guard, yes.”

- Kupchak said the team could go with 14 guys on the roster this season, compared with the 13 it carried last season, in part due to Walton’s questionable health: “It’s not the run of the mill type of back problem, it’s unique. We don’t know where it’s going to end up. He’s a gamer, he loves to play and wants to be a part of the team. He’ll do whatever it takes to get back on the court, so that’s a positive, to have a player that’s motivated to get well. That’s not always the case.”

– Kupchak is concerned with the potential that Walton’s back injury could keep him out for a longer period of time, including (at worst) the whole season. Both Kupchak and Phil Jackson have spoken with the players about their futures away from basketball, and don’t want any long-term damage caused from playing, as Kupchak said both he and Jackson have.

- Kupchak confirmed the team’s earlier-in-the-week statement that Andrew Bynum’s surgery will take place on July 28. It was pushed back a bit from when he originally thought due to his doctor’s availability in New York. Kupchak said the team expects a healthy Bynum for the start of training camp.

- (On if the team has the potential to be better in 2010-11 than it was during the last two championship runs): “I think we’ve added depth and I think we’ve addressed our major concern, knowing that Jordan (Farmar) probably wouldn’t return, leaving a gaping hole in our back court. So to bring in a player like Steve (Blake) gives us a great degree of comfort at that position. I mentioned earlier that the Matt Barnes thing was not something we planned on a month ago … because of the market and the way things worked out he became a real possibility just a day or two ago. And to add to our front court with an experience player, we’re pleased. We think we have a balanced roster. We may or may not be done, (but) if the season (started) tomorrow, I think we’d be very happy with this group.

- (On second round picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter): “I think they did play better than what their draft position indicated. But most of those guys (playing in summer league) aren’t going to be in the NBA. You’re evaluating potential NBA players against (some) players that won’t be in the NBA. If you can’t play well in the summer league, (however), it’s an indication that you can’t play at the NBA level.” Kupchak said the next step is evaluating both players at training camp.

- Kupchak added that if the team concludes that either or both rookies will “be players,” there are options to offer more than just a one-year deal. There’s more clarity with the contract possibilities because the team knows what it can offer after using up the rest of the mid-level exception on Barnes. That leaves a potential of one or two year minimum contracts for Ebanks and Caracter to possibly obtain.

- (On Matt Barnes’ prospect for playing): “We know what he can do. It’s going to be based on the need from the coach and how he performs in training camp.” Kupchak said that Barnes gives the team the opportunity to get more rest for Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant, and said it will be up to Phil Jackson to manage his minutes. Kupchak said it could be between 15-18 minutes per game or up to 20-25, but explained that neither Barnes nor his agent brought up minutes during negotiations. Kupchak said that was somewhat unusual, but said he suspected that Barnes looked at the team’s roster and figured he’d be able to carve out some playing time particularly at backup small forward.

- Barnes is excited, according to Kupchak: “I spoke to him last night and he was ecstatic. He said he wants to win and he wants to win a championship.”