Monthly Archive for September, 2010

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Phil Jackson Preseason Presser

blog_100924philjacksonTO WATCH PART 1, CLICK HERE.
TO WATCH PART 2, CLICK HERE.

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson kicked off the 2010-11 season with a press conference on Friday morning at the team’s practice facility.

The presser was carried live on Lakers.com, where you can head to re-watch it at any time.

Below are highlights from Jackson’s comments:

On returning: “I just had to get away from L.A. and away from the madness of winning a championship to retreat and think about it … it wasn’t difficult once I came to the conclusion that this is the way it should end. This is the way it should go … I’ve enjoyed being away from the game, taking time away, so I’m not so concerned about leaving the game so much. There are a lot of people that work with me, and I’m beholden to them for their efforts. I enjoy working with them and I think that’s a big part of our team.”

On his relationship with Kobe: “I’m pleased with the way Kobe’s career has gone in the last four years. We’ve had a relationship for five or six years that has been remarkable, to have this turnaround in our relationship. He understand a lot of what I do without verbalizing it. It’s always a benefit to have leaders like Kobe and Derek (Fisher) on the team.”

On Andrew Bynum’s health: “I don’t see how Andrew is going to be ready, and I really haven’t anticipated him being ready at the beginning of the season. The type of surgery that the doctor did on his knee takes a little extra time. We hadn’t prepared, and Andrew certainly hadn’t prepared … he could have come in a little bit earlier, but the end result is what he’s going to be like in May and June and that’s what’s important.

“Andrew had an opportunity to play under the limitations of his injury (in the 2010 playoffs), which really limited his movement and how much he could throw himself into the game and the amount of minutes he could play. Andrew really made a point to help the team to the championship, even though he was at 70 percent of what he could possibly do, and it really helped us out.”

On Kobe’s knee: “I anticipate he’s going to play some minutes even over in Europe.” Jackson added that he thinks Kobe is just fine, and should be fully ready to go for the season opener.

On the Miami Heat: “I think it’s quite a surprise to all of us in the NBA that this is what happened. I guess when you look back on it … some of the statements (Dwyane Wade) made in Chicago, it’s no surprise when you look back at it. I think it’s all fair game. Players can go out and recruit. They did a great job of recruiting these players. It’s going to make for a very exciting season, and something that people are looking forward to seeing.”

On the bench: “We hope to improve every year … we felt that last year our bench hit a soft spot in the middle of the season. Some things didn’t gel like (we wanted them to). We wanted some (additional) support with Luke (Walton’s injury concerns), and Matt Barnes and Steve Blake (can help towards that end).”

On Lamar Odom playing throughout the summer: The (World Championships) shouldn’t affect him (adversely). He’s had two weeks off. He’s probably in the best shape he’s ever come into camp in. We’ll obviously nurture him a little bit. We tried to do that with Pau last year, (but with D.J. Mbenga being injured) Pau had to take on a bigger role, and it ended up costing us 11 games (due to a hamstring strain).” Jackson obviously wants to avoid something similar with Odom.

On Pau Gasol and his summer off: Jackson joked that every time he turned around or received a link from someone, Gasol was in a different foreign country … jumping over kids in India, and so on. He wondered if Gasol should “start the Palestine – Israeli peace talks.” He added, however, that “hopefully he has been rested and is ready to play” since the Spaniard didn’t play any organized hoops.

- Phil’s confident that Kobe Bryant will adjust just fine to the NBA’s new referee policing.

On if it’s his last season as he’s said, will he actively look to promote one of his assistants like Brian Shaw: “I think all of the coaches that I have are in a position to have leadership moments, and participation and a voice with our team. It really is something I’ve always promoted, that the coaches always have a voice. No doubt about it, Brian (Shaw) has been an active voice since he’s (been with me).” Jackson added that it’s not his job to promote a coach, but he said that he hopes it’s one of the guys off his bench.

On Game 7 of the Finals against Boston: “I kept asking Kobe, keep passing the ball for most of the game. But he got it together in the fourth quarter. We had a nice fourth quarter. There’s some play there by Ron Artest that stands out as some of the best performance by any type of player who’s had that type of role … an up and down kind of season. To have that kind of impact, that’s outstanding for me.”

- Jackson acknowledged that he understands why Miami is favored (in Vegas) to win it all, but added that “Basketball is won with defense. The Celtics play defense, and they know how to do it.”

- Jackson spent much of his summer collaborating with team photographer Andrew Bernstein writing captions for a photo book that comes out soon. He also had a daughter have her third child, which was very enjoyable for him, and a family wedding.

Jackson on Luke Walton’s health: “I can’t say I feel confident. I’m hopeful.”

On how hard will it be to win again: “It’s an impossible task. You just go about it and don’t think about how difficult it is, and play each game and don’t worry about anything but that. It takes remarkable talent to be able to do it.” Jackson cited Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Dallas and Denver … then added Houston and Phoenix to the mix when discussing how difficult it is just to return to the Finals.

- Phil on if Kobe can recognize “how far along he is”: “I hope so. He pushed himself to the limits, took some time off and still pushed himself to get through it. If it’s necessary to do it, we’ll do it (rest him).”

- Jackson had an interesting comment that 36 minutes is often a bench mark for the game’s elite players, in terms of wanting no fewer minutes to have a true influence on the game. This came up as related to Kobe Bryant, whom Jackson said he doesn’t expect to play significantly fewer minutes this season.

Kobe’s Jersey Tops in China for 4th Year

Kobe Jersey 2For the fourth season in a row, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tops the list of best selling jerseys in retail locations throughout China, as the NBA announced on Thursday morning.

Below is the full Top 10 based on 2009-10 sales:

1) Kobe Bryant – Lakers
2) LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
3) Dwight Howard – Orlando Magic
4) Kevin Garnett – Boston Celtics
5) Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls
6) Chris Paul – New Orleans Hornets
7) Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics
8) Deron Williams – Utah Jazz
9) Ray Allen – Boston Celtics
10) Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder

China isn’t the only market cornered by Bryant, however.

His jersey has also topped the sales charts in Europe for the past two seasons, with teammate Pau Gasol coming in third.

In addition, Bryant’s No. 24 shirt has been No. 1 at the NBA Store in New York City and through online sales on NBAStore.com for three of the past four seasons.

Bryant led the way in 2006-07 before Garnett claimed the sales lead in 2007-08, but as the Lakers made their way back into the championship circle, Bryant surpassed KG in 2008-09 and maintained his top spot in 2009-10.

Former Trainer Frank O’Neill Dies at 81

100922_frank_oneillFrank O’Neill, Lakers trainer from 1960-1974, died Tuesday at his home in Playa del Rey from congestive heart failure. He was 81.

O’Neill, who took over training duties when the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, received his training to become an athletic trainer while attending the University of Florida. He earned his certificate as a physical therapist while in the Navy and worked with the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles and the University of Southern California before joining the Lakers.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Frank O’Neill,” said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “Frank was a highly respected trainer and played an integral part in bringing our first championship to Los Angeles in 1972. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family.”

Born on May 25, 1929, O’Neill is survived by his four children Frank, Jr., Patricia, Michael and Mark; and six grandchildren.

9/22 Injury Update: Andrew Bynum

blog_100922andrewbynum500While Pau Gasol is feeling great after a summer off from basketball, L.A.’s other 7-footer, Andrew Bynum, continues to rehabilitate his right knee from surgery in late July and will not be ready to participate at the onset of the team’s training camp on Saturday, Sept. 25.

Bynum underwent a minor operation on July 28 to correct a small tear of the anterior horn of the lateral meniscus in his right knee that he suffered in the first round of the playoffs, and has been doing therapy throughout August and September with Lakers Athletic Performance Coordinator Alex McKechnie as well as physical therapist Judy Seto.

The 22-year-old center, however, is not yet ready to participate in basketball activities. According to team spokesman John Black, the team is hopeful Bynum will be able to resume playing towards the end of training camp, but his progress will be measured on a day-to-day basis as camp and the preseason progress.

Things were a bit different to open the 2009-10 season, as Bynum posted double-doubles in eight of L.A.’s first nine games, averaging 18.4 points and 11.8 rebounds while Gasol was out with a strained hamstring.

Gasol Feeling “Refreshed” After Summer Off

100921_pau_broadcastA week after playing a critical role in L.A.’s second straight championship, Pau Gasol sat down for his exit interview at the team’s practice facility and detailed why he was going to take the summer off from basketball.

He explained that he had played “as much basketball as I could play” across the previous three years, splitting duty between the Lakers and his Spanish National Team.

“My body needs to relax and recover to be able to be fresh and continue to play at the level that I’m playing,” he said. “Otherwise my body is going to break down quicker and I’m going to be a worse player.”

Indeed, Gasol skipped the 2010 World Championships and watched his Spanish side finish sixth, four years after he led them to the 2006 title. He was there in Turkey to support his team and his brother, Marc, and also did a bit of broadcasting (pictured above).

But the 7-footer has no regrets about his decision not to play, as he told the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding on Tuesday.

“I did it for a reason, and no regrets,” Gasol said. “I made my decision. I’ve been able to recharge the batteries.”

Gasol also told Ding that he feels “real good” and “refreshed,” and is “just excited about beginning a new season, picking up and taking on new challenges.”

Training Camp Five Days Away

After an off-season shortened by another run to the NBA Finals, training camp is already upon the Lakers, who will officially start to prepare for the 2010-11 season in just five days.

On Saturday, September 25, reporters will gather at the Lakers’ practice facility for their first chance at interviewing the two-time defending champs at the team’s Media Day. Along with usual suspects Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson are first-year Lakers Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter.

That mix of veterans and second-round draft picks is in to replace the departed Josh Powell (Atlanta), Jordan Farmar (New Jersey), Adam Morrison (free agent), D.J. Mbenga (Denver), with the Lakers filling one more roster spot (14) than they did last season.

To check out the bios for each of the Lakers on the current roster, you can head over to our player pages on Lakers.com. We’ll have much more for you during and after Media Day.

Lakers Rookies Getting a Jump Start

Lakers second round picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter have been a constant, collective presence at the team’s practice facility since Labor Day, serving the dual purpose of learning Phil Jackson’s system and getting physically ready for training camp.

Assistant coach Jim Cleamons was at the team’s facility on Friday continuing the off-season triangle offense instruction started in July by fellow assistant Chuck Person (pictured below), while strengh and conditioning chief Chip Schaefer continued to put the rooks through off-court drills and excercises.

After a Friday morning session, Ebanks and Caracter joined us to discuss their first impressions of the organization, their days as AAU teammates, Tupac vs. Biggy and more:

102618713GE385_Summer_LeagueMT: Let’s start with your respective first impressions of the Lakers having now been here for a little while working out:
Devin Ebanks: That everyone is a hard worker. Seeing Kobe in here every day early, for example, makes me want to work even harder. You know he’s put in a lot of work (already) in his career and to see him still doing that is (motivating).
Derrick Caracter: Same thing. With the vets, seeing guys like Kobe, Theo Ratliff and Derek Fisher … (Fisher) was out here yesterday working, looking like he was 17. Just seeing how the veterans take care of their bodies, and how guys who have been in the league for 14 years still going at that pace makes you as a rookie feel like you can’t take any days off, and that you have to bring the same amount of energy if not more.

MT: After the draft, GM Mitch Kupchak said that the two of you would join the Lakers Summer League team in Las Vegas, and then likely be invited to training camp. No contracts were signed at the time, and thus a roster spot wasn’t guaranteed. But clearly Kupchak and his staff liked how you both played in Vegas and what they saw in the weeks after, as both of you officially signed contracts in early August. Your thoughts at the time?
Ebanks: It was a great feeling, a dream come true really. Having a chance to be on the best team in the league is exciting, and I’m happy everybody on the staff thought that DC (Caracter) and I were suitable to play for the Lakers.
Caracter: As far as the whole draft process was concerned, I just kept my faith strong, and although I may have slipped a little bit,* you can’t worry about that. It doesn’t matter now, and I think everything happens for a reason. I feel to 58, but I fell to the back-to-back champions.
*Caracter was taken with the 58th overall pick, Ebanks the 43rd.

61032342MT: As I understand it, you guys have been playing with or against each other since way back in the New York City surrounding area AAU circuit…
Ebanks: It’s been great coming in here with someone that I go back to high school days. We played on the same AAU team, and (when we were on opposing teams) I’d always see him in different tournaments around New York and New Jersey. Like he said, everything happens for a reason, and it’s a great feeling to have someone you grew up playing with come into the NBA with you.
Caracter: Yeah I’m from Jersey, but I played with Devin on the New York Panthers team. I also played at Riverside, and so did he, but I was gone from there by the time he got to Riverside. The AAU circuit is so tight, especially when it’s New York and New Jersey, especially for me because I was from New Jersey but on New York teams. I had gone from being a Nike kid to an Adidas kid, and a Long Island team was Adidas while the Nike team was Riverside.

MT: Yeah, I was a Nike guy. Not really. Anyways, being East Coast guys, what’s your initial take on L.A.?
Ebanks: It’s cool. It’s not like New York is in terms of hustle and bustle. It seems more laid back. But I haven’t gotten to do much yet, I’ve been pretty much just working out and playing basketball. Once I get acclimated, I’ll be interested to see what L.A. has to offer.
Caracter: I’ve been out a few times, checked out some improv, a little comedy show. I didn’t get on stage though … (the comedian) tried to crack some jokes on me but I just kept quiet. I’ve never really been a crazy West Coast guy, but L.A.’s cool. I’m going to enjoy myself and get adjusted to any place I go to, but I never want to forget that I’m here for one reason.

tupac-und-biggieMT: Speaking of East Coast – West Coast, we can transition easily over to hip hop. My first rap album in the mid 1990′s was Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me.” Tupac is from East Harlem, but also lived in Baltimore before later in high school moving to California…
Caracter: Tupac came out to the West Coast and people started claiming that he was a West Coast dude, but he’s from the East Coast. No matter what, I’m a Tupac guy. He’s my favorite.
Ebanks: I’m a Biggy man myself. No disrespect to Tupac, I just like Biggy more, I thought he was a better rapper.
Caracter: I used to have fights over that. ‘Pac was flowing too. Biggy was more smooth and cool (in his style), but I feel that numbers don’t lie. ‘Pac dropped how many albums vs. the two Big put out. I’m not saying Big wasn’t a great rapper, but it shows that ‘Pac was constantly in that booth. Acutally, the new Bun B album that just came out in 2010, ‘Pac has a verse on that album.

MT: Really? I remember Bun B from UGK (Underground Kingz), and the guest verse on Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’”. What other artists do you listen to?
(Both): Lil’ Wayne, Drake, J. Cole, Young Jeezy, Common…
Caracter: Some old school R&B and classic soul too, and Jack Johnson.
Ebanks: DC has more of the old man in him, more of the soul. I’m more hip-hop.

MT: Derrick’s a big Lady Gaga fan too, right Devin?
Ebanks: (laughs)
Caracter: Nah, nah … (reconsiders) … actually I was on Lady Gaga for a little bit, but once everyone hopped on it too much, I wasn’t on it as much.

MT: Hey she’s pretty good … I saw Ron Artest at her first concert at Nokia Theatre across from STAPLES Center.
How about TV?

Ebanks: Just Sportscenter, if I’m watching TV it’s on ESPN.
MT: No “Mad Men,” “Friday Night Lights” or “True Blood,” Andrew Bynum’s favorite show?
Caracter: I don’t really watch TV. Once they came out with that NBA housewives show, I do not turn the TV on. Instead I read books and listen to music.

MT: Such as?
Caracter: I just read “Peaks and Valleys” by Spencer Johnson (M.D.). I also just got Phil Jackson’s book, “The Last Season,” from my agent.
Ebanks: Not really any reading for me.

MT: What do you (Ebanks) do in your free time besides listen to music?
Ebanks: I’ve been on Twitter a lot (@DevinEbanks3), you could call me a Twitterhead. I’ll be on my computer doing other things, but that’s about it.

MT: OK. Who’s stronger?
Ebanks: DC.
Caracter: (nods).
MT: Physically stronger, sure, but who wins in a fight?
Caracter: (laughs). We’d never fight, of course, and I’m not hating, but, I’ve got these hands…
Ebanks: I’m a lover, not a fighter. He can have it.
Caracter: I will say that skinny dudes can hit hard. I have a lot of friends at home like that, they have more bone and they connect, that can hurt.

MT: Nice. I’m not being unfair to say we can choose Ebanks in a foot race though, right?
Caracter: Well … I mean we can try it. I’m sure he’d get me, but he has to prove it.
Ebanks: (laughs)

MT: Better shooter?
Ebanks: I’m gonna have to take that rap for that one.
Caracter: He does shoot more jumpers than me.

MT: That’s OK, (Caracter has) the low post game. Finally, who’s funnier?
Ebanks: This dude right here. For real.
Caracter: (laughs)

Odom Adds World Championship to NBA Rings

61613517As he did throughout the playoffs in consecutive title-winning years for the Lakers, Lamar Odom performed at his best when his team needed it most, this time for Team USA at Sunday’s World Championship final against Turkey.

Odom went for a double-double for the second straight game, scoring 15 points with 11 rebounds in the 81-64 gold-medal-deciding game against the Turks, playing in front of a frenzied home crowd in Istanbul.

All 15 of Odom’s points and eight of his rebounds came in the second half, and he scored nine of his team’s first 13 points to open the fourth quarter, helping to keep Turkey from getting back into the contest.

This after a 13-point, 10-rebound, 3-block, 2-assist performance in Team USA’s 89-74 semifinal win over Lithuania on Saturday, and all while playing out of his natural position at center throughout an unblemished tournament for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s bunch.

“This team had a lot of character and poise,” Odom told the Associated Press. “A lot of people thought we were undersized and we didn’t have a center, we didn’t have too many big guys. People thought we were going to get killed on the inside, but we played tough, hung in there, and stayed strong, focused.”

The Americans may not have won their first World Championship trophy since 1994 without Odom’s all-around play, or, particularly, without a terrific tournament from tournament MVP Kevin Durant. The Thunder forward buried seven three-pointers against Turkey en route to 28 points, and set a USA scoring record for the tourney.

His Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook added 13 points off the bench, while Bulls point guard Derrick Rose chipped in eight points and a game-high six assists.

Hedo Turkoglu, moving from the Raptors to the Suns this coming season, led Turkey with 16 points, but the Turks managed to shoot just 36.4 percent against a swarming American defense.

So, starting in June of 2009, Odom won his first NBA title when the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic. Then this past June came No. 2, an even sweeter victory against the Boston Celtics. And now a World Championship gold medal.

Not a bad two years for the lanky lefty.

Luke Walton Summer Update: Part 2

60108490Last week, we called up Luke Walton for a summer update in which he detailed his back rehabilitation, and made his selections for a Lakers volleyball starting six.

Below is the rest of our conversation, which includes Walton’s off-season update on some of his teammates, his diet, his relationship with Phil Jackson and details from his post-Finals vacation that took him through South Africa, France, Italy and Hawaii:

MT: What kind of contact have you had with your teammates throughout the offseason? Any updates?
Walton: We don’t keep in touch that much during the summer. I’ve seen Kobe at the gym the last couple weeks rehabbing his knee. He’s itching to get back on the court. He shows up every morning at seven at the team’s facility and is kind of wrapping up around the time I get there at around 9 a.m. Lamar, I’ve talked to a couple of times, watched a few of his games with Team USA. I know he’s looking forward to getting back to L.A. … he has had such a busy summer. I spent some time with Jordy (Jordan Farmar) before we sent him off to New Jersey a few days ago … I’m happy for Jordan. He wants the opportunity to run a team, and he’s going to hopefully get that opportunity at some point out in New Jersey. Obviously I’m going to miss him; he was a big part of our team and my best friend on the team the past few years. I’ve seen Shannon (Brown) at the gym a few times and I talked to Fish (Derek Fisher) a bunch right after he signed, but haven’t talked to him recently. Talked to a few other guys that won’t be with us next year like D.J (Mbenga), Josh (Powell) and (Adam) Morrison, to wish them luck and that type of thing. I met Steve Blake at the gym last week, he was in there doing some work. That’s about it.

MT: What are your thoughts on the addition of Blake to the team?
Walton: I think Blake is a great fit for this team and for the triangle offense. I’ve been playing against him since college and have always been a fan of how he plays, the intensity he plays with and his unselfish style.

MT: Didn’t you play against him once in college?
Walton: We beat his Maryland team in (2001-02). They were top five in the country, we had just lost Richard (Jefferson), Gilbert (Arenas) and Loren Woods. Whoever the geniuses are that do the preseason rankings took Arizona out of the Top 25 for the first time in years, and Maryland was No. 3, Florida was top five in the preseason N.I.T. We took them out on back-to-back nights, winning the tournament. Jason Gardner was scoring like 30 points a game, I was doing my thing, Ricky Anderson was playing great with young boys like Channing Frye and Salim Stoudemire. How do you keep that team out of the Top 25? It was the year after we lost to Duke in the championship game. They had actually lost to Duke in the Final Four the game before us.

58648831MT: Although Farmar’s no longer here, I know you also hang out a lot with Odom throughout the season. You mentioned watching some of his Team USA games, and it looks like he’s taken up a key leadership role with the Americans. What’s it like being teammates with him for six seasons now?
Walton: He’s as good a teammate as you can have. He wants to win, he does all the little things. He sacrifices his own personal achievements for the better of the team. He’s always making things fun and is simply a great person, player and teammate that’s a huge reason for our success. It’s just his every day attitude. He’s always in a good mood unless the team needs someone to yell at them, and then he has no problem being vocal and speaking his mind. If times are tough and things aren’t going well for you, he’ll come to your room and sit there and have serious, deep conversations with you. He can read people really well and he knows how to interact differently with different people. I hang out a lot with Lamar, and I’ve seen him do it with his friends and people around him as well. He just always makes things better when he’s around.

MT: We made a big deal out of Odom’s eating candy two seasons ago, but I noticed him eating a lot more fruit before games and on the plane in 2009-10. How has your diet changed since you entered the league?
Walton: You get older, you get wiser, you realize how important it is to not only train and keep your body going but how important it is to keep your body fueled. When you’re younger you just eat whatever is convenient. My diet has changed a lot since when I first got into the NBA. I love good food though, so I’m not just going to eat a salad and chicken every day. I’ll mix it up, but when I mix it up, I’ll make sure to get a side of fruit instead of a side of fries, little stuff like that. I make sure I’m getting the necessary food into my body so I can compete, but I don’t (go crazy with it).

60788553MT: OK, moving on, how important was getting Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson back?
Walton: It’s huge. Obviously you’ve seen the success we’ve had since Fish has been back. Having Phil go for his 4th three-peat is absolutely insane. Knowing that we have both of those guys back really puts us in a confident position, feeling that we should three-peat.

MT: You’ve developed a really good relationship with Phil Jackson over the years; he seems to be an advocate for your style of play especially within the triangle…
Walton: I love playing for Phil. Every year when we have our exit meetings we have good talks, and I always tell him that I’ve learned so much from him and I hope he’ll be back. I know he said this is going to be his last year, but I’m going to try to convince him after this year to come back again. He’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of all sports. Any chance I have to be able to learn from him and grow as a player and a person, I give him all the credit for that. He has that quality to really connect with people, treat everybody differently, motivate people in different ways. Playing for him for so many years now, I’ve adopted a lot of his philosophies, and they make both the game and life a lot easier. Instead of being on a roller coaster, you just take things for what they are and enjoy where you are at the time.

sardinia-3MT: Fair enough. Finally, did you have a good vacation right after the Finals?
Walton: I started my summer with a great vacation. We – myself and a bunch of my guy friends from all home, college, the NBA – went to the World Cup for about a week and checked out a few games. Just an unreal experience. We saw Portugal vs. Spain, and then the Netherlands vs. Slovakia. Then we flew up to France, and our girlfriends all met us out there. We had a big boat there and went to different ports in France and Italy. Then my girlfriend and I flew to Rome for a day, and then flew to Hawaii where my oldest brother got married. I finally came home and started with the serious back rehab after Hawaii. The coolest place we went to was Portofino (a small Italian fishing village). That and Sardinia (second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea) were my favorites. The highlight was obviously going to my brother’s wedding right on the beach in Maui. I made a little speech, as did my other two brothers. It was a really nice wedding.

MT: I’m guessing you had to find some time to monitor your back even while on vacation?
Walton: Every day I was on the road I’d dedicate an hour to doing stretches and back exercises, and keeping it as manageable as possible but knowing that once I got back I’d be full blown doing two to three different kinds of workouts trying to get it all good. It’s working out so far.

Odom Helps USA to World Semi’s

61538563“(Lamar Odom) absolutely, quietly tonight has been rock solid at both ends … the hero (of the game) for me.”
- Color commentator Fran Fraschilla

Lamar Odom’s all-around effort in Team USA’s 89-79 quarterfinal win over Russia at basketball’s 2010 World Championships in Turkey was something Lakers fans have seen before.

On Thursday evening in Istanbul, the lanky lefty did a little bit of everything to help lead a second half charge that put the Americans into Saturday’s semifinals against Lithuania.

Seven of Odom’s game-high 12 rebounds (five offensive) came in that second half, when the U.S. turned a five-point lead halfway through the period into a 70-56 margin entering the fourth quarter.

Odom added two steals and six points to his box score line in 30 minutes of work, but much of his production came outside the stat sheet. He was effective in limiting Russia’s 7-1 center Timofey Mozgov (who will play for the Knicks), rotated fiercely off the ball (as he did in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals) to help teammates, turned many of his defensive boards into transition opportunities at the other end and simply filled in any gaps that were needed.

Just like he does for the Lakers.

Odom was able to focus on such things thanks in part to Kevin Durant, taking on Kobe Bryant’s role on the Lakers (and his own on the Thunder) by scoring 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Odom’s co-veteran leader Chauncey Billups added 15 points and five assists, while Russell Westbrook was the key spark plug off the bench, scoring 12 points – 10 in that critical third quarter – with three steals.

When Odom plays his best basketball, the Lakers almost never lose, and through the quarterfinals of the World Championships, the same seems to be the case for Team USA.

If Odom and his teammates can put forth the same effort for two more games, they’ll be in prime position to bring back their country’s first title since 1994.