Monthly Archive for October, 2010

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Bryant Stays On Positive Track

101012_kobe_artest_hamblenAny small bit of news regarding Kobe Bryant’s health is always of interest in Los Angeles, and the latest nugget is on the positive side for the Lakers.

On Tuesday morning at the team’s practice facility, Bryant (knee) went through a full shooting and weight lifting workout on his own, then joined the team midway through practice and participated fully.

“I think he looked OK,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “(His morning work out) tempered a little bit how he looked (at practice). I think it affected him a little bit, but I thought he looked better than he’s looked so far.”

After practice, the Lakers set out to leave in advance of Wednesday’s preseason game in Las Vegas against the Sacramento Kings. Jackson detailed his plan for Bryant, suggesting that he’s going to play No. 24 in eight-minute segments in the first and third quarters.

Jackson did leave the door open for additional playing time late in the game if Bryant feels up to it, and depending upon the game’s circumstances.

Former Laker Vlade Divac Featured in Film

51575962AB_D023074004As part of ESPN’s terrific “30 for 30″ series, director Mike Tolajian takes a look at how political circumstances in the former Yugoslavia tore at the friendship of Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, a war dividing Divac’s Serbia and Petrovic’s Croatia.

Divac, whom the Lakers drafted in the first round of the 1989 draft and traded seven years later for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant, is the feature voice in the film. Petrovic, perhaps the greatest international player ever, teamed with Divac on the great Yugoslavian teams of the 1980′s, then starred for the New Jersey Nets before dying tragically at the age of 28 in a car crash in Germany.

The film, entitled “Once Brothers,” premiers at 5 p.m. Pacific on ESPN.

Lakers 88, F.C. Barcelona 92: Running Diary

61964200Highlights | Gasol’s Reverse Jam | Bryant to Gasol
Prior to a festive preseason matchup between the Lakers and F.C. Barcelona at the Palau St. Jordi on Thursday evening, Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bartomeu tried to put the event in perspective while at a press conference seated alongside NBA Commissioner David Stern.

“The score doesn’t matter,” Bartomeu said. “Games like this exist so we can please the fans.”

“Pleased” is certainly a fair way to describe a joyous group of basketball-crazy Catalans, particularly since their team ended up gutting out a 92-88 victory over the Lakers. The Euroleague champions battled an L.A. team that intermittently played well and poorly, before ultimately preserving a small lead late in the fourth quarter. A voracious group of fans displayed full support for F.C. Barcelona throughout, but also showered native son Pau Gasol with genuine love.

“Great sensation, great feeling, it’s really nice to be here,” said Gasol, transparently touched by the moment. “There was a terrific atmosphere. Barcelona has a great team, they showed it out there on the court today.”

While the Lakers would have liked to have won despite how early in the preseason it is, Gasol identified a greater meaning.

“The important thing was that it was a terrific atmosphere for the fans,” he explained. “I remember how motivated (these types of games) made me when I was young, and it’s (just as motivating) for the people here to see.”

Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual was very pleased to win, but said he recognized that the Lakers weren’t playing “at their usual level.” He was even more thrilled to host a significant event for the people in the city, and to welcome Gasol back to Barcelona.

61964216“For us to have Pau here is just marvelous,” he said “Everyone loves him here both in the city and the country. From our point of view he’s just the best inside player there is in the NBA right now. It’s fantastic to have him.”

Gasol wasn’t the only Laker that got plenty of love from the fans, as Kobe Bryant spent nearly 25 minutes on the floor. Still recovering from offseason knee surgery, Bryant had played only six minutes in L.A.’s Monday loss in London, but clearly felt better on Thursday. Phil Jackson even obliged his Finals MVP’s wish to go back into the game during crunch time, despite the fact that Bryant missed all but two of his 15 shots.

““He’s not ready to play,” said Jackson. “He’s going out there to help the good will (of the NBA) and to show the fans his presence on the floor and support his teammates.”

Bryant did manage to sink 11 of 12 free throws, and even had a chance to tie the game in the final minute with a deep three, but it rimmed out … like all 13 other Lakers attempts from distance.

F.C. Barcelona, meanwhile, sank 12 triples, including three in the final quarter, while the Lakers missed all seven of their efforts in the fourth quarter.

Bryant finished with 15 points, while Gasol led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds, eight fewer than teammate Lamar Odom. Juan Carlos Navarro scored 25 points for the victors, while little-known former second round pick of the New York Knicks Pete Mickeal just missed a triple-double with 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

If you missed any of the action, take a look at our in-game running diary, most of the content coming from our @LakersReporter Twitter handle:

11:45 Pau Gasol opens the game with a swished baseline jumper. How could he not have a little extra pep in his step? The conquering-hero-returning-home pregame ovation afforded him appeared to move him a bit, and he shared his appreciation over the loudspeakers.

11:00 A Barca player tried to tip Artest’s layup of offensive rim, which isn’t allowed in NBA; today we’re using NBA rules. Moments later, Pete Mickael, Barca’s starting SF, got right in Artest’s face & ultimately drew a tech; Artest obviously didn’t back away.

10:00 Kobe just attacked the hole through traffic here, which he didn’t attempt in London. #progress

8:09 It’s been a choppy first few minutes here, with Barca already committing 5 fouls & L.A. 4; Lakers lead 12-6, Gasol has 8.

3:00Kobe had 3 pts, 2 asts & 2 rebs in 8 minutes, missing his 4 FG’s but making 3 FT’s. The good news for Bryant & L.A. was that he moved quite well throughout, showing considerably more activity than he had in London. Gasol, meanwhile, was dominating the paint to the tune of 13 points with two boards.

0:24.0 Nice lil’ pick & pop action w/Steve Blake & Gasol, Blake using the pick to nail a pull-up, then stripping ball on D. Blake followed up his effort by hitting another pull-up J on the next possession, sending the Lakers out of the first quarter with a 24-21 lead. Juan Carlos Navarro led Barcelona with nine points.

Continue reading ‘Lakers 88, F.C. Barcelona 92: Running Diary’

Pregame: Lakers vs. F.C. Barcelona

61937422In late September, Kobe Bryant had just begun playing basketball after a three months away from the game following knee surgery.

Andrew Bynum wasn’t close to playing. Pau Gasol was traveling the world. Only Lamar Odom had recently played competitive basketball while helping Team USA claim the World Championships.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Regal F.C. Barcelona was beating everybody in Spain in preseason warm up tournaments and their first regular season game:

Sept. 18, Catalonia League Semifinal: F.C. Barcelona 78, Assignia Manresa 71
Sept. 19, Catalonia League Final: F.C. Barcelona 95, DKV Joventut 79
Sept. 24, ACB Super Cup Semifinal: F.C. Barcelona 89, Real Madrid 55
Sept. 24, ACB Super Cup Final: F.C. Barcelona 83, P. Electrics Valencia 63
Oct. 3, Regular Season: Barcelona 83, Regal Barca-Gran Canaria 58

This is also the same team that crushed Olympiacos, a solid Greek squad, 86-68 in the finals of the Euroleague, otherwise known as the next best basketball in the world outside of the NBA.

Combine this with L.A.’s lack of actual practice time, injuries and general treatment of the preseason, and we can better understand why Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson all said they are expecting a very tough game when they aren’t exactly ready for one.

F.C. Barcelona is led by two players known well in America, Ricky Rubio (drafted in 2009 by the Timberwolves) and Juan Carlos Navarro (formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies), both of whom also started for Spain in the World Championships. But there are several other solid players as well, like Pete Mikael, Jaka Lakovic, Kosta Perovic and Fran Vazquez.

The Lakers, who participated in a training session for kids alongside F.C. Barcelona at the Catalan team’s training facility on Tuesday, will get a close look in a game that tips at 11:30 a.m. Pacific on KCAL, NBA TV and 710 ESPN radio.

Kobe Bryant: 10-6 Injury Update

61937401Kobe Bryant offered a quick update on his surgically repaired knee two days after guessing it was at about 60 percent following Monday’s game in London.

“It’s feeling better,” he said. “It’s always tough when you have surgery, because you have to have a lot of patience. I’m just working hard trying to get it as strong as I can.”

Bryant has made no mention of any setbacks during his rehabilitation. He will definitely play limited minutes against Regal F.C. Barcelona on Thursday evening in Barcelona, but isn’t putting too much stress on the game.

“I’m not healthy,” he explained. “I would be more motivated if it were right after the NBA season and this was a series we were playing against the champions of Europe … to determine who the best was in the world. Then I’d be really motivated. But right now I’m still trying to get back in shape, and guys aren’t going to play that many minutes, so it’s a little different from a real series.”

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

Lakers Line of Succession

queen-elizabeth-iiIn the United Kingdom, the line of succession to the throne goes as follows:

- Queen Elizabeth II, present monarch
- Charles, Prince of Wales, heir apparent
- Prince William of Wales
- Prince Harry of Wales

OK, so, … what’s the Lakers’ line of succession?

Kobe, obviously, is the King. Pau Gasol, just as obviously, is the heir apparent, the Prince ready to take the throne when called upon, as he’s done in training camp while Kobe gets back to 100 percent physically. These two are self explanatory. The two-time defending Finals MVP is still considered the best player in the world by many, top few at worst, while the Spaniard could be argued as the league’s best all-around big man, and certainly the best “No. 2″ guy on an NBA roster.

As for the two princes, with William likely years away from power and Harry to serve only in need?

We’ll go with Andrew Bynum in Prince William’s role, as he’s young, talented and lined up to emerge as the team’s star into the future as Bryant and Gasol’s careers begin to dim.

As for Prince Harry, how about Lamar Odom? Extremely talented and capable when it counts, but the pressure’s largely off him to carry the team for right now. But if the future of the franchise depended upon him, and Kobe, Pau and Bynum were unable to serve, Odom’s next in line.

Lakers 92, Wolves 111: London Diary

VIDEO: Game Highlights, Kobe Bryant Postgame, Phil Jackson Postgame

61926285Purple and gold jerseys were nearly as omnipresent at London’s sold out O2 Arena as they are in STAPLES Center during the NBA’s opening preseason game in the United Kingdom, but the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Lakers 111-92 on Monday evening.

Kobe Bryant (knee) played for only the first six minutes of the contest and Pau Gasol 20 as Phil Jackson gave considerable playing time to his bench. The Wolves played well throughout, showing their youthful exuberance in sprinting out to a big third quarter lead after the Lakers held a one-point lead at halftime.

“I thought our guys did a really good job in the effort department,” said Wolves coach Kurt Rambis. “I see the reality of it too. Kobe played a little under six minutes. I coached under Phil. He’s looking at a time sheet and giving players as much playing time as possible. They don’t have the mindset to come out and win games. We’re a young team, we want to try and win with every opportunity we’re on the floor.”

61926651While Bryant said he’s at 60 percent and probably wouldn’t have played at all save for feeling a “responsibility to the fans,” Lamar Odom shined for the Lakers in the loss. His experience in the World Championships showed itself, as he led the way with 17 points, six boards and three steals in 26 minutes.

“Lamar looked great,” said Phil Jackson, using the phrase “mid-season form” to describe his play.

Shannon Brown added 13 points and Matt Barnes nine off the bench, while Steve Blake ran the triangle offense very well in his first minutes, leading L.A. with four assists in 20 minutes.

The Wolves shot the ball well throughout the game (54 percent) as L.A.’s defense predictably wasn’t where it will be in the regular season, getting 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from Michael Beasley and 24 points off the bench from Martell Webster on 8-of-13 field goals.

If you missed any part of the game, take a look at our running diary of the action:

9:29 Everything was going in for the Lakers early, with each player not named Kobe Bryant making a shot towards a 9-9 tie. Bryant (knee), as expected, was easing his way into the contest, missing his first two shots.

6:27 Who looked great early? Lamar Odom, fresh off the World Championships, showed the benefit of being in basketball shape as he scored seven of L.A.’s first 14 points to put the Lakers up 14-13.

4:45 Didn’t take long for Shannon Brown to wow another continent with a major slam, which he did on his first offensive touch, exploding off the baseline.

3:00 Not a bad first offensive touch for Steve Blake, either, as the team’s new backup point guard caught Artest’s pass on the wing and buried a three to tie the game at 25.

2:05 Our first look at Matt Barnes and Derrick Caracter, playing alongside fellow newcomer Theo Ratliff (in for Gasol, with three PF’s), saw Caracter and Ratliff immediately climb the offensive glass. Caracter was consistently excellent on the glass throughout the first week in camp, and we saw why immediately.

0:00 The Lakers won the title with defense last season, but preseason game No. 1 isn’t all about hard-nosed defending (well, at least for everyone other than Artest, he can’t help it). The early result was a 27-all tie after one.

11:00 It didn’t look like Blake’s first game in Purple and Gold … he was almost immediately controlling the flow of L.A.’s triangle, and even pulled Caracter aside to explain where to be.

8:39 Blake sunk his second jumper in as many attempts, then fed Brown for his second straight perimeter J; in other Shannon Brown news, he looks very confident and comfortable on the floor, much like he did last season in the February stretch of games missed by Kobe Bryant.

7:32 The first made jumper for Barnes, coming off a nice drive and dish from newly-checked-in Sasha Vujacic, gave the Lakers a 40-34 lead, as the second unit continued to play quite well (“quite” is among the most common words used in England, incidentally).

3:56 Former Lakers assistant and current Wolves Head Coach Kurt Rambis had his starters in, while Phil Jackson featured Trey Johnson and Drew Naymick, both training camp signees, alongside newly-entered rookie Devin Ebanks, Vujacic and Odom. The Wolves took advantage in taking a three-point lead before two Odom free throws gave him 11 points to lead all scorers. Meanwhile, Caracter’s effort continued to be there, but his matchup with 7-foot plus Darko Milicic wasn’t a good one at either end.

0:00 Bryant didn’t play a single minute in the second quarter, which was his and Phil Jackson’s plan. Vujacic, meanwhile, hit a three and a driving layup to keep the Lakers on top by a point at halftime. The Lakers shot 48.9 percent to Minnesota’s 56.8 percent, but grabbed 10 offensive boards to create seven more field goal attempts.

10:30 Beasley’s shot looks good for Minny (18 pts), his 3 putting Wolves up 60-56, though Odom did make him fall on a crossover (#anklebreak) before high-stepping and throwing a behind-the-back pass to Fisher. That was fun.

7:00 Wolves showing off youthful exuberance to start the 3rd, L.A. easing into things, resulting in a 69-58 Minny lead after 9-2 run. In other words, the Lakers were treating things like, well, the first preseason game. A bit sloppy on offense, a bit lackadaisical on defense.

619265692:59 The Wolves have barely missed in the 3rd, outscoring L.A. by 17 through nine minutes to take an 82-67 lead on Martell Webster’s 3, while the Lakers were ineffective particularly from the free throw line.

0:23.0 L.A.’s first productive offensive play in a while resulted in a corner three from looking-more-comfortable Barnes, who then nailed a deep two for a mini 5-0 personal run that cut Minny’s lead from 18 to 13 heading into the final quarter.

10:00 Barnes brought some tenacity on D, fouling Webster (9 pts in 3rd) 30 ft from rim. He took Web scoring on someone else personally, then stripped him a minute later on a play leading to Brown’s layup, cutting the Wolves’ lead to 14.

5:53 The Wolves held a 96-80 lead behind continued hot shooting, with Phil Jackson again going to his third team. After the second Laker Girl dance during a time out, the crowd brought out “Kobe, Kobe!” chant number three, producing a wave from No. 24.

5:31 Gasol, checking back in for crowd-pleasing purposes (Phil Jackson must have figured that was the next best thing to Kobe), did so right away with a nasty reverse slam on the baseline.

0:00 The game ended with the Wolves claiming a 111-92 victory behind 54.1 percent shooting from the field and 8-of-12 shooting from three-point range.

We’ll be back tomorrow from Barcelona.

Lakers at Tower Bridge, London

61921551The Lakers meet London’s Tower Bridge over the River Thames.

On Monday morning, the Lakers gathered to take an international team photo for the first time since the shot in front of Paris’s Eiffel Tower in 1991. Magic Johnson and James Worthy turned into Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in front of central London’s historic Tower Bridge, with a typically gray English sky showing the bright gold warm ups of the two-time defending champs.

The picture took the place of shootaround for the team in advance of Monday night’s preseason game at the O2 Arena in London against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Walton Re-Strains Right Hamstring

Luke Walton aggravated the right hamstring strain he originally suffered at last Thursday’s practice, moving the classification from “mild” to “moderate.”

Walton will not play in the Lakers preseason games in London or Barcelona.

The backup forward will be re-evaluated when the team returns to Los Angeles on October 8, but team spokesman John Black said he would likely be out for a few weeks.

Rookies in London

101002_rookies_in_londonLakers rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks hanging out along the River Thames in Canary Wharf, London.