Monthly Archive for November, 2010

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After Turkey, Lakers To Play Jazz

How good have the Lakers been throughout their 13-2 start to the 2010-11 NBA season?

Good enough to start 8-0 with five victories coming by double digits, and then rebound from two close losses to win four straight games — three of them on the road — by an average of 17.5 points heading into Tuesday night’s 98-91 win over a tough Chicago Bulls team.

Good enough to average a league-best 111.5 points per game, boast a league-best point differential of +11.0, come in first in rebounding (46.27 per game), rank second in three-point percentage after hitting another 10 against the Bulls, as well as top the league in assists (24.5).

But heading into Friday evening’s day-after-Thanksgiving contest in Utah, the Lakers know they can throw all of that out. Asked if it would be a difficult task for the Lakers to play in Salt Lake City after enjoying Thanksgiving dinner prior to an 8 p.m. flight, Kobe Bryant simply responded, “Yes.”

Always among the league’s more difficult places in which to play even without a stomach full of turkey and stuffing, EnergySolutions Arena has favored the home Jazz in six of the last 10 regular season games. On the other hand, when you include road victories in Games 3 and 4 of last season’s Second Round of the playoffs, the Lakers have won three consecutive games in Utah. Furthermore, L.A. has claimed each of the last four season series from the Jazz, going 2-1 in 2006-07, 3-1 in 2007-08, 2-1 in 2008-09 and 3-1 in 2009-10, the last loss coming on Dec. 12, 2009 (94-102).

This season, the Jazz have been just a bit difficult to figure out, looking at times fantastic and at others quite beatable.

Utah pulled off what’s easily the league’s most impressive road trip to date, sweeping through Eastern powers Miami and Orlando on a back-to-back, then completing the trip with come-from-behind wins at Atlanta and Charlotte. But the Jazz have uncharacteristically lost three games at home, dropping decisions to Phoenix, Oklahoma City and San Antonio in addition to road losses at Golden State and Denver. Nonetheless, the Jazz are a still-solid 10-5, good for sixth place in the West, with the aforementioned slew of tough road wins already tucked into their collective belt.

The Jazz rank 13th in points scored and fifth in assists, but haven’t shot the ball particularly well as shown by their 13th rank in field goal percentage and 20th in three-point percentage, compared to LA.’s No. 4 and No. 2 in those categories. Utah’s also struggling to rebound the ball, collecting only the 23rd most in the NBA, so the glass will be of paramount importance against the top-boarding Lakers on Friday.

Deron Williams remains the straw that stirs Utah’s drink, and he’s been as good as always while leading his team in scoring (20.9 points per game) and assists (9.7) even with a slow shooting start of 43.0 percent overall and 31.7 percent on threes. Paul Millsap has also been terrific for the Jazz, coming in just behind Williams in points (19.7) while leading the team in rebounding with 9.1 per contest, as well as steals with 1.3 a night.

Meanwhile, the Jazz have been trying to work major offseason acquisition Al Jefferson into Coach Jerry Sloan’s system, to overall positive but still mixed effect. Jefferson’s scoring 16.3 points with 8.8 rebounds and a team-high 1.4 blocks, but he’s shooting only 47 percent, which would be good for most players but not as much for a 50-percent plus career shooter. Big Al’s had a few big games, including a season-high 27 points in a win over Toronto or a 20-point, 14-rebound performance in last week’s road win at Portland, but has yet to show the type of consistency that should come as his comfort level grows throughout the year.

Wings Andrei Kirilenko and C.J. Miles are also averaging double figure points for Utah, with Miles putting up 20 points off the pine (Raja Bell starts at the two) in the most recent Jazz win against Sacramento. But while the Lakers have enjoyed the fruits of some impressive “Killer B” labor off their bench, Utah’s gotten little outside of Miles from its pine. In fact, no Jazz player not named Miles is averaging more than 3.3 points off the bench, while the Lakers are getting 11.8 from Shannon Brown, 9.4 from Matt Barnes and 5.9 from Steve Blake.

Meanwhile, the Lakers starters are doing just fine themselves, with the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol-Lamar Odom threesome totaling over 60 points per game, with Ron Artest and Derek Fisher chipping in where needed.

We’ll see how it all shakes out on the actual basketball floor shortly, but not until Phil Jackson’s famed “Turkey Trot” scrimmage on Thanksgiving morning, where he pits the guards against the big men. As Kobe Bryant explained after the Bulls game, the guards always win.

Stay tuned for a review of that battle once the team arrives in Utah prior to the 6 p.m. tip off.

Lakers – Bulls Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from the Lakers’ fifth consecutive win, produced on Tuesday evening against Chicago at STAPLES Center to improve the team to 13-2 on the season.

37 Points from L.A.’s Killer B’s* (which both Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom said they preferred to the 3B’s or the B Unit) Shannon Brown (21), Barnes (10) and Steve Blake (6), a major key towards L.A.’s win. Overall, L.A. outscored Chicago’s bench 39-10. Brown had a huge first half, scoring 18 points, while Blake and Barnes nailed back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter that put the game away.
*By the way, when Odom returns to the bench, one of our Twitter followers suggested the BOBB Squad.

18 Fourth quarter points scored by the Bulls, their low by five in the game, thanks to L.A.’s D. As Phil Jackson described: “Our defense I thought got a lot better. We got some stops of penetrations, some turnovers and some rebounds. I think our group out there that started that quarter had a little more intensity … it helped us a lot, and our offense was aggressive.”

14 Offensive boards ceded to the Bulls in a category L.A. often dominates, five of which came from Joakim Noah, who led all boarders with 13.

12 Turnovers for the Lakers in a well-controlled game, resulting in just nine Bulls points. L.A. capitalized more effectively on Chicago’s 13 turnovers, scoring 17 points.

11 Of his team-high 30 points that came in the third quarter, highlighted by four impressive and explosive forays into the paint. Two reverse layups were particularly nasty, as the Bulls managed to cut a 10-point Lakers lead down to one heading into the fourth quarter. Jackson mentioned that Rose’s great third period was impressive, but that it may have worn him down a bit heading into the final quarter.

5 Three-pointers hit by Brown, including four straight in the first half, to improve his total to a team-high 29 on the season in 57 attempts, good for a .508 percentage. Only seven players in the NBA have made more than Brown’s 29 threes, and not one is shooting higher than 43 percent (Stephen Jackson, who’s made a league-high 40). Jackson called Brown “remarkable” in the first half, adding that he kept the Lakers in the game.

5 Blocked shots by Pau Gasol, who effectively protected L.A.’s rim as a partial response to being less involved on offense. He made only 3-of-10 shots as Chicago’s defense doubled the post, but totaled 11 boards, four assists, two steals and those swats to contribute to the win.

1 Team with fewer losses than the Lakers: the 12-1 San Antonio Spurs, though the Lakers now boast the most wins in the NBA with 13.

Lakers 98, Bulls 91: Nov. 23 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s home contest against Chicago as the Lakers looked to win their fifth straight game, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Bulls: D. Rose, K. Bogans, L. Deng, T. Gibson, J. Noah

FIRST QUARTER
9:17 It wasn’t surprising to see the Lakers go right at 6-5 shooting guard Keith Bogans, as L.A. has a guy named Kobe Bryant at that position. The early results were seven points for Kobe in a 7-2 lead, and two personal fouls on Bogans, who got the hook in favor of Ronnie Brewer. The other interesting matchup to watch? Ron Artest guarding ultra-quick Derrick Rose … at least until Artest’s second personal foul brought Matt Barnes into the contest.

1:05 After toying with Golden State’s defense in a wire-to-wire Sunday blowout, the Lakers took a while to adjust to Chicago’s staunch defense on Tuesday, making only 4-of-16 shots while Joakim Noah disrupted things in Coach Tom Thibodeau’s system much like Kevin Garnett had in Boston. Nonetheless, a Matt Barnes three cut Chicago’s early lead to only one at 22-21.

0:00.4 The Bulls looked poised to put L.A. in a rare, if small, hole out of the first quarter until Chicago native Shannon Brown launched a high-arching, buzzer-beating triple to knot the game at 26 after one.

SECOND QUARTER
8:52 How ’bout that Lakers bench? In really every game this season, the purple and gold pine crew has found a way to impact things positively. This time, it was Brown leading the charge, adding his second three and a driving layup to score nine of L.A.’s 20 points in a 20-10 burst that opened a six-point lead for the champs.

4:42 Just as the Lakers started to gain a bit of control of the ball-game with Bryant’s and-1 opening a then-high 8-point lead, Derrick Rose hit a triple, then fed Noah for a layup to cut the lead back to just three. Well, at least until Brown dropped yet another three-pointer, his fourth of the game and 28th of the season. Quick stat: of the 12 players who’ve hit more triples than Brown, not one has a higher percentage than his 54.9 percent. In fact, not one of those players (including snipers like Ray Allen, Stephen Jackson and Danilo Gallinari) is shooting higher than 46 percent.

0:00 L.A. shot just 38% in the half, but made 13 free throws to Chicago’s seven, hit four more threes and forced 10 turnovers on the Bulls to hold a 51-49 lead at the break. Thirty of those points came from the Bryant-Brown combo, with Brown’s 18 leading all scorers.

THIRD QUARTER
10:35 The Lakers missed Ron Artest’s defense a bit in the first half after the D-stud committed two early fouls and played only 11 minutes, but his strip of Taj Gibson earned two free throws for Fisher at the other end to cap a 6-0 run out of the half. Speaking of people the Lakers miss … this is the type of matchup in which they could really use Andrew Bynum. On offense, since he draws Noah away from Gasol and lets the Spaniard go at either Carlos Boozer (when healthy) or Taj Gibson; on defense, his length is about the only thing that can deter the frequent Rose forays into the paint.

4:51 L.A. continued to play well in the third in nearly every aspect, but couldn’t seem to clear a defensive rebound as Chicago got seven straight points off offensive boards to cut a 10-point margin to four at 65-61. Keying the effort was Noah, who tipped in consecutive Bulls misses. Meanwhile, Rose and Bryant were exchanging ridiculous darting drives and beautiful jumpers keyed by perfect footwork, creating quite a buzz in the arena.

0:01.0 Brown couldn’t find the magic that resulted in his first quarter buzzer-beater, coming up short on a triple as L.A. held only a one-point lead at 74-73 after leading by as many as 10 in the period. The Lakers limited Rose thanks to Artest while building that lead, but ultimately the No. 1 overall pick had his way, slashing into the paint to score 11 of his 27 points in the period. Odom matched him with 11 of his own in the third to reach 18 total, the same as both Bryant and Brown.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 98, Bulls 91: Nov. 23 Running Diary’

Andrew Bynum: Nov. 22 Injury Update

UCLA Health SystemFive days after we caught up with Andrew Bynum in Detroit, he’s just a bit further along with his rehabilitation process but — as expected — is still not ready to practice fully, let alone play in a game.

Last week, Bynum’s activity was restricted to straight-line running, shooting and some simple low post actions like hook shots, albeit without any lateral cutting. This week, Bynum said he plans to up his activity level to jumping and cutting. If that goes well (i.e. no swelling or set backs), he’ll move forward with actually practicing with the team … in two or three weeks.

Bynum’s not so much worried about his level of conditioning when he returns, but simply being fully healthy.

“Conditioning (wise) I’m doing a lot of running and lifting, so I think I’ll be able to get my game wind back in the first couple of games,” said Bynum. “Plus I’m not sure how many minutes I’ll be logging right away, so from that standpoint I feel pretty good. My whole thing is just keeping the knee healthy and making sure the meniscus doesn’t tear again.”

Lakers – Warriors Postgame Numbers

62567254We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from the Lakers’ fourth consecutive win, coming on Sunday evening against Golden State at STAPLES Center to improve the team to 12-2 on the season.

0 Shots missed by Pau Gasol in the contest. The Spaniard was perfect from the field (10-for-10) and perfect from the line (8-for-8) towards 28 points, not to mention nine rebounds and five assists. This stat line eerily mirrored the perfect line from Matt Barnes last game at Minnesota: 7-for-7, 5-for-5, 24, seven and five. “I thought he played a great game tonight,” said Phil Jackson, needing only to state the obvious.

1 L.A.’s NBA rank in points, three-point field goal percentage, defensive rebounds and rebounds through 14 games. They scored 69 of 117 points in the first half, and came in averaging 112.2 per game.

5 Season-low points scored by Monta Ellis, who left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury. In related news, Ron Artest was guarding Ellis. Phil Jackson said that Artest did a really good job of keeping a body on Ellis, who made only 2-of-10 field goals.

6 Times in Lakers history that a player has had a perfect performance from the field with a minimum of 10 field goal attempts. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it twice, while Wilt Chamberlain, Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott all did it once.

11 Blocked shots for the Lakers, including four from Gasol and two each for Odom and Artest.

27 Minutes played by Kobe Bryant, the fifth time in 14 games that he’d played less than 32 minutes. By comparison, he hadn’t played less than 32 minutes even once after 14 games last season. This, as Phil Jackson often says, bodes well for later in the season. “It’s very important,” he said. “They have that reserve (energy) to go to Tuesday night (against Chicago) if they need it. Bryant, by the way, scored 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting plus six boards and five assists.

29 Fast break points for the Lakers, not always a team that gets out for easy baskets, compared to only eight from the Warriors. L.A. converted all 12 chances it had in transition.

35 L.A.’s biggest lead of a game in which it never trailed.

44 Bench points for the Lakers, led by 17 from Shannon Brown, nine from Matt Barnes and 13 total from Steve Blake (six) and Devin Ebanks (7).

57.7 Lamar Odom’s field goal percentage on the season, good for seventh in the NBA. Close behind is Gasol at 56.4 percent, good for ninth in the league.

Lakers 117, Warriors 89: Nov. 21 Running Diary

62567252Below is a running diary of L.A.’s home game against Golden State as the Lakers looked to win their fourth straight game, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Warriors: S. Curry, M. Ellis, D. Wright, V. Radmanovic, A. Biedrins

62567258FIRST QUARTER
5:39 L.A. hadn’t yet found the dominance that sparked a 14-2 lead the last time Golden State was at STAPLES (10-31), but they nonetheless lead by double digits at 20-10 after six minutes and change. The Warriors seemed to have little interest in transition defense, with L.A. taking advantage to score eight fast break points, including a wide-open Fisher layup that his teammates on the bench had hoped he would dunk (Blake, Brown and Barnes had hopped up in eager anticipation).

2:03 It wasn’t too early to put Bryant on triple-double watch, not after his three offensive boards on one possession (all resulting in narrowly missed layups) got him up to six rebounds alongside nine points and three assists. He nearly had that dime total up to five, but Artest missed an open corner three, and Gasol was fouled on a layup attempt after a slick between-the-legs dish from Kobe. Still, L.A. led 31-17, the game already under control. They’d push the margin to 37-21, riding a scorching hot 70 percent from the field including Gasol’s 5-for-5 field goals and 4-for-4 free throws for 14 points.

62568164SECOND QUARTER
6:00 L.A.’s bench was just as good as the starters had been, outscoring the Warriors 15-7 to push the lead up to 26 at 54-28. Brown made five of his seven shots for 11 points, while Blake and Barnes scrapped all over the place on defense regardless of the score. In related news, L.A.’s pine unit has been terrific all season.

2:37 For a team with nearly a 30-point lead, and a comfortable 11-2 record coming off two straight championships, the Lakers were playing with pretty impressive late-November energy on defen. Typifying the effort was Artest, who went to the ground to try and make a steal on defense. Meanwhile, Gasol was still perfect from the field at 8-of-8 for 20 points.

62568259THIRD QUARTER
9:35 The Warriors certainly didn’t need a Monta Ellis injury heaped upon the insult of being down nearly 30 points, but it happened as Ellis landed hard on his left hip, and was forced to leave the contest. As for hoops? Nothing too new to share, other than the Lakers continuing to dominate.

6:00 OK weird. Gasol at that points was 9-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 from the foul line for 24 points with five rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes. Last game at Minnesota, Barnes 7-for-7 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line for 24 points with seven boards and six boards in 24 minutes. Just saying.

0:00.8 Gasol put his perfect game on the line at the free throw line after drawing a foul just before the third quarter buzzer, but made both, likely concluding his game by making all 10 field goals and all eight free throws for 28 points, not to mention nine rebounds and five assists. As for the score? Yea, 95-60 Lakers.

62566455FOURTH QUARTER
10:45 Trying to keep the crowd engaged, Blake offered a little razzle-dazzle dribble before feeding Barnes for an open three (swish). A minute later, Blake added a triple of his own, giving each player two triples on the evening.

6:00 Just checking in to share that L.A.’s starters had long been icing their respective knees. Score: 108-79 after a Vlad-Rad three for G.S. against Phil Jackson’s line up of Brown, Vujacic, Ebanks, Walton and Caracter.

0:00 Mercifully, the game finally ended with L.A. up 117-89, the purple and gold earning a fourth straight victory to improve to 12-2 on the season.

Lakers 112, Wolves 95: Nov. 19 Running Diary

62538745Below is a running diary of L.A.’s road contest in Minneapolis as the Lakers looked to win a third straight road contest, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Wolves: S. Telfair, W. Johnson, M. Beasley, K. Love, D. Milicic

62538799FIRST QUARTER
6:29 It wasn’t the hottest of starts in cold Minneapolis for the Lakers, who conceded an uncontested tip-in from Darko Milicic and Sebastian Telfair’s similarly uncontested layup moments later in an 11-all tie halfway through the first period. The Wolves were an excited bunch, playing in front of what some staffers said was the biggest crowd of the last three years.

0: 54.1 L.A.’s bench B’s came in and provided an immediate spark with a nasty Shannon Brown hammer dunk in transition (I believe he violated Minneapolis – St. Paul air space) and a Matt Barnes three-pointer, but Minnesota was able to answer with jumpers from Luke Ridnour and Michael Beasley to take a 21-20 lead out of the first quarter.

62539268SECOND QUARTER
8:30 Barnes followed a Brown three with six straight points, giving him nine points in his seven minutes on the floor to push the Lakers quickly to a 32-26 lead.

4:50 After a somewhat uninspiring first quarter, the Lakers found the rhythm that carried them through two professional victories at Milwaukee and Detroit, using an 8-0 run to cap a 24-7 start to the second, opening a 44-28 lead in a suddenly quieted Target Center.

0:50.0 Did you know that Derek Fisher came into the game second in the NBA in three-point shooting by hitting 60 percent of his bombs? He stayed nice and heated here in Minnesota, making his second of the period in two attempts to stop a mini-run from the Wolves. Bryant added two tough jumpers, and the lead was 51-41 heading into halftime.

THIRD QUARTER
9:20 Perhaps improbably, Milicic as going nuts for the Wolves, getting up to a game-high 17 points with his game-high 11 rebounds and game-high six blocks. Nonetheless, the Lakers held a 56-46 advantage.

3:34Gasol had to be replaced around the six-minute mark after picking up his fourth foul, this after hitting three straight shots to make up for a 1-for-7 first half, and his replacement Derrick Caracter stepped right in and hit two shots in the paint, the second putting L.A. up 74-59.

1:43 No Laker had a better thing going than Barnes, who was really terrific in the period while scoring 10 of his 19 points all on three-pointers (3-for-3) plus a foul shot he earned on one of the makes, leading L.A. to an 84-70 edge into the fourth.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 112, Wolves 95: Nov. 19 Running Diary’

Phil Jackson Practice Thoughts

103895482GD000_Lakers_Bucks_GDBelow are some of the finer points of Phil Jackson’s post-practice media session on Thursday in Minneapolis:

- Jackson weighed in on Andrew Bynum’s potential return, saying that while there is still no date set, he now thinks that the road trip beginning on Dec. 10 at Chicago is at least a feasible goal. Jackson added that Bynum hasn’t been completely comfortable in drills with assistant coach Chuck Person, particularly those that ask him to move laterally like shooting left-handed hooks. Jackson re-iterated what Bynum told us yesterday, saying that “We want this to be right and we want him to last for the whole season … we don’t want to rush this.” At the same time, Jackson said the team “was not backing down” from the team’s original timetable, and he expects Bynum back in practice soon.

- When asked if Jackson thought Kobe Bryant’s legs have looked particularly active of late for a guy that had surgery in the offseason, he explained that yes, limited practice time has helped even at the occasional expense of his shooting stroke: “I thought on Tuesday night in Milwaukee he was maybe rusty even. I didn’t think he shot the ball well, everything was off the drive. But I think he used that game kind of as a practice, and he was able to step up last night and shoot the ball (in Detroit). He hasn’t practiced consistently and that’s one of the values of knowing what we do an how to do it (being veterans), so we’ve been limiting a lot of our activity as we go through this eight-game-in-15-day sequence. He’s benefited a lot from staying off the court, being strong and ready to play, but sometimes his shooting is just not right and he still finds a way to score, still finds something to do for the team.”

- (On if there is a big difference between players playing 35 and 40 minutes, for example): “Over a season, yes. It’s just that drain on your legs. But the real pressure is about in the game stuff, if you have six to eight sequences inside of a minute because there are so many stoppages of play. You’re grinding it out, people are throwing their bodies around on the floor and it gets to resemble playoff basketball for a minute. Those are the things that wear players out. But if a team has an ability to play (a player) 32 or 36 minutes and have the luxury of cruising in at the end, it helps them a lot.”

- Jackson thought the Wolves, Friday’s opponent, had a “purpose” in the second half against the Lakers in L.A., and thought Kevin Love was effective in the center spot and particularly on the offensive glass, while Michael Beasley can hurt teams with his elite scoring on the wing.

- Phil also spent some time talking about his former assistant coach Kurt Rambis, for whom Jackson said he roots not because Rambis was on Jackson’s staff but because he and Rambis are friends. He added that the primary reason more of his former assistants haven’t become head coaches is simply that they were older coaches, exemplified by Tex Winter. He does expect that both Brian Shaw and Chuck Person will be head coaches in the NBA, and would like to see Jim Cleamons get a head coaching job in college if not in the NBA once again.

Keeping Up With Lamar: Nov. 18 Edition

62369059Lamar Odom took some time with us after Thursday’s practice in Minneapolis to discuss his newly-refined right hand, his health and the team’s harmonious level of chemistry:

Throughout his entire professional career, coaches have been trying to get Lamar Odom to use his right hand, particularly around the rim. Not that it ever really worked … and the lanky lefty is the first to admit it. Phil Jackson and his assistants have certainly been harping on the issue in the past few years, but through the first 11 games of 2010-11, apparently the message has (finally) gotten through.

“I’ve been trying to change my body mechanics this year where I’m using my right hand more,” Odom said. “Because my body is so used to going left, finishing left, that I’m trying to get my mind right and think about it. That’s why I box, just for the mechanics of it. Now I just try to use it.”

103882436AE009Lakers_PistonsOdom said that opponents had no choice but to overplay his left in the past, yet he still managed to get to the rim at least a few time a game with his gliding, hop-step move, his unique combination of length and quickness being enough to combat even a defender who knew it was coming. But this season, he’s simply gone right as defenders have allowed him (see picture to right), converting righty layups in three consecutive games, including and-one’s against both Milwaukee and Detroit.

“Being around players like Kobe (Bryant), Pau (Gasol), Andrew (Bynum) and even Ron (Artest), who can all use both hands, I wanted to join the pack,” he continued. “I think it’s something I just had to add to my repertoire after finishing almost (solely) with my left in the past, even though my game was pretty good like that. I think it will keep me tougher to guard. I think I can beat a lot of guys mentally if they’re like, ‘Oh, he might go right and finish right,’ I think mentally I’ll have them messed up.”

It’s notable that Odom’s left thumb has been bugging him since he strained it in the preseason, perhaps encouraging him to use his right hand more, but he seems convinced he’s doing it for the benefit of his game. Odom even offered an anecdote, suggesting that he’s pretty happy with how development is working out thus far.

“I made a move (Wednesday) night I was proud of even though I missed the shot,” he said. “I came across to the middle, caught the ball at the free throw line, kinda hesi’d*, got (Charlie) Villanueva to come to me, dipped my shoulder to get around him … I feel like I can continue to do things like that and get better.”
*Lamar’s lexicon for “hesitated,” or “hesitation dribble.”

Continuing to get better is a phrase we constantly (and rightfully) associate with Bryant, most notably, but Odom says he’s really enjoying having Phil Jackson and players like Kobe and Gasol around on a daily basis from whom to learn. He feels that he’s been able to take a lot of that out onto the floor, and it’s paid off from a production standpoint in the form of 14.9 points on 58 percent shooting from the field and three-point range, 10.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, numbers nearly identical to his outstanding 2007-08 season despite four fewer minutes on the floor (38 then to 34 now).

It also helps that his body is feeling very strong from a macro perspective, helping him overcome several micro aches through camp and the early regular season, including that left thumb, a sore nose and a sore right foot upon which a Monday MRI came back negative.

“My body is about as hard as it’s going to get,” he explained, adding the word “tight” to clarify. “My muscle memory is good. I could take a week off of lifting and get back to it and still feel good.”

We know that Odom’s performance for the U.S. National team at the World Championships — in which Toronto head coach and U.S. assistant Jay Triano said Odom was the team’s most important player — helped him come into the season in perhaps the best shape of his career. And while the native New Yorker acknowledges that he has to be aware of his body so as not to wear down prior to or in the playoffs, it’s not something about he worries.

“Nah,” he said. “I’m cool. Really, I’m fine.”

Nearly as significant as his performance on the floor is what Odom brings to L.A.’s locker room. One of his newest teammates, Steve Blake, called Odom the “Cool friend that everybody likes,” and the fact that he’s universally liked amongst his teammates is quite obvious.

“I’m just being myself,” Odom said. “I’ve never had a problem with saying hello to somebody. I’ve been on a team all my life … it’s the one thing I do know.”

As such, he’s in a pretty good position to evaluates what appears to be a very good team vibe.

“I think that this team, because of the age, is pretty mature as far as their role, what they’re going to give the team and how they’re going to contribute,” he concluded. “Everyone is content about their role. Not because they don’t want more, but because they understand what they have to give and they’re willing to give that. It causes the kind of balance that we need.”
62369504

Lakers – Pistons Postgame Numbers

62510768We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from the Lakers’ 10th win of the season, coming on Wednesday night in Detroit.

2 Double-doubles amassed in three quarters of work for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Odom had 13 and 10.

4 Road wins in five tries for the Lakers (Phoenix, Sacramento, Milwaukee and Detroit), with the lone loss coming in Denver last week.

24 First half points for Kobe Bryant on an efficient 8-of-11 shooting. Bryant had the whole arsenal working, including two three-pointers, a spinning fadeaway on the baseline, up-and-under drives to the hoop, pump-fake jumpers and more. He’d finish with 33 points in three quarters of work before sitting out the fourth in a blow out.

26 L.A.’s biggest lead in a game it thoroughly dominated. The Pistons led by one early in the first quarter.

31 Rebounds corralled by L.A.’s three best offensive players in three quarters, as Bryant added nine boards to the 22 total from Odom and Gasol.

38 Combined points scored by the Pistons in the second and third quarters, during which the Lakers scored 25 in each to create a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.