Monthly Archive for March, 2011

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Fisher, Brown to go on “Minute To Win It”

From the Lakers’ Public Relations Office:

Five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher and two-time NBA champion Shannon Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers team up on NBC’s “Minute To Win It” to win money for their respective charities — the University of Arkansas Foundation Inc., and the Shannon Brown Foundation.

Fisher and Brown begin the episode with “Nice Build” where they must work together to build a three level pyramid of 15 paper reams on a table. Other games include: Whippersnapper, Speed Eraser, Cantenna, Gettin Juggy With It, Knock It Off, Ball Cap. Guy Fieri hosts.

Lakers Turn Over Key Stretch

At first glance, L.A.’s mistakes, or misfortune, or what have you in the final two minutes of Thursday evening’s loss at Miami stick out as explanations for what went awry.

- Missed three-pointers from Kobe Bryant, one from as deep as could be and the other really early in the shot clock with 25 seconds to play, the latter of which he thought was a foul.
- A failure to keep Dwyane Wade out of the paint or contest his shots at the rim. Missed layups from Pau Gasol and Ron Artest, the Spaniard looking for a contact foul and the New Yorker for goal tending, but misses nonetheless.

But we’d be remiss to forget about the impact of the final minutes of the third quarter.

With 3:09 left in that period, the Lakers held a 68-62 lead thanks to a 9-0 run capped by Derek Fisher’s three and the type of consistent defense that had been there for the Lakers in their eight-game winning streak. The Lakers had survived a torrent first half from the Heat — backs pressed firmly against the wall trying to snap a five-game losing streak and subdue a mountain of criticism — and come out with renewed purpose out of halftime to take control of the contest, holding Miami to only seven points in the first eight minutes while forcing seven turnovers.

Then, this happened:

- 2:47: Derek Fisher bad pass turnover (68-62 LAL)
- 2:15: Andrew Bynum bad pass turnover (Miami’s Chris Bosh misses two free throws)
- 1:44: Shannon Brown bad pass turnover (68-64 LAL after a Dwyane Wade transition layup)
- 1:30: Kobe Bryant missed shot from the paint
- 1:06: Pau Gasol bad pass turnover (68-66 after a LeBron James transition layup)

That’s four turnovers in 1:41 of action. As such, it’s now a classic case of “coulda woulda shoulda,” the Lakers watching what may have been a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter be cut down to a two-point margin, as Lamar Odom and James exchanged baskets in the final minute to set the score at 70-68.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle that Bryant tied at 88 with a deep three-pointer at the 2:26 mark, but from there, the Lakers had another run of mistakes and mishaps that ultimately spelled their doom.

At least for one night.

After all, Phil Jackson is placing greater emphasis on the team’s Saturday game at Dallas, which could prove to be critical for Western Conference seeding purposes since teams only play three times this season and the Mavs have the only win with two to play. In other words, if the Lakers lose this one, they’ll drop the season series to Dallas even with a home win on March 31, which would be a loss of a potential tiebreaker if the two teams — currently separated by 1.5 games — end up with matching records.

One thing the Lakers will certainly go over in Friday’s practice is executing without the turnovers that proved so critical in that two-minute stretch of the third quarter in Miami, and ultimately the game.

Lakers 88, Heat 94: March 10 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening road contest at Miami, the Lakers looking to win a season-high ninth straight game out of the All-Star break, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Heat: M. Chalmers, D. Wade, L. James, C. Bosh, E. Dampier

6:55 Both teams opened the game with a series of jumpers, unable to penetrate respective defenses, and Kobe Bryant couldn’t miss on his way to scoring L.A.’s first 10 points, while Miami did almost all of its damage off Lakers turnovers, scoring 10 of their first 13 points off four Lakers mistakes. Gasol added two free throws and a jumper and Artest a fastbreak dunk to make it a 16-13 Lakers lead, thanks to 6-of-7 FG makes and despite the turnovers.

2:59 L.A. opened a five-point lead at 20-15, then 22-17 when Ron Artest outworked several Heat players by collecting a Bynum miss and sticking it back to reach four points, three boards and three assists. However, he had a shot he perhaps shouldn’t have taken blocked on the next trip down, which the Heat used to get a LeBron James and-1 at the other end to tie the score.

0:29 The Heat role players had gotten quite a bit of criticism for lack of contributions of late, but it was just the opposite in the first quarter, Mike Miller checking in and nailing a three to piggy back the three triples hit by Mario Chalmers, accounting for 12 of Miami’s 29 points in a 29-26 Heat lead. Phil Jackson had mentioned before the game that he wanted the Lakers to just stay close on the scoreboard early against what was to be a desperate/furious Heat effort (five straight losses, heaps of criticism), so LAL accomplished at least that much while playing reasonably well.

8:08 Bryant returned alongside Dwyane Wade, and promptly nailed his second three-pointer to tie the game at 36, getting him up to 15 points on 5-of-6 field goals. Wade had managed just 2-of-7 field goals for five points, getting outplayed by his fellow Finals MVP in the early goings. Bryant, clearly amped up, even picked Wade up full court on the subsequent possession, forcing him to give up the ball.

5:46 Miller was at it again, grabbing his own miss and putting it back to reach 11 points, more than Miami had scored in each of its previous two games off the bench. Meanwhile, the Heat continued to control the glass at 17-9 and had 20 points in the paint to L.A.’s 10, but the Lakers were still trailing by only a point at 43-42.

1:02 A poor stretch near the end of the quarter for L.A. ended as Bynum and Gasol scored at the rim on consecutive low post moves, the Spaniard’s dunk getting him to 14 points and tying the game at 51. That the game was tied was a testament to L.A.’s execution and experience, as the Heat were so continually energetic that they out-rebounded L.A. 23-14. Miami added a bucket before half to take a 55-53 lead, led by 16 points from Chris Bosh and the combined 20 from Chalmers and Miller, needed as Wade and James combined to hit only 6-of-18 shots. Bryant’s 17 led L.A., while Artest chipped in across the box score with six points, five boards, four assists and two steals.

7:25 The two teams combined for exactly two points in the first four minutes of the third quarter, L.A. getting a Fisher jumper, before Wade and Artest exchanged three-point shots to keep the score tied at 60. Interesting stat comparison had Artest equaling James. Ron Ron had 9 P, 5 R, 4 A, 2 S; LeBron: 8 P, 5 R, 6 A, 1 S.

4:30 It was a much better Bynum in the third quarter than what L.A. got in the first half, the seven-footer grabbing six boards and scoring four points in seven minutes, helping L.A. take a 63-62 lead in what had been a close game throughout, neither team leading by more than five points.

3:00 Derek Fisher’s first triple of the game gave the Lakers their biggest lead at 68-62 moments later, the Heat falling to just 3-for-13 from the field in the quarter, turning the ball over seven times as whatever adjustments Phil Jackson and his staff made at halftime were working quite well (as had been the case since the All-Star break in particular). L.A. would then squander several good chances to push their lead to at least eight, missing layups and turning the ball over in the paint by making unnecessary extra passes, as the Heat went on a 6-0 run to come within two (70-68) at quarter’s end.

8:17 With Gasol and Bryant resting, Odom countered a Heat run by scoring four straight points for L.A., getting to 11 with five boards in his 18 minutes. L.A. had gotten burned on the perimeter, however, with Steve Blake failing to get through a Zydrunas Ilgauskas screen that resulted in a Mike Bibby three, his second of the fourth, to put the Heat up three. Bibby, Chalmers and Miller had combined for seven of Miami’s eight threes to that point, with LeBron going 0-for-3 and Wade 1-for-3.

5:31 Bryant made the Heat pay for aggressively doubling him, creating an open jumper for Gasol, who hit it to match Bryant’s 18 points to tie the game at 80. Bryant and Wade were both working extremely hard on one another defensively, Bryant missing all five of his shots in the third and Wade going 2-for-5 to reach 5-for-18 on the game. Each would have five minutes to help their team decide the winner.

4:00 A run of seven straight misses for Bryant going back to the second quarter ended with his corner three in a big spot, answering back-to-back hoops from Wade at the rim to put the Lakers up one. In a terrific stretch to watch, Bosh and Wade then scored two more hoops at the rim before Bryant pulled up for a super, super deep three that tied the game at 88.

1:27 Gasol had an angle to the hoop, and took some contact while missing a shot from the paint. L.A. managed to secure the rebound, but Wade stripped Bryant and was able to find a streaking James for a dunk to put the Heat up 90-88. L.A. had a chance to tie on the next possession, but Artest missed an open layup after securing Bryant’s missed jumper that may or may not have been a goal tend on Big Z, depending on which side you ask. In fact, the Lakers wouldn’t score in the final 2:25 of the game, missing their chance to steal the game.

Miami desperation did them well to snap their own five-game losing streak and stop L.A.’s at eight. Your numbers:

25 L.A.’s shooting percentage in the fourth quarter, when just a shot or two more made may have won them the game.

16 More points in the paint for the Heat than the Lakers.

13 Third quarter points scored by the Heat after a solid defensive quarter from the Lakers produced seven Heat turnovers. The Lakers weren’t much better, however, managing just 17 while Kobe Bryant missed all five of his attempts in the period.

9 Miami’s advantage on the glass, showcasing a Game-7 type effort from a team desperate for a win, and an answer to a major build up of criticism that resulted from their five-game losing streak.

8 Points for Dwyane Wade down the stretch, the Heat running things through No. 3, who got to the rim three times for layups through traffic.

Lakers Look to the Paint at Miami

A key element of L.A.’s offensive game plan against Miami in advance of Thursday evening’s game on TNT is to get the ball inside to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and let the seven footers go to work against the likes of Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskus and Chris Bosh. Defensively, it’s about maintaining the post-All-Star-break level centered around Bynum’s paint presence that has forced all but two of the eight opponents to shoot under 40 percent while predominantly hoisting jump shots.

That, of course, ain’t breaking news.

“You have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team you’re playing against, but we as a team always try to establish our inside game against whoever,” said Gasol prior to Wednesday’s practice. “Hopefully we’ll try to do that tomorrow, because it’s something that should work in our favor and something we didn’t do (against Miami) on Christmas.”

Part of the reason L.A. failed to well-use its size in the 96-80 X-Mas loss is that Bynum had just returned from injury, and played only 17 minutes off the bench, scoring six points with five rebounds.

L.A. now has a much different Bynum.

The 23-year-old big man has been the defensive key in the Lakers’ 8-0 streak out of the break, grabbing an average of 12.1 boards (50 in the last three games) and 3.0 blocks in nearly 30 minutes per game while rotating effectively on the weak side and closing down the paint. On offense, he’s been less aggressive, content to move the ball along if he doesn’t have an easy shot while allowing Gasol or Kobe Bryant to initiate the offense. Bynum could be a primary beneficiary of ball movement on Thursday as he was in L.A.’s Tuesday win in Atlanta while making 8-of-10 field goals for 16 points, but his focus remains on defense.

“I think it’s a very mature thing for Andrew to understand,” said Gasol. “Just like when I got to this team, you have to understand, where can you contribute the most, what can you do to be the biggest contributor. What do we need out of a player the most?

“Andrew in the last few games has (focused) on rebounding, blocking shots and finishing at the rim, and if he does all of those things really well, it’s a huge plus for us.”

Offensively, L.A. is looking to move the ball as crisply as it has since the break against an aggressive Heat defense that currently ranks sixth in points against and second in opponent’s field goal percentage. As has long been customary for former Lakers coach and current Heat big boss Pat Riley, the Heat bigs show hard on screen and rolls or just trap the ball handler, a tactic they call “Blitz,” according to the team’s scouting report at Lakers Courtside Connection.

The Heat trapped Kobe Bryant aggressively in the Christmas game, and the Lakers didn’t take advantage of all the holes that were open in the defense by simply moving the ball. One way to do so is for the man setting the screen to slip to the basket with a cut, another is for the ball handler to split the double team with the dribble. But more than anything else, the Lakers just want to move the ball to the open man, and try to get the basketball inside for the kind of easy scoring opportunities their length can produce with proper execution.

Miami has lost a season-high five consecutive games, but to the Lakers, that only means they’re going to be all the more desperate for a win. As such, L.A. wants to stick to the blueprint, and win with execution.

“When we strap up and play D, it helps our offense move the basketball,” said Bynum. “When we move the basketball, everyone is going to get touches, everyone’s going to get involved in the game, and then it’s tough to beat us.”

Bryant Talks Heat, Shows Killer Instinct

On Thursday night in Miami, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will be looking to build on their best stretch of basketball, particularly on defense, of the season that has produced an NBA-best 8-0 record since the All-Star break.

Prior to L.A.’s practice on Wednesday afternoon at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, many of the questions directed towards the Lakers dealt more with the Heat’s recent struggles that L.A.’s recent success, with Miami dropping five consecutive games to fall two games behind Los Angeles in the loss column.

Bryant acknowledged that it’s “always tough” to go through such streaks, especially under a microscope, then explained how the Lakers have dealt with such dry spells.

“For us it’s just our unity and execution,” he said. “We don’t really over dramatize the situation, it kind of is what it is. The way Phil (Jackson) coaches is always about the game. He’s not really a ‘rah rah’ kind of guy and neither are we, so it’s all about execution, mistakes that were made and trying to minimize those mistakes.”

But the Heat and the Lakers are pretty different in a few ways, one more physical and one more mental.

Physically, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom man the paint for L.A. against a Heat team that has struggled to get interior production on either end. Mentally, this Lakers’ team has had the benefit of going through three consecutive runs to the Finals, and can draw upon that experience from their own recent past all the while under the guise of an 11-time champion coach in Phil Jackson.

Bryant provided alternate explanations, as well.

“I think the difference between us is we all know what our roles are,” he continued. “Everything is cemented for us, and they are still trying to figure that out, which makes it a little tougher … What (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) do in essence in their careers is pretty much the same thing, so it’s just trying to figure out how to adjust.”

A reporter followed up with a question about how the Heat have been discussing their attempts at getting used to the bull’s-eye with which Bryant and the Lakers have dealt for several years now.

Bryant’s response was vintage Black Mamba.

“I don’t know,” he concluded. “I’m still trying to kill people*.”

Lakers 101, Hawks 87: March 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening contest at Atlanta, the Lakers looking for their eighth straight victory out of the All-Star break, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Hawks K. Hinrich, J. Johnson, M. Williams, J. Smith, A. Horford

9:00 What we’ve learned over the past few weeks about L.A.’s adjusted defense is that the team is content, even willing, to give up open mid-range jump shots, keeping Andrew Bynum home in the paint and contesting or running off the three-point line. Atlanta was able to take advantage early by making all four of their jumpers, but the Lakers got three hoops inside to tie the game at eight in the opening few minutes.

4:42 Phil Jackson said prior to the game that he didn’t want Kobe Bryant to engage in a 1-on-1 battle with Joe Johnson, instead hoping L.A. would use its big size advantages inside (Bynum over Al Horford and Gasol over Josh Smith), and that’s certainly how it was early. Bryant had yet to attempt a shot while the two trees had made three field goals each, but then hit two shots and fed Odom to spark a 6-0 run that helped L.A. take a 26-19 lead.

0:00 A poor effort from the Lakers’ bench saw Atlanta take advantage of 0-for-2 shooting with two turnovers to go on a 6-0 run, at least until Steve Blake hit a buzzer-beating three to give L.A. a 29-25 lead after one quarter.

10:15 The good D returned to open the second, however, and the Lakers took advantage on offense by getting a Brown jumper and Gasol tip-in to cap a 7-0 run that opened a 33-25 lead. Gasol had eight points, four boards, three dimes and a steal in 12 minutes.

2:50 Josh Smith’s three-pointer capped a quick 6-0 run to cut LAL’s lead to six, Phil Jackson taking a time out to express his displeasure with the Lakers conceding a few too many open looks for his liking.

0:00 But moments later, Bryant drew a foul on a three-point attempt and drilled all three free throws, in the process surpassing NBA legend Moses Malone for 6th on the league’s all-time scoring list with 27,410 points. He just keeps climbing the list in a way that’s difficult to put into perspective. At the half, L.A. held an 8-point lead (57-49) behind 58 percent shooting, Bryant going 6-for-10 (15 points) and Odom 4-for-6 (10 points).

9:45 It was a bit odd to hear a “Let’s go Lakers!” chant break out in Philips Arena in Atlanta, though there have always been tons of purple and gold and Kobe supporters in the area. In fact, the guy behind me took up his own “Purp and Yellow” chant just after the big one died down. Meanwhile, the Lakers opened a 14-point lead, their biggest of the game, continuing their excellent stretch of basketball since the All-Star break.

6:02 Following a stretch of slightly better play from Atlanta, the Lakers went on another 7-0 run to this time open a 16-point lead at 70-54.

2:26 More of the same, with the lead increasing to 22 points. Bryant had 20 points and four assists, Bynum 12 points and 12 rebounds, Gasol 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Fisher 11 points with three assists. Complete dominance in a building in which L.A. hadn’t won since 2007.

5:45 A game that appeared to be over was suddenly not, Atlanta opening the fourth quarter with a big run to get within eight points on a Kirk Hinrich jumper when the lead had been 22 a few minutes earlier. L.A. had relaxed with their big edge, and Atlanta taken advantage to make things a bit interesting.

3:20 But then the Lakers locked back down on defense, and got a dagger triple from Bryant over a draped-to-his-body, 6-10 Smith, making it 96-82. Jackson had rewarded Bynum’s terrific play by keeping him in the game, continuing to take advantage of a matchup that had killed the Hawks all evening. The young center had 16 points, 15 boards and three blocks in his 33 minutes.

0:00 Bryant would add some more points at the line, the game concluding to a chorus of cheers from Lakers fans in Atlanta that had been so loud all day, the 101-87 score sending the Lakers to a perfect 8-0 record since the break. Your numbers:

27,410 Points reached in his career by Kobe Bryant in the second quarter, enough to surpass Moses Malone for sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart. He finished with 26 points in the game to lead all scorers.

39.7 Atlanta’s shooting percentage for the game. This was actually the sixth time in eight games since the break that the Lakers have held their opponent below 40 percent from the field, a remarkable stat showcasing outstanding team defense.

22 L.A.’s biggest lead of the game, coming late in the third quarter, before the Hawks finally rallied to cut the lead to eight midway through the fourth quarter, forcing the Lakers starters back into the contest to close it out.

16 Rebounds and points for Andrew Bynum in yet another terrific all-around game out of the All-Star break.

8 Consecutive wins for the Lakers out of the break, five of which have come on the road.

Bryant Becomes NBA’s 6th All-Time Scorer

Kobe Bryant has used the 2010-11 season to amass an assault on the NBA’s all-time record books, putting yet another Hall of Famer in his rear view mirror by surpassing Moses Malone for sixth on the scoring chart with a free throw in the second quarter of L.A.’s Tuesday evening win at Atlanta.

Needing 12 points to match Malone’s 27,409 heading into the game, Bryant had 13 by the second quarter, and finished the contest with a game-high 26 points on 8-of-18 field goals plus 9-of-11 free throws.

Prior to shooting past Malone, Bryant had surpassed John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes.

There are only five players left for Bryant to catch: Shaquille O’Neal (5th/28,590); Wilt Chamberlain (4th/31,419); Michael Jordan (3rd/32,292); Karl Malone (36,928); and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).

Throughout the season, when asked about passing players, Bryant has been both humble and also a bit dismissive, saying that the only person he’s really chasing is Bill Russell, who of course won 11 championships with the Celtics.

Odom (briefly) Talks “Khloe and Lamar”

When the Lakers were at Phoenix on January 5, we learned that Lamar Odom would shortly begin shooting a new reality television show for the E! network with his wife, Khloe Kardashian.

The show, its working title “Khloe and Lamar,” is set to air in April, and has been shooting for a few months now.

Prior to L.A.’s Tuesday evening game in Atlanta, from where the Lakers will head to Miami in advance of Thursday’s game against Miami, Odom had a few words to say about the show.

“It’s fun … (and) it’s work,” he said. “(The production staff) will be down there in Miami. (Khloe) will be down there. But it’s cool, it’s fun. The summer is going to be long, so after the season is over I think (the show) will be a little more fun for me.”

Odom revealed that there will be cameras in the house for a few hours every day, prompting me to ask whether or not he feels the need to be entertaining and interesting while doing normal house tasks or just playing video games.

“I know when I have to work, be ready,” he said with a smile.

The show promises to offer an inside look at the relationship we delved into in a feature story (“The Marriage and Maturation of Lamar Odom“) back in January.

Lakers Look For First Win in ATL Since 2007

In the first game out of the All-Star break, the Atlanta Hawks were the victim of a newly-focused, fully-refreshed Lakers team intent upon beginning a push towards the second season that has led to seven consecutive victories for the only team yet to lose since Kobe Bryant won A.S. MVP honors for the fourth time.

The Lakers held the Hawks to 15 first quarter points and 18 in the second, opening a 54-33 lead at the half that they would hold towards a 104-80 wire-to-wire victory. STAPLES Center has been good to the Lakers against the Hawks, as L.A. has won five straight and nine of 12 all-time in the building.

But at Philips Arena in Atlanta, it’s been a different story for the Purple and Gold. Pau Gasol has yet to win in Georgia since being acquired in February of 2008, L.A.’s last win coming in 2007. Three straight losses, and six in the past 10 games, included a 109-92 drubbing last March.

On Tuesday, the Lakers expect Atlanta to have a bit extra in the tank to avenge the Feb. 22 blowout, but intend to build upon Sunday’s win at San Antonio rather than regressing against a team featuring a new point guard, Kirk Hinrich, acquired from the Wizards for a package including former starter Mike Bibby. Hinrich is a better defensive player, helping the Hawks come from behind to defeat Chicago 83-80 at home before Atlanta dropped consecutive contests at Philips to Oklahoma City and New York.

Josh Smith missed the Bulls and Thunder games with a sore knee, but returned to face the Knicks, giving the Hawks their usual complement of players. He’s usually to be joined by Hinrich, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Al Horford in the starting line up, though Jason Collins will sometimes start at center against larger teams like the Lakers.

On Monday, newly-returned Matt Barnes said the Lakers are focused upon continuing the defensive effort that has kept opponents to an average of 85 points* since the break, an approach anchored by bigs Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
*Portland scored 14 of its 101 points in overtime, so this figure was calculated based upon the Blazers’ 87 points in regulation.

“To have two seven footers in the middle on a team that’s already long makes it tough on opponents,” said Barnes. “You see our defense really coming into its own now heading down the home stretch, and that’s not to mention that Gasol and Bynum can both put up double figures on offense, so it’s a great one-two punch down there.”

Particularly when Smith and Horford are on the floor, the Lakers will again have a major edge in the paint. To see if L.A. can produce an eighth straight win out of the break and first in Atlanta in four years, tune into KCAL or 710 ESPN at 4 p.m.

Kobe 12 Points from Moses Malone

Another week in L.A.’s 2010-11 season, and another legend who’s about to be surpassed by Kobe Bryant.

With 12 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday evening, Bryant will tie Moses Malone for sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 27,409 points, continuing his astounding climb up the historical stat ladder.

This year alone, Bryant has already shot his way past Hall-of-Famers Elvin Hayes (27,313) on 2/27 at Oklahoma City, Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) on 1/28 vs. Sacramento, Oscar Robertson (26,710) on 1/7 vs. New Orleans, Dominique Wilkins (26,668) on 1/4 vs. Detroit and John Havlicek (26,395) on 12/10 at Chicago.

There are only five players left for Bryant to catch: Shaquille O’Neal (5th/28,590); Wilt Chamberlain (4th/31,419); Michael Jordan (3rd/32,292); Karl Malone (36,928); and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).

Not bad.