Monthly Archive for March, 2011

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Barnes Back in Action

In L.A.’s Sunday blowout of the Spurs, Matt Barnes played his first minutes since Jan. 7 against New Orleans, 25 games sacrificed to his recovery from torn meniscus in his right knee.

Barnes was on the court for nearly 14 minutes, hitting his first field goal from three-point range, then missing all but one of the next five shots he took. He moved well throughout, was as active on the glass (six boards) in limited time as he was prior to being injured and showed some of his well-known grit while committing three personal fouls.

“I’ll need to get back fully into rhythm,” Barnes said prior to the team’s Monday practice in Atlanta. “I don’t think wind will be an issue because I’m sure my minutes will be monitored, so it’s really just about getting a rhythm and trying not to do too much.

“I was 1-for-2 from the three-point line and the second one rattled out. I think I just have to focus on my layups — I missed a couple last night. But my shot feels fine, and it will be there as I get more and more in shape.”

Being out with an injury is one of the tougher mental barriers to hurdle for NBA players, but Barnes credits his mentality throughout in part to his coach.

“(Phil Jackson is) great with communication,” said Barnes. “Someone on his level, there can be a wall up to new guys or younger guys, but Phil’s been very open with me. We always talk, and it’s been a great relationship so far.”

Sitting on the sidelines and observing helped Barnes — who maintained full confidence in his new team and even shared his thoughts publicly through his Twitter account* — understand what Jackson has had in mind.
*From @Matt_Barnes22 after L.A.’s loss at the buzzer to San Antonio on Feb. 3: “Remember its a marathon not a sprint. No need for panic. When we are completely healthy & focused. No team can beat us in a seven game series.”

“That’s what makes Phil great, his on and off the court preparation for our team,” Barnes explained. “Being in L.A., we’re expected to go 82-0, and when we hit lulls (a lot of people) thinks the season is over and that we’re going to fail, but Phil knows how to keep our minds in it and keeps us focused on what’s important.”

Barnes (25 games) and Andrew Bynum (24) have been the only two Lakers to miss any amount of significant time this season, but since Bynum returned to the starting line up and Barnes has been available off the bench, L.A. is 6-1 and counting heading into Tuesday evening’s contest at Atlanta.

Lakers 99, Spurs 83: March 6 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening road contest at San Antonio, the Lakers looking for their seventh straight win out of the All-Star break against the team with the league’s best record, 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
Spurs: T. Parker, M. Ginobili, R. Jefferson, D. Blair, T. Duncan

5:21 The first six minutes were excellent for the Lakers, who showed playoff-type focus at both ends of the floor to open an early double-digit lead while controlling the backboards at both ends (12-6). Andrew Bynum was particularly effective, grabbing eight rebounds and swatting two shots while deterring Tony Parker’s frequent forays into the paint.

4:22 Artest hit a three-pointer just after Lamar Odom nailed his first shot off the bench, also from three, to quickly open a 22-10 lead for the visitors. Matt Bonner, who nailed four threes against Miami in San Antonio’s last game in the first quarter alone, nailed his first triple off the bench, but two more buckets for L.A. followed to make it 26-13 for the twice defending champs.

1:13 Twice-defending champions, indeed. The Lakers could not miss on offense, Gasol’s jumper making it 34-13 with L.A. shooting 65 percent, just a possession after Shannon Brown hung in the air for about four seconds before slamming home a ridiculous one-hand dunk. The early statement that things still go through the Lakers in the West was made, the question being if they could keep it up.

11:05 After a quarter in which the Lakers made almost everything to take a 34-13 lead, Gasol opened his team’s scoring in the second with a corner three-pointer, and Odom followed with a layup to counter two Spurs buckets and increase the lead to 22 points.

6:30 The foot had yet to come off the pedal, with Gasol reaching 15 points on an and-1 created by a tip out from Matt Barnes, playing in his first game since Jan. 7. It was the fourth rebound in six minutes for Barnes, one of the league’s better boarders from the small forward position. Odom had also been key, scoring seven points with four assists to help maintain a 51-26 lead.

3:00 The Spurs were still working hard on both ends, but L.A.’s execution was as on point as at any time during the 2010-11 season, the lead increasing to 58-32 on a corner triple from Bryant, enough to match Gasol’s 15 points plus five boards and three assists.

0:00 After the best half in recent memory, and coming against a team with 22 straight home wins, the Lakers held a 65-37 lead. The Lakers grabbed eight more rebounds (28-20), had eight more assists (16-8), turned the ball over four fewer times (2-6) and shot 56 percent to San Antonio’s 34.8 percent.

10:40 Bynum’s ninth rebound of the game got Bryant a second look at a baseline jumper, which he swished before glancing over at the Spurs’ bench. Bynum had opened the half with a dunk, just his second field goal attempt of the game, as he continued to do exactly what his coaches asked with his focus centered on defense (two blocks, several drives thwarted) and rebounding (10). The lead was at that point a game-high 32 points.

5:50 More Bynum. This time swatting Parker’s shot in the paint a possession after he grabbed his game-high 14th rebound in just 19 minutes. The big, young center was completely locking down the paint, and L.A. held its lead at 30.

2:19 The Spurs finally got a lil’ something going on offense as George Hill scored five points and Steve Novak added a three in a two-minute stretch, but Bryant answered with five straight points on the other end with a tough J and and-1 layup off his own steal to keep L.A. up 29. Nothing had changed from halftime, L.A.’s defensive effort nearly as good as the Spurs managed only 15 points.

12:00 Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has always been one to remove his best players from games quite early if a win seemed in doubt, and he appeared to be following suit by opening the fourth quarter with George Hill, Gary Neal, Steve Novak, James Anderson and Tiago Splitter. Phil Jackson, meanwhile, left Gasol in alongside Odom and the three B’s.

5:57 After three really solid quarters of D, the Lakers backed off a bit, and Popovich’s subs took advantage to go on a 13-6 run that cut L.A.’s lead to 22. To ensure no further slippage, Jackson put Bryant and Fisher in alongside Brown, Odom and Bynum.

2:43 The lead was cut down … but just by two points, at 93-73. Some may question why Jackson would put his vets back in with the game all but clinched (and several did on Twitter), but with 11 championship rings, Jackson seems to know what he’s doing as far as trying to carry positive momentum forward, particularly on an important road trip. We’d be pretty silly to question P-Jax.

0:00 San Antonio’s subs somehow managed to score 31 points in the fourth as the Lakers finally let up on defense, but the margin was still 16 at the game’s conclusion. Your postgame numbers tell more of the story:

26 Points for Kobe Bryant to lead all scorers. Bryant hit 12-of-25 field goals, and added seven boards with five assists, his intensity setting the tone throughout the game for L.A.

17 Rebounds grabbed by Andrew Bynum to match his season-high 17 in L.A.’s previous game vs. Charlotte. Bynum was terrific defensively throughout the game, blocking three shots and changing a bevy of other shots, largely erasing Tony Parker’s penetration.

13 Points mustered by the Spurs in the first quarter, with LAL flying around defensively and shooting lights out at the other end to take a 34-13 lead out of the period, setting a tone that would prevail throughout the game.

8 Turnovers, a very acceptably low number for the Lakers.

6 Assists for Lamar Odom to lead the Lakers. He added 15 points and four boards, but was especially effective moving the basketball from a guard spot of the triangle offense. Odom also effectively limited Spurs’ sub Matt Bonner, who made just 1-of-5 shots after hitting four threes in the first quarter alone of S.A.’s blowout of Miami in their last game.

Fisher Probable for Spurs, Barnes Day-to-Day

The Lakers announced on Saturday morning that Derek Fisher, who sprained his left elbow in the third quarter of L.A.’s Friday night win over Charlotte, will be listed as “probable” for Sunday’s game at San Antonio.

The league’s leader in consecutive games played at 476 is expected to start.

Meanwhile, Matt Barnes, who irritated his right knee in pregame warm ups on Friday, practiced with the team on Saturday and received treatment from the team’s training staff. Barnes was hoping to play for the first time since his right knee surgery on Jan. 11, but the team opted against it after the pregame irritation. He’s listed as “day-to-day,” leaving his availability for the Spurs in question.

Bynum Big Since Break

Our Practice Report from Thursday dealt primarily with L.A.’s excellent defense since the All-Star break, detailing how the Purple and Gold had reeled off five straight wins — now six after Friday’s win over Charlotte — while holding opponents below the 40 percent shooting mark in four of six games.

While general activity level, overall length and an understanding of the system have all contributed at a time where L.A.’s offense has been nowhere near as good, it’s fair to single out the individual contributions of Andrew Bynum.

Phil Jackson, not one to offer effusive praise after regular season wins, has identified Bynum’s effort since a poor final three games leading into the break. Jackson and his staff have been quite pleased with Bynum’s focus on the defensive end and on the glass, which Friday produced season-highs on the boards (17) and block shots (six).

Talk to Bynum, and it’s clear he’s gotten Jackson’s message.

“I just think it’s also being mindful on the defensive end, really sticking to the system and trying to do what the coaches ask,” he said. “You can’t be worried about statistics all the time, you just have to go put energy into doing the right things.”

Bynum acknowledged that he is feeling better from a physical standpoint after taking some time to build up strength since returning from offseason knee surgery that kept him out of the team’s first 24 games. Getting his own shot has been of little concern to Bynum, who’s taking less than four field goals and about four free throws per game to average 11.0 points on 57.5 percent shooting. Meanwhile, he’s averaging 10.7 boards per game, getting into double digits four times, and is blocking three shots per game.

“Team defense is what we’re focused on,” said Bynum. “Even though our offense has struggled at times, we know that we can score the basketball. We’ve done that in the past and it’s there to draw from. But defensively, the thing that puts you over the top to win championships is the ability to stop teams from scoring, get three or four stops in a row and then capitalize on it.

“We know we have Kobe (Bryant) and Pau (Gasol) who can get hot at any time and increase the lead, so we know we just have to get stops to help them out.”

“I think he’s being aggressive,” said Gasol. “I think he was upset about the way he played before the All-Star break, especially at Cleveland, so he’s come back extremely strong and very active. I’d like to see him keep that aggressiveness up, blocking shots and rebounding … it’s been excellent. If he can keep that up, he’s helping us in a big way.”

With two championship rings to prove it, Bynum’s aware of how he in particular can affect games on the defensive end due to his sheer size.

“I can make a huge impact,” he acknowledged. “I want to stop teams from getting easy buckets, and that’s what this league is about. If you can stop a team from getting easy layups, run outs and things like that and keep them in a half court offense, you’d be surprised how many teams struggle to score.”

Note: Sunday’s game tips off at 12:30 p.m. on ABC and 710 ESPN radio.

Lakers – Bobcats Postgame Numbers

We kept track of some of the more interesting numbers in L.A.’s 92-84 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats:

2 Lakers who got banged up on Friday, as Matt Barnes aggravated the knee from which he was supposed to return before the game started, and Derek Fisher hurt his left elbow after being tied up with Charlotte’s Kwame Brown late in the third quarter.

6 Straight wins for the Lakers out of the All-Star break.

7 Turnovers for the Lakers, a number certainly approved by Phil Jackson.

17 Season high rebounds grabbed by Andrew Bynum, who had 13 at the half. He finished one point short (nine) of his third double-double in four games, though he did add another season high with six blocks.

27 Game-high points scored by Kobe Bryant, though it did take him 25 field goal attempts (10 makes) to get there.

38.8 Lakers’ shooting percentage in the first half, which didn’t end up hurting the home team since they held the Bobcats to an even worse shooting half at 34 percent.

39.5 Lakers’ shooting percentage in the game, which was 0.4 percentage points higher than that of Charlotte, allowing L.A. a rare second straight victory while shooting under 40 percent.

93.0 The two teams’ collective free throw shooting percentage, as the Lakers converted 19-of-21 from the stripe and Charlotte 9-of-9.

Lakers 92, Bobcats 84: March 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home game against the Bobcats, the Lakers looking for their sixth straight win 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
Bobcats: D.J. Augustin, G. Henderson, S. Jackson, B. Diaw, K. Brown

2:27 This game may have been decided before things actually tipped off. The Lakers, still angry about their worst game of the season at Charlotte just before the All-Star break, essentially guaranteed victory. Well … Matt Barnes (expected to return) actually did, literally, guarantee a win after Thursday’s practice. And sure enough, the effort was there in the opening minutes, as a Lamar Odom layup capped a 15-2 run to open a 21-12 lead for L.A. into the first time out.

0:00 The only Laker struggling to score early on was Kobe Bryant, who made only 2-of-9 field goals before hitting three straight shots to close the quarter at 5-for-12 for 10 points. In the process, the Lakers took a 29-19 lead out of a first quarter they thoroughly controlled.

7:08 L.A.’s defense continued to offer good activity early in the second, allowing the team to maintain a 10-point edge as Gasol hit two free throws. The team had committed just a single turnover (Shannon Brown) at that point.

5:00 Word came from L.A.’s PR staff that Barnes actually aggravated his knee injury in pregame warmups, and would not play against Charlotte. He would be listed as day-to-day, so his availability for Sunday’s game at San Antonio was unknown. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats were hanging around, though getting no closer than six points.

11:02 Gasol brought down a rebound, his fifth, actually eight behind teammate Bynum grabbed in the first half alone, helping the Lakers maintain that 10-point advantage all the way through the half. The Lakers actually shot the ball very poorly, hitting only 38.8 percent (including Kobe’s 6-for-17) and made just 1-of-11 threes, but their defense was staunch as the ‘Cats were even worse at 34 percent.

5:22 L.A.’s lead swelled to 17 when Artest hit two free throws, moments after Bynum had collected his season-high 16th rebound. He was also two points away from his third double-double in four games.

3:00 While Barnes tweaked his knee before the game, Fisher added himself to the injury report after getting his elbow bent back in a tie-up with Charlotte’s Kwame Brown. After chatting with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, Fisher went back to the locker room, presumably to check on the elbow.

9:02 The ‘Cats were still battling, but a 7-0 Lakers run pushed the lead up to 15 at 78-63. Charlotte had lost their best player, Stephen Jackson (side note: Gerald Wallace was traded), to a strained left hamstring, leaving D.J. Augustin as really the only shot-creator on the roster.

4:00 Phil Jackson opted to keep Kobe on the bench and let Gasol (20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) and Odom (nine, nine and four) usher the game to its close, with the lead mostly staying between 10 and 15 points throughout the period. Jackson enjoys having chances to put Gasol in particular in leadership roles, and the Spaniard responded in this case.

0:00 Eight points would be the final margin on the scoreboard, the Lakers winning for the sixth straight time out of the All-Star break, even if concerned about the injuries to Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes. We’ll find out more after the game and particularly tomorrow on those injuries, but until then, check the next post for your postgame numbers.

Fisher Sprains Left Elbow vs. Bobcats

With 3:36 left in the third quarter of L.A.’s Friday evening game against Charlotte, Derek Fisher suffered a sprained left elbow after being tied up with Bobcats center Kwame Brown.

While going after a loose ball, Fisher and Brown locked arms, and Fisher’s elbow on his shooting arm was extended backwards when Brown tried to shake L.A.’s co-captain away.

Fisher went to the locker room after consulting with Lakers Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti, and did not return to the floor.

L.A.’s point guard, the NBA’s current leader in consecutive games played with 475 dating back to April 15, 2005, will be re-evaluated on Saturday to determine his status.

It wasn’t the only news on the injury front on Friday, as reserve Matt Barnes aggravated his knee injury in pregame warmups and stayed in the locker room of what was supposed to be his first time on the court in 25 games.

Ebanks Out Three Weeks

Statement from the Lakers:

EL SEGUNDO – Los Angeles Lakers forward Devin Ebanks has been diagnosed with a stress fracture of the left tibia and will miss a minimum of three weeks, it was announced today.

Ebanks, a 6’9” rookie out of West Virginia, was selected by the Lakers with the 43rd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. In 20 games this season with the Lakers, Ebanks is averaging 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes.

Assigned to the NBA Development League’s Baskersfield Jam on December 27, Ebanks averaged 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals in 27.7 minutes over six games before being recalled by the Lakers on January 9.

Barnes to Play Tonight

Phil Jackson said @Matt_Barnes22 will be dressed and ready to play tonight vs. Charlotte.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

Barnes a Game Time Decision for ‘Cats

If Matt Barnes had his way, he’d play in his first game since Jan. 7 when the Charlotte Bobcats come to town on Friday.

“I’m ready,” he said. “It feels good.”

Barnes did in fact go through a full practice on Thursday afternoon, including a run of five-on-five to conclude the session, and presumed that he’s about 90 percent back.

Phil Jackson, while explaining that the team would have to see how Barnes felt on Friday before making a decision, was positive about how the practice went for his backup wing.

“Right now, he’s looking pretty good,” said Jackson. “I’m looking forward to seeing him play Friday, but we’ll see.”

Barnes, who revealed that he has been lobbying his coach via text messages, has been chomping at the bit to return to action, eager to release what he said has been quite a build up of energy. Check back Friday night at about 6:15 p.m. (i.e. Jackson’s pregame presser) to see whether it will be tomorrow … or not.