Monthly Archive for January, 2012

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Bryant’s Scoring Binge

It was only two days ago that we tracked Kobe’s NBA season-high 48-point night against Phoenix, but Bryant went off and hit 40 again just 24 hours later, in a tough overtime victory at Utah.

So, here we are again.

In his last six games, Kobe is averaging 36.7 points, enough to vault him over LeBron James (29.0) for the current NBA scoring lead with 30.3 points per game. He’s scored at least 30 in 6-of-7 games, and is shooting 50.3 percent in those contests since a 6-for-28 clunker at Denver (Jan. 1).

To rewind back to Monday: the 131 NBA games that it took a player to hit 40 was the farthest into a season in the shot-clock era, in terms of games played, and the 48 were the most by someone of Bryant’s age (33 years, 140 days on Jan. 10) since Michael Jordan went off for 51 points at the age of 38.

Tuesday’s 40-point game was the 109th time in Bryant’s career that he’s scored at least 40, though only three of those performances came last season as he battled a chronic right knee injury. In 2009-10 season, Bryant eclipsed the 40-point mark on eight different occasions, L.A. winning seven of those games. Only two players in history have more: Wilt Chamberlain (271) and Michael Jordan (173).

The Lakers are now 75-34 all-time in games that Bryant hits the 40 mark; the franchise record for a single season is also held by the Black Mamba, when in 2005-06 he scored at least 40 … 27 times.

If you’re looking for a sign that Bryant’s knee is feeling better this season after offseason treatment in Germany, consider the fact that the last time he scored 40 in consecutive games was in November of 2009, when he went for 41 at Houston (Nov. 4) and vs. Memphis (Nov. 6). Well, on Monday and Tuesday, he not only did so with no rest in a back-to-back, playing a total of 81 minutes, but couldn’t help but scoff after the Jazz game when asked if he were tired, if scoring that much took more out of him.

The Black Mamba is certainly coiled and striking right now; we’ll all be watching to see what transpires as the young season progresses.

All-Star 2012 First Returns

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NEW YORK, Jan. 12, 2012 – Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and LeBron James of the Miami Heat top the Eastern Conference, while Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder lead the Western Conference after the first returns of 2012 NBA All-Star Balloting presented by Sprint. Howard, the Kia Defensive Player of the Year each of the past three seasons, is the overall leader with 754,737 votes.

The 2012 NBA All-Star Game, which will air live at 8 p.m. ET on TNT and ESPN Radio in the U.S., and reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages, will be played at Amway Center in Orlando – on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.

Howard paces centers in the East, followed by the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah (75,038). James leads Eastern Conference forwards with 640,789 votes, followed by Carmelo Anthony (496,351) of the New York Knicks. Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls leads Eastern Conference guards with 640,476 votes, followed by Miami’s Dwyane Wade (637,912).

Bryant’s 690,613 votes leads Western Conference guards, with the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul placing second (540,173). Durant’s 633,538 votes lead forwards in the West, with Blake Griffin of the Clippers next in line with 394,264 votes. The Lakers’ Andrew Bynum paces Western Conference centers with 496,597 votes, followed by the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (134,961).

2012 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING PRESENTED BY SPRINT
WESTERN CONFERENCE

Forwards: Kevin Durant (OKC) 633,538; Blake Griffin (LAC) 394,264; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 231,832; Pau Gasol (LAL) 185,428; Kevin Love (Min) 143,814; LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 118,268; Tim Duncan (SA) 81,783; Lamar Odom (Dal) 59,686; Metta World Peace (LAL) 39,006; Danilo Gallinari (Den) 34,438.

Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 690,613; Chris Paul (LAC) 540,173; Ricky Rubio (Min) 133,520; Steve Nash (Pho) 118,922; Russell Westbrook (OKC) 107,197; Kyle Lowry (Hou) 90,725; Monta Ellis (GS) 63,696; Manu Ginobili (SA) 50,765; Jason Kidd (Dal) 49,596; Chauncey Billups (LAC) 42,657.

Centers: Andrew Bynum (LAL) 496,597; DeAndre Jordan (LAC) 134,961; Marc Gasol (Mem) 102,116; Nenê (Den) 94,167; Marcin Gortat (Pho) 62,631; Kendrick Perkins (OKC) 41,579.

2012 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING PRESENTED BY SPRINT
EASTERN CONFERENCE

Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 640,789; Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 496,351; Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 178,797; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 173,161; Chris Bosh (Mia) 140,601; Paul Pierce (Bos) 94,071; Luol Deng (Chi) 85,086; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 54,739; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 53,477; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 43,154.

Guards: Derrick Rose (Chi) 640,476; Dwyane Wade (Mia) 637,912; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 253,969; Ray Allen (Bos) 174,934; Deron Williams (NJN) 89,128; Jose Calderon (Tor) 42,929; John Wall (Was) 38,025; Richard Hamilton (Chi) 36,418; Kyrie Irving (Cle) 27,713; Joe Johnson (Atl) 23,384.

Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 754,737; Joakim Noah (Chi) 75,038; Tyson Chandler (NYK) 61,774; Joel Anthony (Mia) 41,832; JaVale McGee (Was) 24,713; Al Horford (Atl) 23,546.

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Lakers 90, Jazz 87: Jan. 11 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at Utah, the Lakers looking to build on a three-game home winning streak and get their first road win, 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, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: D. Harris, R. Bell, G. Hayward, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 While we get the memories of Kobe scoring at absolute will on Tuesday night (NBA season high 48 points), we find a Utah Jazz team far different from the one that was blown out by the Lakers 96-71 back on Dec. 27. Utah, in fact, has won five consecutive games, and is a perfect 5-0 at Energy Solutions Arena, having figured some things out and blending their youth (four lottery picks) with some solid veterans (Jefferson, Millsap, Bell and Harris).

6:00 Halfway through the first, we were back where we started, all tied at 15, with Kobe Bryant scoring just like he did the previous night. By the end of the quarter, he’d have 14 points, including a bucket at the buzzer, to give the Lakers a 26-23 lead.

SECOND QUARTER
9:02 A slow start to the half for the Lakers saw Utah go on a 6-0 run, L.A.’s second unit struggling to make shots, though a layup from Darius Morris — the Los Angeles native playing in his first career game — broke the streak.

0:00 Bynum’s third block and Kobe’s 21st point of the half closed the half strong for L.A., though they still trailed 42-41 at the break. Turnovers continued to plague the Lakers, with nine of them resulting in several Utah run outs.

THIRD QUARTER
8:49 Both teams ripped off runs to start the third, L.A.’s 4-0 and Utah’s 5-0, before a Kobe jumper and Bynum alley-oop drop in put the Lakers up 49-48. Assistant coach Quin Snyder called the team’s first half effort a bit “discombobulated,” with nine turnovers and some sloppy offense, but said the coaches were pretty pleased to be within a single point out of the break all things considered.

3:16 Four straight free throws from Kobe got him to 31 points (his fifth time with 30 plus in the past six games), and L.A. its biggest lead at 59-53. The defense had gotten better, Utah hitting only four of 12 field goals, even prompting defensive specialist Chuck Person off his seat on the bench to show his approval.

1:06 A run-stopping three-pointer from Steve Blake allowed and the second hoop from rookie Darius Morris allowed the Lakers to keep a 66-61 lead heading into the fourth quarter, buying the team some extra time with Bryant resting on the bench. On the other hand, Blake suffered a rib contusion, and was called questionable to return.

FOURTH QUARTER
6:00 Once again, we were tied, the seventh time of the game this time at 69, as Jefferson tipped in an Earl Watson missed layup. L.A. had managed only three points in the first six minutes of the quarter, but converted a beautiful out of bounds play to get a Bynum alley-oop layup from the baseline.

2:41 A very defensive half continued, the score in the quarter just 10-6 Utah as L.A. clung to a 1-point lead. We know how physical Utah plays at home, and tonight was no exception, but a terrific stretch of plays from Barnes helped L.A. to a 74-71 lead after he stripped Harris on one end, sprinted up the floor and made a lay up at the other to give him 11 points and five boards. Next, a tough baseline jumper from Kobe to make it a 76-71 game as the clock ticked down.

0:00 The Jazz made two big plays to ultimately send the game to overtime, first getting a tying three from Howard, then a tip-in from Millsap to counter Bryant’s baseline jumper. L.A. did have a chance to win in the final seconds, however, but Bryant missed a jumper left after being left isolated with Bell defending. As such …

OVERTIME
4:00 Millsap took over early in overtime, making two shots, the stripping Gasol on the other end. Howard missed a runner that would have put the Jazz up six, however, and Kobe pulled up for a three-pointer that cut Utah’s lead to one.

What a final stanza of overtime. Let’s review:
- After Bryant’s three, Utah took 17 seconds to answer with a triple from Howard, putting the lead right back to four.
- Gasol converted two free throws, cutting the lead in half, then hit the biggest shot of L.A.’s young season, a corner triple off Bryant’s pass (and penetration) that put the Lakers up 86-85 with two minutes to play. After the game, Gasol said that he was just hoping like crazy for the shot to find a home through the net as it was in the air, while Bryant said that if people think Tim Tebow prays a lot, he said about 20 Hail Mary’s urging that Spanish triple home.
- Then it was Bynum time, the center first tipping home a near miss from Kobe with 51 seconds left to make it a three point game. Utah got a jumper from Millsap to cut it back to one, and after another Bryant miss, Bynum flew home to save the game. Gordon Hayward’s penetration got Al Jefferson a low post catch, but Bynum was there to swat Jefferson’s shot with 1.9 seconds to go. Kobe cleared the rebound, sank two foul shots to reach 40 points in back to back games for the first time since Nov. of 2009, and the Lakers had their first road win.

Still with us? All right.

Your final score: 90-87, Lakers, a fourth straight win to push L.A.’s record to 8-4 on the season, and 8-2 in the last 10.

Lakers Shorthanded in Utah

For the second consecutive game, the Lakers will be without the services of all three of their preseason free agent acquisitions for Wednesday’s contest in Utah: Troy Murphy (gastroenteritis); Josh McRoberts (sprained left big toe); and Jason Kapono (personal).

That McRoberts will miss a sixth straight game was expected (he’s officially listed as “doubtful”), though he did travel with the team to continue to rehabilitate his toe. Murphy was hoping to join the team in Salt Lake City but remains sick, while Kapono will stay in Los Angeles with his wife and their brand new twin girls, born on Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

Helping to fill the collective void in Tuesday’s win over Phoenix was Luke Walton, who played mostly power forward while amassing six points, eight rebounds (five offensive), three assists and a steal in 26 minutes. Steve Blake, meanwhile, had eight assists off L.A.’s bench, the most he’s had since joining the Lakers prior to last season (previous: seven @ N.Y. on 2/11/11).

Metta World Peace could also see some action at the power forward slot, where he pitched in against Phoenix, grabbing some of his seven rebounds.

Lakers 99, Suns 83: Jan. 10 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Phoenix, the Lakers looking to win a seventh straight home 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, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, J. Dudley, G. Hill, C. Frye, M. Gortat

FIRST QUARTER
7:38 Of L.A.’s first 10 shots, only the last came in the paint, resulting in a one-handed dunk from a rim-running Gasol. The previous nine were jump shots, only three going in, but Gasol’s dunk tied the game at eight. Of note on this eve was how thin L.A.’s bench was, since free agent acquisitions Josh McRoberts (toe), Troy Murphy (gastroenteritis) and Jason Kapono (wife having twin babies) were all out, meaning we’d see Luke Walton, Devin Ebanks and some Metta World Peace at power forward.

2:04 A slow offensive start from L.A. disappeared in a cloud of Kobe Bryant jumpers, as No. 24 nailed four straight shots to spark a 10-0 run that turned a 19-10 deficit into a 20-19 lead. His legs continue to look terrific from a health standpoint, allowing him to get to his spots and rise over defenders.

SECOND QUARTER
11:29 The Suns hadn’t scored in seemingly forever (since the 4:00 mark of the 1st Q) before finally getting a bucket from sub Hakim Warrick. L.A.’s run to close the first Q had been 15 points, 13 of which came from a white-hot Black Mamba, to make it a 25-19 lead. The last time Kobe scored 17 in a quarter? Don’t look too far back, as it happened Friday against Golden State.

5:39 The third straight inside score from Bynum preceded Walton’s jumper, which made it 35-23 Lakers, now clicking in most places, helped in part by Steve Blake’s four assists and one three-pointer off the pine. However, the Lakers would get cold quickly, inspiring a 7-0 Suns run to cut the lead to five before Bryant checked back in.

0:35.0 After struggling with his shot to start the game, Gasol got two straight jumpers to fall, allowing L.A. to reclaim a 46-42 lead after it had briefly fallen to a 12-0 Suns run. The final point of the half came from Metta World Peace, whose primary contribution came on the glass with a team-high seven boards. Blake added five assists off the bench a game after he uncharacteristically had five turnovers to just two assists.

THIRD QUARTER
12:00 I had a flashback to the 1996 draft when watching Bryant (taken 13th), Nash (15th) and Fisher (24th) come out onto the floor. The real elder statesman, however, was guarding Bryant — Grant Hill, taken third in 1994 behind Big Dog Robinson and Jason Kidd. Kobe stayed hot early in the second half, hitting two more jumpers to reach 27 points, more than half of L.A.’s 53.

4:49 Struggling from the foul line in his first six games to the tune of only 54.8 percent, Bynum made both to put L.A. up 62-60, and improve to 4-of-6 on the night. Yet Bynum wasn’t able to get many looks inside, attempting only seven shots, making four, while matching Barnes and Gasol with six boards. Shortly thereafter, Luke Walton continued a strong game off the bench by hitting his second jumper, and collecting his sixth board with two assists in 15 productive minutes.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:15 What a game, nay, start to the season from Kobe. Another tough jumper got him up to 34 points on 13-of-25 FG’s (52 percent), and L.A. a 79-74 lead. Only LeBron James has averaged more than Kobe this season. Meanwhile, his self-described “younger brother” Shannon Brown was heating up, hitting his fourth FG of the fourth quarter, a three, to get the Suns within three points.

4:43 Gasol’s jumper made it an 89-82 LAL edge as the home team rallied, this after Bryant dropped yet another jumper before back-to-back hammer dunks that deserve their own line…

3:09 OK … first came an explosive burst past Grant Hill off a shot fake, Bryant driving to the hole from the right block for a big two-handed flush. Then, moments later, Kobe went up high to catch a Barnes’ alley-oop and slam it home with two hands in reverse fashion. The second absolutely brought the house down, Kobe in full Black Mamba mode towards an NBA season high 42 points. He’d add another jumper at the 2-minute mark to reach 44 on on 17-of-30 field goals and 10-of-11 free throws, putting L.A. up 95-83.

0:35.7 For good measure, Bryant added six more points to reach 48, the most he’s scored since he dropped 49 on the Suns on March 1, 2009. Add in his 44 on Phoenix in 2010, and three of his last four highest scoring games came on the team that took L.A. out in the 2006 2007 playoffs. Your final: 99-83, LAL wins its seventh straight home game, thanks to the Black Mamba.

Alvin Gentry on Bynum + Gasol

It’s a frequent occurrence to hear NBA coaches discuss how difficult L.A.’s seven-foot tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum make things on the inside when their respective teams draw the Lakers, and Suns head man Alvin Gentry was no exception in advance of Tuesday evening’s contest.

“I think Bynum is probably playing as well as any center in the league right now, when you look at the rebounding, shot blocking and scoring,” he said. “When he’s healthy and playing at this level, it’s a really, really tough matchup.”

Gentry made the comment after acknowledging that his own center, Marcin Gortat (the “Polish Hammer”) has been terrific since coming over in a trade with Orlando last season, agreeing with (this) reporter’s assessment that Gortat is already among the league’s top 10 pivots. Gentry also offered some unsolicited praise of Gasol’s game, relating his comment back to the Spaniard’s partnership with Bynum.

“Everyone knows about Pau … the guy is probably as skill as any big guy that plays the game,” he said. “His footwork is great, he’s a real smart player. When you’re dealing with those two guys down there, rebounding becomes such an issue, and when those two guys by themselves are getting 30 rebounds, it puts a lot of pressure on your front court.”

For the young season, Bynum is averaging 18.8 points, 15.7 rebounds and 1.67 blocks in six games, while Gasol checks in at 16.7 points, 9.3 boards, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks in 10 games.

Kapono, Wife Expecting Twin Girls

The Lakers extended family is about to get a bit bigger.

Forward Jason Kapono and his wife Ashley, whom he met at UCLA, are expecting twin baby girls on Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

Kapono said the girls would be named Isla and Campbell, and that he could not be more excited to be a new dad. Kapono’s family is from the Lakewood area, about 25 miles south and east of the Lakers practice facility, while his wife has brothers that live in Los Angeles as well, providing a strong family support crew for the twins.

With the encouraging approval of coach/father Mike Brown, Kapono will miss L.A.’s Tuesday evening game against Phoenix to be with his family, and remains uncertain about whether or not he’ll be able to join the team for the Wednesday back-to-back in Utah.

Podcast: Pelton of Basketball Prospectus

Kevin Pelton

If you’re looking to find some meaning in advanced statistics that apply to your favorite NBA team, you can’t go wrong with the guys at Basketball Prospectus, which is why we had the site’s Kevin Pelton on to break down the Lakers.

Alongside co-author Bradford Doolittle, Pelton wrote extensively on each team for this season’s Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 book, and we picked out several topics from the pages to discuss. Among them: what makes Matt Barnes effective; Pau Gasol’s elite efficiency; why Andrew Bynum provides the Lakers with renewed optimism; Kobe Bryant’s uniqueness; what Pelton likes about Josh McRoberts; and more.

Click below to listen:

Bryant Named Player of the Week

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant today was named the Western Conference Players of the Week for games played Monday, Jan. 2, through Sunday, Jan. 8.

Bryant guided the Lakers to a 3-1 week, including wins over Houston, Golden State and Memphis. Bryant’s 33.0 point average led the league, and he added 6.3 assists while playing a team-high 38.0 minutes. Bryant, who eclipsed the 30-point plateau in three of the Lakers’ four games, tallied a season-high 39 points on 13-of-28 shooting during a 97-90 win over the Warriors on Jan. 6.

Jan. 3 vs. Houston: Tallied 37 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a 108-99 win over the Rockets.
Jan. 6 vs. Golden State: Scored a season-high 39 points and added seven assists during a 97-90 victory over the Warriors.
Jan. 8 vs. Memphis: Posted 26 points and chipped in with nine assists as the Lakers notched a 90-82 victory over the Grizzlies.

Lakers 90, Grizzlies 82: Jan. 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Memphis, the Lakers looking for a sixth straight home win, 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, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, D. Cunningham*, M. Gasol
*Dante Cunningham started in place of the injured Zach Randolph, out for a while with a torn right MCL.

FIRST QUARTER
9:12 Five straight points from Rudy Gay, including an and-1 in transition after Bryant was stripped, allowed an early 7-5 lead. In the preseason, Memphis looked to be one of the only teams in the league that might have matched L.A.’s size, but backup big Darrell Arthur tore his Achilles (out for season), and Zach Randolph his right MCL (out a while), making things tough on the Grizz.

7:57 It’s always enjoyable to watch Tony Allen guard Kobe, since Allen believes he can literally guard anybody (he told me pregame that he “shut down Hall of Famer” Paul Pierce in practice for six years) and never backs down. He certainly is one of the league’s tougher* and better perimeter defenders, though here, he was whistled for his second foul just four minutes in thanks to some craftiness from Bryant.
*Allen was said to have left the face of teammates O.J. Mayo (who subbed in for him) swollen as a result of a card game on the plane last season, according to multiple sources (Yahoo!, CBS, Memphis Commercial Appeal). Don’t mess with him.

0:04.0Pau Gasol (from here on known as “Pau” so as not to confuse with brother Marc, the starting center for Memphis) grabbed an offensive board and stuck it back with a tough baseline fadeaway to put the Lakers up 31-22 at the quarter break. A solid all-around stanza for L.A., who shot 56 percent and contested well on D.

SECOND QUARTER
8:30 Metta … World … Peace! His second hammer dunk of the season, which put the Lakers up 40-26, caused us to dig this amazing Kevin Harlan call from World Peace’s jam on Utah in the season’s third game.

2:55 A beautiful behind-the-back pass from Pau, who ran the fast break from his 7-foot perch, got Bynum a layup that followed the fourth LAL three-pointer, opening a 14-point lead at 52-38 despite 10 Lakers turnovers.

0:00 Bryant was quiet in the final seven minutes of the quarter, taking only one shot (and making it to improve to 6-of-9), while the 11th LAL turnover allowed Memphis to cut the lead to 10 at the break.

THIRD QUARTER
8:00 Despite more turnovers, the Lakers were scoring easily enough to maintain their 10-point lead, getting two Bynum free throws to make it 62-52. However, a circus shot from Allen and furious put-back dunk from Gay followed to cut the home team’s lead to six.

1:16 Bryant continued to put on a clinic on offense, hitting from all areas, including two tough baseline fadeaways and an explosive baseline reverse dunk, but L.A. also continued to turn the ball over, hitting T.O. No. 17 late in the quarter to precede a pull-up J from Quincy Pondexter, who was all-of-a-sudden 6-for-6 from the field for 12 Grizz bench points (Marreese Speights had 14 himself). As such, what should have been a blow out was just a 75-66 lead.

0:00 Having a terrific game off L.A.’s bench from a shooting standpoint was Steve Blake, who hit his fifth shot in six attempts, three of them triples, and this one a three near the close of the quarter to give L.A. a 78-68 cushion despite those 17 turnovers. Blake, however, had not a single assist with his five turnovers, two of them errant passes on potential alley-oops.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:00 With the second unit really struggling offensively to open the fourth, Brown went to his starting line up just three minutes in, the Grizz having shaved six points off the lead to get within four. Immediately helping was Barnes, playing his second straight really good game, as he swatted Mayo, laid in at the other end in transition, then dropped a pull-up J to reach 15 points with eight boards, two assists and two blocks and a steal.

3:20 Despite two missed free throws, Kobe had begun to reclaim the game for L.A., connecting on back-to-back field goals after missing his first three of the quarter to put his team back up nine. He had 26 points on 11-of-20 FG’s.

0:00 Keeping with the theme … more turnovers (26 total) and more points (a jumper from Gasol) eventually turned into an easy L.A. win. A dominant paint performance on the glass had Bynum (15), Gasol (15) and Barnes (10) total more rebounds than the entire Grizz team (34). All three had double-doubles, while Bryant (26 points, nine assists) was one dime away from his own.

As such, that’s the sixth straight home win for the Lakers, who are back at Staples against Phoenix on Tuesday. See you then.