Monthly Archive for March, 2012

Kobe Meets 105-year-old Fan

On a day in which Kobe Bryant missed all but two of his first 20 shots before nailing a game-winning three-pointer, he recognized that his play probably didn’t do much to ease the tension of a particular fan of his, 105-year-old Allene Wynn.

“I don’t think this game did anything to relax her,” said Kobe, who was more than impressed with the woman whose 105th birthday came on March 27.

“I mean that’s unbelievable, 105 years old!”

When meeting Kobe before the game, Wynn apparently had some choice words for No. 24, wanting to see some better play out of her favorite team … which he loved.

“She was awesome, just like the female Tex Winter,” Bryant concluded.

To watch video of the segment, click here and fast forward to the 3:18 mark.

LAL 88, NOH 85: March 31 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday afternoon home contest against New Orleans, the Lakers looking to answer a poor home stretch featuring three losses in four games (after two all season up to that point), with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: J. Jack, M. Bellinelli, A. Aminu, L. Thomas, J. Smith

FIRST QUARTER
8:15 If Metta World Peace is hitting his perimeter shots, the Lakers are extremely difficult to beat, and his corner three opened a 10-6 early edge for the Lakers a game after he started 1 for 11 against Oklahoma City. The Hornets, meanwhile, were a mess injury wise, with Chris Kaman (illness), Trevor Ariza (ankle), Emeka Okafor (knee), Eric Gordon (knee) and Gustavo Ayon (personal) were all out.

5:00 The second MWP three capped a 13-0 Lakers run, pushed by Kobe’s passing, as No. 24 notched four assists. If MWP is draining threes and Kobe willingly/aggressively moving the ball, the Lakers are – obviously – extremely tough.

0:00 Kobe started getting his shots up in the latter half of the first, but as he missed all five of his attempts, the Hornets went on an 8-0 run at the other end to cut the lead to 20-14. New Orleans, still, was shooting only 30 percent, L.A.’s D pretty strong and the Hornets missing a lot of offensive punch.

SECOND QUARTER
6:35 With the Hornets in a zone defense to try and minimize L.A.’s big size advantage, Steve Blake found the open shooting spots on the wings, nailing all three triples he attempted to keep the lead in double digits. His nine bench points were more than any Hornet had scored to that point.

4:56 A Barnes dunk in transition was Kobe’s fifth assist, first of the second, though he’d yet to make any of his six field goal attempts. Nonetheless, the Lakers led 41-30 in a game that had slowed considerably in terms of pace.

0:00 Does it not seem like a short-handed team plays loose/free/well against the Lakers every other game? Guys like Xavier Henry, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Johnson were hitting some of the 12 field goals made by the road team in the second quarter, helping trim L.A.’s lead to just four at the half. Gasol was effective, reaching 14 points with his six boards, but Bryant fell to 0 for 7 from the field after his fourth missed three.

THIRD QUARTER
10:17 As Kobe missed a wide-open put-back layup and then a 6-footer in the paint to fall to 0 for 9 on the game, we wonder about all the minutes he’s been playing this season. At 38.6 per night, only Kevin Love (39.8) and Luol Deng (39.2) play more, and he hasn’t missed a game. Despite Bryant being a physical freak of nature, all of those minutes in a compressed season may be taking a toll. In fact, Bryant has shot better than 50 percent only one time (March 18 at Dallas) since March 6. Meanwhile, the Hornets went on a 5-0 run to take a 48-47 lead.

6:17 As if to underscore the point, Kobe missed twice more to fall to 0 for 11. Fortunately for the Lakers, Gasol had no such struggles, making 8 of 13 shots and 5 of 7 free throws to reach 21 points with his seven boards, keeping the Lakers up, if barely, at 52-51. Yet three minutes later, a 5-0 Hornets run had the Lakers suddenly down four points, their body language the opposite of the bounce seen in New Orleans’ step.

0:00 It got worse, Kobe missing four more attempts to fall to 0 for 15, and the Hornets responding with a 6-0 run to take a 67-61 lead out of the third.
Continue reading ‘LAL 88, NOH 85: March 31 Running Diary’

LAL – NOH : Podcast Preview

With perhaps their five best players all dealing with injuries, the New Orleans Hornets may as well come into STAPLES Center in a medevac.

Eric Gordon (knee), Emeka Okafor (knee), Chris Kaman (flu), Jarrett Jack (ankle) and Trevor Ariza (ankle), a potential starting five at the beginning of the season, were all out of the team’s last game, a 99-93 loss at Portland, and the latter three are all questionable for Saturday’s 12:30 tip off against the Lakers.

But as Hornets.com’s Jim Eichenhofer explained to us, this hasn’t kept Monty Williams’ squad from playing hard, and thus making them anything but an automatic victory. L.A. certainly had to earn its March 14 overtime victory at New Orleans. In that one, L.A. trailed by 14 at halftime and needed three Kobe free throws on a late Gustavo Ayon foul at the three-point line just to force the overtime, where the two key plays came at the defensive end from Metta World Peace (see the [awesome] photo above).

To listen to Eichenhofer’s complete take on the Hornets and the matchup, click below:

LAL 93, OKC 102: March 29 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening home contest against Oklahoma City, the Lakers looking to bounce back from two losses in their past three home games, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 A touching tribute video for Derek Fisher got the crowd, standing and applauding as loudly as they might for a huge playoff win, pumped for what promised to be a fun evening of hoops between the West’s top and third squads record wise. Moments later Bynum threw down an alley-oop from Gasol to open the scoring, and Bryant nailed a wing jumper as the fans stayed on their feet.

3:18 Playing perhaps their best end-to-end stretch of ball of the season, the Lakers exploded with a 13-0 run, capped by Gasol’s and-1 layup off Kobe’s assist. Meanwhile, Bynum was controlling the paint defensively, which L.A. has been so needing in the past 10 games or so amidst his torrid scoring streak, and had already amassed six rebounds, more than he notched at Golden State (5) and vs. Memphis (4) in the last two games.

0:00 Capping the scoring in a very impressive first quarter for the Lakers was Kobe, whose 1-legged Dirk Nowitzki shot made it 30-18. Bryant had nine, Bynum eight, Gasol five while active defense had OKC shooting only 28 percent from the field.

SECOND QUARTER
7:39 OKC showed why its the league’s best shot blocking team, twice blocking World Peace at the rim to reach eight, and Fisher – perhaps knowing where to attack L.A.’s defense – scored his third field goal of the quarter on an and-1 leaner, his free throw cutting the once 12-point lead to five with a 9-2 Thunder push to open the second.

4:42 With Bynum and Bryant’s return came better defense, highlighted by a big Bynum swat at the rim, even if he promptly turned it over trying to lead the fast break. Gasol added two field goals, and L.A.’s lead was 39-31 after Blake finished at the rim in the absence of OKC help defense.

0:00 Even with L.A. largely controlling the first half, the Thunder stuck around to trail by only five at the break, thanks to back-to-back top-of-the-key jumpers from Serge Ibaka, including a buzzer beater. He helped make up for a 5 of 16 half from Durant, 3 for 10 effort from Westbrook and 2 of 9 performance from Harden. Kobe was 5 of 11 and Bynum 5 of 9 to pace the Lakers, 26 points between them, though World Peace missed all six of his shots and Gasol was 4 of 10.

THIRD QUARTER
9:17 The Thunder came out of the half on an 8-0 run to take their first lead since early in the first, and worse for L.A., Gasol committed two fouls in a minute, and had to sit down with four total. Bynum missed a wide open look near the rim, World Peace fell to 0 for 7 with a miss from the corner and Sessions couldn’t get an open runner to go. Really rough stretch for L.A., its momentum from the first half long gone.

4:39 OKC continued to control the period, their lead growing to as many as nine as Westbrook hit back-to-back jumpers from the left wing, when he’d struggled with his shot to that point (4-for-13 to start). L.A.’s offense struggled without Gasol, with Bynum committing his fourth turnover and the team converting only 2-of-11 shots.

1:07 L.A. was getting what it wanted defensively to a degree, Westbrook settling for long two’s, but he happened to be making them in the third, draining four shots from the perimeter to keep the Thunder up five despite four quick points from Steve Blake off the pine and a series of free throws from Bryant and Bynum (seven total).

0:00 Then Westbrook pulled up and nailed a buzzer-beating three to make it a 10-point Thunder lead, his fifth jump shot of the quarter, equaling L.A.’s total made field goals in the entire period. More concerning than an average shooter getting really hot: 17 offensive rebounds for the Thunder, resulting in 19 second chance points. Lots of work to do for a Lakers team that looked so dominant early.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:43 A defensive breakdown on the weak side got Westbrook (30 points) a wide-open dunk, pushing OKC’s lead to a game-high 14 points, this one starting to get away from the Lakers, who couldn’t buy a bucket on the other end as ball movement became an afterthought.

6:00 Things just got worse for the Lakers, who saw OKC build a 19-point lead when Harden hit a pull-up three, the offensive continuing to look more out of sync than it had in weeks. Bryant managed to hit his first two jumpers of the half after an 0-for-6 third quarter, but was just 7 for 21 in the game. The Lakers converted 14 of 26 field goals in the first quarter, but had made only 16 of 48 since (33 percent).

2:36 The second World Peace three in as many minutes cut OKC’s lead to single digits at 96-87, but it was likely too little, too late. An odd disappearing act from a Lakers’ offense that had been excellent since Sessions came on board from the second quarter through the middle of the fourth, and some real tough shot making from Westbrook on the perimeter would spell doom for the Lakers.

0:00 The Lakers continued to score, reaching 93 points on two Gasol free throws after a Bynum put back, but Westbrook and Durant capped a terrific Thunder half with a bucket a piece, capping the third home loss in four games for the Lakers after they opened the season at 18-2 at Staples. They’d try to shake a rough feeling on Saturday, with New Orleans coming into town; we’ll see you there.

Derek Fisher Returns to Staples

Wearing an Oklahoma City Thunder t-shirt, Derek Fisher addressed the Los Angeles media prior to the Lakers – Thunder matchup on Thursday night. Here’s some of what he had to say:

Q: On his emotions:
Fisher: I’ve been through this dress rehearsal before with a couple different teams, and although it’s different compared to what I’ve been used to, it’s a game. I play for the other team now, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and competing tonight.

Q: On coming back to Los Angeles:
Fisher: I’m most excited about seeing my friends and brothers in terms of my x-teammates and guys I grew close to over the years, and then an extension of that are the fans, not just in the arena but the entire city of Los Angeles, the love and support and appreciation they’ve shown me over the years far exceeds anything I could have imagined when I first moved here in 1996. I’m extremely thankful for everything and looking forward to playing in front of them a couple more times before the regular season is even over.

Q: On if his attitude or emotions towards the situation have changed:
Fisher: Yes. I know there have been a lot of statements made, including mine, about what I thought I knew about the situation, whether I knew I was going to get traded, how I was going to feel about it, what my role would have been if I were still on the team. I’m at a good place right now. Initially it was more shock than just pure disappointment.

It’s not for me to speak at this point about how things could have been or should have been handled. I’ve moved on, the organization had intentions of moving on and exercised those intentions and had every right to. I don’t place any blame on any one or the team as a whole. It was fair for them to do what they did; now it’s time to move on to hopefully bigger and better things in terms of what can be accomplished. It was strange circumstances, but I’ve tried to make the most of it.

Q: On if he can help Russell Westbrook at the point guard position:
Fisher: Russell is a talent that doesn’t necessarily need me to tell him anything about how to play this game and what to do. At the same time, when you’re part of a team, part of that responsibility is to make contributions not just on the court through your performance but off hte court helping teammates, supporting teammates. So for Russell, for Kevin (Durant), for every guy on this team, that’s a part of why I wanted to go play with these guys, to add my experience and my wisdom, share some stories, remind these guys that I was playing when they were in the fifth and sixth grade. I’ve played a lot of basketball and still have quite a bit of basketball left to be played. I’m looking forward to adding what I can add to a situation that was special before I arrived.

Q: On selecting No. 37, his age, as his jersey number:
Fisher: As I stated, it seemed like it came before my name so much, regardless of what I’ve been able to do or help my teams do in the past. That number seemed to be the number that trumped everything regardless of any performance or any success that the team had, that number always came first before my name, so I figured I’d just put it out there for everybody to continue to use first, and not just turn it into a positive but just having some fun. It was strange because with the Thunder most of all the single digits were gone, a couple double digit numbers that I like to wear were retired, so 37 just became special because I still believe at my “advanced” age, there are 37 reasons why I can help the team be successful, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.

Injury Update: Jordan Hill

Recently acquired backup power forward/center Jordan Hill is currently dealing with a sprained knee, and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Hill has played a total of three minutes in brief appearances at both Houston and Dallas, totaling two points and three rebounds, and is currently working to rehabilitate the knee with the team’s training staff.

LAL 104, GSW 101: March 27 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening road contest at Golden State, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a home loss to Memphis, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Warriors: C. Jenkins*, K. Thompson, D. Wright, D. Lee, J. Tyler
Second round pick Jenkins was starting for Stephen Curry, shelved with an ankle injury, while Monta Ellis had been traded eight games ago to the Bucks.

FIRST QUARTER
7:00 Kobe climbed way up the ladder to get L.A. off to a pretty solid offensive start, piggy backing on the team’s 48 percent shooting since Ramon Sessions came over from Cleveland, producing a 12-8 lead. All five starters scored at least two points before Kobe’s second bucket.

2:00 L.A. continued to control the game with relative ease, Kobe finding Bynum for an alley-oop that made it 23-12 and got Bryant dime No. 3. The Warriors had managed only 27.3 percent from the field on 6-of-22 field goals, L.A. well clogging the paint and forcing contested jump shots.

SECOND QUARTER
12:00 The lead after one was 25-16, with Bryant’s eight points leading the way, and the Spaniard clearing 10 boards off the glass. The only one mad about that in L.A. may have been Bynum, who had just one board a game after he finished with four … maybe Pau could give him one?

7:45 A great defensive possessions for Matt Barnes was highlighted by a swat of Klay Thompson’s shot, but that wasn’t all Barnes was doing. He also had seven points with five boards, continuing to shine off L.A.’s bench, as the lead stayed at 11 thanks to a pretty shot from Gasol.

0:00 After controlling the first 21 minutes, L.A. slipped in the final three, allowing a 7-0 run that helped the Warriors trim what was a 16-point edge early in the quarter to a 55-48 margin at the break. L.A. had similarly controlled first half action at Detroit and Washington against weaker teams, only to give up the lead late, so clearly that’d be a focus in the second half. With the playoffs coming up in about a month, protecting leads on the road is of paramount importance to the coaches.

THIRD QUARTER
7:56 With a pull-up three-pointer, Kobe matched Michael Jordan for 2nd place on the all-time single franchise scoring list, reaching 29,277 points in his historic career. He also put the Lakers up 10 points, where they got thanks to a 6-0 run just after Bynum got yanked for pulling up and shooting a three-pointer of his own.

0:00 After pushing the lead back to 14, riding continued strong play from Barnes off the bench and getting three buckets from a muscling-his-way-inside World Peace, the Warriors went on another quick run, cutting the deficit to seven (79-72) into the final period.
Continue reading ‘LAL 104, GSW 101: March 27 Running Diary’

Lakers – Warriors Preview Podcast

Other than professional wrestling and Lakers games, L.A. radio color commentator — and Showtime veteran — Mychal Thompson watches the Golden State Warriors more than anything else.

His son Klay, after all, happens to be a Warriors’ lottery pick who’s seen a recent uptick in minutes and responsibility after the big trade that send Monta Ellis and Epke Udoh to Milwaukee for (injured) Andrew Bogut and (traded for Richard Jefferson) Stephen Jackson.

We sat down with Thompson on the bus ride from the San Francisco airport to the team hotel to discuss the Warriors and Tuesday evening’s matchup in detail.

To listen, click play below:

Guarding the Point Guard

If one can force an opponent to work harder on one end of the floor, it should take something away from that player on the other end.

Right?

Well, the impact of Ramon Sessions after six games — 14 points and seven assists a night – is right there to confront the observer, but the less apparent affect he can have upon opposing point guards is duly important.

To first deal with the obvious: it’s not hard to notice the impact of Sessions as he darts to the bucket and either finishes at the rim or finds an open shooter, when he uses pick and rolls to get teammates better shots or streak up the court in transition.

“Ramon adds a different element to the Lakers,” said Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. “He’s always in attack mode and you always have to be aware. You usually know what you’re getting, playing against Kobe (Bryant) and Pau (Gasol) and (Andrew) Bynum. But Sessions just adds a whole different dimension for them and makes them a more lethal team.”

And it means something for those trying to chase Sessions around the floor.

Point men Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker play for the two teams ahead of L.A. in the standings, and both relentlessly attack the basket. In the past, such PG’s were able to rest on defense when playing the Lakers … but with Sessions in the mix, Conley detailed why that’s no longer the case.

“They used (Derek) Fisher more as a spot up shooter, so it was easier to get around and roam a little bit,” said the league’s leader in steals. “It makes me have to be less of a gambler, more of a solid defensive player. I could easily get in foul trouble, so I have to be able to adjust to the new scouting report since it has changed for this team.”

L.A.’s coaches know that.

“It puts pressure on the opposing point guard to consistently defend his position throughout the course of a shot clock, where as when a guard is off the ball, there’s an opportunity at times to rest defensively,” said Lakers assistant Quin Snyder. “A lot of those guys need to rest defensively because they’re pushing the ball up the court so fast.”

It hasn’t been 100 percent rosy since Sessions came on board, the Lakers going 3-3 and losing their third and fourth home games of the season. Memphis beat the Lakers with effort on Sunday evening (“We felt like we were more hungry,” per Conley), but the NBA’s best thief (2.44 per game) had only one steal while largely being preoccupied with Sessions, worrying more about from where screens were coming.

“When you’re playing a team that likes to run pick and roll, you have to play guys as a 1-on-1 match up, and not rely on just having your help around the screen,” Conley explained. “You can easily get hit with a screen, caught turning and looking, but we stress to work through that. It’s not different from most teams that run pick and roll, but it’s different for the Lakers from what they were doing.”

Scoring was coming more easily to the Lakers even before Sessions came over from Cleveland, as the team became more comfortable with Mike Brown’s early offensive sets that flow into elements of the triangle and feature several post up options. The concern for L.A.’s coaching staff has been that with buckets less difficult to come by, the defensive effort hasn’t been as consistent as it was to start the season.

In fact, L.A. gave up at least 100 points in four of five nights before the defense showed up to limit Dallas (93) and Portland (96), but then relaxed against Memphis (102). The coaches are worried less about the total number of points being given up, since with the Lakers scoring more quickly there will by nature be more possessions for the opponent to score, and focus instead upon field goal defense. That said, Snyder explained why defense does remain a concern.

“There is a natural tendency for teams with an ability to score easily to feel like they can give a bucket up without it hurting,” Snyder said. “But that’s not what actually wins championships, because defense is something that you literally have more control over from game to game. There are aspects of offense that you can’t control.”

The key to L.A.’s defense is paint anchor Andrew Bynum, who when at his defensive peak can make the paint seem very, very small. He showed as much in the third quarter vs. Memphis, dominating the lane as the Lakers went on a 15-0 run, but took ownership of being less impactful for the rest of the game. He grabbed only four rebounds, just a bit below his 12.3 per game average.

“I need to play better defense, I need to come up with a double-double, get more rebounds,” said Bynum. “The last four games I haven’t had more than ten boards and we went 2-2; I think that shows something.”

Snyder would agree.

“What Andrew is able to do defensively when he’s focused is unique,” said Snyder. “Switching onto point guards, blocking shots from the weak side, rebounding the basketball … he’s our anchor.”

But here’s why the Lakers are feeling pretty good internally: they figure if they add the new options Sessions delivers at both ends to a defense capable of dominating games when playing to its capability, they’ll be exactly where they want to be.

LAL 96, MEM 102: March 25 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Memphis, the Lakers looking to win a third 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: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, M. Speights, M. Gasol

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 A less obvious benefit of having Ramon Sessions in the line up, aside from the obvious offensive boost gained through pick and rolling and in transition, is what he takes out of opposing point guards. Grizz PG Mike Conley told me before the game that he has to prepare for the Lakers in a different way, knowing that he not only will get run around screens on the pick and roll, but also must get back in transition immediately, which takes a lot of energy and might take away from his offense.

5:21 L.A. claimed an early 14-12 lead after falling behind 6-2, Pau Gasol missing his first five shots in uncharacteristic fashion. He did, however, score six points shortly thereafter, and combined with Bynum’s three field goals, had the home team’s bigs dominating the paint.

0:00 The quarter ended poorly for the Lakers, who conceded back-to-back threes to Allen (who’d attempted only 17 on the season) and Gay that allowed Memphis a 28-24 lead after one. L.A. missed several wide open shots and weren’t as solid defensively as their coaches would like.

SECOND QUARTER
6:00 Another poor stretch from L.A. allowed the Grizz to build a 40-31 edge, the bench failing to get good looks (three turnovers) and Memphis capping an 8-0 run with a relatively uncontested layup from O.J. Mayo.

0:00 While Bryant and Gasol combined to hit only 4-of-17 field goals, the Lakers may have been more concerned about their defense in the first half, which allowed Memphis to shoot 50 percent from the field. Conley’s three made it a 12-point game in the final seconds, but Sessions did manage a buzzer-beating runner (moments after his driving lay up) to cut it to 56-46 at the break. Make no mistake, defense was to be heavily discussed at the break.
Continue reading ‘LAL 96, MEM 102: March 25 Running Diary’