Monthly Archive for August, 2012

Summer Podcast: Francisco Pinto

Lakers spanish analyst Francisco Pinto joins Mike Trudell to talk about the new Time Warner Cable Deportes station that launches on October 1st and the new look 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers.

Listen below in english and spanish.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on his Coming Statue

Last spring, the Lakers let it be known that plans were being made to erect a statue in honor of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to celebrate one of the greatest to ever play basketball and his contributions towards five Lakers championship rings.

During an interview with Lakers.com, Abdul-Jabbar expressed his feelings about being so honored.

“For me, I’m just very happy to be acknowledged by the franchise that I spent my most time with,” said the 19-time All-Star. “It’s very satisfying to see it in concrete terms out there on the plaza with the other Laker greats. I’m very honored and pleased that this is finally happening.”

No specific date has been announced by the team, but Abdul-Jabbar is pleased that the process is under way.

I suggested to the Captain that the statue would have to feature him in Skyhook form. Right?

“I would imagine so,” he responded with a smile. “I hope so.”

Summer Podcast: Adrian Garcia Marquez


Lakers spanish play-by-play man Adrian Garcia Marquez joins Mike Trudell to talk about the new Time Warner Cable Deportes station that launches on October 1st and the new look 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers.

Listen below in english and spanish.

LAL Player Tracker: Aug. 27

The opening preseason contest for the Lakers, on Oct. 7 vs. Golden State in Fresno, is now a mere 41 days away, meaning the number of players at the Lakers facility will continue to climb.

According to the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Tim DiFrancesco, the following Lakers have been regulars at the practice facility of late: Devin Ebanks; Andrew Goudelock; Jordan Hill; Darius Morris; and Metta World Peace.

DiFrancesco expects newcomers Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon and Jodie Meeks in the weight room and on the court after Labor Day.

As for the two incoming All-Stars acquired in summer trades?

Steve Nash is expected to be in Los Angeles in mid-September, and plans on working out at the team’s facility.

Dwight Howard is currently doing his therapy/rehabilitation from back surgery at a facility in the Westwood/Century City area of L.A. At some point, he will transition over to working with Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti, the team’s head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto and the rest of Vitti’s staff (a time has not yet been set). Lakers spokesman John Black said Howard will not be doing any basketball/weight workouts until he’s cleared medically, and that there is no target date for any of that at this point.

Pau Gasol* is expected to return to Los Angeles at the end of September, while Kobe Bryant is more than trusted by the team to make his own work out arrangements for the offseason prior to training camp.
*You can follow Gasol’s Twitter feed to find out where he is in a given week.

We’ll have more for you on the player front in the coming weeks as the Lakers ramp up for 2012-13.

Summer Pod: Chris Duhon

Former Magic, Knicks and Bulls point guard Chris Duhon came to the Lakers alongside Dwight Howard (and Earl Clark) in a trade with Orlando, and joined us on the phone from Santa Barbara to share his thoughts on the move.

Duhon detailed what it’s like playing with Howard, told us why Steve Nash is so good at what he does, thought about the varying looks the Lakers can throw at opposing defenses from a point guard’s perspective and more:

Summer Pod: Howard & Nash with Kevin Ding

The summer acquisitions of All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are enough to carry a whole series of podcasts, but we tried to tackle the nuts and bolts behind the moves with Orange County Register beat writer and columnist Kevin Ding.

Ding and I spent a chunk of the afternoon discussing the impact of the center and point guard on offense, defense and in the locker room, and Ding explained why he thinks Howard and Nash instantly put the Lakers in place to win another championship.

For that and more, click below:

Dwight Howard Presser Breakdown

We went through Dwight Howard’s Friday afternoon press conference to highlight some tidbits that might interest you as the All-Star center held his purple and gold jersey for the first time:

HOWARD PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO PART 1
- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who alongside VP Jim Buss had quite a summer, had this to say: “We’re hopeful that 10 years from now, we can add a jersey onto that wall over there that says ‘Dwight Howard.’” Kupchak was referring to the retired jerseys on the walls of L.A.’s practice facility, including only those that have entered the Hall of Fame in Lakers colors, and wouldn’t make such a statement about just anybody. But Howard has been the league’s most dominant big man for years, holding down the center spot on the All-NBA First Team since 2007-08, earning three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards (2009-11) and six straight All-Star nods.

- Howard loves L.A. already, having been here for the summer rehabilitating from back surgery: “It’s been home for me,” he said. “It’s been great. It started off walking around Beverly Hills, and every day, I had one lady who’d always come (say) ‘Come to the Lakers!’ And if she’s watching, I’m here. So her wish came true … The city has showed me so much love from day one, it’s been so great to me so far, they welcomed me with open arms.”

- On how he’s feeling after surgery: “My health is great. I’m getting a lot stronger, a lot better every day. I’m looking forward to the doctor saying ‘You’re free to play.’ I can’t wait for that day.”

Later, on when he might return to the court: “There’s no timetable right now. I’m going to continue to rehab and get my back stronger. I haven’t lost any weight, which is good, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the court. If I’m ready for opening night, I’ll be there, but I’m not going to rush it. The back is very serious, so I’m going to take my time and make sure I get back 100 percent, because I want to give everybody 100 percent, not 90, 80 percent. I want to give you guys everything I have.”

- Howard neglected to answer questions about his signing a potential extension after the season, which has been speculated about for months upon months. He’s choosing to focus on the present, quite clearly. However, the Lakers do have confidence that they’ll be able to convince Howard to stay in Los Angeles, as Kupchak implied with his initial comment about Howard’s jersey one day hanging in the rafters. Has a player ever left the Lakers with the chance to sign a maximum contract? As Kupchak says, it’s a desirable place to play basketball even without considering the talent already in place.

- On what he plans to bring: “Everybody is going to expect a lot out of us, and I know for myself, I’m going to give you guys 100 percent. That’s the way I play. I’m going to have fun, I’m going to smile, I’m going to go dunk, block some shots (and) rebound. That’s what I do best. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the court again. I miss it so much.”

HOWARD PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO PART 2
- Howard described a conversation he had with Kobe during which Bryant essentially congratulated him and said he was excited about pursuing a title together. Howard, as he’s been known to do, offered an impersonation of Bryant in the process (and it wasn’t bad, actually).

- Howard said he wants to be great in his own right, to write his own history, in addition to the “Mount Rushmore” of players he’s joining in Bryant, Nash and Gasol. He said he’s excited for the team aspect, but also wants to showcase his own skills, about which the franchise will be happy. Then, he was deferential once again: “I get an opportunity to learn from the best, Kobe Bryant, I get to learn from a guy like Steve Nash, and I get to learn from the old guy right here (Kupchak).”

- Howard went to some length to explain how his back injury put everything in perspective and has him appreciating what it is to play healthy NBA basketball once again. Lakers fans could interpret that as a new sense of hunger and energy that can be so key when added to a roster … and of course, more so when one happens to be the NBA’s best center. “Anybody who knows me and knows what I’m about – I would never quit anything and I would never fake an injury. I’ve never been a quitter, I’ve always been somebody who pushed through the end. I’ve had injuries before but I’ve never said anything about them. I’ve played through a lot of things.”

On dominating the paint: “My job right now is to be the best defender I can for this team, I think that’s one of the reasons why the Lakers wanted me here. I’ve always been a guy that likes to dominate both ends of the floor – and that’s not having the ball or anything like that, but just controlling the paint on both ends.” Andrew Bynum dominated the paint at times, but never as consistently as Howard did in Orlando.

PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO PART 3
- Mitch Kupchak on the trade seemingly looking dead: “While it certainly took a lot longer than most deals take … nothing really ever got to the point where we felt there would be a deal.” Kupchak explained that Magic GM Rob Hennigan seemed to be canvassing the league to see everything that might be out there as opposed to getting serious about a deal with the Lakers, which Kupchak – even while frustrated – admitted was just Hennigan doing his job. But then on Wednesday of last week, Hennigan called making a proposal, and less then 48 hours later the deal was done.

- “It just seems like they’ve always found a way to make good things happen.” – Kupchak was describing the Buss family, which bought the franchise in 1979. Kupchak noted the expresssion that it “starts at the top,” which he said holds true for the Lakers. It’s impossible to argue against the results of the Buss family, of course. Under Dr. Jerry Buss, L.A. has failed to make the playoffs only twice since the 1979-80 championship season, towards 10 championships. Since then, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson’s Bulls won six titles, and San Antonio four.

- Howard said he touched the trophies in Jeanie Buss’s office, while “making some wishes.”

- Howard, while thanking everybody to conclude the presser, included his “X Box Clan,” while Kupchak appeared bemused.

Newest Laker Jodie Meeks: 1-on-1

Moments after signing his new contract to become a Los Angeles Laker, Jodie Meeks joined Lakers.com at the team’s practice facility for a Q&A session:

MT: You were a big-time scorer at Kentucky who slipped in the draft to No. 41 overall (Milwaukee), and spent your first year mostly on the bench. You were traded to Philadelphia after 41 games and appeared in 19 for the Sixers before eventually earning a starting role in your second season. Was that how you saw yourself before entering the NBA?
Meeks: Coming out of college I averaged around 25 points per game, so I always thought of myself as one of the best players in my draft class, regardless of where I was taken. When I got drafted I was kind of disappointed even while being happy to be in the league, and was relieved to get traded to Philadelphia after not playing much in Milwaukee. I was happy for a new start, and coach (Doug) Collins gave me a breath of fresh air, an opportunity to play and start in the NBA for almost a year and a half. Now I’m just very excited to be in Los Angeles.

MT: Having had some options, how did you make your decision?
Meeks: It’s been a long summer trying to figure out where I wanted to go. It was different, with the uncertainty, but I got a call a few weeks back from my agent asking me if I’d be interested in playing for the Lakers, and of course I said ‘Yes’ because it’s such a storied organization. There are three Hall of Famers, maybe four that I’m going to be playing with, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great season and hopefully (we’ll) get a championship.

MT: What makes you a good fit for the Lakers?
Meeks: I know they have good shooters here, but I felt like my capability of shooting threes and my overall game was the best fit for here. I think this team needs me to come off the bench and be a spark on the defensive end, but at the same time be able to knock down open shots because Dwight (Howard), Kobe (Bryant), Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are going to be drawing double teams. I’m going to be out there all alone waiting to shoot. I have a lot of confidence in myself whether I’m knocking them down in that game or not.

MT: People may recall your hitting 10 threes in one game at Kentucky before setting the scoring record for a single game (54). Guessing you could shoot out of the womb, but have you been able to show your whole game within the role you’ve been assigned?
Meeks: I’ve always been able to shoot. When I was in college, I worked really hard to show people I could shoot, because when I was coming out of high school people said I was athletic, but I couldn’t shoot that well. Now it’s the opposite. People say I can shoot but I’m not as athletic. I’m interested in showing everyone my entire game. My role in my first three seasons in the NBA has been (as) a spot-up shooter, which I’ve been glad to do, but I feel like I can score in many different ways. I can get to the free throw line, I have a mid-range game, I can create off the dribble, but that hasn’t been my role. Coming off the bench on this team, I think I can be that spark.

MT: With players like Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday in Philly that played more off the dribble, it makes sense that you’d be asked to spot up…
Meeks: It wouldn’t be intelligent for me to do something (other) than what the team needed. The role for me was to spot up, and I think I did a pretty good job; the team made the playoffs in both my years as a starter. I worked really hard in that regard, because when you’re spotting up, you don’t get that many shots to make the most out of.

MT: And you’ll most likely be doing plenty of spotting up for Mike Brown as well. Can it be difficult to find a rhythm when you only get a few shots a game?
Meeks: Sometimes, but you have to make the most out of it. I don’t really use excuses. I expect myself to make the shot. However many I get – one, two, 10 – I’m just going to try and make the most out of them.

MT: Do you have a percentage in mind that you shoot for?
Meeks: I want to hit all of them, but that’s not realistic. I try to make more than I miss. A good game for me would be to make four of eight, 50 percent. You’ll have off nights, but I want to have consistent shot-making ability of half my shots.

MT: What do you make of playing behind Kobe Bryant?
Meeks: It’s a great opportunity. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to since I was a little kid. He has a lot of experience and can definitely be a mentor towards me as a young player, just going into my fourth year.

MT: Kobe has a few tricks, and especially in recent years has taken young players (Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown, etc.) under his wing.
Meeks: Oh yeah, just a few. I can only get better going against him every day in practice, and at shootarounds and film sessions. I’m going to try to be a sponge, soak up everything that he has to offer. I always listen to people that have more experience and are older than me.

MT: Bryant played a loooot of minutes last season for a 16-year veteran. Do you think you can earn the trust from the coaching staff to allow him more time resting his legs on the bench?
Meeks: I’m a good fit because I’ve started in the NBA for a while, started (114 of the 200) games I’ve played, and been to the playoffs twice. I think Coach Collins trusted me and want to be someone that Coach Brown and Mitch Kupchak can trust on a regular basis.

MT: How would you describe your ability on D?
Meeks: I don’t think I get enough credit for my defense. A lot of people saw me as a scorer in college and a spot shooter in the NBA, but what they don’t see is I take a lot of pride in my defense. I’ve guarded all the best players in the world: Kobe, Dwyane Wade and those kind of players. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job, but I think I can get better. I have a lot to learn, I’m only 24 and have experience to gain, but I play hard every night. That’s the main thing I pride myself upon.

MT: As a shooter/scorer, how appealing is it to play with a passer like Steve Nash?
Meeks: That was definitely appealing to me even before Dwight said he was coming here. Steve Nash is a great passer and one of the best players to ever play, so when I’m on the court sometimes with him I think I’ll get open shots. Kobe is definitely a willing passer as well, and I’ve seen that he trusts his teammates, so with the guys on this team I think I’ll get a lot of open looks.

MT: Word is you like to lock yourself in the gym? To what degree is that the case?
Meeks: Always. That’s the key to myself. If I don’t spend a lot of time in the gym, I start to feel like something’s wrong. I feel guilty, like I’m not working hard enough. So in the summer time, I’m in the gym all the time, and during the season it’s full out working every day. I always have my mind on basketball.

Dwight Howard in Purple & Gold

Bryant, USA win Gold over Gasol’s Spain

We followed the gold medal game between Kobe Bryant’s Team USA and Pau Gasol’s Spain on Sunday morning from London, detailing how the two Lakers contributed to what was ultimately a hard-earned 107-100 gold medal victory for the Americans.

FIRST QUARTER:
10:00 So key for Team USA in the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to go with six assists, Kobe Bryant opened this one with a pretty dish to a diving Tyson Chandler off pick and roll to get a layup. His LAL counterpart opened Spain’s effort with a slick, left-handed baseline hook over Chandler.

7:00 The triples started to fall for both teams, with Juan Carlos Navarro hitting twice for Spain (the second on a Gasol dish) and Kobe answering with two triples of his own to put the U.S. up 15-12. Bryant had been on fire from distance in the medal round*, nailing six in the second half of the quarters against Australia, and three in the semi’s against Argentina. As a team, the USA was at an impressive 45 percent from deep in the tourney.
*Hard not to notice his play improving as the games went on, helped perhaps by Lakers team physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto heading over to work with him in London.

0:00 Carmelo Anthony checked in for Team USA, going small with LeBron guarding Pau, and promptly scored eight points (two triples and a pull-up banker) to put the U.S. up 25-16 before Gasol could even touch the ball inside (resulting in two free throws when he finally did.) Gasol then flashed the high-low action we might see between him and Dwight Howard for the Lakers, this time with Serge Ibaka, allowing the OKC forward consecutive trips to the foul line before Gasol hit a pull-up J to keep Spain within seven.

SECOND QUARTER:
8:30: Gasol, yet to rest, opened the second with a driving finger roll lay up, scoring easily around Kevin Love, and his brother Marc got the Spaniards within a single point (37-36) moments later with a lofted turnaround J.

3:01 Spain hung tough throughout the second, playing a ton better than they did when the teams met prior to the tournament and Portugal’s Iberian peninsula neighbor played in general in the Olympics, almost playing possum for the Americans, down only four as Gasol swatted LeBron on one and and JCN scored on the other. Meanwhile, we saw a cut shot of Gasol’s girlfriend in the stands (just an FYI).

0:00 Bryant again rested for the final five minutes of the quarter – as has been typical with Coach Mike Krzyzewski giving the oldest U.S. player extra rest – as Rudy Fernandez drew a slew of fouls (tossing his body around a bit) and converted free throws to bring Spain within a point (59-58) at the break.

THIRD QUARTER:
7:52 Gasol continued to play excellent ball for his country, scoring three consecutive buckets – plus the foul on the first – with his running dunk then up-and-under around Love to put the Spaniards up 67-64. His brother Marc, meanwhile, was sitting with four fouls picked up in the first half in a choppy yet high-scoring game, with naturalized Spaniard Ibaka (from Congo but played professionally in Spain #loophole) in.

5:02 Memo to the USA coaching staff: Love can’t guard Gasol 1-on-1. For the fifth consecutive trip, Gasol either scored (this time an and-1) or drew a foul, his 13 points outscoring USA’s 11 in the quarter, giving Spain a 71-70 lead … only to be taken back by Kobe’s third triple.

0:00 Olympics hoops analyst Doug Collins has been calling Gasol the tournament’s best big man throughout, and he certainly proved it in the third, scoring 15 points to keep Spain within one (83-82) heading into a fourth quarter that would decide what color medal each nation would sport. Bryant picked his spots, with the Americans having much more balance as he, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe.

FOURTH QUARTER:
7:40 Having asked to guard Navarro, Bryant showed why in shutting the streaky Spaniard down after that early-game barrage, with Chris Paul (excellent in crunch time as usual) scoring five straight points to make it 90-84. The only thing that sat Gasol on the bench was an inadvertent hand to the face from LeBron, drawing blood that needed tending to on the sideline.

6:00 Time for two big fourth quarter plays from Kobe: 1) Remember when Rudy Fernandez fouled Bryant on a game-sealing three-pointer in China in 2008? Here he did so again, though Bryant missed only his second free throw of the tourney before hitting the second and third (15 points) to make it 95-86; 2) An offensive rebound off Melo’s missed three, which he stuck back in off glass to make it a 10-point lead.

2:40 Yet with LeBron on the bench in foul trouble, the U.S. then turned it over on back-to-back trips (Kobe then Anthony), giving Spain a chance to get within four when Gasol’s leaner in the paint rimmed out. Instead, LeBron’s driving dunk (Spain didn’t know whether to switch a pick) and pull-up three put the U.S. back up 11, sealing the deal.

0:00 The United States of America are Olympic gold medalists in basketball again. The final: 107-100. Bryant was taken out alongside James and Durant in the final minute to a rousing cheer. He could be seen getting emotional in his final Olympic experience, sharing hugs first with his USA teammates, then with Gasol, the two congratulating one another on a terrific game … and who knows, maybe sharing a knowing glance that they’d soon be playing alongside Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Bryant finished with 17 points on 5 of 10 shooting (3 of 7 from three) with two boards, two assists and a steal, while Gasol carried his country with 24 points (9 of 17 field goals), eight boards and five assists plus a steal while playing nearly the entire game.

So it’s silver for Pau, and gold for Kobe for the second straight Olympics in a spirited game between the two best basketball playing nations.