Monthly Archive for October, 2012

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Howard: “It’s PREEE season”

After Thursday’s loss in San Diego, L.A.’s eighth in as many preseason games, Dwight Howard wasn’t exactly concerned.

In fact, when asked why the team didn’t win a game, his response was simple:

“It’s PREEEEEE season!”, he exclaimed.

He was of the opinion that excuses don’t really need to be made – as they would after a regular season loss that actually counted – but there are a few obvious reasons for L.A.’s lack of W’s:

- Injuries/Minutes: Howard played in only two games, one of which came without Kobe Bryant, who missed the final two himself; Jordan Hill missed five games; Pau Gasol took one game off and Steve Nash played limited minutes.

- With the stars being in and out, L.A. had even more trouble adjusting to the new systems the players are learning. The offensive additions from assistant Eddie Jordan are one thing, but players like Howard, Nash, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks are also learning a new defensive system.

- L.A.’s opponents happened to exclusively be young Western Conference squads who collectively view the Lakers as a primary rival, with Utah, Golden State, Portland, the Clippers and Sacramento all loving nothing more than scoring more points than the Lakers.

The turnovers, offensive boards conceded and so on all come in concert with those reasons, but nonetheless, the players and coaches know very well that much better play will be needed come Tuesday. Until then, here’s a summary of what else Howard had to say after the last preseason game:

Q: On how he feels physically:
Howard: I feel pretty good after the game – a little sore, but that’s expected. Just trying to continue to learn the offense and for all of us to play out of the offense has been tough for us but we’re getting it. It’s going to take some time so everybody needs to bear with us during this process. I told the guys: ‘This is a process and we’re not going to get this overnight, and we’re playing for June.’ We always have to remember that. We have to stay focused and realize what our goal is at the end of the season.

Q: On the turnover problem:
Howard: We’re trying to learn the offense and in that process, we’re thinking so much about what spots we need to be in and little things (like that). I told the guys: ‘Don’t get frustrated – I know it’s tough. But control the things we can control, which is how hard we play.’ The offense and all that stuff will come, so we can’t get frustrated.

Q: On his excitement level to start the season opener:
Howard: I’m excited to just get back out there. This was my second game back and I didn’t really expect to start playing this early, but I’m thankful to have this opportunity. Like I said it’s a process for us. We don’t expect to win every game, but we do expect – about midseason – everybody will have the offense down and we’ll be (clicking).

Q: On how his back feels:
Howard: I really didn’t get a chance to get a couple practices in before today’s game, but I was a little off with the timing and everything. All that stuff will come, though. It’s a process for all of us and for me. I’m not expecting to be 100 percent right now, but I’m expecting to be full force when it’s playoff time.

Q: On how he feels where he’s at defensively:
Howard: Still a step slow, but just trying to get my timing down and understanding how guys are going to play. It’s a great test to go up against guys who can shoot the ball well for bigs and are physical. I’m not too focused on the outcome of tonight’s game, but how can we grow? Take the positives out of this loss and how we can get better.

Q: On what the rest has done for him:
Howard: After the games I’m going to be sore and tight, but that’s just the process I have to do to get back into it. I’m still rehabbing on a daily basis and that’s not going to stop. Once you feel like you’re fine, that’s when you tend to get more injuries. For me, I just want to continue to rehab and keep going through the process because I don’t want to ever stop building what I’ve accomplished so far.

LAL 82, Kings 94: 10/25 Preseason Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s final preseason contest against Sacramento on Thursday night in San Diego, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Ebanks, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Kings: I. Thomas, T. Evans, J. Johnson, J. Thompson, D. Cousins

FIRST QUARTER
7:30 The Lakers haven’t been the most enthusiastic team in the NBA to be playing preseason games, with the young Kings taking advantage to start out on a 10-2 run, broken by an 18-foot jumper from … Dwight Howard. Howard’s been working on that shot in practice, but you won’t see him take many in the regular season.

0:00 Sacramento continued to be the more aggressive team as the quarter continued, allowing a 23-14 lead before two Gasol free throws got the Spaniard on the board. Gasol isn’t the biggest fan of preseason himself, preferring to focus on getting his body in the best condition possible heading into games that count (plus playing a team-high 36 minutes the night before), but he was responsible for none of L.A.’s seven turnovers in the first period. That was the biggest factor in Sacramento taking a 30-18 lead out of the period, capped by a half-court heave from James Johnson.

SECOND QUARTER
7:09 Apparently all the Lakers needed was to get the bench in the mix, as a 13-0 blitz to start the second had L.A. turn that deficit into a 31-30 lead. Jordan Hill was doing damage, as were Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, the backup two guard’s corner three capping the run. Certainly a good sign to see the energy from a unit that hasn’t had much time together with Hill only returning last night from his back injury.

0:00 An excellent defensive effort saw L.A. concede only 10 points in the period, with 21 of their own cutting the lead to only one at the half. The energy from the second unit was indeed the difference, while turnovers were the main problem in the larger sense in the half: 12 for LAL, four for the Kings. The coaches realize that some of that is the Lakers simply learning how to run the offense and play with one another (Howard, Nash, Meeks, Jamison all being new), but weren’t pleased nonetheless.

THIRD QUARTER
7:31 The energy from the starters was not so good, however, with Sacramento taking advantage with a 9-0 run to make it 51-42 behind second year point guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored six straight to reach a game-high 13. Not that they were too concerned, but L.A. was looking at an 0-8 preseason.

0:00 Indeed, a very poor quarter resulted in 34 Kings points, and a 74-57 deficit heading into the final quarter of the preseason. Needless to say, the regular season can’t come soon enough for the purple and gold. Turnovers were up to 18, with SAC committing only five.

FOURTH QUARTER
3:53 Antawn Jamison got his first bucket of the evening with a long two, but the lead remained at 17 (86-69) as Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock got a few minutes. Steve Nash sat out the second half, we should note, but only to get rest ahead of Tuesday night.

0:00 The final: Kings 94, Lakers 82. Preseason dead. In case you’re curious about the meaning of preseason wins and losses in the past several years: since the Lakers first year of complete preseason records in 1982-83, their best finish was a 7-1 mark in 1987-88. For each of their two most recent championship seasons, LAL went 6-2 in both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 preseasons. However, in the three-peat years of the early 2000′s, L.A. went 4-4 in 2001-02, 3-5 in 2000-01 and 3-5 in 1999-2000. Next time L.A. take the floor, against a Dirk-less Dallas (knee injury), the team’s coaches and players certainly expect to see a different product. We’ll see you then.

Lakers – Clippers: Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Clippers:

41
Points from the Clippers bench of the team’s 97 total points. Matt Barnes notched 18 points and six rebounds to lead their second unit while Ryan Hollins scored 11 points and grabbed five boards.

26
Minutes from Hill in his first game back since the beginning of the preseason. The big man scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, four of which came on offensive end.

“Jordan (Hill) gives us energy, athleticism and rebounding,” explained Steve Nash. “He’s in a tough position because he missed some time and he’s still trying to pick up the offense, but his energy off the bench is huge for us.”

20
Turnovers for the Lakers, making it the second straight preseason game with at least that number. Through seven preseason games, the Lakers are averaging 18 per contest.

“We’re making way too many mistakes and our opponents are capitalizing pretty well, so we just have to tighten up because it’s less than a week (until the regular season),” noted Pau Gasol.

10
More points the Lakers had in the third quarter than the Clippers. For the first time this preseason, the purple and gold won the opening frame coming out of halftime. In their previous six contests, the team had been outscored by an average of almost 13 points.

9
Steals from Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, who started in place of Chris Paul. The third-year guard also notched a double-double with 22 points and 11 assists, while constantly pressuring the Lakers guards into numerous mistakes.

“A guy with the athleticism and strength he has, he can do great things, and obviously we saw a lot of great stuff out of him tonight,” said Nash.

LAL 91, LAC 97: 10/24 Preseason Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s preseason contest against the Clippers in a Staples road 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: Nash, Meeks, World Peace, Gasol and Sacre
Clippers: E. Bledsoe, W. Green, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan

FIRST QUARTER
7:40 The Lakers started the game at a turtle’s pace, missing their first four shots and turning the ball over three times before Robert Sacre and Steve Nash scored on back-to-back trips (Clips up 5-4). Sacre was in for Dwight Howard, resting since the Lakers also play tomorrow night, while Jodie Meeks started for Kobe Bryant, who strained his right foot on Sunday and will not play on Thursday either.

0:00 L.A. got some good news on the injury front as well, with Jordan Hill returning to action after missing the previous five games with a herniated disc. He made his impact immediately, helping the Lakers hold a lead out of the first quarter, then grabbing his fifth rebound on a put-back dunk early in the second quarter. That’s an excellent sign for the Lakers, who may have feared being without Hill for a longer stretch, but will now clearly have him to start the season.

SECOND QUARTER
5:40 Want some more Hill info? The power forward added a 17-foot swish to reach six points with his five boards and a block, his J tying the game at 35. Meanwhile, Meeks drained his second triple of the half. That’s another good sign for the Lakers, who need his shooting to spread the floor.

0:00 Things looked pretty good overall for the purple and gold … at least until the final two minutes of the half, when the Clips reeled off a 9-0 run. Eric Bledsoe was the spark plug, with six first half steals with L.A. turning it over 11 times, and sparking an 8-3 edge in fast break points.

THIRD QUARTER
9:16 But back came the Lakers, reeling off a 13-2 and 11-0 run to start the third, punctuated by five straight points from Metta World Peace and a pair of buckets from Gasol. Sacre continued a solid performance from the 60th overall pick of the Draft, reaching 11 points with five boards and two dimes.

4:12 A strong quarter continued with L.A. going up 68-60 behind two Ebanks free throws, until the Clips finally found an answer – again behind Bledsoe and his eight steals with 16 points – with a 7-0 run to close the gap. Gasol managed a dunk to reach a game-high tying 15 points and keep L.A. up one going into the fourth, a 33-23 edge in the third for the Lakers despite that late Clips push.

FOURTH QUARTER
5:55 Two Steve Blake three-pointers and six free throws from Meeks had L.A. right back in the game after the Clips had appeared to be running away yet again, an 85-76 lead suddenly down to a single point as MWP and Gasol returned to the fray. On the other hand, yet another turnover (18) led to a Clips fast break layup (23 FB points to LAL’s 9), helping keep LAC on top.

0:00 Ultimately, all the turnovers and resulting easy baskets from the Clips were too much for the Lakers to overcome, especially with Howard and Bryant watching in street clothes. Your final: Clips 97, Lakers 91.

Last season, the Clips won both preseason games before losing the regular season series 2-1. With that said, the players on the court certainly couldn’t have enjoyed losing for the seventh straight time. Gasol’s 17, eight and four in 36 minutes led the Lakers, while Jordan Hill put up 12 and eight off the bench, and Blake 11 points with four assists. Bledsoe (22 points, 11 assists, nine steals) and Barnes (18 points, six boards, four assists) were terrific for the Clippers.

We’ll see you tomorrow night in San Diego.

Lord Stanley Visits the Lakers

The Stanley Cup continues to make the rounds around Los Angeles and Sunday night that included visiting a place that it knows very well, STAPLES Center. Except this time the hardwood was down on the floor instead of the ice.

As the team exited the locker room following their postgame media obligations they were able to stop and spend a moment with the most historical trophy in sports. Here’s a look at Dwight Howard, Mike Brown and Metta World Peace checking out the cup. Thanks to the LA Kings for sharing the big guy with us for an evening.

Injury Update: Kobe’s Foot

Kobe Bryant, who hurt his foot in the third quarter of L.A.’s Sunday preseason loss to Sacramento, will not play in either of the team’s final two preseason games on Wednesday and Thursday.

After missing Tuesday’s practice, Bryant called the foot “painful,” and said he would probably not play against the Clippers on Wednesday even if it were a regular season game.

Bryant strained the foot when accidentally making contact with a Kings opponent, as opposed to being kicked.

Kobe added that it wasn’t the worst thing that it happened at this particular time, since he’d been going so hard in preseason every day his body could perhaps use a bit of rest.

Bryant will be re-evaluated over the weekend to check his status in advance of Tuesday evening’s season opener against Dallas.

VIDEO: Kobe talks after Tuesday’s practice.

Dwight Howard Update:
Expect Howard to sit out of Wednesday’s game just to rest, but play in Thursday’s contest in San Diego. He came through his first preseason game quite well on Sunday, but the team decided not to have him play in games on back-to-back nights.

Sports Illustrated Cover

Offseason additions Steve Nash & Dwight Howard are featured on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated NBA Preview issue. “All 30 Teams, One New King of the West”

Quote Round Up: Kobe Post Practice

Here are some thoughts from Kobe Bryant after practice. Full video is above.

KOBE BRYANT
Q: On how his foot feels:
Kobe: It’s alright. It’s pretty sore.

Q: On if he sees this as a setback for the team:
Kobe: Not really. It’s probably pretty good that it happened. It slowed me down a bit. I’ve been going full bore pretty much every day.

Q: On if he’d play tomorrow:
Kobe: Probably not.

Q: On if he’d play if it was a regular season game:
Kobe: Probably not.

Q: On level of pain:
Kobe: Pretty high.

Q: On what he’s looking for from teammates without him:
Kobe: Just looking for our second unit to establish an identity, an aggressive tone, a physicality that they’ve played with that can alter games – that’s what I’m looking for. Our first unit, we know what we’re going to do, we know how we’re going to execute, we know what our identity is, so we’re looking for our second group to establish themselves.

Q: On if he was impressed with Dwight’s play in his first game:
Kobe: Yeah, but he’s been in practice running like a deer; he’s been up and down the whole time. I knew he was going to go out there and perform well … my biggest concern was the day after; he was pretty sore the next day. He hasn’t played in awhile and it doesn’t matter what kind of conditioning you do. When you get back out there, you get up and down a little bit, it’s always a big difference.

Q: On how he feels about his injury considering how well he takes care of his body:
Kobe: It’s always frustrating – freak accidents. It always upsets me.

Q: On his advice to Dwight regarding injuries:
Kobe: Be patient, be smart and listen to your body. That’s the biggest thing – listening to your body and not trying to get too far ahead of yourself. Just listen to your body and get your treatments, even when you feel like you’re 100 percent and just make sure you’re doing your physical therapy.

Q: On how he admires Grant Hill and how he’s been able to maintain his health:
Kobe: There’s a certain mutual respect that goes along with that. I know what goes into the preparation and the daily grind … the fact that he’s been able to do it for a long period of time is remarkable.

Building Team Chemistry

(all photos by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Lakers Injury Update: 10/22

Generally speaking, the Lakers can feel good about their collective bill of health with the regular season approaching very quickly.

With that said, here’s an update on the guys carrying minor injuries:

Dwight Howard: back surgery in April
Howard’s play in his first preseason contest on Sunday against Sacramento speaks for itself: 19 points on 8 of 12 FG’s and 3 of 8 FT’s, 12 rebounds, four blocks and five turnovers in 33 minutes. He was explosive (see: three alley-oop dunks and the swats), fast (getting back in transition) and durable (popping up after a tough fall). Howard said he felt just fine after the game, and certainly appeared to be 100 percent. That’s the best “injury news” for which the Lakers could have hoped.

Jordan Hill: herniated disc
Hill has now participated in three consecutive full practices, saying after Saturday’s extended session that he “did everything” and feels “good.” Mike Brown confirmed on Monday that it shouldn’t be long before we see Hill return to game action, good news especially for L.A.’s second unit, which can use his energy and athleticism inside. His return will also give Brown a chance to look at his rotation as it will be in the regular season, with Hill playing backup power forward alongside either Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, with Antawn Jamison most likely moving to the three.

Kobe Bryant: Strained/bruised right foot:
During the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Bryant was kicked in the right foot, causing a strain and bruising of the area. He didn’t practice on Monday and is listed as day-to-day. It’s not thought to be at all serious, however, which is conveyed by the “day-to-day” listing and the fact that Bryant returned to the court and finished the game. And, well, because nothing ever keeps Kobe off the court.

Steve Nash: ankle
Nash rolled his ankle when Isaiah Thomas came crashing in looking for a steal in the backcourt in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, but he returned to action after being taped in the locker room. Nash said that the ankle was a bit sore after the game, but felt good enough to practice on Monday. He’s fine.