Monthly Archive for October, 2012

Page 4 of 6

LAL 86, Utah 99: Preseason Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday evening preseason contest against Utah, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Sacre
Jazz: Mo Williams, G. Hayward, Marvin Williams, D. Favors, A. Jefferson

11:30 In what Lakers fans hope is a harbinger for the rest of the season, L.A. opened its scoring with a pull-up jumper by Kobe Bryant, pulling up in transition off a feed from Steve Nash. Nash was awarded a huge ovation having been introduced to STAPLES Center for the first time, but of course, it wasn’t quite as loud as Kobe’s cheer. A few minutes later, Bryant fed Pau Gasol with a between-the-legs pass in transition for the Spaniard’s dunk, putting L.A. up 13-7.

0:00 L.A. led by as many as 10 when Antawn Jamison hit a three after entering, before the Jazz closed on a 10-3 run to trail 25-22. Bryant’s seven points led the way, while rookie Robert Sacre grabbed four of his six boards on the offensive end, continuing to play solid ball for the 60th pick in the draft.

1:41 Utah cut the lead to as few as one at 31-30, but with Bryant back in and scoring with ease (15 points), a 10-0 run put L.A. up 11. Kobe also had three dimes, matching Nash, with the ball moving around swiftly.

0:00 Despite shooting only 32.5 percent from the field, the Lakers found themselves with a 46-35 lead into the half, thanks to some excellent energy on D and Bryant’s general aggressiveness (12 free throw attempts). L.A. took care of the ball, turning it over only five times to Utah’s eight, and grabbed 28 rebounds to Utah’s 22 (10 offensive, five from Sacre).

6:10 A pretty extra pass from Kobe got Gasol a dunk, keeping L.A. up six, as Bryant’s five dimes matched those of Nash. On the previous possession, Nash hit his first jumper of the game after starting out 0 for 5, so shocking that he and Nash exchanged a laugh after the Canadian’s swish. But turnovers (seven in the first eight minutes after only five in the first half) and some uninspired play saw Utah start a run…

3:13 The rough quarter continued for L.A. as Utah, down 11 at the half, suddenly led 65-60 as Al Jefferson capped a big run. If we’re being honest, the Lakers simply weren’t playing as hard on both ends after building their lead … but hey, it’s preseason. With that said, Mike Brown told his players he wanted better effort on D and less fouling (Utah was parading to the foul line), and better ball movement from side-to-side on O. Out of the timeout, the players responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 65.

3:48 The starters were done late in the third, none playing more than Gasol’s 27:44, leading 69-67, but Utah’s bench ran away from the third unit of the Lakers (Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Devin Ebanks, Reeves Nelson and Greg Somogyi) to lead 90-80 as the clock ticked down. Granted, the Jazz had lottery picks like Enes Kanter (14 points, 14 boards) on the floor, to L.A.’s second rounders and undrafted free agents.

0:00 The final: Utah 99, Lakers 86. L.A. fell for a third straight preseason game, with the bright spot of the night coming from Bryant and his 18 points, eight boards and five assists with two steals in 24 minutes. Goudelock and CDR made some nice plays off the pine down the stretch, with Darius Johnson-Odom pitching in as well.

Darius Morris To Receive Backup Minutes

Minutes were few and far in between for Lakers guard Darius Morris a season ago.

Despite this, Morris put in the work this summer, training at the team’s practice facility on most days. Lakers coach Mike Brown noted the second-year player’s growth.

“The one thing he’s doing a better job of is utilizing or understanding how to use his quickness to his advantage on both ends of the floor, especially offensively,” Brown said. “He’s worked extremely hard on his shooting. It was tough for us to put him out on the floor with spacing purposes, but because he’s had some time under his belt and worked extremely hard on his game, I’m excited for him.”

Brown noted the preseason will be used to determine how he will play certain guys come the regular season. In this case, Morris will be the first point guard off the bench in the team’s third preseason game.

Steve Blake, the assumed backup point guard for the regular season, will be held out of tonight’s contest.

Howard Making Progress

It’s been a long road to recovery for Dwight Howard.

The new Lakers center was just cleared for full contact drills on Monday, Oct. 9. He is still getting his feel back and his touch back, he says, but he’s making progress.

At one point while with the Orlando Magic last season, Howard recalls an instance where the pain was just too much for him to bear.

“There was a practice where I couldn’t even bend over,” he said. “I just felt it all the way down my leg and that’s when I knew something was wrong. I went home and the doctor said: ‘If you can’t do a calf raise, you need to have surgery.’ And I couldn’t do it.”

So he sought medical help.

He spent two days in the hospital after the late April operation, but trying to rehab and trying to regain strength became difficult.

“I didn’t want to hurt myself because I felt like I would re-injure myself,” Howard said. “I couldn’t bend over, I couldn’t lift anything over five pounds and I couldn’t do any kind of movements, so it was kind of tough.”

As Howard put it, post-surgery was “scary.” He was expected to miss the beginning of the regular season, maybe even the entire month of November.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that when I hurt my back, it affected my nerves to the point where my whole left leg was just dead,” Howard explained. “I basically couldn’t do a calf raise.”

Despite all this, the Howard is almost back to his old self again. In 5-on-5 drills in practice, the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year impressed his teammates with his play on both ends, highlighted by a big swat at the rim.

“He’s looking incredible,” said Kobe Bryant. “That defensive play was one of those plays that maybe Bill Russell can make and that’s about it. He was literally out of bounds and flew in and stopped a dunk and it was sensational.”

It’s L.A.’s collective hope that Howard will be erasing shots in games that count sooner than later.

Quote Round Up: Postgame vs. Portland

Here’s a transcription up of postgame interviews with Mike Brown*, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, assembled by Intern Trevor.
*Click on each name to watch the video.

Q: On the team’s play in second preseason game:
Brown: In the first half — in the first quarter particularly — our defense gambled too much. Every time we gambled, it seemed like they scored on us. Once we settled down defensively and started playing by our principles and giving the multiple efforts that we needed to contesting and rebounding, I thought we got some stops. Offensively — the first group and the second group a little bit in the first half — we did a nice job of trying to execute our offense. We got some wide open shots … offensively, we were pretty good in the first half.

Q: On the chemistry between players that haven’t played before:
Brown: Chemistry is great, but when you have Jordan Hill out, Kobe (Bryant) out and Dwight (Howard) out, the guys that are playing together aren’t going to play together a ton this coming season. So what I’m looking for, more than anything else, is individual performances in terms of is: ‘Is a guy playing defense the right way, is a guy trying to help his teammates get better by spacing the floor, making the right cuts, making the right reads offensively?’ And then when he gets a chance to knock down shots, he doesn’t look like he’s in panic mode out there. So there are a few things I’m looking for individually on both ends of the floor more than anything else because I still don’t know who’s going to play when it comes to my backup point, my backup two, my backup three, my backup four and my backup five.

Q: On why the game got out of hand in the second half:
Brown: Well, there are a couple reasons: We had over a 2-hour practice today, so maybe it could be their legs. I’ve been working them pretty hard, but Portland just outworked us. Everything that they did, it was harder, sharper, better, quicker and we did not – in the second half – give a multiple effort to contest the rebound. We made one effort and then we stopped and we just watched. And they got open shots, they got loose balls, they got layups, they got whatever they wanted because we didn’t give the multiple effort to contest the rebound in the second half.

Q: On distributing minutes to starters in the second half going forward in the preseason:
Brown: I’ll continue to do that. Pau (Gasol) needs to work on his conditioning some, Metta (World Peace) needs to work on it a little bit, too. But I’ll continue to give the guys that start minutes into the second half, and then eventually, I’ll play the rotation right. But right now, I’m going to stick with what I did tonight. I’m going to change up some of the guys in our next game. I’m going to give some other guys the backup minutes so I can continue to look at individual guys and different combinations to find out where I want to go with that second unit.

Q: On if anybody moved up on depth chart based on second preseason game:
Brown: I need to go back and watch the tape. Darius Morris, the few minutes he got, were solid. (Andrew) Goudelock’s minutes were solid. Jodie Meeks didn’t knock down shots, but I thought defensively he was good, I thought he got a lot of loose balls, I thought he got some rebounds and I thought he was a presence out there. He just didn’t make shots, so that’s the type of stuff I’m looking for. Offensively, he was never in a hurry. He took what the defense gave him, he kind of understood and knew what we were trying to do offensively. I was impressed with Jodie’s toughness, his composure, his pace, what he did defensively, how he got after some loose balls and some long rebounds.

Q: On what he’s seen from the team thus far:
Nash: We’re continuing to find moments where we see a familiarity and an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish on both ends of the floor. Right now, we’ve gone over a lot. We’ve had long days and we’re not necessarily producing the way we’d like to, but we’re showing glimpses of all that time on the court. And all that new territory we’ve been covering is paying off. We have to have faith that we’re doing the right things and just continue to grow day by day.

Q: On what team needs to work on:
Nash: We always want to hang our hats on the defensive end of the floor, so for us to shore up that side of the ball will always be number one. But again, the offense is a big, vast, new sea of understanding and knowledge for us, so we’re all trying to not only learn it, but learn how to play together out of it. That takes time and we’re not going to get it in two preseason games. We’re probably not going to get it in eight preseason games. We’re going to have to continue to improve throughout the season.

Q: On how Jodie Meeks filled in for Kobe and Robert Sacre filled in for Dwight:
Nash: It felt good. I thought we had a pretty good little (connection) going out there with the first unit. The ball moved, we created a lot of open shots, we didn’t finish at a rate we’re capable of, but I thought we did a good job executing. We just didn’t make shots tonight. Jodie did a good job, got some open looks and knocked some down. He missed some, but we know he can make them. Robert is a rookie and he’s done very well.
Continue reading ‘Quote Round Up: Postgame vs. Portland’

LAL 75, Portland 93: Preseason Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening preseason contest against Portland with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Nash, Meeks*, World Peace, Gasol and Sacre
Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, Hickson
*We learned just before the game that Kobe Bryant wouldn’t play due to a strained right shoulder he suffered dunking on Antawn Jamison at Tuesday’s practice. He’s listed as day-to-day and will be fine, as he’d tell me on Time Warner Cable SportsNet during the second quarter.

6:20 Well, Lakers fans are sure going to enjoy watching Steve Nash play this season. In the first minute, he controlled the offense entirely, pulling up for a pretty jumper, and setting up three teammates for looks near the rim resulting in either a bucket or free throws.

0:00 The Blazers took a 25-21 lead out of the first quarter largely behind LaMarcus Aldridge, who made 4 of 7 shots for 10 points, while Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol had six points apiece for the home team. The biggest ovation of the quarter, however, came when Bryant and Dwight Howard walked out of the tunnel in street clothes.

7:50 Chris Douglas-Roberts offered a nice boost off the bench, the training camp signee who’s fighting to make the team pulling up for a deep three to tighten the gap. Preseason is always enjoyable to the diehards for that purpose, seeing players try to live up to their dreams.

0:00 Watching Nash play is just a lot of fun. Cut shot to everyone agreeing. He had seven points, four assists, three boards and two steals at the half, and should have had eight assists since three other dishes led to free throws, and Gasol missed an open dunk when the ball slipped out of his hands. At the break, thanks to Nash, we were tied at 44 despite only 38 percent Lakers shooting.

3:13 Nash continued to play well, hitting an open jumper off Gasol’s O board and assist, but Portland led by 10 thanks to some hot shooting on the other end. Rookie Damian Lillard was impressing with a game-high 14 points, plus seven assists. Of course, it’s really hard to measure L.A.’s defense when Howard’s not playing, as he’ll have such a massive impact as the league’s best player on that end.

0:00 Continuing to get a look was Douglas-Roberts, joining bench regulars Blake, Ebanks and Jamison on the floor alongside Sacre; his two free throws off a strong drive gave him five points, though L.A. trailed by 15 after the period. We had yet to see Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock or Darius Johnson-Odom, all fighting for a roster spot.

5:31 The Blazers opened an 85-68 lead halfway through the final quarter, shooting 43.4 percent and grabbing 41 to L.A.’s 36 boards, taking advantage of 15 Lakers turnovers. Mike Brown looked the opposite of concerned on the bench, with Kobe and Howard next to him in street clothes. #preseason

0:00 Your final: Blazers 93, Lakers 75. Nash was the standout, finishing with 13 points, four dimes, four boards and two steals in 25 minutes, while World Peace continued his strong preseason with 12 points and five boards with three dimes and a swipe in 29 minutes. Up next: Utah on Saturday at STAPLES Center. See you there.

Kobe Out vs. Blazers

From Mike Trudell’s @LakersReporter twitter account:
Kobe Bryant will not play tonight due to a right shoulder strain. He’s listed as day to day.

Rifleman vs. Mamba

Click picture to enlarge

After getting his extra stretching in and talking with the media, Kobe Bryant was back on the floor working with player development coach Phil Handy. As Bryant drilled with Handy, assistant coach Chuck Person walked by and wanted a shot at guarding Kobe one-on-one.

After a couple jab steps and ball fakes put the Rifleman on his heels, the Black Mamba slipped to his right and flushed it home (much to the delight of support staff members JJ Outlaw and Kyle Triggs).

Bryant to Retire in Two Years? Who Knows

Here’s what we know for sure: Kobe Bryant will definitely be playing for the Los Angeles Lakers for the next two seasons.

After that, it’s anybody’s guess.

The five-time champion has raised the idea of retirement when his contract is up following the 2013-14 season multiple times, while at the same time leaving the door open for him to continue playing if he so chooses.

“It’s not like it’s a big revelation,” he explained after Tuesday’s practice session. “I’ve been saying that for the last two years now. It’s my 17th season coming up and I’ve been fortunate enough to play for so long … there’s a lot of basketball to be played.”

Bryant was amused at the focus on what may or may not happen two years from now, which certainly isn’t where he or the team is concentrating, regardless of how many times he’s asked about it.

“You (media members) asked me a million questions about what’s going to happen (two) years from now,” he said with a smirk. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in two hours.”

Bryant capped his previous two hours of practicing by uncorking back-to-back massive dunks through traffic to help his team win a 5-on-5 scrimmage, subsequently explaining that he hasn’t felt this good physically since 2006.

So, yes, Bryant knows we’re all (rightfully) interested, but there’s absolutely no way he can know today, Oct. 9, 2012, how he’s going to feel on Oct. 9, 2014, either mentally or physically. We’d be better off trying to enjoy watching one of the NBA’s best ever play this season than trying to read his future mind.

“I said when I was 17 that by 35 I’d be done, so it’s nothing new,” he concluded. “(Retirement) will come. It’s inevitable. I’m not going to play 25 years.”

Bryant has already played the 19th most regular season minutes of any player in the game’s history (42,377) and ranks second behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in playoff minutes (8,641), but let’s try to remember that he’s not stopping today.

There’s a lot of Kobe left to see.

Injury Update: Jordan Hill

Lakers backup power forward Jordan Hill, who was diagnosed with a herniated disc on Monday, sat out of Tuesday’s practice. A timetable for his return is uncertain.

“It’s not too bad, but definitely unfortunate that it happened,” he said. “Just got to take it one day (at a time), rehab it and get better.”

Hill said he is not sure exactly when he first suffered the injury, though he still managed to finish L.A.’s opening preseason game at Fresno on Sunday with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes of first half action.

Nonetheless, the Arizona product maintains his injury is not too serious.

“It wasn’t really that much pain, but it was just the feeling I had never had before, so I just wanted to check it and make sure to see if it was OK,” he said. “The MRI showed something was wrong with it, but not too serious.”

Despite no estimated timetable on his return, Lakers coach Mike Brown remains optimistic that the team will be fine without Hill.

“We can slide Antawn  (Jamison) to the four, obviously Pau (Gasol) will start at the four and Earl Clark can play the four, too, so we have plenty of bodies we can play there.”

Howard Cleared for 5-on-5 Scrimmages

Marking the next step of his rehabilitation process from back surgery in April, Dwight Howard was cleared on Tuesday for full contact, 5-on-5 scrimmages with his teammates.

With that clearance came a minutes limit for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, as he’ll work back in steadily instead of all at once. Howard had previously participated in 5-on-5-on-5 drills, but had been kept out of full 5-on-5 scrimmages.

What’s the difference? The former rotates three teams in and out — often, the team getting a defensive stop stays on the court — while the latter mimics game action.

Howard is not expected to play in the team’s second preseason game against Portland in Ontario at 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening.