Monthly Archive for February, 2013

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About That Pick & Roll…

For good reason, there’s been an increased focus upon L.A.’s pick and roll offense lately, centered upon Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and how things can improve.

Before the season started, that combination seemed an immediate and obvious solution to all things on offense, but for many reasons, things have not worked out that way … at least not just yet.

“Dwight was taught to pick, roll to the basket, seal and get the ball,” explained assistant coach Dan D’Antoni. “He wasn’t pick, get the ball and then move. Steve is used to coming off the initial pick and delivering the ball without waiting on the seal. It’s a combination that takes time.”

But that may very well be changing, as witnessed not only in Wednesday’s blowout win over Boston, but in the last several games, as Howard and Nash seem to have found some common ground.

“Steve (and I) talked (today) about the last three or four games in our pick-and-rolls,” said Howard. “He’s been doing a good job of allowing me to come set a screen, I’ve doing a good job of hitting his man and I’m able to get a good roll and he’s been able to get a good shot – and we just got to continue to do it.”

In Orlando, Howard said he was used to hitting the guard with a solid screen and forcing the man guarding him to help on the ball-handler. In the first half of this season, Howard said he more often only got a small piece of the guard defending his point guard and then got out, slipping to the rim. He thinks if he gets back to making solid contact – as he did to free Nash multiple times against Boston – things will continue to improve.

“Once you do that for awhile in the season, the refs become accustomed to it and you can hit guys harder and teams start worrying about the pick and roll more,” the center offered. “It’s something we’re trying to get used to.”

“Just attention to it and really trying to make it a bigger facet of what our team does,” added Nash. “It’s important for us to put pressure on the defense and the pick and roll allows us to get penetration, allows us to get Dwight rolling to the basket and opens up other guys, so the options out of it are tenfold. Hats off to Dwight. He’s really been hunting my guy and trying to get me a little space where I can create (of late).”

However we dissect the variations of screen-roll offense, Mike D’Antoni said that a lot of it is just about effort and communication between the two participants.

“I think they’re developing a little better chemistry,” the coach said of Howard and Nash. “I’ve talked about it the last three or four games, and again, I think people had a little more pep to their step – and it works.

“Dwight didn’t play in October. He was hurt. That’s one. Two, (the) offense (under former coach Mike Brown) wasn’t a pick-and-roll structured offense, so they didn’t do it a lot. Three, I get here and Steve is out eight weeks and Dwight is still trying to find his legs. There were a lot of things going on and then we got sidetracked.”

Howard said that it took “two or three years to really get the pick and roll down” in Orlando, but that it was “virtually unstoppable” once figured out.

As for this season … and beyond?

“There’s still time for improvement and we have years to play with each other,” he concluded. “It’s a learning process.”

Lakers – Celtics Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 113-99 win against Boston:

10,144
Career assists for Steve Nash, who passed Magic Johnson for No. 4 all-time in NBA history (10,141) feeding Antawn Jamison for a baseline bucket. “It’s crazy,” Nash said of the accomplishment. “I definitely didn’t see that coming when I was 15 years old. What can I say? He’s an idol of mine. I grew up watching him and idolizing him and trying to emulate him. To do it here in L.A. with this franchise is definitely special.”

49
Rebounds for the Lakers, with Earl Clark (16, a career-high) and Dwight Howard (12) combining for 28. L.A. owned a plus-15 in this category after getting outrebounded 36-30 in the last meeting on Feb. 7 at Boston. The home team also grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, leading to 17 second-chance points, compared to the Celtics seven.

22
Plus-rating for Howard, who finished with a team-high 24 points, to go along with 12 boards, one steal and one block. In the first quarter alone, the big man recorded 12 points and six rebounds in helping the Lakers jump out to a 36-27 lead. “I think he’s had some good games, but he was definitely great tonight,” Nash said of Howard’s play. “He really tried to work and do the little things for his teammates. He can make a such big impact on the game regardless of the stat sheet if he plays with a belief, hunger and energy.”

7
Laker players in double figures, including all five starters. The offensive balance was evident as all seven players who finished with double-digit points had at least seven field-goal attempts. In the second half, L.A. recorded 14 assists on 19 made field-goals. “We moved bodies (on offense) and moved the ball and made it tough on their defense,” Nash said. “I think it gives us a little more of an identity. We don’t have guys standing around as much at the end of the game, so I think it fueled us on both ends of the floor to have that movement.”

3
Points for Paul Pierce – all on free throws – as he failed to convert on his two shot attempts in 12 minutes after halftime. This was after the Kansas product recorded 23 in the opening 24 minutes of play (9 of 15 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from deep). Pierce played just a single minute in the fourth as the Lakers lead swelled to as many as 22 points with Boston on the second game of a back-to-back (played at Denver the previous night).

Lakers 113, Celtics 99: Feb. 20 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest against Boston, 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, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Celtics: A. Bradley, C. Lee, P. Pierce, B. Bass, K. Garnett

FIRST QUARTER
6:41 On an evening that was 100 percent about Dr. Jerry Buss, the greatest owner in pro sports history, the energy in the building was fantastic. Much of the sold out crowd stood in applause all the way through the tribute video for Dr. Buss until tip off, and the energy carried through to the court for both teams in a fast start. L.A. claimed a lead behind the fourth field goal from Dwight Howard, all at the rim against the smaller Celtics with Kevin Garnett at center, his put-back of Earl Clark’s miss making it 16-15 for L.A. despite 66.7 percent shooting from the visitors.

3:00 The great energy continued for the Lakers, who rolled off a 10-0 run to take control of the game, the lead pushing to 27-19 when Steve Nash pulled up for a jump shot on Howard’s first assist. Dwight had amassed 10 points, six boards, a block, a steal and that dime in just eight minutes, perhaps showing his appreciation for the comments from Mitch Kupchak. The lead was nine after one at 36-27, thanks mostly to terrific effort on both ends from the home team.

SECOND QUARTER
8:41 L.A. really miss Pau Gasol as a second rim protector, and after a 6-0 Boston run cut a 14-point lead to eight (Steve Blake hit a three and Metta World Peace a jumper to push it there), Howard returned to the action. He missed a potential and-1 around KG on the first offensive trip, hitting 1 of 2 (3 of 4 total) to reach a game-high 13 points.

1:52 The second triple from World Peace got him to 4 of 8, a big key for the Lakers since Metta had been above 50 percent from the field only twice in 2013. Boston had trimmed the lead to five, but the fifth LAL triple restored a double-digit lead at 60-50. Nash had it working on offense, meanwhile, dropping five of his six attempts for 12 points to match Kobe (3 of 8, 6 of 7 free throws). At the break, the lead would be nine, behind four starters in double figures and a 28-19 edge on the glass. Los Angeles native Pierce kept the Celtics around with a great individual half, hitting 9 of 15 shots for 23 points.

THIRD QUARTER
7:53 A terrific start to the second half was punctuated by two fantastic passes from 17-year NBA vets Nash and Bryant, the Canadian lofting an alley-oop for Howard (dunk), and the American throwing a beautiful behind-the-head no-look pass to Clark (dunk) that capped a 10-0 run, blowing the game open a bit at 75-57.

2:50 Bryant and Nash continued the collective passing clinic of a third quarter, combining for seven of their 12 to keep the Lakers up 18 at 85-67. Amidst the dimes, Nash became the fourth greatest passer in the history of the NBA, feeding Jamison for a baseline bucket. Pretty incredible, as he passed his idol Magic Johnson, with only Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd and John Stockton above him. Boston got a mini-run going to cut the lead to 14 heading into the final quarter, but L.A. remained in control.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:52 The bench picked things up for the starters, with Jamison reaching 15 points behind a triple and two foul shots, and Blake eight points with his three assists to push the lead up to 19, matching the biggest lead of the ball game as Nash and Bryant got some rest. Clark was also very good, adding some nice defense on KG (6 of 14 field goals), a guy he looked up to growing up, with his 10-point and 12-rebound double-double.

4:26 If the game were in any doubt (it wasn’t), Nash dished consecutive dimes to Clark, pushing the latter’s double-double to 14 points with a career-high 15 boards (L.A. was dominating that category 47-31) and keeping the lead at 20 (108-88). The seven assists for Nash matched those of Bryant, who had returned for a few minutes when Boston trimmed the lead to just 16 near the six-minute mark.

0:00 It was, without question, a victory Dr. Buss could be proud of. Lakers 113, Celtics 99.

D’Antoni and Kupchak Reflect On Dr. Buss

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and General Manager Mitch Kupchak took questions from assembled media members in advance of Tuesday’s practice regarding the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as other topics. Here’s what they had to say:

MIKE D’ANTONI
Q: On Dr. Buss’ reputation around the league:
D’Antoni: Obviously he might be the best owner ever in any sport – definitely one of the tops. One of the main reasons Los Angeles had all the success was he was like a magnet to players to get deals done and to have the best franchise out there. It went on for 30 years, so it definitely wasn’t a fluke.

Q: On his thoughts for the second half of the season:
D’Antoni: We need to make the playoffs. We have to make a run. Every game is going to be extremely important. If it weren’t before, then a little more now. Historically, everybody ups their game a little bit and you try to make a last run. We’re going to see if we can get it done. It’s a heck of a challenge, but I think guys are up for it. I’m looking forward to it.

Q: On what will be different in the second half of the season for the team:
D’Antoni: Hopefully the urgency. We’ve turned the corner 15 times so far, but we keep falling back in the same traps. Maybe the urgency will help keep us on the right path. There are no guarantees, but that’s definitely our plan.

Q: On meeting Dr. Buss and the last time he spoke with him:
D’Antoni: I haven’t really spoken to him. Never even met him. We don’t run in the same circles. You only hear great things and what he’s meant to the sport is beyond … I do know that he brought an up tempo game and Showtime, and he’s done so much for the city of Los Angeles, for this franchise and for the sport. You can’t calculate what he means to an organization.

Q: On if there’s anything he needs to change in terms of his approach:
D’Antoni: We’re going to try everything. We’ll probably try to expand some guys’ games. Maybe throw a couple wrinkles in that you always will do.

Q: On if the organization can continue on the path already established without Dr. Buss:
D’Antoni: Yeah, I think so. Just the aura of playing as a Laker and living in Los Angeles is a destination place and where players want to be. I think the organization has always been first class and I think it’ll stay that way. I think it’s something special to be here, even though we’re underwater with our record. It’s still a great place to be.

Q: On if this is one of the most difficult stretches of his coaching career:
D’Antoni: Yeah, by far. Because before you can kind of go: ‘Well, OK we didn’t have enough talent to get there.’ We have the pieces. It’s just not fitting together and it’s frustrating.

Q: On if he’s having fun this season:
D’Antoni: I don’t think it’s fun. Coaching might not even be fun anyway. It’s intriguing. It consumes you. Obviously I love to do this. This is challenging. I hope the players feel the same way. It can’t be fun for them, but at the same time, you can make it a lot of fun in the sense that we have a challenge and it’s something that we can do. It’s in our hands.

Q: On if it’s more chemistry and understanding roles as opposed to X’s and O’s as to what the team needs:
D’Antoni: A little bit of everything. Chemistry will go back to personalities and I think those are the things that are blown out. We have to be able to fit the pieces together and make sure the ball is being at different places that people can feel comfortable at what they do. We got to get Steve (Nash) more pick-and-rolls, we got to get Dwight (Howard) to post up more, we got to get the ball moving a little bit so that people can feel better about their game. A lot has been made on the personality side and whether it’s blown out of proportion, there’s some truth to it. Big deal. On the court is where we’re having our problems with the chemistry.

Q: On if he used the All-Star break to get away:
D’Antoni: Yes, I did. It was great. I watched my son’s last high school game, which was fun. He played well. I didn’t see any basketball other than that.

Q: On if there’s any need to get another player considering the struggles of the team this season:
D’Antoni: That’s something I’m sure (Mitch Kupchak) is going to explore and you can say something that will reflect on somebody. He’s going to explore all the possibilities. Again, I remain convinced that we have enough to do something right now and it’ll be pretty good.

Q: On if there’s a number in his head that the team needs to reach to make the playoffs:
D’Antoni: I would think everybody can do the math. We have to get in the 20’s – 20 or up. You won’t make the playoffs I don’t think with less than 45 wins. You might need more or a little less, but it has to be in that area somewhere.

MITCH KUPCHAK
Q: On his thoughts on Dr. Buss:
Kupchak: He brought me here in 1981 as a player and here it is 32 years later. It’s a weird feeling. Although I wasn’t kept in the loop about his progress the last couple of months, the sense was because I work with the family that I could tell the last month or so wasn’t good. Yesterday was an empty day. I couldn’t seem to find a place where I was comfortable – a room, a car, a place, a house. A major loss and person for obvious reasons. A man that brought me to Los Angeles as a player for some reason and kept me on for an additional 27 years, which is unheard of in this business. The family members were my age when I came here. To a great degree, I grew up with Jeanie (Buss), Johnny (Buss), Jim (Buss) and Janie (Buss). Joey (Buss) and Jesse (Buss) have become more involved in the last five or six years and I feel I know them. But the older four children, to a large degree, I grew up with them.

Q: On how responsibility he feels to carry on the Laker brand:
Kupchak: Ownership will continue to carry on the brand of the organization. I’m down in the field. Nobody understands what this franchise means to Los Angeles more than Jeanie and Jim and the family. Nobody does. To the extent that they’ll let me, after spending 32 years with Jerry, I think I have a feeling what he wants, too.

Q: On if he sensed the team going all in at the beginning of the year knowing Dr. Buss’ situation:
Kupchak: It was never presented to me that way. Maybe in Jim’s mind, that was something he wanted to do. Maybe it was subconscious, but it wasn’t presented that way. Each thing that took place during the offseason was separate segments. Both segments we felt at the time, and independent of each other, were something we had to do.

Q: On the loss of Dr. Buss knowing how long he’s known him:
Kupchak: Like I said, it’s unheard of in this business to be with an organization for as long as I’ve been with an organization. I’ve grown up with the family. It’s very sad to see his ownership come to an end. The saving grace is that everybody in his family continues to work for the organization and it will continue, and it will carry on in the Buss name. So I suppose like with a lot of franchises and sports franchises where somebody of Dr. Buss’ stature would pass away, there’s issues with ownership changes. That’s not the case here. We have a great opportunity to carry on his legacy as family members, John (Black), myself and everybody else that works for the organization as employees.

Q: On if basketball decisions will be made by Jim and himself going forward:
Kupchak: Correct. Up until I don’t know the exact date … I last saw Dr. Buss in the hospital in October and I know he was very involved with the decision to change coaches. At some point in maybe December or January, he became much less involved. So really, Jim and I have been working hand in hand for two or three months now. I have not seen Dr. Buss since my visit in October, so I don’t know what the extent was in his involvement other than he watched all the games. At the one point when Time Warner wasn’t available to everybody, they were able to figure out how to get the game on an iPad at the hospital through a code with Time Warner or something like that. There was a period where he watched several games on an iPad, but he watched every game and he loved his Lakers.

Q: On if he feels Dr. Buss engendered respect and goodwill throughout the league:
Kupchak: I think you see that right now with the outpouring of love, affection and respect. A lot of owners and organizations have put out statements. There are so many more ways to communicate today … just yesterday looking at the tweets and statements. Like I said, the family knew this was imminent. It was something they were prepared for. Nonetheless, going through a day like yesterday has to be pretty tough on everybody. Yet to see the outpouring of support, love and respect for this man, it had to make the family feel really good.

Q: On what he will take the most with him in working with Dr. Buss:
Kupchak: He was a loyal man. I guess the one thing … he always came at a problem from a different space. You could think that you had all the angles covered in an acquisition, trade, free agent, or a problem and you’ll sit down with him and out of the blue, he’d come at you from a different angle – a very unique angle. Most of the time, the conversation that followed was productive. He would never say he was right all the time, but he had a unique way of looking at almost every problem. I was never able to exactly precisely predict what I was in for when I’d meet with him.

Q: On how he will continue that going forward:
Kupchak: We’ll work on it. Jim and I and Jeanie will continue to work on it. He can’t be replaced if that’s what you’re asking me. Is there a way to replace him and do exactly what he did and how he did it? No. We’ll just have to attack it our own way.

Q: On how it is working with Jeanie and Jim compared to Dr. Buss:
Kupchak: The one thing I just mentioned. As years went on, he was never a man that was in the office at nine in the morning. You might see him leaving the office at nine in the morning, but you really didn’t see him walk in the office at nine in the morning. His hours were unusual and with the family members, it’s more predictable. Jim and I stay in much closer contact than his dad and I did, and Jeanie the same. She’s in the office every day – normal executive work hours. He was a little bit different in his approach to business, but always accessible. Quick to move to his cell phone; when they came out, quick with technology and very easy to reach at any point in time. A lot of our work is done in the offseason and done in the summer time. He would typically leave the country and go to Italy for six weeks. We always had a way of communicating. We’d pick a certain time. It was never a five-star hotel, but it was a nice hotel. The phone would ring downstairs in the lobby and the guy that answered the phone spoke Italian. He’d have to go up to the room, knock on the door and have Dr. Buss come down. It was a boutique kind of a situation. It was never easy, but it always worked.

Q: On if there were any memories that that came to mind in particular when hearing the news of Dr. Buss passing away:
Kupchak: There are really too many – a lot of which I could share and a lot of which I couldn’t share, to be honest with you. Magic (Johnson) tells a great story when they decided to bring me on board as a player. Him and Dr. Buss went on a picnic somewhere I believe in Palm Springs. They set up a nice blanket and basket. I don’t tell the story that well, but at that point in time, Dr. Buss said: ‘Listen, if you can bring one player to Los Angeles, Earvin, who would it be and tell me the people you’d like to play with.’ As Earvin tells his story, he said it was me and that was it. It was done. Although at that point I had some other possibilities, Dr. Buss made his mind up. To me, that’s a very flattering story that reflects my beginning here in Los Angeles and very unusual to work for one organization as long as I have.

Q: On what it has meant for the city and for the team to be family owned the way it has been:
Kupchak: The business was run by family members as a family. A lot of the employees here today have been here for many years. Bob Steiner was in this morning in my office and we were reflecting days 20-25 years ago at The Forum. A lot of people that worked for us then. Of course, as years go on, a person will leave one year; two or three years later, another person will leave. After 10 years, five or 10 people have left. But at the time, you’re not saying: ‘Everybody is leaving in one year.’ When you sit back and look back 20 years ago, you say: ‘Wow.’ You really got to know that person. At that time, there was the hockey team, there were concerts, there was tennis, there was indoor soccer, the Christmas parties, the Forum club, the press lounge, the players and their wives. Dr. Buss was always around in attending of the Forum club and the attending of the press lounge and taking his circular spiral staircase. He could walk out of his office and go up the staircase into his box at the STAPLES Center. You go back so many years and you have all these great memories of all these people you worked with. A lot of these people that work for us now have been here many, many years as well. Most of which have not been here for 30 years, but most have been here for 10 to 20 years.

Q: On if it’s institutional memory that allows a franchise so successful over and over:
Kupchak: He allowed the people that ran the day-to-day business to hire the people and to keep the people as long as he felt they should be kept. He had a vision and he got involved in the big decisions. He hired the people and he let them hire other people.

Q: On if it’s important going forward to have one voice at the top of the chain as Dr. Buss had for so many years:
Kupchak: Well, we’ll see. Obviously everybody knows where we’re heading. We’ve always had one voice and we’ll see. In the last five or six years – certainly the last year or year-and-a-half – Jim and I have been the basketball voice. Jeanie has been the business voice. The other siblings are very involved now, and everybody seems to work well together. But don’t think for a second there’s not an adjustment period. You lose a father or a leader like Dr. Buss and just knowing – although I hadn’t spoken to him in four or five months – that he was there was a good feeling to me. And he’s gone now. There will be some changes and an adjustment period, but I don’t anticipate a problem.

Q: On what the kids have picked up directly from Dr. Buss:
Kupchak: They’re all different, they’re all different. Well, Jim dresses like Jerry. His lifestyle is similar. He comes in much more than his dad did. He spends a lot more time with me than his dad did, but he’s very strong in his opinions. Yet after an hour or two or three – if I feel strongly – he’ll defer and that’s what his dad did. It goes back to what we talked about earlier: you hire people to do a job. Dr. Buss always gave his opinion, but most of the time, he’d say: ‘That’s how I feel Mitch or that’s how I feel Jerry, but as you know, I’ll defer to you.’ Jeanie is very business-like in her approach, very executive-like in her approach as we talked about earlier. Joey spends a lot of time as president of the D-Fenders. He actually runs the operations and makes a lot of decisions daily. Jesse works for me as a scout and he’s learning the business. He has a keen eye. Janie is in charge of the youth foundation, and rarely comes in. She would lean more towards Dr. Buss’ lifestyle. Jesse doesn’t come in as much. Joey is always in. Jeanie is always in. It looks to me like everybody got a little something from the father.

Q: On the working relationship between Jeanie and Jim:
Kupchak: That’s a question for them, to be honest with you. I’ve been with Jim lots of times when he says: ‘I’ve got to text my sister or call my sister.’ They’re texting, they’re communicating on the phone and they’re visiting in person. Not to say that everything is perfect all the time, but I’ve been with him on decisions and sharing information where they’ve communicated and worked very well together.

Q: On if he thinks the team has enough to turn the corner or is there a need to upgrade the roster:
Kupchak: It’s unlikely there will be an upgrade in the talent on this team. I don’t see how that’s realistic. We have Pau Gasol who’s out for another month probably, we have Jordan Hill who may be out for the season and all the other injuries that nobody else really cares much about cause everybody in the NBA has to deal with it. There’s not a way to upgrade the talent on this team, so I don’t think that’s realistic. We’ll continue to be on the phones, make calls, take calls and listen, but I don’t anticipate anything dramatic taking place in the next two days.

Q: On who his boss is now:
Kupchak: I report to Jim Buss.

Q: On Johnny Buss:
Kupchak: Johnny ran the Sparks for a long period of time and had great success. I think they won a couple championships. He was very hands on and was around a lot. I know he worked in indoor soccer. Since his work with the Sparks, he hasn’t been as involved the last couple years. Like Jim, he’s a jeans and T-shirt guy. Very similar to the dad in how they dressed – sneakers, white socks, jeans. Very casual in their approach. I’d put him and Jim in the same category.

Q: On the difficulty for Jim being seen as the guy in charge of the basketball side of things after Dr. Buss:
Kupchak: He knows what he’s in for. Following in Dr. Buss’ footsteps is like following in John Wooden’s footsteps or Dean Smith’s footsteps. But it’s also an opportunity. He just didn’t show up this year. He’s been working with Jerry and myself for six or seven years. I don’t think really anything is going to be different between what we’ve been doing and what we plan to do in he future. We’ll huddle up and we’ll make basketball decisions.

Q: On trying to balance the trade deadline and memorial service on the same day:
Kupchak: I think the memorial service starts at 3 p.m. and the trade deadline ends at 12 p.m. If we do something, I don’t anticipate it running over three hours. There’s always a possibility, and if something took place, I’d probably have to miss the service. But I don’t think there will be a problem.

Q: On if he remembers a point in his working relationship with Dr. Buss where he truly earned his respect:
Kupchak: It’s hard to say. He always kept you on edge. Like I said earlier, you sit down to meet with him and you better be prepared, and be prepared for a comment you weren’t prepared for. I guess he keeps somebody around for 32 years, maybe you did earn their respect.

Q: On if the team will not trade Dwight Howard:
Kupchak: That would be correct.

Q: On if there’s any possible moves in the works before the trading deadline:
Kupchak: Nothing major, nothing major. It’s early.

Players Reflect On Dr. Buss

Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard took questions from assembled media members in advance of Tuesday’s practice regarding the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as other topics. Here’s what they had to say:

KOBE BRYANT
Q: On the impact Dr. Buss had on him and if he finds it ironic the Lakers will be facing the team he most wanted to beat the most on Wednesday (Boston):
Bryant: Yeah, I do. To me, personally, he obviously believed in me since Day 1 being a 17-year-old kid to where I am now. His competitive spirit, his vision where this organization should be and how it should go beyond basketball with the global outreach that he had on his mind. We talked quite a bit about that and we talked about the old times. He’s obviously had a profound impact on me, to say the least.

Q: On Dr. Buss having an influence in him staying with the Lakers:
Bryant: Of course. I think in 2007 was really the big one. I had to make a choice and believing in him, which wasn’t very hard to do once I took a step back and see everything that he accomplished. I had a chance to sit down with him and we talked about what his vision was and his vision for rebuilding this team and rebuilding this team quickly. It was easy for me because I was a Lakers fan growing up, so I saw how many championships he’d been able to win and see how many times he was able to rebuild. It was a pretty easy call for me.

Q: On his talk with Dr. Buss about rebuilding the team:
Bryant: He went into a little bit of the salary cap, free agents and all this other stuff, which, his memory was pretty remarkable in terms of what he was able to remember, the space he had available, who was available and how he was going to put it all together. When somebody has that kind of detail, it’s pretty easy to roll with.

Q: On if he’s concerned about the future of the organization:
Bryant: It’s tough. It’s tough to follow in those shoes. I think the important thing to do is to take the lessons he’s taught – and I’m sure there are many – and things that they’ve learned from him, and try to carry it on to the future.

Q: On if there a sense of the team going all in because of their offseason knowing Dr. Buss’ health and is it something that he was cognizant of as the season has progressed:
Bryant: I know I have, and that’s part of the reason why I drive so hard. When we talked, we talked about getting another championship and trying to put the Celtics in the rearview mirror. That’s something that was driving him and that’s something that continues to drive me.

Q: On a particular memory or two of Dr. Buss from a personal aspect:
Bryant: The last meeting that we had, I had a chance to visit him in the hospital, he was in good spirits, he was feeling fine physically, it was a really good day for him. He went on a couple walks. We just talked, and talked about my career, we talked about Magic (Johnson), the Showtime Lakers, the Celtics and all kinds of stuff. That was a good day.

Q: On why it was important for him to tell Dr. Buss to make it to Staples Center for a game to be recognized:
Bryant: He’s never really gotten that. It’s always been Dr. Buss along with the players and the accomplishments the team has had. But not really just him as an individual and what he’s done not only for this franchise, but for the city and the NBA as a whole. He hasn’t got that standing ovation.

Q: On what he learned most from Dr. Buss:
Bryant: To be patient, to be patient and not rush decisions. When you believe in something, you act despite what public opinion may be or what others and when public pressure sometimes can persuade people into making choices that might not be necessarily the best in the long run. He never did that. He always stuck to his guns and made his decisions what he felt was best for the organization, and that’s what I take from him.

Q: On how difficult it is to have that much patience like considering how competitive both he and Dr. Buss are:
Bryant: You have to have strong conviction in what you believe in. You have to know what you want and you have to have the vision, and then you have to go after it. He never made decisions made based off of fear of criticism or anything like that. He made sound decisions based on what he felt right was for the team.

Q: On his confidence level in the Buss children carrying on the success Dr. Buss had with the franchise over the years:
Bryant: Very confident.

Q: On if they’ll be able to match that success in terms of 16 NBA titles:
Bryant: You can’t. Like I said before, you’re following the greatest owner in sports. When you try to match that or equal that, it’s nearly an impossible task. In their own way, they’ll have success for sure.

Q: On if something like this can help galvanize the team the rest of the season:
Bryant: I hope so. A lot of the guys here never had a chance to meet him and didn’t really know him. Some of us were too young to understand the impact and significance he had. Now it’s a chance to get somewhat of a history lesson and understand what this franchise is, what it really means, where it comes from and hopefully we can carry that on.

Q: On what it means to be a Laker and if it can be:
Bryant: That’s a tough question for me to answer. I just so happened to grow up a Laker fan. I’ve bled purple and gold my whole life. It’s tough for me. That’s unfamiliar territory for me. That’s all I know. I don’t know if it can be taught or not.

Q: On his role as a leader in preparing for two games this week:
Bryant: Just stay focused on the moment, have a good practice today and come out tomorrow night ready to put on a good show in his honor.

PAU GASOL
Q: On what stood out about Dr. Buss and what he meant to him and the franchise:
Gasol: He was an owner that did everything he could to make sure his team had the best chance possible to win the title. He was all about success and he was very passionate. That’s something you could feel from him. I wish I could have spent a little more time with him during this time, but he meant a lot to us. He was a leader for our team, for this franchise and for this city. He was someone you’d enjoy being around. It’s been a tough hit even though we knew he was sick and battling hard for awhile, but when it does happen, it’s still very difficult to deal with.

Q: On when he was in Memphis and there was a reputation around the league if other players wanted to play for the Lakers:
Gasol: Obviously, the Lakers are a franchise that I think the great majority of players would love to play in and be a part of for multiple reasons and definitely because of Dr. Buss’ desire and wish to have a great team here and to win titles. It was all about winning championships and being an elite team. I think any player would want to be involved with that. When you’re on another team, you only have so much control of your own destiny. So you try to focus on your reality and the present. You can’t really dream too much about wanting to play here or there. But as a player, it was a great deal to have the opportunity to be here. When I first got here and traded, I was in shock for a few days how lucky I was that it was my destiny.

Q: On if he has a particular memory or two of Dr. Buss:
Gasol: We would always see him for the team picture. He was always a very joyful guy. The most time I spent with him alone was the time I went and visited him at the hospital. That was probably the most meaningful time I spent with him. We had great times when we won championships. Those magical moments were brief and are overwhelming and there are a lot of people around you. But I always appreciate those one-on-one times, even though it was under those circumstances. It’s a moment I’ll always have with me.
Continue reading ‘Players Reflect On Dr. Buss’

Injury Update: Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol spent a few minutes on Tuesday afternoon discussing the impact Dr. Jerry Buss had on the Lakers and what he meant to Gasol in particular, and then briefly addressed the injury to his right foot.

“It’s a thing you take one day at a time and you go with the symptoms and see how well and how quick your body is able to heal a certain injury,” said the Spaniard. “It varies from different individuals, so we’ve made a lot of group progress. I expect to get off crutches very soon and we’re on the right path. That’s all I know right now two weeks into the injury.”

Gasol hurt the foot at Brooklyn on Feb. 5, exactly two weeks ago, and was diagnosed with a tear of the plantar fascia that will keep him out roughly 4-6 more weeks.

Gasol said he hopes to return in the regular season, but is focused on the proverbial “One day at a time” mantra for now.

Kobe’s D Helps West Nab Win

With the Western Conference All-Stars nursing an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant fought around a screen and swatted LeBron James going to his left at the peak of his jump shot.

The block led to an easy dunk for Kevin Durant on the other end, extending their lead to double digits. Minutes later, Bryant pressured James 90 feet up the court along the left sideline, then blocked his shot attempt as he rose up from just outside the paint.

Bryant’s defense in the final minutes allowed the West to pull away from the East and win 143-138 – their third straight victory over their counterparts.

“Just taking the challenge and defending a little bit,” he said postgame. “When the game gets close, it’s fun. I enjoy it.”

Starting in an NBA-record 15th All-Star game, Bryant finished with nine points, eight assists, two steals and two blocks in 28 minutes. The Philly native played the role of facilitator early, recording seven assists in 14 first-half minutes, while attempting just five field goals towards five points. In the fourth quarter, though, he attacked on one particular play, crossing over Miami’s Chris Bosh, while laying in the ball off the glass going to his right.

Lakers center Dwight Howard, in his seventh All-Star appearance, played 14 minutes, but grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to go along with nine points. He scored off three dunks while also drilling a 3-pointer in the third quarter. Of more importance, the big man managed to keep his shoulder and back healthy.

James recently became the first player in NBA history to record at least 30 points and shoot 60 percent from the floor in six straight games, a streak that was snapped on Thursday vs. Oklahoma City before All-Star weekend. On this night, though, Bryant’s defense helped limit the three-time MVP to 7 for 18 from the floor towards 19 points.

Asked what his favorite part of this particular game, the five-time NBA champion responded: “Defending at the end. Just the challenge of doing what everybody deems impossible. That’s the fun part.”

Kobe Post All-Star Game Quotes

Kobe Bryant took questions from assembled media members after the All-Star game, where he talked about his defense on LeBron James, as well as his thoughts on the second half of the Lakers season. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: On his defense on LeBron James in the closing minutes:
Bryant: Just taking the challenge and defending a little bit. When the game gets close, it’s fun. I enjoy it.

Q: On what was said between him and James late in the game:
Bryant: I didn’t want him to score on me. Damn it. I gave him two free throws down there. It was a great, great post move.

Q: On the intensity in the beginning of the game compared to the final minutes:
Bryant: The last eight minutes is always more intense. I think the last eight minutes of the game is what fans really want to see. They want to see that competitive spirit. All in all, I think we gave them a pretty good show. It was competitive throughout.

Q: On if James said anything to him after his two blocks:
Bryant: He really didn’t say much. He said I fouled him. I told him I pretty much foul every play. I’m an ‘80’s baby. That’s what we do.

Q: On his favorite part in the game:
Bryant: Defending at the end. Just the challenge of doing what everybody deems impossible. That’s the fun part.

Q: On taking a leadership role in the All-Star game:
Bryant: I talk with the guys a lot. I’m more vocal now than I have been in the past. I do a lot of talking with the young fellas who like to pick my brain with some of the nuances of the game in different areas I’ve learned throughout my career. I enjoy that aspect of it.

Q: On Chris Paul closing the game:
Bryant: I love Chris. He’s intense and he’s a heck of a competitor. I enjoyed spending time with him this weekend even though they served us up pretty good before we got down here. He’s just a great competitor.

Q: On which player he’s enjoyed defending most over the years in All-Star games:
Bryant: Being in the league this long and playing in so many All-Star games, I’ve seen many generations. I’ve pretty much seen three generations. My first All-Star game having to guard Michael (Jordan) was like a dream come true for me. He took me to school several times, but I learned quite a bit. Then going on to Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Allen Iverson and that whole crew. Now to LeBron, Dwyane Wade and some of those other guys. I’ve seen three generations.

Q: On if he considers his defensive performance late in the game as a signature defensive moment for him:
Bryant: I don’t know if it was signature. I’m known for my defense and I can defend. I’m pretty smart about how I defend. I don’t know if it was signature or not.

Q: On how much he expects the Lakers to improve in the second half of the season:
Bryant: Well, I think we’ve been playing pretty well coming into the break. We laid a couple eggs there against the Celtics and Clippers. But all in all, we’ve been playing pretty well – much better than we have been. We just got to continue to improve and I think we’ll do much better in the second half.

Q: On if he’s adjusted his game in terms of him facilitating:
Bryant: I think you see a comfort level where I do both. As a team, we see that and understand that we still need my scoring, but we also need me to facilitate and do both. The passing and getting everybody involved takes precedence.

Q: On trying to refocus his attention on trying to get the Lakers to the playoffs after All-Star weekend:
Bryant: My switch never went off. It never went off. It was on all weekend. It was good to see the guys, but at the same time, there’s an undercurrent that happened in the first half of the season that I just won’t let go. Come Wednesday, we have to be ready to go.

Dwight Quotes From Houston

Dwight Howard took questions from assembled media members on Friday afternoon from All-Star festivities in Houston. Here’s a transcription of what he had to say:

Q: On Joakim Noah’s season and this year being his first All-Star appearance:
Howard: I’m happy for him. I’m happy for Joakim. We played against each other since we were in 10th grade. To see him grow from the player he was then till now … before that, Joakim was a water boy and towel boy, and didn’t play much basketball. He kept working and all his hard work is paying off, so I’m really happy for him.

Q: On how his shoulder feels:
Howard: My shoulder is getting a lot better. The only thing I can do for it right now is to continue to rehab and continue to strengthen it. It’s torn, so it’s not going to change.

Q: On re-aggravating the injury in the All-Star game:
Howard: Not really. I don’t think guys are going to try and intentionally foul me to put on the line in the All-Star game. I think I’ll be fine.

Q: On trying to get acclimated to playing with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant this season in such a short period of time:
Howard: It’s tough because all of us have been the primary guys on our teams since we’ve been in the NBA. Now we really have to learn how to play together, share and sacrifice a part of our game to help the team. A lot of that takes time, and unfortunately, we’ve paid the price for it by losing some games. We got to figure out a way to do it, and do it fast.

Q: On playing with Jameer Nelson in Orlando and their success playing together:
Howard: That took time. We had to develop that. We didn’t have that right away. Over the years, it got better. As we got older and wiser, it started to work for us. But when we first got together, the pick-and-roll didn’t work. None of that stuff worked, but as we grew, we got better at it.

Q: On his off-the-court role with the Lakers now in terms of his leadership as opposed to his role in Orlando:
Howard: Same way. I’m pushing guys to continue to train and guys that don’t play a lot to continue to work on their games. Keep getting better, keep pushing and keep everybody at a happy place so we can get better every day.

Q: On the challenges this season with the Lakers and if it’s helped him grow into a better leader off the court:
Howard: Think so. I’ve had to really take a step back and see what I can do to help my teammates out and also help myself out.

Q: On Michael Jordan’s impact on the game:
Howard: Everybody wanted to be “Like Mike.” He’s amazing. Everything he did, he inspired everybody to be a better basketball player and a better (person). That’s why I enjoyed watching him play.

Q: On the Houston Rockets and the season they’re having so far:
Howard: I like their team. They’re a great team, they’re young, they play hard, they’re scrappy and they play together. Everything they do has been great. It’s fun to watch them. They’re one of the teams that you can tell in a few years they’re going to be really good.

Q: On if he can relate to Deron Williams’ struggles this year in terms of his injuries:
Howard: It takes time to heal. It’s stuff we have to deal with and it’s hard to sometimes overcome injuries right away. It takes a lot of time. Ankles are different from backs, but it takes time.

Q: On how he’s managed to deal with everything this season from his injuries to the team’s season thus far:
Howard: I just try to stay away from the tube and do as much as I can to rehab my shoulder, my back and my mind. I just really get away everything when I’m not playing basketball.

Q: On what he’s looking forward to this All-Star weekend:
Howard: I’m looking forward to the dunk contest and the game itself. Playing on the West is different. I’m usually playing with LeBron (James) and Dwyane Wade and all those guys. Playing with Kevin Durant and all those guys is going to be fun. It’s going to be a battle.

Q: On who he thinks will win the 3-point shooting contest and slam dunk contest:
Howard: Ryan Anderson. He’s back in it and I think he’ll win it this year. The dunk contest … I think Gerald Green is going to go back and win it. Him and James White will go at it. It’s going to be fun.

2/16/13
Howard took questions from assembled media members on Saturday prior to practice. Here’s a transcription of what he had to say:

Q: On his message to Michael Jordan turning 50 years old:
Howard: Health, happiness and love to Michael Jordan on his birthday. I think that’s what we all want is our health and happiness – that’s the biggest thing. I’m happy for him.

Q: On if Jordan is somebody you can still look up to and aspire to be:
Howard: Oh yeah, no doubt. He’s the best. He’s at the top. I enjoy him and enjoy what he’s done to the game and for the game.

Q: On if he’s had the chance to rest during this weekend:
Howard: There’s no chance for us to rest and relax. We’ve been working since we’ve been here. Even though it’s All-Star weekend, it’s a great time for us to get with fans. If we have kids, we get an opportunity to take our kids around and let them see All-Star weekend.

Q: On if he’s excited for the pregame introductions before the All-Star game:
Howard: I know last year being with LeBron (James) and those guys, they wanted to do a dance and have fun, but I don’t know about the guys in the West yet. We’ll see how that goes.

Q: On his favorite pregame introduction at an All-Star game:
Howard: Last year was pretty cool in Orlando. The year where we came up the ground was pretty cool (in Dallas). Each year they find something crazy and exciting.

Q: On Pau Gasol and what he brings to the table:
Howard: He’s a four man who can shoot the ball and pass the ball very well. He’s a great post up player. He’s a great player.

Q: On if any of the criticism directed towards Gasol has been unfair this year:
Howard: We’re always going to get criticized when we don’t perform to the level people feel like we should perform. We know how important he is to our team, he knows how important he is and we know what he can do. There’s no need for us to feel any different about him.

Q: On what he sees from the Lakers in the second half of the season:
Howard: We got a great opportunity to make a statement and get better. Our last couple games have been pretty good. The last loss we had was bad, but other than that, we’ve been playing a lot better.

Q: On Tyson Chandler’s game :
Howard: He’s the Knicks defensive anchor. He plays hard, blocks shots and rebounds. That’s all they ask (of) him and he does a good job at it.

Q: On Derrick Rose’s comments about possibly not returning this season:
Howard: He has to play when he’s ready. He can’t risk his career or what other people think and what he should do. He should come back and play when he’s totally ready.

Q: On what it means to him to be a role model for young children:
Howard: It’s amazing. I’m happy kids look up to me and I’m going to do whatever I can to inspire those kids.

Q: On his thoughts about being voted to another All-Star game:
Howard: It’s a humbling experience and I’m happy to be a part of All-Star weekend. I always thank the fans for voting for me to be here. It’s a blessing and an honor.

Kobe Quotes From Houston

Kobe Bryant took questions from assembled media members on Friday afternoon from All-Star festivities in Houston. Here’s a transcription of what he had to say:

Q: On Michael Jordan’s impact on the game:
Bryant: The imprint he’s had on the league, he’s an immortal. Everything that he’s done from the business aspect to his professionalism to his work ethic to the global (build) of the game has been something that carries on for generations and generations.

Q: On what the 76ers get in Andrew Bynum:
Bryant: A phenomenal player. He’s extremely, extremely skilled.

Q: On playing with Dirk Nowitzki in past All-Star games and not having him this year:
Bryant: I miss having Dirk (Nowitzki) around. That’s for sure. A lot of the younger players here, it’s their first time, and they get an opportunity to step up and play in these All-Star games, which is great. I don’t think Dirk minds.

Q: On his thoughts to all his fans overseas who support him on China’s micro-blogging site Sina Weibo:
Bryant: Thank you very much for all your support. I’m really enjoying it. I get a chance to communicate with them and give them an inside look at some of the things going on in my life, so thank you.

Q: On his experience with Twitter thus far:
Bryant: It’s been fun. I enjoy the dialogue back and forth and the bantering. I enjoy it all.

Q: On how he will decide when it’s time to walk away from the game:
Bryant: I think you just know. For me, it’s pretty simple. If I just want to walk away, I’ll walk away. I think it’s just something you feel and decide.

Q: On the panic level in Los Angeles:
Bryant: The panic level has been there since the start of the preseason. Everybody has been on edge all year. We’ve been playing well lately, so that kind of eased the pain a little bit. Last night doesn’t help, but we’ll come back after the All-Star break ready to go.

Q: On if this All-Star weekend is a retreat for him:
Bryant: I don’t know if it’s a retreat. It’s just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on.

Q: On his All-Star experiences thus far and if the routine gets boring:
Bryant: I brought my daughter to work today and she gets to see how exciting this is, to sit here and answer these questions. At this stage, it’s really just about enjoying it as much as you can with your family and enjoying the experience.

Q: On LeBron James’ year:
Bryant: He’s playing phenomenal basketball. You have that moment where your physical talent, the mental part of the game, all of it comes together. What you’re seeing down in Miami is something that’s truly special.

Q: On the rivalry between the Eastern and Western Conferences:
Bryant: I think it’s great. It’s great for sports. Everybody picks their sides and off we go. That’s the beautiful thing about sports in general.

Q: On Michael Jordan’s comments about taking Kobe over LeBron:
Bryant: It’s something we all know. In terms of winning championships, it’s the most important thing. That’s what it all comes down to. That’s why we all make sacrifices. That’s what I knew coming into the league. You have to win titles to sit at that same lunch table as Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan) and so forth. LeBron (James) knows that and it’s a challenge he’s willing to accept.

Q: On his thoughts about Derrick Rose not coming back this year:
Bryant: I think if he’s not healthy enough to come back, that’s the absolute right decision. There’s no reason to rush. He has a long career ahead of himself and he’s dealing with a very serious injury. Hopefully he’s using Adrian Peterson as an inspiration to see what he’s been able to do coming back from a knee injury. If he doesn’t come back this season, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go next year.

Q: On if it’s more mental or physical coming back from a serious injury like that:
Bryant: I think it’s a little bit of both. Once you get past the physical limitations, then it becomes mental because you get concerned about a tweak here and there and reinjuring it. But he’ll be fine.

2/16/13
Bryant took questions from assembled media members on Saturday prior to practice. Here’s a transcription of what he had to say:

Q: On his excitement level to play in Brazil in next season:
Bryant: Yeah, it’s a hot spot for basketball. I grew up in Italy and I enjoyed watching Oscar Schmidt play. He’s always kind of been an idol of mine. I think it’s great for Brazil to start having (games).

Q: On if he’s spoken to Schmidt before:
Bryant: Yeah, quite a bit. I speak to him during the summer when he comes out for the Olympics and he does interviews. I had a chance to catch up with him. I really, really watched him a lot when I was a kid.

Q: On Michael Jordan turning 50 years old:
Bryant: Time absolutely flies. Him turning 50 on Sunday and this being my 17th year and my 15th All-Star game … where did the time go?

Q: On Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas’ game:
Bryant: He has fantastic potential. He’s extremely quick, crafty and an outside game. He can get to the rim as well, so I think he has tremendous upside.

Q: On if he has any advice for him:
Bryant: Just keep working and try to perfect your craft as much as you can. Perfect your strengths and try to match them.