Archive for the 'All-Star 2009' Category

Lakers 111, Suns 103: Game 6 Running Diary

60596541Lakers – Suns Gameday Page
L.A. looked to close out a playoff series for the ninth time in 10 chances with Game 6 in Phoenix. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison
Suns: Taylor Griffin

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Robin Lopez

Game 6 Video Preview
Assistant coach Brian Shaw offered his perspective on what L.A. did right and wrong in Game 5, explained why the coaching staff doesn’t mind if Steve Nash takes a high volume of shots, looked for the players to limit what Phoenix gets off its bench, praised the all-around game of near-triple-double-machine Bryant and more. CLICK HERE to watch.

60596582First Quarter
8:15 In a blistering offensive start from both teams, Kobe nailed an and-1 leaner for L.A.’s 7th make in eight attempts, but Phoenix was nearly as good in nailing 5-of-7 in a 17-all tie. Meanwhile, Bryant found himself with a bloody left hand, forcing Phil Jackson to put Shannon Brown in the game while Lakers trainer Gary Vitti stopped the bleeding.

5:21 The offense continued to come in droves, the teams combining to open 15-of-19 field goals, including a wing three from just-back-in Kobe, though Nash answered with Phoenix’s fourth three already to tie the game. Next up on the scoring platform? Fisher, who drew a foul on a three-point attempt and made all three to make it a 27-25 game.

2:19 As Gasol put L.A. up three from the foul line, it wasn’t he but Artest leading the way on O. A corner three on the previous possession had gotten the Queens, N.Y. native to 12 points, including two triples, a game after he finished with four points (two of which were just a tad important).

The quarter concluded with L.A. holding a 37-34 lead, shooting 66.7 percent in a fun period to watch. Who doesn’t like offense? That said, the Lakers’ coaches always stress defense more than offense, so the 34 points conceded hadn’t produced too many smiles from Phil Jackson and Co.

60596451Second Quarter
8:46 The Lakers had several chances to build their lead, but both Bynum and Odom missed relatively easy looks right under the rim with Lou Amundson and Channing Frye being on the very side of aggressive with paint defense. Sasha Vujacic hit a three that momentarily put L.A. up six, but Phoenix fought back to make it a one-point margin at 42-41.

6:13 The backcourt bench duo of Vujacic and Jordan Farmar offered a big boost, as Farmar’s second three followed Vujacic’s continued good defense on countryman Goran Dragic to put the Lakers up eight as Gasol, Fisher and Artest checked back into the action. Moments later, Artest dropped a three, then stripped Frye after a rebound – no one has stronger hands – before converting a lefty layup to get to 17 points himself, putting L.A. up nine. By the way, how much would you pay to see Dragic and Vujacic lead respective teams in MTV’s “Fresh Meat?” A lot, huh? Yeah.

2:00 It’s not uncommon to see Phil Jackson make sure Gasol gets a shot out of a time out, and we saw it once again, this time a turnaround hook in the lane off Fisher’s entry pass. Richardson answered with a three at the other end thanks to Nash’s penetration, but Odom then flew in for a driving layup over Hill to make it a 62-53 lead for L.A. with 1:18 to play.

0:12.9 After missing his first four shots of the half, Bryant nailed a deep, deep, deep (needed three deeps there, really) three to make it a 12-point game at 65-53 at the break. It was L.A.’s 8th made triple in 14 attempts, making up for Gasol’s uncharacteristic 1-for-4 shooting performance as Phoenix continued to collapsed inside on D.

60596452Third Quarter
8:20 Kobe pulled up on Stoudemire after a Gasol screen to nail another three, pushing L.A.’s lead to a game-high 15 points at 72-57, though Phoenix got jumpers from Frye and Nash to cut the lead back to 11. While offense continued to come easily for the visitors, getting stops on a still-active Suns’ attack would be critical.

4:35 The Lakers stayed in control, countering Suns’ points from Stoudemire with an Artest put-back layup and two Kobe free throws, getting Ron to 19 points and Kobe to 20 in a 78-65 contest.

3:04 After yet another Artest three, his fourth, Gasol hit two free throws that preceded Artest’s floating how-did-that-swish-through put-back layup that made it an 18-point game (85-67) and got Ron Ron to a game-high (and season-high) 24 points. Queensbridge.

0:36.0 Always pays to have Kobe Bryant on your team, huh? With Phoenix desperate to make an end-of-quarter push, hitting three straight shots (including a Leandro Barbosa three), Kobe buried three ridiculous jumpers, all off balance and with full defensive coverage, to keep L.A.’s lead at 17 (91-74) heading into the fourth quarter.

60596471Fourth Quarter
10:00 A very odd opening to the fourth swung momentum suddenly in Phoenix’s favor after the crowd had been entirely taken out of things in the third, as Dragic scored eight points in two minutes to cut the lead to 11. This included a four-point play when Vujacic was whistled for a flagrant 1 foul away from the ball, resulting in two Dragic free throws, then a driving layup as possession stayed with the Suns.

5:35 Nothing changed over the next five minutes as Stoudemire took a time out with Phoenix having cut the lead down to just five, with the ball, thanks to a 16-4 edge to start the quarter. The Lakers made only 2-of-9 shots, and the crowd was doing its best Oklahoma City impression as the Suns’ D was overly (and effectively) aggressive.

605968883:26 Enter the Black Mamba. After an extremely difficult end-of-shot-clock leaner from Kobe at the top of the key, Fisher nailed his own version from the baseline to keep the Lakers in front by seven at 99-92. Big shots, needless to say.

0:34.2 Dagger jumper, thy name is Kobe. Yet another absurd, extremely tough J with Grant Hill draped to his body went through to put L.A. up seven with 34.2 to play. How about No. 24? Odom would then clear Stoudemire’s interior miss, and Artest draw the ensuing foul before hitting 1-of-2 to make it an eight-point game with 22.3 left.

0:00 Your final: Lakers 111, Suns 103. Kobe finished with 37 points in the win, which sends L.A. to its third consecutive NBA Finals. More coming soon on Lakers.com.

All-Star Postcards

Weren’t able to head to Phoenix over the weekend to watch Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and L.A.’s coaching staff at All-Star?

Worry not … We were snapping pictures.

Take a look.

Kobe, Shaq Share All-Star MVP Honors

kobe shaqThe last time Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal shared a court as teammates was the 2004 NBA Finals, which their Lakers squad lost to Detroit to set up Shaq’s Miami departure amidst just a wee bit of made-for-Hollywood drama.

Only a small bite of pretext there, right? Fast-forward to Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009 in Phoenix, as Kobe and Shaq were front and center in a Western Conference re-union at the NBA’s 2009 All-Star Game, with who else but Phil Jackson manning the bench.

Forty-eight minutes later, after 44 combined points, seven assists and nine rebounds in a 146-119 West win, Kobe and Shaq found themselves together at mid-court holding up the game’s MVP trophy.

Funny how that worked out.

“It felt like old times,” said Shaq, who had 17 points and five boards despite playing only 11 minutes. “I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll.

“Kobe is the best player in the league. He has been the best player in the league … He even let me take the trophy home today for my boys, so I appreciate him for that.”

Kobe, who finished with a game-high 27 points with four boards, steals and assists, liked Shaq’s pregame dance moves as much as his on-court performance.

“That size moving and all that … it was an A-plus. On the court he obviously played extremely well, running the floor.”

Perhaps predictably, Kobe opted against waxing nostalgic on the issue, but Phil didn’t mind…

“I think it is a great life lesson for people,” he said. “This is something that the people work together, people find a way to get through situations, find harmony in their life, find co-habitation. I hope this speaks volumes not just for our community in basketball but our world community too.”

Life lessons or not, Bryant and O’Neal became the third and fourth players in the game’s history to win at least three All-Star game MVPs, joining Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan, both of whom were decent at hoops. It’ll take one more for either to tie the clubhouse leader, Bob Pettit, who won four between 1956 and 1962.

For now, the lasting image of this All-Star weekend will surely be that of Kobe and Shaq, together again … With another trophy.

———————-
In related news…

Voting Breakdown
There is some intrigue behind how the vote was awarded and why Kobe and Shaq split the honor. The media accounts for 75 percent of the total vote, which in this case was nine out of 12 votes. The final three votes came as a result of fan voting, with the top vote-getter earning two points and the runner-up getting a point. Alas, Shaq won the media vote 5-4 over Kobe, while Bryant claimed the fan vote as O’Neal finished second (2-1 Kobe). That gave both players six votes in an almost comical twist of fate.

Kobe, Shaq Climb up All-Star Scoring List
With his 27 points, Bryant moved into seventh place on the All-Star career scoring list with 207 points. Coming in just behind him is Shaq, who now has 202 points. The all-time leader? You guessed it: Michael Jordan (262). Bryant also crept closer to Jordan on the steals chart, snatching four to get to 30 total, seven behind Jordan’s record.

2009 All-Star Game: Running Diary

2009 Western Conference All-StarsHere’s what we’re covering in today’s All-Star game:

1) Interesting moments for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol
2) Noticeable nuggets involving Phil Jackson and his Lakers assistant coaches
3) The MVP race, particularly my and Ty’s MVP Draft.

That’ll just about do it. Here are the starters:

Lakers: Oops. Habit. Western Conference: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming
Eastern Conference: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard

Kobe BryantFirst Quarter
12:00 Intros: Kobe was the last player announced among the All-Stars, which drew primarily cheers with a few boos from Suns fans (Spurs Duncan and Tony Parker were booed as well). Equally solid: Since I missed “Oh Canada” when we were in Toronto, I was pretty happy to hear Grant Hill’s wife belt it out like Celine Dion (with a special French/English mix). Impressive. Is it unpatriotic to like Canada’s version more than the U.S. National Anthem? Jordin Sparks (American Idol winner from Arizona) was pretty solid, to be fair.

11:40 Even though it was over Kobe, I’m liking the D-Wade pull-up from three. Good start for my top MVP pick. Ty’s No. 1 selection (LeBron) followed with a layup after Kobe’s missed triple for a 5-0 East lead.

9:08 Kobe hit his first of three shots, a pull-up in the lane over KG’s outstretched hands. I guess he’s not scared to shoot today, which makes sense because the West has such a huge starting lineup. In other words, Kobe’s the only guy that creates his own shot willingly from the perimeter.

8:22 So Kobe needs a bit of time to warm up … he just missed his fourth of five shots, this time from three. No worries for Lakers fans, because it’s better he miss now than vs. Atlanta on Tuesday.

7:22 AI tried to match Corey Maggette’s record for steps taken before dribbling, but only got to five.

6:57 Huge two-handed dunk off a pretty Paul set up from Bryant.

5:44 The first timeout of the game saw the East up 21-10, which really isn’t surprising considering the frontcourt matchups: Howard’s got Yao in this kind of game, Duncan and KG cancel out, and LeBron’s not even close with Stoudemire. This should even out soon though…

… The timeout allowed Phil to put Shaq in with Kobe for the first time.

4:37 If they’re not going to cover Kobe, he’ll keep shooting – this time a completely wide-open three, which he dropped to go 4-of-9 for a game-high nine points. Meanwhile, Jackson kept Kobe on the floor with Shaq, Chauncey Billups, Brandon Roy and Dirk Nowitzki.

3:40 Kobe again. Ty says he’s hungry because he didn’t play much at all last year (finger). He’s got 11.

2:56 We’ve been talking all day about how small the East team is, which became clear when Rashard Lewis tried to guard Shaq (foul). The West has taken advantage by scoring every point of the last few minutes…

1:56 …Finally, a 19-0 West run was halted by a Rashard Lewis three, one he had in the bank from his final-round performance of the three-point shootout. It’s just odd to have a massive run here, because it’s not like the West completely locked down on D or anything.

1:21 Another of my MVP top three, Tony Parker, scored four points with a dime in his first minute. Let’s keep that going, France.

0:29.0 Checking in for Shaq, Gasol immediately dunked, grabbed a defensive rebound and missed a baby hook in the lane. Nonetheless, the Western size caught up to the East, who went up 20-8 only to be outscored 24-7 (they didn’t score from the 5:52 mark until 1:56 remained).
Continue reading ’2009 All-Star Game: Running Diary’

All-Star MVP Draft

Kobe MVPDrafts are fun.

Fantasy football, fantasy basketball, American Idol elimination, even dead pools (OK, the last one’s a stretch).

Of course, there’s a bit less pressure when you have nothing on the line but pride amongst your friends and co-workers … Which isn’t exactly the case when Mitch Kupchak (or, especially, Isiah Thomas) steps (stepped) up to the phone on NBA draft night.

I bring this up because we’re trying to figure out who’s going to win the MVP tonight.

When I say we, I mean myself and Lakers.com mastermind Ty Nowell (“overstatement, but I’ll take it,” he said). After we go back and forth (he won the first pick by winning rock, paper, scissors) in draft style, we’ll keep a close eye on the race throughout Sunday evening’s All-Star game.

We selected five players each, starting with King James:

Ty: 1) LeBron James – “He’s a freak and he just seems primed to do it tonight, even though he won last year (and two years ago) works against him. He scares me.”
Me: 2) Dwyane Wade – D-Wade’s been in “Don’t-forget-that-I’m-the-bomb” mode, his (sinewy) legs are fully healthy/explosive and the East has won 3-of-4 games.
Ty: 3) Amare Stoudemire – “I should probably take Chris Paul, but I think Stoudemire is out for blood in his own town.”
Me: 4) Chris Paul – Just because Ty said he was going to take him, though I’m slightly tentative about his groin. He should still collect 15 assists and generally control the pace for the West, which has a huge lineup compared to Dwight Howard, KG and a bunch of guards.
Ty: 5) Kobe Bryant - “He’s always dangerous in these kind of games. I feel like he might sit back and take it easy this year, but if he won and I didn’t have him I’d be upset.”
Me: 6) Tony Parker – The East doesn’t have one big off the bench – literally – and Parker’s the best penetrator and finisher in the league. He’s coming off the bench, but he’s fully healthy, and Jackson doesn’t have a lot of guards that handle the ball on the roster (Paul, Parker and Chauncey Billups).
Ty: 7) Dirk Nowitzki – “It’s not somebody I expected to pick, but I think he could go off from outside a little bit. Plus I didn’t have any Europeans on my squad. I needed one.”
Me: 8) Shaq – This is my “Lifetime Achievement” All-Star pick as his Western teammates might try to force-feed him the ball. Big Cactus is in his current city of Phoenix, he’s playing in his 15th All-Star game and the East can’t afford to foul him too much with their lack of size. Then again, he might not play any minutes, but I’m rolling the dice.
Ty: 9) Dwight Howard – “He’s the only big in the East, and he could easily pull down 30 boards. Plus he’s healthy and should play big minutes.”
Me: 10) Ray Allen – He’s absolutely locked in with his shooting right now, and he’s going to get a lot of open looks. Furthermore, Ray has the same “I’m still good” bit going as D-Wade, which pleases me.

We’ll check back in a bit after the game starts at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Team USA Re-United at All-Star Weekend

Chris Paul InterviewIf you were looking for something about which to talk with All-Stars like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, re-living their Team USA memories seemed a good place to start. Take a look at video of the three Olympic champs, who each spoke about their experience with Kobe Bryant.

TEAM USA RE-UNITED

Kapono Takes Shot at Hodges

Three Point Shooters 1990How about that photo?

Back in 1990 (19 years ago, really?), Lakers special assistant coach Craig Hodges, then with the Bulls (second row, far right), was taking on Reggie Miller, Jon Sundvold, Mark Price, Larry Bird, Bobby Hansen, Craig Ehlo and Michael Jordan.

For this season’s shootout, Hodges asked us to send a message to Toronto’s Jason Kapono: Try shooting against eight guys instead of six, and good luck winning if Larry Bird’s in the mix.

Hodges was (mostly) joking around, and included a hearty “Tell him good luck!” when we asked him about the Raptors shooter. The former Chicago Bulls bomb-dropper jests because Kapono is looking to join Hodges and Bird as the only three-time champions of the NBA’s Three-Point Shootout. Bird beat Hodges in 1986, ’87 and ’88 before Hodges finally broke through for his first of three titles in 1990.

Indeed, when Hodges and Bird did it, there were eight shooters (1986 to 2003) before the NBA cut two out and went with six. That makes winning it all just a bit easier these days, but the first four balls still count for a point and the final rock scores two points. Here are the rules:

Each of six shooters – Kapono, Mike Bibby, Daequan Cook, Danny Granger, Rashard Lewis and Roger Mason – will take as many of 25 possible shots as they can in a full 60-second time period. The first four balls on the rack count for one point, and the final multi-colored “money” ball counts for two. The three shooters with the highest scores advance to the final round, where scores go back to zero.

While we’re on the topic, here’s a list of the former champs:

Jason Kapono1986: Larry Bird
’87: Bird
’88: Bird
’89: Dale Ellis
’90: Craig Hodges
’91: Hodges
’92: Hodges
’93: Mark Price
’94: Price
’95: Glen Rice
’96: Tim Legler
’97: Steve Kerr
’98: Jeff Hornacek
’99: (No game)
’00: Hornacek
’01: Ray Allen
’02: Peja Stojakovic
’03: Stojakovic
’04: Voshon Lenard
’05: Quentin Richardson
’06: Dirk Nowitzki
’07: Jason Kapono
’08: Kapono
’09: We’ll see in a few hours…

All-Star Practice: Interviews

Kobe Bryant All Star PracticeAt the chaotic mass of media bodies otherwise known as All-Star practice availability, we caught up with a host of characters while trying to avoid body blows and loose microphones.

First came the Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and assistant coach Jim Cleamons.

Subsequently, we spent a few minutes with New Orleans’ Chris Paul, Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Miami’s Dwyane Wade, focusing in part on their respective experiences with Kobe on Team USA.

You can watch the Lakers interviews on our Lakers.com Video Page.

The Redeem Team crew will be up soon.

All-Star Celebrity Game: Running Diary

Magic Johnson, Terrell OwensMagic Johnson wants to win the (McDonalds) celebrity game.

No, seriously.

We talked to the Lakers legend before his Western Conference collection of celebs took on the Eastern group coached by Dr. J, and Magic didn’t even try to contain his mutual goal of having fun (“Showtime”) and making sure not to lose to the good Doctor.

Let’s check out the rosters, featuring the NBA’s label of each former player or celeb in parenthesis:

West: Clyde Drexler (NBA legend), Michael Rapaport (Prison Break), Dan Majerle (Phoenix Suns legend), Lisa Leslie (L.A. Sparks), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Chris Tucker (Actor/comedian), “Scooter” Christensen (Harlem Globetrotters), “Handles” Franklin (Harlem Globetrotters)

East: Dominique Wilkins (NBA legend), Rick Fox (L.A. Lakers legend), Terrell Owens (Dallas Cowboys receiver), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Zach Levi (Chuck), Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs) “Wildkat” Edgerson (Harlem Globetrotters), “Special K” Daley (Harlem Globetrotters)

The game was being reffed by ESPN’s Mike Breen, with Mark Jones and John Barry handling the play-by-play/color and Stu Scott on the sidelines. We spent some time talking to Magic, Fox, Rappaport, Faison and Breen before the game, which Ty Nowell’s working on cutting as we speak and will post later tonight.

In the meantime, a few thoughts on the action:

Michael RappaportFirst Quarter
6:08 Rappaport, after spending the first couple of minutes doing nothing but talking smack to his opponents, teammates and the refs, somehow hit a deep jumper. It looked terrible coming out of his hands.

3:49 When the Suns dancers came out to perform Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” (Put A Ring On It), it was shocking to see Chris Tucker, Rappaport and Faison ignoring Magic Johnson chalk talk.

1:40 Terrell Owens told us he could dunk when we grabbed him after a Lakers game last month, and sure enough, he threw down an alley-oop from one of the Globetrotters off glass. By the way, for no good reason, there were four ‘Trotters in the house, all wearing their blue jerseys with white and red pants despite being split up between the teams. Confusing. The quarter ended in an 8-8 tie, (if it mattered).
Continue reading ‘All-Star Celebrity Game: Running Diary’

Pregame: All-Star Friday Night

Having arrived and set up our Lakers.com shop in Phoenix at a nearby Tempe hotel, Ty Nowell and I will soon be heading to U.S. Airways Center and and the Jam Session Center Court to check out the following events:

A) The McDonalds NBA All-Star Celebrity Game
B) The NBA D-League Dream Factory Skills Competition (D-Fender Joe Crawford playing H.O.R.S.E.)
C) Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam (Rookies vs. Sophomores)

We’ll have the camera rolling and recorder taping throughout the night, and will post content as soon as possible on the Lakers.com All-Star site.

We’ll of course be looking out for a few other things:

A) C-list celebs (ideally former “Real World” cast members)
B) Spare invitations to Kenny Smith’s Party
C) Mitch Kupchak (just to see what happens when he meets with the rest of the league’s GM’s – clearly that’s boded well for the Lakers in the past few years)

Until later, folks, we’ll leave you with this clip from the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, featuring three players that are still rolling: Ray Allen, Michael Finley and L.A.’s own Kobe Bryant.

While Kobe won on a pretty slick dunk, we’re expecting to see a much better overall contest tomorrow night.