Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

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Jerry West on Defensive Comments

For the past few days, Jerry West’s name has come up quite a few times around the Lakers’ practice facility and at Staples Center, as media members sought out reactions to comments West made as the keynote speaker during the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association luncheon last Friday, as reported by the Orange County Register.

On Tuesday afternoon, West offered an explanation of his remarks to after we chatted with him about the unveiling of a statue in his likeness outside of Staples Center.

“I think it’s kind of funny because it was in jest,” West said of his comments. “A few weeks ago, (media members) asked Phil (Jackson) what’s wrong, and he said, ‘We’re just not defending well.’ And I just said there’s something about when you get older you don’t defend as well. I think comments like that, and I was laughing while I said them, get blown completely out of proportion.”

The Lakers’ defense, by the numbers at least, ranks third in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed (.437), as both Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher pointed out after Monday’s practice. Their defense has allowed fewer points — albeit while playing at a slower pace — since the return of Andrew Bynum on Dec. 28, helping the team towards a 12-3 mark.

To West, the Lakers only struggle defensively while getting caught in transition, due primarily to the fact that they have seven footers starting at the power forward and center positions. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are of course a huge — literally and figuratively — collective reason why the Lakers have won two straight championships, their length too much to overcome in combination with the rest of what L.A. can do. But it can be difficult for one big man and especially two to get back on defense when the ball is turned over. At least in the regular season…

“When I look at this team, the regular season and the playoffs are different,” West explained. “Every game in the regular season you don’t have as much of a chance to prepare, but the thing that you really see is when the Lakers get in their half court offense, if they turn the ball over or take shots out of their offense, that’s when they’re vulnerable (in transition) because big guys get trapped in the paint. But in the playoffs, they’re going to be fine.”

In the playoffs, West contended, the game slows down as execution on offense becomes more important, and teams have far fewer transition opportunities as a result, minimizing the potential negative impact of being a bigger team like the Lakers or Celtics that may not always show up in the regular season.

That’s a big reason why West said he expects the Lakers and Celtics to meet in the Finals once again. He thinks the Celtics are the only team that has the size to really challenge the Lakers.

“The thing that defines championship teams is how you play together,” West concluded. “I think the Lakers have four All-Stars on the team and are certainly capable of winning the championship again.”

Lakers Trade Vujacic, Acquire Joe Smith

The Lakers have traded guard Sasha Vujacic and their 2011 first round pick to New Jersey for Joe Smith, Golden State’s second round pick in 2011, Chicago’s second round pick in 2012 and the rights to Ukraine’s Sergei Lishouk.

The deal is contingent on both Vujacic and Smith passing physicals. Lakers team spokesman John Black said that the team plans to put Smith through a physical in Philadelphia in advance of L.A.’s Friday evening game against the 76ers, and if he passes, he’ll be eligible to play in that contest.

The trade was finalized early on Wednesday morning, since Dec. 15 was the first day offseason signees like Smith could be traded. Houston was also involved in the three team trade, and principally received Terrence Williams from the Nets.

Vujacic, drafted by the Lakers back in 2004 out of his native Slovenia, won two championships with the Lakers and had his best season in 2007-08, when he played 17.8 minutes per game to score 8.8 points while shooting a still-team-record 43.7 percent from three-point territory.

Vujacic said he was given a heads up about the potential trade after L.A.’s Tuesday night victory in Washington, but said he “did not know what to say at the moment” as nothing was yet official. He had been playing only 4.9 minutes per game in the 10 games in which he appeared this season, lost in the guard rotation behind starters Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and subs Steve Blake and Shannon Brown. Vujacic will join fellow former Laker Jordan Farmar with the Nets.

Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft, will be joining the 13th team of his 16-year career. He appeared in four games this season for New Jersey, playing a total of 24 minutes to score two points with three rebounds, and is considered a strong locker room presence.

Lishouk, 28, was originally selected with the 44th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, and his rights were traded to Houston on February 21, 2008. A 6-11.5 center, Lishouk is currently playing for Valencia in Spain.

Per Lakers team policy, the terms of the trade were not disclosed.

President Obama and the Lakers

United States President Barack Obama shares a laugh with the 2010 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Lakers To Meet President Obama On Monday

Last January, the Lakers became the first NBA team to meet with President Barack Obama, a noted hoops fan who congratulated the team in the East Room of the White House for winning the 2009 championship.

Because the Lakers defended their title by defeating the Boston Celtics in the 2010 Finals, they will in turn meet with President Obama for the second straight year, this time at a community service event on Monday, Dec. 13 at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, D.C.

President Obama will join Lakers coaches, players and staff for a service project with local D.C.-area youth, and then “congratulate the team for achievements on and off the basketball court,” according to the White House press release.

The Lakers, in D.C. to play the Wizards on Tuesday, Dec. 14, will also present President Obama with a gift from the organization to follow up on the personalized No. 1 jersey with “Obama” on the back he was given last year.

Pau Gasol Named Western Conference P.O.W.

62278657The NBA announced Monday morning that Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol was named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played between October 26th and 31st.

The Spaniard was terrific in L.A.’s 3-0 week, averaging 25.3 points on 52.5 percent shooting alongside 10.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in 38.3 minutes per game.

This week marks the seventh in Gasol’s career that he’s been named Western P.O.W., and the fourth time as a Laker (three with Memphis).

Here’s a look at Gasol’s game-by-game statistical contributions:

Oct. 26 vs. Houston: Totaled 29 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two assists in a 112-110 win over the Rockets.
Oct. 29 @ Phoenix: Amassed 21 points, eight rebounds and nine assists with two swats in a 114-106 Lakers win over the Suns.
Oct. 31 vs. Golden State: Put up 26 points to go with 12 rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks in a 107-83 win over the Warriors.

Boston’s Rajon Rondo won the award in the Eastern Conference while averaging 16.7 assists in three games, including a season-opening win over Miami.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week
were Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Boston’s Paul Pierce, Golden State’s Monta
Ellis, Houston’s Luis Scola, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, Miami’s LeBron James
and Dwyane Wade, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, New Jersey’s Brook Lopez and
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Ron Artest Champions Mental Health

62167446Ron Artest made a big difference on the basketball court throughout L.A.’s run through the 2010 playoffs, and even hit the biggest shot in Game 7 of the Finals against Boston.

Throughout the summer and into the 2010-11 season, Artest is trying to make an even bigger difference off the floor while shining a light on mental health issues in kids for their ultimate benefit and well-being.

Artest has managed to create quite a buzz around the topic by announcing his in-place plan to auction off his 2010 championship ring. Dressed sharply in a suit, Artest joined “Larry King Live” on Wednesday evening to discuss:

I’d rather give more people an opportunity to get it so I can get the message out, because it’s not about the money but more about the message … I’m emotionally attached and invested in trying to better the youth, mainly people who grew up how I grew up. I had a lot of mental health issues in my household … I know guys who had a chance to make it in academics or athletics but go back to the streets and go to jail, they get murdered, things like that. I’m trying to catch these kids right where the turning point (could be) to possibly affect their lives negatively.

It’s the same message Artest has been putting out throughout the preseason. In fact, we chatted about the issue back in Las Vegas on Oct. 13, where Artest was awarded the key to the city. Below is a transcript of the conversation:

MT: What did it feel like to be given the Key to Las Vegas for your work in the community?
Artest: It was really cool, definitely something that I accepted and I appreciate the gesture. Councilman Olsen presented the key to me, and (Nevada) Senator (Harry) Reid came as well. They acknowledged what I was doing in the community.

MT: For those that don’t know, can you describe what you’re doing for mental health and how it developed?
Artest: It’s about supporting and bringing awareness to mental health particularly as it applies to children. The way that I had thought about making this movement big was not the way that it happened. I envisioned going through YouTube to do it, and I had a plan. Then it happened through a Lakers championship, and definitely without being on the Lakers and some of my teammates, it wouldn’t have happened this way.

MT: I know it’s something that’s very important to you personally based in part on how you grew up in Queens…
Artest: Oh yes. Personally, it’s definitely something that I’m emotionally invested in because from family to friends (having issues) I experienced both sides of psychology and psychiatry.

MT: How did all of this come about in Vegas?
Artest: Wow, I really don’t know. But I got my own day in New York on July 15, and now I have my own day in Las Vegas, October 13. I don’t know how long it lasts, I guess forever. People say, ‘What can you do with that key,’ but it’s not a key to like, entertainment in Las Vegas or anything. It’s a key to bring focus to mental health awareness. It’s a key to open up the minds of people to what I think is important.

MT: How would you sum up your message?
Artest: It all comes back to education. I know people personally, for a fact that are in jail because they didn’t have a father or mother in their life and didn’t have (an adult figure) pushing the right values. So before the next kid doesn’t have someone positive involved in their life, let’s fix it right now, because it will just cycle again. Because then when that kid gets older, he wouldn’t be in his kid’s life.

MT: So a big part of your goal is to have adult influences available for kids that need them starting at an early age?
Artest: I think a lot of adults right now are a little immature about how they handle the world, because we’re not responsible from pollution to education. But when we’re gone, we’re leaving these kids a mess, so they have to be able to be mentally strong enough to weather that storm. How are they going to fix it? You don’t need a bunch of unstable kids without education. It’s an important challenge, and a fun challenge (for us) to start helping now.

Former Laker Vlade Divac Featured in Film

51575962AB_D023074004As part of ESPN’s terrific “30 for 30″ series, director Mike Tolajian takes a look at how political circumstances in the former Yugoslavia tore at the friendship of Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, a war dividing Divac’s Serbia and Petrovic’s Croatia.

Divac, whom the Lakers drafted in the first round of the 1989 draft and traded seven years later for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant, is the feature voice in the film. Petrovic, perhaps the greatest international player ever, teamed with Divac on the great Yugoslavian teams of the 1980′s, then starred for the New Jersey Nets before dying tragically at the age of 28 in a car crash in Germany.

The film, entitled “Once Brothers,” premiers at 5 p.m. Pacific on ESPN.

Lakers Line of Succession

queen-elizabeth-iiIn the United Kingdom, the line of succession to the throne goes as follows:

- Queen Elizabeth II, present monarch
- Charles, Prince of Wales, heir apparent
- Prince William of Wales
- Prince Harry of Wales

OK, so, … what’s the Lakers’ line of succession?

Kobe, obviously, is the King. Pau Gasol, just as obviously, is the heir apparent, the Prince ready to take the throne when called upon, as he’s done in training camp while Kobe gets back to 100 percent physically. These two are self explanatory. The two-time defending Finals MVP is still considered the best player in the world by many, top few at worst, while the Spaniard could be argued as the league’s best all-around big man, and certainly the best “No. 2″ guy on an NBA roster.

As for the two princes, with William likely years away from power and Harry to serve only in need?

We’ll go with Andrew Bynum in Prince William’s role, as he’s young, talented and lined up to emerge as the team’s star into the future as Bryant and Gasol’s careers begin to dim.

As for Prince Harry, how about Lamar Odom? Extremely talented and capable when it counts, but the pressure’s largely off him to carry the team for right now. But if the future of the franchise depended upon him, and Kobe, Pau and Bynum were unable to serve, Odom’s next in line.

Kobe’s Jersey No. 1 In Europe

61806002The Lakers head to Europe Thursday evening for a preseason in London and Barcelona, in a continent where Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 sits at No. 1 on the list of most popular NBA jerseys for the third straight year.

That information, released by the NBA, comes a week after it was announced that Bryant also retained top selling status in China for the fourth consecutive year, and in the U.S./online for the third time in four years.

Bryant’s teammate Pau Gasol joined him on the European list, coming in at No. 4 behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

Below is the Top 10 in Europe:

1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers*
3. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
4. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

5. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
6. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
7. Jose Calderon, Toronto Raptors
8. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
9. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
10. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

Former Trainer Frank O’Neill Dies at 81

100922_frank_oneillFrank O’Neill, Lakers trainer from 1960-1974, died Tuesday at his home in Playa del Rey from congestive heart failure. He was 81.

O’Neill, who took over training duties when the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, received his training to become an athletic trainer while attending the University of Florida. He earned his certificate as a physical therapist while in the Navy and worked with the Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles and the University of Southern California before joining the Lakers.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Frank O’Neill,” said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “Frank was a highly respected trainer and played an integral part in bringing our first championship to Los Angeles in 1972. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family.”

Born on May 25, 1929, O’Neill is survived by his four children Frank, Jr., Patricia, Michael and Mark; and six grandchildren.