After this morning’s shootaround, it appeared that both Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton would play this evening.
As it turns out, Vujacic is on the active roster, while Walton will spend another game in street clothes.
In his regular pregame media session, Phil Jackson explained that although Walton could play if he had to, the Lakers would like to go through a full practice as he’s been out for the past two weeks.
In the locker room, Walton said that he’s finally pain free (clearly good news), and is targeting Monday’s game against Cleveland for his return.
Jackson added that he’s not sure how many Vujacic will play against Orlando, but intimated that it’s more likely for him to stay on the court for stretches of time (rather than going in and out) in order to keep his back loose.
A great deal of talent that surely would have played a key role in Tuesday’s Western Conference matchup between L.A. and Houston won’t even get onto the court … And it’s not just the Lakers that are hurting.
Houston will certainly be without Tracy McGrady, and most likely Ron Artest, while the Lakers will go forward without Sasha Vujacic (who remained in Los Angeles on Tuesday and is also doubtful for Wednesday’s game in San Antonio), Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and, possibly, Lamar Odom.
Odom did participate in 3-on-3 drills on Monday and shootaround on Tuesday, and said that he’s feeling better since originally hyper-extending his knee. So while he’s the most likely to play, Odom will be a game-time decision. Surely LO’s ball-handling abilities could be used with the Lakers so paper-thin in the backcourt.
And, since Sun Yue could see more playing time than perhaps he’s ready for (Kobe and Fish, get ready for 40 minutes…), it’ll be particularly important for the Lakers to force-feed Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Not only is Bynum’s scoring up and Gasol due to come back strong from a poor shooting performance (remember last time Gasol struggled at home before exploding at Golden State for 33?), but Yao Ming is the Rockets’ only player big enough to stand alongside L.A.’s front line. That’s not a good thing for Houston, since Yao’s defense is nothing to write home about.
Check back before the game, when we’ll hopefully have some more news on Odom in particular.
We learned some good and bad news at Lakers practice on Monday:
The bad: Sasha Vujacic is suffering from back spasms after tweaking his back late in Sunday’s win over Miami. He will not make the trip to Houston with the team, but it’s the team’s hope that Vujacic will be able to make a separate flight either Tuesday or Wednesday prior to the team’s games against Houston and San Antonio, respectively.
The good: Lamar Odom played a game of 3-on-3 at full speed following Monday’s team workout. Odom, who looked to be moving quite well, hit several jumpers and even exploded for a left-handed dunk. In talking to reporters afterwards (video below), Odom said that he’s going to see how the knee feels on Tuesday at Houston, and will try to play if the pain level is tolerable. Since he can’t make his bone bruise any worse by playing, it’s mostly about pain management, and Odom’s wide variety of skills allows him to compensate better from movement or pain restrictions than many players. He remains listed at day-to-day, but recognizes that a team missing both Jordan Farmar and potentially Vujacic in the backcourt needs his ball-handling skills.
We’ll have more on both Sasha and Lamar from Houston tomorrow.
After the Lakers pulled out a tough win in Oakland against a fiery Golden State squad, I spent a few minutes with Sasha Vujacic in the locker room.
Wearing a green tie to counter his barbs at my socks last week, that fashion decision was (of course) the first thing he talked about after I asked him about his six assists and no turnovers.
Moments later, Andrew Bynum stuck his head into the mic to let us know that Sasha was his fifth favorite actor from our earlier conversation (‘Drew could only think of four actors in a top five column we were doing that will go out shortly).
So it only took Vujacic a minute or so to actually talk about the game.
Lakers.com is fully willing to take credit for Sasha Vujacic’s best home games.
We can’t explain exactly why it works like this, but when Sasha sits down with us after shootaround before home games, he balls out.
During Sunday’s beating of Golden State, Vujacic was 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from three for a season-high 17 points, plus a season-high six assists, two boards and a steal … Not to mention only two turnovers while serving as the backup point guard in the absence of Jordan Farmar, and some tough defense against smaller guards on the perimeter. Not coincidentally, he appeared on Lakers.com that morning.
Sasha’s already admitted the cause (admittedly, playing 30 minutes didn’t hurt his cause), and can even rewind back to the season’s first four games, in which he’d made just 7-of-22 shots and was ready to crack his head against the base of the basket. Sasha came on Lakers.com, and proceeded to make all three of his shots from the field with three assists and a steal for a +15 in 15 minutes of playing time against Houston the next day.
Alas, below is the video of Sasha before his best game of the season … Though, clearly, he’s more worried about the socks* I wore to shootaround then the fact that Lakers.com is basically ensuring that he lives up to his contract.
*OK, I wore white socks with my blue suit at 11 a.m. shootaround, because I had to promptly change back into jeans and running shoes to cart my in-town family around Manhattan Beach. Obviously, blue socks were waiting in the car for the game, but Sasha cared so little about that excuse that he brought it up three times during the video (some were edited out) and then again twice in the locker room. Thanks for blowing up my spot, Sasha, ‘ppreciate you.
After Wednesday’s shootaround, we spent a few minutes shooting the breeze with Sasha Vujacic … And by pure coincidence, Vujacic played his best game of the season later that evening, scoring 15 points in 19 minutes with three three-pointers. Towards that end, last time Vujacic talked to us on video was prior to the Houston game (Nov. 9), when he broke out of a slump by going 3-for-3 from the field with three assists and two boards in 15 minutes. Just saying.
Alas, on this day we talked about music, with Sasha detailing a recently-attended John Mayer concert, his love (err, hate) for techno/rave music and more.
Before L.A. goes for its third-straight win to start the 2008-09 campaign, I sat down in the locker room not to talk Nuggets – we’ve already done plenty of that – but to talk Slovenia with Sasha Vujacic. Sasha covered Slovenian women, food and music in comparison to American versions of those topics.
As for the game tonight, Phil Jackson in his pregame media access primarily repeated what we’ve heard the last two days, specifically that he expects a big effort from a Nuggets team still mad about last year’s playoff drubbing. Other than that, he joked around about why he keeps shaving his beard, saying he likes to keep photographers guessing about his expressions.
You can check back with us at about 7 p.m. (that’d be 6 p.m. L.A. time) for the live running diary in Denver’s season opener at the Pepsi Center.