Seven down, one to go

The Lakers started bringing back their starters with about six minutes left in Sunday’s game, when Luke Walton and Lamar Odom got up from the bench and headed to the scorer’s table. Sasha Vujacic, Smush Parker and Andrew Bynum soon followed.

How much the Lakers can take away from their 94-91 victory over Phoenix is hard to say because the Suns refused to follow suit down the stretch. They kept Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and the rest of their starters off the floor and nearly forced overtime before Jumaine Jones missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis wanted to give some of his players extended minutes – - Odom played 33:42 while J.R. Pinnock didn’t play at all – - and get the Lakers a taste of victory against the Suns. That’s no small thing with the teams playing again in nine days on opening night. They could play as many as 11 times this season, including a seven-game playoff series.

“I thought it was important for us to start seeing guys want to have the will to win,” Rambis said.

There were a ton of miscues, though, some that showed up in the final box score and some that didn’t. The Lakers went down 87-82 with 3 1-2 minutes left after Walton was called for an offensive foul and Odom was hit with a technical for arguing the call.

Not a smart play late in the game. Odom then compounded his mistake by fouling Jones on a 3-point shot. Jones hit two of three free throws to put the Suns ahead by 5.

Give credit to Vujacic for following up a miss by Walton and scoring while being fouled with 1:32 left. Vujacic couldn’t convert the three-point play but his hustle was rewarded on the game’s second biggest play.

Walton then hit a 3-pointer with 41.9 seconds remaining that put the game out of reach. The Lakers turned over the ball 32 times but survived by grabbing 17 offensive rebounds and scoring 26 second-chance points. They also probably won’t see the Suns miss 19 of 23 3-pointers again this season.

The Lakers best stretch came at the end of the first quarter, which they ended on a 7-0 run. Odom swept to the basket with a nice drive, Jordan Farmar fired a pass to Walton for a 3-pointer and Walton knocked down a fadeaway as the Lakers held for the last shot.

In the meantime, Rambis has some work to do in raising the Lakers basketball IQ when it comes to playing the Suns.

“They’re small, we’re bigger than they are, and we’re taking outside shots, which is playing right into their hands,” Rambis said. “Once our guys got the feel of attacking them and getting the ball inside, those type of things really helped them.”

* * *

A Spanish language television station asked Kobe Bryant after the game about his thoughts on Shaquille O’Neal winning a championship with the Miami Heat.

“We just try to do what we do here,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t matter who wins the championship. We have to focus on what we can do and how to play better together and try to get to that point ourselves.”

Bryant was asked how realistic it is for him to play in Thursday’s preseason finale.

“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “We’re just going to take it day by day and go from there.”

Bryant offered advice to his teammates – - particularly Maurice Evans, Bynum and Farmar – - during timeouts and throughout the game Sunday.

* * *

There was a funny moment in the second quarter as the Lakers coaches were encouraging Bynum to run the floor and keep building on the great half he was having. Bynum tried to throw his weight around and wound up decking Marion for an offensive foul.

It was a case of being overly excited. During the next timeout, though, Kwame Brown came up to Bynum and said, “I like it.” Brown probably was happy just to see Bynum going hard after somebody other than himself. Brown is out three to four weeks with a shoulder injury thanks to a play that involved Bynum in practice.
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Saturday report

Back in his first season with the Lakers, Lamar Odom offered a four-word answer to our questions about what position he was best suited to play. It was one of those great moments when an athlete talks about himself in the third person.

“Odom is a player,” he said.

That sums up his perspective but does nothing to end the debate about whether he is a small forward, power forward or a point guard in a 6-foot-10 body. In the new NBA, Odom might even be a center, which is something the Lakers will have to consider with Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm out.

According to the Web site 82games.com, Odom played 44 percent of the Lakers’ minutes at power forward last season, 34 percent of their minutes at small forward and 2 percent of their minutes at center. Odom was most productive as a power forward and least productive as a center.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Even before learning that Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm would be out to start the season, the Lakers had been considering playing Lamar Odom at times as a center in a small lineup.

“We see the versatility of our team that we could put a lineup out there thats almost the same size, Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said, “where we can do a lot of switching, where we can do a lot of getting into our offense not caring who went to what spot, not caring whos bringing the ball up because they could all do it.

The Lakers had the option of using just such a lineup in Fridays exhibition game against New Orleans. The Hornets were playing without Tyson Chandler, who missed the game with a sprained ankle, and started 6-foot-9 forward David West at center.

Instead, Rambis decided to start Andrew Bynum, saying that getting the teenage center experience with Brown and Mihm out was the Lakers biggest immediate concern.

However, the Lakers will consider using Odom at center, especially as their Western Conference counterparts continue to follow the Phoenix Suns lead in going small and smaller.

As one example, Troy Murphy will move from power forward to center with Golden State this season. The Suns advanced to the conference finals last season with Boris Diaw, a converted guard, starting at center.

“It depends on the matchups, Odom said. “A lot of times right now, youve got a lot of these teams that are going smaller. Against them, probably so. Against a natural 7-foot, 270-pound center, probably not.

As one of the leagues most versatile players, Odom is at his best playing to mismatches on the floor. He handles the ball well enough that the Lakers had him initiate the triangle offense from the backcourt last season and lead the fast break.

With so many injuries this preseason, the Lakers have had Odom playing as a forward on the wing. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists Friday; Rambis liked seeing him attack the basket with a “head of steam on a couple of plays.

Odom said having a center who can handle the ball does wonders by dragging a big man away from the basket and opening up the floor.

“Its kind of the perfect attribute to have when youre playing center, Odom said.

In the meantime, Odom is trying to regain his timing and conditioning after a summer away from basketball following the death of his infant son. Odom said he weighs 245 pounds and would like to get down to a “strong 235 heading into the season.

No Kobe: The Lakers said Kobe Bryant would not play in tonights exhibition game against Phoenix in San Diego. That leaves one exhibition game – - Thursday in Anaheim – - for Bryant to test his right knee before the start of the season Oct. 31.

Odom was asked if the Lakers needed to play a game with Bryant before the season, just to get everybody on the same page. His answer: “I think when (Bryant) comes back everybody kind of knows what page to be on.

The Lakers will get guard Sasha Vujacic back from a sprained ankle. Forward Vladimir Radmanovic (hand injury) and guard Shammond Williams (abdominal strain) wont play tonight.

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Bynum back-to-back

The test for Andrew Bynum in Fridays game was coming back with energy after playing 29 minutes the night before. Some of Bynums worst performances in the Long Beach summer league came in back-to-back situations.

Bynum finished with a quiet 7 points and 3 rebounds in 25:50 as the Lakers beat New Orleans 113-106. The Hornets were playing without Tyson Chandler, which meant Bynum matched up against forward David West most of the night.

With Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm out, Bynum is the player to watch the rest of the preseason, at least until Kobe Bryant returns to test his right knee.

Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis spelled out all that Bynum is expected to do on the floor, from racing to get back to the defensive end to posting up early on the offensive end to anchoring the defense and being a good communicator.

“Theres a lot of things that he has to do, Rambis said. “Sometimes he does things well and sometimes he doesnt. Its an awesome responsibility for a kid his age. But were expecting him to grow each and every day.

Bynum had only two baskets in the game, his other points came at the foul line. He posted up West early in the first quarter and flipped in a hook shot with his right hand. Bynum also finished a pick-and-roll with Lamar Odom.

Where Bynums play was most notable Friday came in passing the ball. He had four assists and did a good job locating shooters. Smush Parker hit a 3-pointer after Bynum was double-teamed inside and moved the ball.

* * *

Parker found out in the second quarter Thursday just how strict the NBA is going to be this season in enforcing player conduct on the court.

Parker thought he had stolen the ball from the Clippers Tim Thomas only to be called for a foul. He grabbed the ball in frustration and took two steps with it, a move the league has targeted in its points of emphasis to referees.

“The guys who play with emotion and passion, Parker said, “its going to be kind of hard for them to control themselves.

“Some of the things are silly little technical fouls, just the referees trying to clean up bad behavior, Rambis added. “But when youre out there in the heat of battle, you forget all about the new rules.

Vujacic, meanwhile, was left scratching his head after a third-quarter technical. He was battling for position against Cuttino Mobley when he was called for a foul. Vujacic tried to demonstrate how Mobley was hooking him and drew the technical.

* * *

Second-round draft pick J.R. Pinnock continued to struggle, making just 2 of 9 shots in 20 minutes. Pinnock had the games lowlight as he was blocked at the rim by Cedric Simmons on a dunk attempt in the second quarter.

Pinnock is now shooting 5 for 28 (17.9 percent) in the preseason.

* * *

Jordan Farmar had to bounce back from two rough stretches in Fridays game. He missed his first four shots, the last of which was rejected by Simmons, but didnt hesitate in taking and making a 3-pointer in the second quarter.

The Lakers later gave back half of their 19-point lead in a matter of moments in the third quarter. Farmar was guilty of a couple of turnovers in the stretch, including an 8-second call.

Farmar did hit all three shots he took in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer, and found Luke Walton for a 3-pointer that was one of the games biggest shots.

* * *

Walton talked about the turnaround jumper he has knocked down all preseason.

“Thats my shot, Walton said. “The coaches dont like fadeaways that much, so its something Ive got show enough to where they start letting me shoot it. Coach (Lute) Olson (at Arizona) never let me shoot it until my junior year and senior year. Now I have to re-prove it again.

* * *

Maurice Evans introduced himself to the Staples Center crowd with 27 points Friday.

“Scoring is definitely something that I can do out there with our offense, Evans said. “It is funny because before I came to the NBA I was never known as a defensive stopper.

“But I think that your role evolves with each team that you go to and hopefully I can be more than just a defensive stopper or offensive player. Hopefully, I can just be a chameleon and do whatever the team needs.
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Cracking down

We had the chance to sit down before the game with a referee as part of an off-the-record preseason media availability. It was really interesting to go over the leagues points of emphasis for this season, then to see just about every one of them called in Thursdays game.

The NBA is emphasizing everything from traveling calls to offensive and defensive three seconds to making sure players have their jerseys tucked in when they check into games. Those are all things most casual fans will notice rarely, if ever.

Where they will see the difference is if the referees crack down on player conduct like they did Thursday. There were seven technical fouls called in the game and they give an indication of what wont be tolerated this season.

In the second quarter, Smush Parker thought he came up with a steal against Tim Thomas only to be called for a foul instead. Parker picked up the ball in frustration and took two steps with it before being hit with a technical.

That call is one that will be made all season. There was another call late in the third quarter when Sasha Vujacic was whistled for a foul fighting for position inside with Cuttino Mobley.

Vujacic complained to referee Scott Wall about the call and a technical foul was added on. He looked dumbfounded at the technical. We were told the referees are drawing a harder line about what they will listen to this season.

The last technical of note came with 3:12 left in the fourth quarter of a one-point game. Shaun Livingston fought his way to a basket and said something that drew an immediate technical. It was not the call you expect late in a close game.

I don’t think Livingston swore. But the referees are not going to tolerate any profanity on the court even if its directed at nobody in particular. There are just too many people sitting near the court who can hear such things.

Bottom line: The league is going to make allowances for things done and said in the heat of the moment and police just about everything else.

Im not sure how much the fans are going to enjoy it. With the referees taking a hard line Thursday night, we had 59 fouls called, 78 free throws shot, seven technicals and a 2-hour, 45-minute exhibition game.

“We looked at the free throw shooting in the first half, Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said, “and we went, `Wow, thats usually a games worth of free throws that were shot.

Reggie Miller, who was broadcasting the game for TNT, saw a couple of the higher ups from the NBA league office on his way out and said, “Id have lost all my money with the new rules.

* * *

The Lakers were hoping to run a pick-and-roll play with Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar on the final play of the game. They had success with a similar play at the end of the first half when Parker hit a 21-footer over Thomas.

It showed a lot of confidence to put the ball in Farmars hands in that situation. He couldnt get the ball to Odom and hesitated in attacking immediately against Thomas.

That left Farmar isolated with the clock heading toward zero. He tried to drive the lane. I originally thought he had the ball stolen from behind by Daniel Ewing. Farmar said afterward that Thomas grabbed him by the arm.

“Im always going to be aggressive, Farmar said. “I tried to penetrate. Things happened. Im a rookie, Im not going to get any calls down the stretch. Im glad it happened, Ill learn from it.

“Kobe came in here and showed me a different look that I could have done. Ill definitely learn from it.

Said Rambis: I thought he did a good job making an adjustment and then trying to attack, but it didnt work out well for him.

* * *

Second-round draft pick J.R. Pinnock, who is fighting to make the team, had a nightmarish game in which he missed all seven shots he took.

Even when Pinnock made a nice play in the fourth quarter, stealing the ball from Corey Maggette, he couldnt finish at the other end.

Too eager, trying to do too much, Rambis said. “I think hes a little frustrated that hes not making the shots that he would normally make. All players want to play, all players want to get time. Its got to be a frustrating situation for him.

* * *

Andrew Bynum had some good moments against the Clippers and Elton Brand. He used an up-and-under move to score against him in the third quarter and acrobatically tipped in a Farmar miss to start the fourth quarter.

But Bynum also had four turnovers and was slow with his hands to catch the ball on a couple of plays. He also has to get out of the habit of being so eager to contest shots that he leaves his feet too early.

“One bad habit he has is he always likes to turn baseline, Rambis added. “Then he cant see his teammates, he cant see where the defenders are coming from. Its just a habit hes gotten himself into.

* * *

Who was more upset with Thomas 1 for 11 shooting performance Thursday night? Was it the Lakers fans who remember Thomas shot at the end of Game 6 in last seasons playoffs or the Clippers fans who had to question the player they signed for four years?

* * *

For those who care about such things, Kobe Bryant said he is having the scar tissue in his right knee manually worked on daily. I assume thats through some kind of massage. Bryant also said the physical therapists are making sure that his kneecap is tracking properly in everything he is doing.

* * *

This was the first game at Staples Center this season, and Lamar Odom is paying tribute to his son Jayden in a very personal way. Odom had two pictures of his son up in his locker as well as an oversized T-shirt with his sons picture drawn on the front.

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Kwame out

The Lakers sent out a decidedly grim injury report for tonight’s game with the news that Kwame Brown will be out three to four weeks with a rotator cuff bruise and bursitis in his right shoulder. Vladimir Radmanovic is out a minimum of two games with a sprained ligament in his hand and Aaron McKie is out a minimum of three games with his back injury.

Not sure where the Lakers go from here at center, although Andrew Bynum has to be considered the first option. The Lakers also have given Ronny Turiaf and Lamar Odom minutes at center during the exhibition season. Chris Mihm is still struggling in his return from ankle surgery and is probably questionable at best to be available Oct. 31.

The Lakers’ first two games are against Phoenix and Golden State, followed by a home-and-home with Seattle. Bynum started and matched up against Kurt Thomas in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Suns. The Warriors are playing Troy Murphy at center, which would be a good match up for Odom. Seattle starts Johan Petro, whom the Lakers worked out against Bynum before the 2005 draft.

Brown said going into the season that the biggest key for him was staying healthy and avoid anything that could keep him out like last season’s hamstring injury. He’s looking at missing between six and nine games if the Lakers’ timetable is accurate.

Also, the Lakers will have no chance to play as a unit with Kobe Bryant before the season opener, even if Bryant plays in one of the final two exhibition games. Radmanovic, especially, needs the chance to see where he’s going to spot up with Bryant on the floor.

One other thing: Von Wafer is doubtful for tonight with a bruised left heel.

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Wednesday report

It’s getting hard to keep track of all the injuries the Lakers are dealing with.

For starters, Aaron McKie was found Wednesday to be suffering from disc irritation and inflammation in his back. Whether he will need surgery has not been determined. The Lakers said they would monitor the situation and McKie wouldn’t play at least the next couple of days.

The team also sent Kwame Brown and Vladimir Radmanovic to see doctors. Brown’s right shoulder is still bothering him and Radmanovic had an MRI on his hand. That would seem to be an indication that Radmanovic’s hand is not getting better. The Lakers weren’t sure if they would get results back Wednesday night.

Here are the blog extras from Wedneday’s practice:

The Lakers are less than two weeks away from their Oct. 31 season opener against Phoenix. They still have yet to play an exhibition game with Kobe Bryant, which has made evaluating their preseason play more difficult than previous years.

One thing thats not too early to do is start speculating about who will be the 12 players on the active roster for opening night. The Lakers can carry up to 15 players on their roster but can activate only 12 each game.

It sounds as if Chris Mihm has a ways to go before his ankle is 100 percent again. I also would expect the Lakers to fill one spot on the inactive list with either Devin Green or J.R. Pinnock, depending on which player makes the team.

That leaves one spot on the inactive list. Barring further injuries, I see 11 players that have to be on the active roster:

PG: Smush Parker, Sasha Vujacic
SG: Kobe Bryant, Maurice Evans
SF: Vladimir Radmanovic, Luke Walton
PF: Lamar Odom, Brian Cook, Ronny Turiaf
C: Kwame Brown, Andrew Bynum

With Mihm injured, Bynum is the backup center. Turiaf also can play center if the need arises. Against the Suns, however, an extra guard might be preferable to an extra big man. The final spot on the active roster would appear to come down to a battle between Jordan Farmar and Shammond Williams.

Williams has been battling an abdominal injury but is a better shooter than Farmar. He hit all five shots he took against the Suns on Sunday night. Farmar, however, has impressed since the start of training camp and played the best defense of any guard against Steve Nash.

Another possibility is that Walton might start ahead of Radmanovic. Nobody would be surprised with the way Walton has played and Radmanovic has struggled with a hand injury. Would you have guessed before training camp that the 54.5 percent shooter would be Walton and the 25.9 percent shooter would be Radmanovic?

This is just one writers analysis of the situation. Id be happy to hear yours.

* * *

Some notes from Wednesdays practice, where the reporters were let into the gym just as Phil Jackson was making his exit:

I asked Farmar about the bank shot he missed in the last 2 1-2 minutes Tuesday with the Lakers trailing 92-89. He seemed a lot more bothered by that shot than the five turnovers he had in the first half. . . .

“I dont miss that shot, Farmar said. “Its killing me. Thats my favorite shot in basketball, the little floaters. It just wouldnt go in last night.

During one timeout in the second half, Kobe Bryant got up from his seat behind the bench and talked at length to Farmar. Bryant has been a voice in Farmars ear throughout training camp.

“Hes very poised, Bryant said of Farmar. “Hes a savvy basketball player. For his age, playing at this level, thats good to see. He plays with a lot of confidence. Hes just very poised. I just try to help him out wherever I can. . . . .

Farmar nearly made a brilliant play in the first half Tuesday, beating Mike Bibby in the lane and floating in a shot to beat the 24-second clock. But Farmar was called for a late charge taken by Kenny Thomas on the play.

“Im a rookie, Farmar said. “They didnt give me that call. . . . .

Kwame Brown said he would decide about playing tonight at the morning shootaround. Brown went through about half of practice Wednesday but is struggling to use his right hand to fend off players. . . .

Chris Mihm scaled back his workouts after his right ankle flared up again. He said he would increase his workload in the next couple of days in the hopes of being able to play Oct. 31. But Mihm described the process as “very frustrating.. . . .

Brian Cook suffered a mild sprain of his left ankle . . . .

As an undrafted free agent last season, Devin Green never had to attend the NBAs rookie transition program. He went to New York for the program in September, along with Ronny Turiaf and Farmar, and said he benefited greatly.

“I think it might have helped a little more if you go back after one year because youve actually been in it,” Green said. “A lot of guys that are there, theyre sitting there like its class. We took it a little more to heart.

The sessions cover everything from managing your money to media training to nutrition to learning how to handle family members and friends as a professional athlete.
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The 15th man

We are probably guilty as writers of wasting too much ink on who gets the 15th spot on an NBA roster. Devin Green won the spot last season with the Lakers and played a total of 135 minutes in 27 games.

His biggest basketball claim to fame so far is being the player who checked in for Kobe Bryant at the end of Bryants 81-point game.

Even so, it was hard to watch the end of Tuesdays 96-91 exhibition loss to Sacramento and not think that a job was there for the taking. It probably still is, judging from how things went.

Veteran guard Aaron McKie started the game and got hurt in the second minute. After playing only 14 games last season, McKie has to prove he is healthy to stay on the roster. A back injury is not a good thing for a 34-year-old player.

The two players with a chance to replace McKie are Green and J.R. Pinnock, the Lakers second-round draft choice. Green got the chance to play 10 minutes in the fourth quarter Tuesday while Pinnock played six minutes.

Green made one great play, driving for a three-point play that put the Lakers in front with 5:26 left. But it was all downhill for him from there.

Down the stretch, Brian Cook passed on an open shot in favor of Green, who missed a jumper from the left corner. He had a pass stolen and was tied up in the lane for a jump ball the Kings won.

With 2:38 left, John Salmons beat Green on a drive as part of a go-ahead three-point play. Green didnt get the help he was looking for but said afterward, “Bottom line, Ive got to make the stop.

Green went on to miss a jumper from the wing with 41 seconds left and the Kings leading 92-89. He finished the game 1 for 7 with five points and three rebounds in 14:36.

You have to remember that Green was getting a rare taste of playing in crunch time, even though he has been in the NBA for a season.

He made only 6 of 28 shots last season and has to prove he can shoot well enough to stay in the league. He also has to make his mark as a defender, which is why the Salmons basket really hurt.

I asked him a couple of questions after the game, starting with how he thought he did.

“I think I did pretty good, Green said. “I think our team defense – - our communication – - has to get a lot better and that will make us excel and be able to take the next step in the playoffs as we continue to learn each other and build chemistry.

“Myself, youre always your worst critic. Until I really go back and watch the tape, I feel like I played all right but I know I can play much better. It was a new experience for me, but at the end of the day its just basketball.

Do you feel more confident in your shot?

“I really do. Its just all about being comfortable and being in that situation more often, so youre familiar with it and just be able to calm down and knock down the shots.

Is it a tough situation playing for a job?

“I think it was tougher last year because it was all new. This year, Ive already been through it. You just try to go out there and relax and leave it all out there on the court.

Pinnock, meanwhile, was less involved than Green. He missed everything on a 3-pointer from the corner that would have tied the game with two minutes left. He had a 3-pointer at the buzzer rim out as well.

Pinnock also had a bad sequence at the start of the second quarter when he picked up his dribble a step before the halfcourt line. The Kings trapped him, Pinnock coughed up the ball and Francisco Garcia scored on a layup.

The next possession, Pinnock missed a dunk. He finished with four points on 2 for 7 shooting in 12:08.

So whos it going to be?

The Lakers already have invested a season in developing Green, although Pinnocks athleticism has impressed the coaches.

There is another factor to consider: The Lakers have their own NBA Developmental League affiliate and probably would like to make use of it this season. Pinnock is the player who makes more sense for the D-Fenders than Green.

Its a tough road to go from being undrafted (as Green was) or being taken late in the second round (as Pinnock was) to making an NBA roster. Both players still have a ways to go before its decided.

* * *

A couple of notes from Tuesday nights game: Give credit to Jordan Farmar, who bounced back from a nightmarish first half in which he totaled five turnovers. Farmar had five assists and no turnovers in 17 minutes in the second half.

Farmar was the victim of a tough call in the first quarter. He beat Mike Bibby in the lane and floated in a shot as the 24-second clock sounded. But Farmar was called for a late charge on the play and the basket was erased. . . .

Vladimir Radmanovic fouled out in only 15 minutes. If only the game could have ended after the first minute for Radmanovic, who pounced on an entry pass for a steal and drilled a 17-footer at the other end. . . .

Assistant coach Kurt Rambis lit into Smush Parker after Parker somehow was called for an eight-second violation in the second quarter after the Lakers coaching staff had made clear the time situation to him. . . .

One great sequence in the first half – - it might have been the only one – - had Farmar lobbing a pass inside to Turiaf, who caught the ball and then fired a pass back outside to Brian Cook for a 3-pointer. . . .

Lamar Odom vowed this season to keep his comments to the officials to a minimum. But Odom was visibly frustrated at a call by referee Matt Boland in the second quarter and was assessed a technical foul early in the third quarter.

It didnt help Odoms state of mind that he missed three free throws in the first half.

Odom also paid tribute to his infant son Jayden on his sneakers Tuesday. Where Odom has written the names of his mother and grandmother in the past, he added the words “Baby J on his Nikes. . . .

The Lakers received a delay of game warning when Green checked in with his jersey untucked. The NBA has made it a point of emphasis for referees this season.

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Monday report

Its amazing that you can walk into a 7-11 in Las Vegas and find people playing video poker in the middle of the day.

Thats one side of life here and the Lakers are going to experience the other side tonight with a host of activities that include a team dinner, gambling and a private party at a nightclub. Its a slightly different definition of team-building than most people have.

Practice went long today at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Lakers had to get off the court to make way for UNLV. Lamar Odom didnt take part in the scrimmage at the end, treating his bruised shin instead, but said he would play Tuesday.

I went in a little different direction for Tuesdays notes. The D-Fenders are interesting to me because the NBA clearly is moving toward adopting a minor-league system along the lines of baseball and hockey and the Lakers are the team everybody is watching to see how it will work.

“Were looking for that diamond in the rough or that hidden NBA talent, coach Dan Panaggio said.

If you have any questions about the D-Fenders and how things work, feel free to e-mail. Its not the easiest thing understanding that there will be players assigned by the Lakers to the team as well as players on the roster that can be claimed by any NBA team.

For those who are interested in Dan Panaggios triangle experience, he told me that he twice tried to get his CBA teams to run the triangle. He stuck with it for entire seasons but found it was too difficult to do long-term.

It takes a long time to learn the offense and the players leave too quickly at the minor-league level. Thats just one of the challenges facing the D-Fenders. But Panaggio attended a bunch of Tex Winter-run clinics when he was in the CBA.

The Lakers will have control over the D-Fenders, which wasnt the case last season when their affiliate was in Fort Worth, Texas. General manager Mitch Kupchak said he wasnt happy with what Von Wafer got out of his two trips there.

Panaggio said he thought players would be eager to come to the D-Fenders, even though they will play in a system different from most NBA teams. For starters, they will get scouted more extensively and they will have the benefit of being around a pro practice facility.

Although the Lakers are the first, other NBA teams are expected to own minor-league affiliates within the next season or two.

“The more time we can spend developing players, Kupchak said, “the more that bodes well for our franchise.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS–Dan Panaggio can remember the first time he saw the triangle offense, back when he was coaching Quad City in the Continental Basketball Association and watching the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s on television.

Now Panaggio has a seat next to Tex Winter for every exhibition game and the job of teaching the triangle to a new generation of players as head coach of the D-Fenders, the Lakers new minor league affiliate.

The Lakers are the first team to own and operate their own affiliate in the NBA Development League. The D-Fenders will play home games at Staples Center on the same days as the Lakers and will practice at the teams El Segundo facility.

They also will run the offense that Phil Jackson helped make famous and Panaggio went on to run with two of his Quad City teams.

“I think its especially important for the Lakers, Panaggio said, “because they have a complex system they play thats different from the norm. Hopefully, we can provide a pool of guys that are familiar with that system so that, if they do need a player, they have one thats semi-trained.

The Lakers will have the ability to assign up to two players from their roster – - either in their first or second NBA season – - to play for the D-Fenders.

It was an option the Lakers would have considered last season with teenage center Andrew Bynum had their minor-league affiliate not been in Fort Worth, Texas, and had they known Bynum would get experience in the triangle.

“Were going to run it exactly at that level like we do at this level, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “because if we end up moving guys back and forth, then therell be no learning curve.

Panaggio coached in the CBA for nine seasons and won two championships. He went on to serve as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers for four seasons and saw how a minor-league system could benefit young NBA players.

The Blazers drafted Zach Randolph, who played one season at Michigan State, as well as high schoolers Sebastian Telfair and Travis Outlaw during Panaggios time.

“They drafted so many very, very young players and they would get 82 pre-game workouts once the season started, Panaggio said. “You knew it wasnt enough. It was good that they were getting those workouts, but those young guys needed to play to fully develop.

The D-Fenders will draft players Nov. 2, after the conclusion of NBA training camps. They will open the season Nov. 24 at Anaheim and will play home games at 3:30 p.m. before Lakers games.

Even though the team is owned by the Lakers, the D-Fenders players will be treated no differently than their counterparts in the league. That means any NBA team – - be it the Clippers or the Kings – - could sign their players to a 10-day contract.

As a result, how the Lakers avoid losing out on their investment of developing players remains to be seen.

“Were going to know him probably earlier and better than anybody else, Panaggio said.

Kupchak also said he wasnt sure how much the Lakers would make use of the D-Fenders this season. The Lakers have six players on the training camp roster who are eligible to be assigned, including Bynum and rookie guard Jordan Farmar.

“It all depends on how our roster ends up, Kupchak said.

Option talk: Guard Sasha Vujacic was asked about facing an Oct. 31 deadline for the Lakers to exercise the fourth-year option in his contract. If the Lakers dont exercise the option, Vujacic would be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

“Obviously, I chose not to go with the (Slovenian) national team, Vujacic said. “I chose to stay all summer long in L.A., working on my body, working on the triangle offense, working on my offense, defense, everything.

“What I was working for is simply to come into this season confident and what will happen, will happen. I want to stay here and we will see what will happen.

After missing two games with a foot injury, Vujacic is expected to play tonight against Sacramento.

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The odds

Straight from the Wynn Las Vegas, here are the odds for winning the 2006-07 NBA championship. The Lakers are at 20/1 after opening at 30/1. The Clippers are at 20/1 after opening at 18/1. Perception has the two teams heading in different directions, I guess.

The favorites: San Antonio 7/2, Miami 4/1, Dallas 9/2, Detroit 5/1 and Phoenix 6/1

The middle: Chicago 10/1 Cleveland 10/1, New Jersey 15/1, Lakers 20/1, Clippers 20/1, Houston 20/1, Denver 20/1, Sacramento 20/1, Indiana 25/1, Memphis 28/1, Washington 35/1, Utah 40/1, Philadelphia 40/1.

The longshots: Orlando 50/1, Milwaukee 50/1, New Orleans 50/1, Minnesota 50/1, Boston 60/1, Seattle 60/1, Golden State 75/1, Charlotte 100/1, Toronto 100/1, Atlanta 150/1, New York 150/1, Portland 200/1.

It’s pretty amazing to see the Knicks with longer odds than Toronto or Charlotte to win it all. The teams whose odds have dropped the most are Chicago and Houston. The teams whose odds have dropped since Oct. 1 are Miami, Chicago and the Lakers.

My gambling on this trip ended yesterday thanks to the Redskins. I really could have used the NFL to institute a new 14-point play for the fourth quarter of that game.

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The first loss

The last lead the Lakers had in Sunday nights exhibition game against Phoenix came at the 8:56 mark of the second quarter. They trailed the entire second half, by as many as 14 points, and yet there still was a positive vibe after the 99-91 loss.

Im not sure what you can take away from a game where Kobe Bryant and Kwame Brown didnt play and Lamar Odom finished with nine points on 3 for 10 shooting with four turnovers, two of which were offensive fouls.

The Suns were playing their first game back in the United States after spending two weeks touring in Europe. There is a nine-hour time difference between Las Vegas and Italy, and Phoenix definitely had tired legs in shooting 7 for 28 on 3-pointers.

The good news for the Lakers was the play of Shammond Williams and Smush Parker, who combined to score 30 points and hit 11 of 13 shots and seven 3-pointers. Parkers five 3s were one more than he hit in seven games against Phoenix in the playoffs.

Parker had 18 points on eight shots, Williams had 12 on 5. Thats the productivity the Lakers need out of both playing alongside Bryant. Parker averaged 11.5 points on 9.5 shots last season. For his NBA career, Williams has averaged 6.1 points on 5.4 shots.

Williams said afterward he was encouraged by the fact that the Lakers have had no trouble scoring with Bryant out. They have put up 94, 104 and now 91 points in the three exhibition games. That bodes well for the regular season.

On the other hand, Maurice Evans missed all six shots he took and Vladimir Radmanovic went 1 for 5. Radmanovic is now 4 for 20 in three exhibition games, although he is playing with a hand injury that makes shooting difficult.

Andrew Bynum had some growing pains in 22 minutes. He picked up two fouls in the first five minutes but not before scoring off a really nice putback in which he took the rebound on one side and finished with a layup on the other side.

The Lakers have been hoping to see Bynum put together sequential movements just like that. He came back in the second quarter and was called for a travel after holding the ball seemingly forever trying to make a move against Amare Stoudemire.

After that, Bynum picked up his third foul for flattening Steve Nash when he went to set a pick. In the third quarter, Bynum took a step back from Nash in the lane, leading to a short jumper. Bynum heard about it from Kurt Rambis in the next timeout.

But Bynum finished with eight points and had two good moments at the end. He blocked Leandro Barbosa off a drive and dunked off a pass from Parker.

Rambis on Bynum: “I thought Andrew did terrific. He did a lot of good things out there. We went into the playoffs last year and said, `This is a series that Andrew’s not going to play.’

“It’s a situation where Andrew has to learn how to be able to play at a much faster pace than he’s used to. One of the things we encourage him to do all the time is run the floor. He kind of lopes sometime. He didn’t have a choice in this ballgame.

“Even having said that, there were still times where he didn’t run the floor as hard as we would like him to. But defensively he did some good things, offensively he did some good things. He’s still a young kid. He’s still got a long ways to go.”

A couple of things worth noting:

The Lakers had a great sequence late in the first quarter off a pick-and-roll play that started with Williams. He gave the ball up to Ronny Turiaf, who sent a nice pass to Brian Cook for a layup. The ball moved quickly to the open man.

Devin Green came up with a nice steal in the second quarter only to blow a sure dunk at the other end. Some of us were wondering if the NBAs new ball might have been an issue.

Referee Joey Crawford was worked up for a preseason game. He gave Rambis a technical foul at the end of the first half and barked at the Lakers huddle to get on the floor for the start of the second half. Remember that its Oct. 15.

Sure enough, Parker was whistled for an offensive foul 40 seconds into the third quarter, shot a look that said he was upset at the call, and was hit with a technical immediately. I guess thats what the NBA wants this season.

Turiaf, lastly, led all players with 10 rebounds in 23 minutes. He might be a better alternative at center than Bynum, although the Lakers must develop their teenage project. But Turiaf has to shoot free throws better.

He is now 8 for 17 from the foul line in three exhibition games. The Lakers are at 45 for 79 (57 percent) as a team. Thats not going to get it done in the regular season.

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Sorry I couldn’t post this last night. For some reason, the server that hosts all of our blogs was down.

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