The good news Thursday in Lakerland was that Phil Jackson successfully brought up Chris Bosh’s name WITHOUT saying anything that could result in a $25,000 fine for violating the league’s tampering rules. Great success, as Borat might say.
If you don’t remember, Jackson got in trouble last December for praising Bosh to Toronto reporters when he was asked about potential free-agent targets for the Lakers. It wound up being a moot point because Bosh signed a contract extension with the Raptors in July.
“Well … the players that were franchise-changing players you know re-signed up or re-upped with their organizations,” Jackson said. “There are some that will be available in the year following that you obviously have to take a look at, and this kid here is one of them. Chris Bosh, obviously everybody’s going to be interested in and we think he’s become quite a talent.”
Jackson said later that he hadn’t even seen Bosh play and was trying to be complimentary. The NBA slapped the Lakers with a $25,000 fine for Jackson’s comments. He sarcastically said he was a “humbled man, sad, bereaved” when he stood before reporters the first time after the fine was announced.
“I’m going to take my penalty and punishment and go to the closet, cry a little bit and come out,” Jackson added.
What did he say Thursday about Bosh?
“Theyve got a terrific 6-10 player thats a potential All-Star for a number of years in Bosh,” Jackson said, “and Lamars a perfect matchup for him.”
* * *
Bryant said he had benefited from the four days between games the Lakers had this week.
“Its been great,” Bryant said. “Weve been able to come in here and play hard against each other, compete, get healthy. I feel much better now than I did coming into these four days, have a much better rhythm.
* * *
Jackson revealed that forward Ronny Turiaf was unable to participate in a couple of practices as he continues to battle hip problems.
* * *
After setting Thanksgiving as the target date to evaluate the Lakers last season, Jackson said he probably would wait until December to draw conclusions about this season’s team. The Lakers have missed Shammond Williams, Aaron McKie and Kwame Brown for extended periods due to injuries.
“Theres some rotation guys right there that you think of how do they get back in with the team,” Jackson said. “Its going to take a little while. Id say that a couple weeks, hopefully six, seven more games, well look at it and see the best features of our team out there on the floor.
* * *
Kobe Bryant took some time this week to talk about his 81-point game for a story that’ll appear in Friday’s paper. I’d love to hear the memories from anyone who was in the building that night or watched the game on TV.
It always will be one of the highlights of my career to have covered that game. A couple of weeks before the season, I sat down and finally watched the game over on tape.
A couple of things stood out. The first was how bad the rest of the Lakers played. When Bryant went out for six minutes at the start of the second quarter, the Lakers made 1 of 11 shots and fell behind by 14 points. You had Sasha Vujacic hitting the side of the backboard on a 3-pointer and Kwame Brown getting whistled twice for three seconds.
Lamar Odom was 0 for 6 with three turnovers before he hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Bryant gave up the ball to Odom for that shot, which pushed the Lakers in front 100-93. It was the game’s biggest pass, if not its biggest play. Earlier in the game, Odom somehow committed a turnover by catching a pass with both feet out of bounds.
The second thing that stood out was the fact that Bryant did not play the perfect game. He willed the Lakers to victory in a game that will define his greatness. But he missed a couple of shots in the lane as well as a couple of open 3-pointers. There was a play early in the fourth quarter where he got hit in the head inside with no foul called.
It’s not crazy at all to say that Bryant might have had 85 to 90 points in the game. I’m not sure what that would have been like; 81 was stunning enough.
It will be interesting to see how 81 is remembered in 20 years. The unfortunate tendency is for people to forget that the Lakers were 18 points down in the third quarter or that they played pressure defense as a team to get back in the game.
The bottom line is that it took 81 points from Bryant to save the Lakers from a miserable loss. It would be a shame to think of his 81 as coming at the expense of the team in any way.