Wednesday report

Not much else to report Wednesday from Lakerland. Kobe Bryant doesn’t even remember the play that led to a $75,000 lawsuit being filed against him by a fan in Memphis, Tenn. The fan claims Bryant deliberately elbowed him as he dove for a loose ball in a game.

“I really don’t know too much about it,” Bryant said. “I haven’t really paid attention to it too much. If a player’s trying to save a loose ball and keep his team in contention and try and win a game, if that’s something that a player has to do, then a player has to do it. He has to keep the ball alive. That’s why we’re out there is to play basketball.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Aaron McKie’s progress from a back injury: “Aarons starting to look like he can move with the freedom and a level which makes me feel comfortable. I think hes getting comfortable out there.

“Right now, the fact that we have so many guards (means) he doesnt get as much practice time as sometimes wed like him to have because weve got the young kids out here learning and getting acclimated to the game. But hes doing a good job.

Wednesday’s notes:

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–All Lakers center Kwame Brown wanted to do entering this season was pick up where he left off in the spring, when he averaged 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in 18 games after Chris Mihm was lost to a severe ankle sprain.

Those hopes ended as soon as Brown suffered a shoulder injury in training camp. Just when he was hoping to establish himself as a starting center, Brown instead learned all the medical jargon associated with a bruised rotator cuff and bursitis.

He returned for Sundays game against Memphis but will back up Andrew Bynum for the time being in what coach Phil Jackson envisions as a 20- to 24-minute role nightly.

After seeing the doctor Tuesday, Brown learned that he wont need surgery and can take anti-inflammatories to treat the pain in his trapezius muscle. But Brown offered a frank assessment Wednesday about the state of his shoulder going forward.

“I just think Ill have some good days and some bad days, Brown said. “You get a guy like (Shaquille ONeal) and Yao (Ming) and the big guys in there, Ill probably struggle a little bit.

“I think Im just going to have to focus on playing defense. I think at the offensive end, Im going to struggle because its painful to raise my arm sometimes when Im going against guys. But I can still give them something.

Brown spent Wednesdays practice trying to get his timing down in shooting free throws and jump hooks. He was encouraged to some degree by what he heard from the doctor.

“He said its not going to get any worse, Brown said. “Like I said, its going to have some good days and some bad days. Im just going to have to fight through it.

Zoned in: Jackson put the emphasis Wednesday on breaking down a zone defense out of a halfcourt set. The Lakers stalled out in Fridays loss to the Detroit Pistons, who played zone for what Jackson estimated was 40 percent of the game.

“We havent had a chance to practice against it the level we wanted to, Jackson said. “We did some halfcourt work on that and I tried to get the guys thinking and reading defenses.

Jackson also said he expected Kobe Bryant to continue playing in the backcourt, a switch he made for Sundays game. The Lakers are better organized with Bryant initiating the offense, although it does move him from more of a scoring position on the wing.

Knee sleeve: Bryant wore a protective sleeve on his surgically repaired right knee at practice. It was the first time he had done so for a game or practice this season.

“Ive got to keep it warm, keep it tight, Bryant said of his knee. “It got to the point where during the game, late in the game, it would stiffen up a little bit. Id much rather not wear one, but if its going to keep it warm, then thats something we have to do.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Tuesday report

The Lakers went straight from the practice court into an NBA media training session. Why the NBA would hold media training six weeks/eight games into the season is something I’m still trying to figure out.

Phil Jackson emphasized the transition game to his players Tuesday. There is an “optimal speed,” in his words, at which the Lakers should play. They went through some conditioning as well, with Jackson saying, “I thought we lost energy at certain points in ballgames.’

This was noted on Jackson’s practice plan under the heading, “Run ‘em.”

Jackson had a couple of good lines. He was talking about Andrew Bynum’s inability to play for extended stretches and reminded reporters that Bynum was playing high school basketball with six-minute quarters only two years ago. He was reminded that the quarters had to be at least eight minutes long.

“It was a parochial school, right?” Jackson said. “They had to go to confession the other two minutes.

Jackson also was asked about the possibility of Kwame Brown facing shoulder pain all season.

“Kwame always has pains,” Jackson said. “Hes always coming down with some kind of pain. Maybe thatll be good. Itll keep him focused on one pain rather than others.

* * *

There was something resembling a tent city set up outside the Best Buy in Hawthorne when I went to buy some CDs today. One of the cashiers explained that people were camping out for the Playstation 3 release on Friday. It looked like several of the guys were wearing Lakers T-shirts, which is why I raise the issue here.

I would love to hear why you would spend at least two nights sleeping in the parking lot of a Best Buy for a video game system. I thought I’d heard it all when one of my fellow beat writers made a point of buying “Madden 07” at midnight on the day it was released in August.

* * *

Here’s the notes from Tuesday’s practice:
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

The Oklahoma City Sonics

The Lakers took Monday off, so I’ll refer you to an article that appeared on the front page of The New York Times about the future of the Seattle SuperSonics in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s hard to imagine the Sonics not playing in Seattle – - they honored their 40th anniversary team when the Lakers were in town Nov. 5 – - but the only plausible option for staying in Washington state is an arena in one of the suburbs such as Bellevue. Three out of every four voters was against subsidizing a renovation of Key Arena.

The Sonics owners have made clear that they want public funds for a new arena; Seattle’s best offer was $50 million before the ballot initiative. There’s no incentive to build a privately funded arena when there are cities with buildings just waiting for an NBA team.

There are going to be franchises on the move in the next couple of years in the NBA. The first question is will the Hornets return to New Orleans next season. That could set the stage for the Sonics’ new Oklahoma City-based ownership group to move in soon after the Hornets depart.

One thing for the NBA to consider: The Seattle television market, according to Neilsen Media Research, is the 13th largest in the country at 1.701 million TV homes. The Oklahoma City market is the 45th largest with 655,400 TV homes. It’s smaller than the combined Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Mich., TV market.

You run the risk of a ratings disaster if the Oklahoma City Sonics ever played in the NBA Finals. This is why the league has tremendous incentive to find a way of making the Knicks competitive again. There are 7.375 million TV homes in New York that aren’t watching close to the amount of NBA basketball they could be.

There are undoubtedly small-market success stories like Sacramento, San Antonio and Utah. A new arena also is the easiest way to generate the revenue needed to compete in a league where the average player makes more than $5 million. But the league heads to places like Memphis, Tenn., and Oklahoma City at its own risk.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Postgame thoughts

The difference between the 19-year-old Andrew Bynum and potentially the 24-year-old Bynum were well illustrated by Sunday’s game. Bynum finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes but could have had a 20-10 game against Memphis.

The Lakers tried to establish Bynum early on. He started the game by missing a putback and getting called for three seconds. He then was blocked by Stromile Swift the first of two times in the game. Kobe Bryant tried to slip a pass to Bynum that the 7-footer couldn’t hold onto.

Bynum finally got a basket when he dunked off a pick-and-roll with Smush Parker. He finished the first quarter with seven points on 3 of 7 shooting with three rebounds. It could have been a lot more and Bynum could have rode that momentum throughout the game.

He played more than 8 minutes in the fourth quarter and did not score or get to the foul line. The focus obviously was on Kwame Brown coming back from injury but Bynum could have had a big night, especially considering he was called for only one foul all game.

* * *

Parker heard boos from the crowd in the fourth quarter after he had a shot blocked by Damon Stoudamire, then fouled Stoudamire in the aftermath. Parker is in a deep rut right now and again hurt the Lakers down the stretch. He went 1 for 4 in the quarter and made 1 of 2 free throws after the Grizzlies closed within seven points.

Parker redeemed himself with 3:28 left when he stole an Eddie Jones pass and raced the other way to finish a fast break when Bryant flipped him a between-the-legs pass. But Parker continued to say after the game that somebody stole his “mojo.”

* * *

Lamar Odom seemed excited to have gotten the call to shoot a technical foul free throw after the Grizzlies were called for defensive three seconds in the second quarter. Bryant shot almost every technical last season but was on the bench when the situation arose Sunday.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson couuld have opted for Kwame Brown, Maurice Evans, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jordan Farmar or Odom. Evans is a career 76.6 percent foul shooter compared to Odom’s 71.3 percent; Odom has shot better at the line this season than Evans.

Odom hit the technical and went on to convert all three free throws when he was fouled on a 3-pointer in the third quarter.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Saturday report

It was a quiet Saturday around the Lakers, with NBA Players Association head Billy Hunter meeting with his constituents after practice. Lakers coach Phil Jackson thought the No. 1 reason his team lost to Detroit on Friday was a lack of energy. The No. 2 reason was the zone the Pistons played and Jackson offered his opinions about.

“As soon as these guys hear zone, they think, `Oh man, zone. Were going to have to make shots. Were going to have to move the ball and nobodys going to be able to play off the dribble.’ Whereas, reality is, zone is a very weak defense. And they made it work for them last night.

Jackson said the Lakers fell into a trap of thinking they had to make 3-pointers to beat the zone. Instead they had to do a better job of interior passing. They spent part of practice Saturday talking about making the right passes, filling spots and being patient.

* * *

The Lakers’ minor-league affiliate, the D-Fenders, opened training camp Saturday in El Segundo. Jackson said before Friday’s game that he would stop by to show support for the team, which will run the triangle offense and serve as a Lakers’ junior varsity. [ep

Jackson said Lakers owner Jerry Buss was a bigger advocate for the team than he was, saying it made sense “strategically” for an NBA team to have an affiliate. One thing Jackson said he wanted to see change was the ability for teams to have veteran players make what baseball calls “rehab starts” with the minor-leaguers.

“We have players get injured, it would be great to have the ability to play a game, instead of stepping onto an NBA court,” Jackson said. “I think it saves a lot of wear and tear on players and sets up a situation where a player can get comfortable on the court.

The only problem is that such a change probably would have to be written into the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which doesn’t expire until after the 2010-11 season.

* * *

Here’s the notes from Saturday. Even though Smush Parker has started this season in a slump, Jackson said he was not ready to start rookie guard Jordan Farmar in his place.
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Smash Parker

So much for Smush Parker’s “breakout” game against the Detroit Pistons. That was what Parker was saying before Friday’s game, at least, in an attempt to pysch himself up against his former team.

Parker finished with five points on 2 of 7 shooting with three turnovers and two assists. He sat for the entire fourth quarter and final 15 1-2 minutes of the game. What makes it especially disappointing is that Parker had every motivation in the world Friday.

The Lakers looked to Parker to knock down open 3-pointers in the first quarter and break open the Pistons’ zone. He made 1 of 4. Parker missed another shot when he saw an opening to attack, drove the lane, and tossed up an out-of-control layup with his right hand from the left side of the basket.

His biggest lowlight came in throwing a wild pass on the fast break that sailed out of bounds with 34 seconds left in the quarter. Lakers coach Phil Jackson, still using a cane away from the basketball court, fell out of his chair trying to yell for Jordan Farmar to replace Parker.

Which brings us to Farmar. He finished with nine points and five assists against no turnovers in 22 minutes and played the entire fourth quarter. When the Lakers were showing no life in the second quarter, Farmar stepped up and hit a couple of shots. The Lakers outscored Detroit 45-39 with Farmar on the court, in a game they lost 97-83.

So far this season, Parker is averaging 8.1 points on 36.4 percent shooting. He nearly shot the Lakers out of Tuesday’s win against Minnesota before hitting a big 3-pointer late. What’s worrysome is that Parker clearly has a hard time pulling out of slumps, as was the case in the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against Phoenix.

I have no idea if Jackson would consider making a switch to Farmar so early in the season. But the Lakers do play Memphis on Sunday, and Farmar has four games worth of summer-league experience against the Grizzlies.

Until then, Jackson might go back to calling Parker by his given name (William) or his alternate nickname (Smash), which the coach did a couple of times last season.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

A second surgery for Chris Mihm

Not good news before Friday’s game against Detroit. Chris Mihm will have a second surgery on his right ankle and most likely is done for the season. A Lakers spokesman said Mihm was experiencing tendon problems in the ankle. The official announcement had him undergoing surgery to repair the deltoid ligament and posterior tibialis tendon in his right ankle.

The Lakers had been planning to go with a three-center rotation of Mihm, Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum this season. It will be interesting to see what happens with Mihm after the season. The Lakers have $17 million invested in Brown and realize that Bynum needs to play to get better.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

Lakers center Chris Mihm will undergo a second surgery Tuesday on his injured right ankle and will need between five and eight months to recover.

The outlook is not good for Mihm to return this season, although Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said it was a possibility if the Lakers made a deep playoff run.

Mihm, who started 131 games at center the last two seasons, suffered a severe ankle sprain when he landed on Rashard Lewis foot in the final minute of the Lakers March 12 loss to Seattle.

He underwent surgery July 26 to clean up scar tissue was projected to return in time for training camp. But Mihms recovery stalled and he went to Baltimore this week to seek second and third opinions from doctors.

“We knew early on that it wasnt a run-of-the-mill ankle sprain, Kupchak said. “To his credit, he came back at the end of the regular season and tried to play – - I dont know how he did it.

“He approached this thing methodically. He rehabbed as hard or harder than anyone weve ever had. Were disappointed for him. We were looking forward to getting him back.

“And clearly its an important year for Chris, too. He wants to show that he belongs at a certain level at the center position in this league, being at the end of a contract.’

Mihm said in a statement that although he knew “a few months ago that there was a chance Id need such a surgery, it was my hope that through alternative methods and therapy, Id be able to join my Lakers teammates and make it through the season.

Kupchak said it was too early to talk about Mihms future with the Lakers. At seasons end, Mihm will be an unrestricted free agent. Kupchak did repeat the NBA maxim: “You can never have enough big men.

The Lakers will use a center rotation of 19-year-old Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown for the season without Mihm.

Brown down: Although he hoped to play Friday, Brown still was experiencing problems with his injured right shoulder. Brown felt soreness in his neck after practice Thursday and said he would return to the doctor Monday.

“I dont think theyre going to find anything, Brown said. “I think with the injury I have, the muscles around the joint are just compensating, so its causing pain elsewhere.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he didnt feel comfortable playing Brown after watching him Thursday.

“He kept holding his shoulder, Jackson said. “Thats why hes been out. It was almost his neck more than his shoulder. Itll quiet down. It wasnt this way earlier in the week. It flared up. Hes been doing a lot of work and lifting a lot of weights and contact and playing again, the first couple times, creates that.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Kobe’s site

Not that Kobe Bryant needed any reminders about the reach of the Internet, but he got one after his new Web site (www.kb24.com) launched on Oct. 31.

“One minute into the launch we had people on it from Germany, London, China,” Bryant said. “We didn’t do any advertising whatsoever. They just knew about it.”

Bryant is making a big push in trying to create a cyber community dedicated to all things 24. He announced he was playing in Friday’s game against Seattle on the site (with a little dramatic music) and had a crew of videographers in the locker room before the game.

The featured video on the site Thursday was a behind-the-scenes look at Bryant’s recent appearance on BET. He was accompanied by Ronny Turiaf and Devin Green, introduced some videos and got his hair trimmed. Talking about the site Thursday, Bryant said he filmed his entire training regiment from the summer for it.

“There’s footage you’re not going to see anywhere else,” Bryant said, adding that he had film from a game in which he scored 63 points as a grade-schooler.

Bryant has taken to posting comments on the Truth section of his site under the name “Mamba.” He can do it by sending text messages from his cell phone, sometimes from the team bus after road games and sometimes on the ride home from Staples Center.

The domain name is licensed to Kobe Family Entertainment Inc. in Newport Coast, which led to a couple of questions about just who is involved in the site. Bryant said it will serve as a platform for his business partners, which include Nike and Upper Deck.

He plans to make available sneaker and apparel lines that won’t be sold in stores. He also will sell memorabilia through the site, especially when it comes to his new No. 24 jersey. There’s a link on the site to a last-chance auction for signed No. 8 jerseys.

That’s the commercial side, but Bryant is hoping to connect to fans in new ways. He has forums dedicated both to “Kobe in the News” and “General Kobe Conversation.” He also talked Thursday about possibly giving the chance for a fan to win a trip to the Beijing Olympics, where Bryant is expected to play for USA Basketball.

Give Bryant credit for being at the forefront of what will probably become standard practice among superstar athletes in the next decade.

* * *

Here was Lamar Odom’s summation of why the Lakers lost to Portland on Wednesday night: “We got outplayed tonight. Back to back. They played better. They won.”

Here was Odom’s summation of why the Lakers lost to Portland with a day’s worth of perspective: “We got beat. We didnt win a quarter of basketball and they were better. As simple as that.

Sometimes it comes down to just not playing well, for whatever reason. One big question Thursday was whether Odom needed to take more than nine shots against the Trail Blazers. There seems to be a direct correlation between Odom’s aggressiveness (reflected in the shots he takes) and the Lakers’ wins and losses.

Odom’s plan for Friday’s game against Detroit: “Try to catch the ball closer to the basket, not rely on the 3 and get back to the free-throw line.

* * *

Bryant agreed with Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s assessment that he might be back at 90 or 95 percent by next week. The Lakers will have four days off after playing Memphis on Sunday night.

“These four days coming up, its perfect timing for us, because it gives me a chance to get stronger,” Bryant said. “This last week or so, Ive been kind of maintaining, getting through it. You have four days off, I get to strengthen (the knee) again. That should help us out a lot.

Talking after Wednesday’s game, Bryant said he wasn’t upset with sitting with the first six-plus minutes of the fourth quarter. Jackson wanted to play it safe with Bryant’s knee in back-to-back games.

“I know Phil. I’ve been with him long enough, I know what he’s thinking,” Bryant said. “And how we’re going to try to execute out there with the guys on the floor. I was completely on the same page. I knew what he was doing.”

* * *

For the first time this season, the Lakers probably are going to have to put a healthy player on the inactive list for Friday’s game with Kwame Brown coming back from a shoulder injury. The most likely candiates would seem to be Sasha Vujacic or Shammond Williams.

Here’s the report from Thursday’s practice:
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Fashion statement

Lamar Odom is on a mission this season. It has nothing to do with being a first-time All-Star.

“I want the best-dressed award,” Odom said before Tuesday’s game.

There is no such thing, of course, and the competition is fierce across the NBA. But Odom has elevated his game for sure. Odom purchased a number of new suits for the season and wore a gray number with an aqua shirt and tie Tuesday.

Odom figures there is a benefit to being better dressed when it comes to the rap label he is running and T-shirt line he started. It also fits with Odom’s theme for the season of showcasing a newfound maturity. He ditched the crazy socks that were his old hallmark, unless he’s wearing jeans.

“Any place where the sun is shining,” Odom said, “I’m going to be sharp.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

The Honorable Senator from Montana

There’s something a little more important Tuesday than the Lakers-Timberwolves game at Staples Center. Millions of Americans will head to the polls for midterm elections in which control of the House of Representatives and Senate will be at stake.

The Democrats need to pick up six seats to win back the Senate. The New York Times on Sunday projected that 40 seats are safe for the Democrats and eight are leaning in their favor. On the other side, 47 seats are safe for Republicans and another two were leaning Republican. That leaves three tossup seats to decide the majority.

One is in Virginia. One is in Missouri. One is in Montana. The Democrats would have to win them all to avoid a 50-50 split in which Vice President Dick Cheney would have the deciding vote.

Which brings us to Phil Jackson, who might have spent Monday in an alternate universe campaigning for votes in places like Billings and Missoula instead of running practice at the Lakers’ facility.

During his year off, Jackson admitted that he had a dinner in which the most preliminary talk of a Senate run was discussed. Jackson owns a house on Flathead Lake in Montana and is a friend and former teammate of Bill Bradley, the former Democratic Senator from New Jersey and presidential candidate.

Jackson said Monday that he didn’t think he would have won because he was viewed as a “native son” of North Dakota, where he played high school and college basketball, and not Montana. For the record, Jackson was born in Deer Lodge, Mont.

If he had run, Jackson might have wound up in one of the nation’s most-watched races. The Democratic candidate, Jon Tester, has a chance of unseating Sen. Conrad Burns, who has been criticized for taking more money from the clients of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than any other member of Congress. The Billings Gazette had the race in a dead heat over the weekend.

Jackson said he was interested in how the race would turn out. If you want to read more about his political beliefs, there was a great article in L.A. Weekly last summer.

Not having covered the Lakers during the championship years, I was blown away last season when we had the chance to talk to Jackson for a while in Philadelphia about world events. It was about the time that the housing projects in France erupted in rioting. Jackson talked not only about the economic factors that were behind the rioting but also the various modern-day problems caused by France’s colonial history.

Needless to say, I walked away thinking Jeff Van Gundy wasn’t having the same conversation with the Houston writers.

I also would like to be the first to suggest an Obama-Jackson ticket for 2008. That’ll pretty much guarantee the Democrats the 21 electoral votes in Illinois.

* * *

Back to basketball: There were a couple of questions Monday about teenage center Andrew Bynum, who had 13 points and hit all five shots he took Sunday. Bynum, however, came out with 8:55 left in the third quarter and sat the last 21 minutes of the game.

Said Jackson: “He needs to know, like all our young players that are inexperienced, where the people are in your offense that are bail-out people for passes and then to be able to read defensively as kind of our patrol guy in the lane.

Jackson said he sat Bynum because he knew the Lakers would have to overplay the Sonics’ pick-and-roll trying to come from behind in the second half. That would leave Seattle free to pick on Bynum, which was part of its game plan. Still, the Lakers gave up 48 points in the paint and could have used Bynum’s size.

Does Jackson envision Bynum as being a player he can leave on the court to finish games?

“Hes a real good foul shooter,” Jackson said, “and I think hell do some things down the stretch that’ll be good for us when he gets that chance.

* * *

Although Kobe Bryant was called for a technical in the fourth quarter Sunday, Jackson said he was in favor of the new league rules that crack down on player conduct. Bryant drew the technical when he tossed the ball off the basket standard after the Lakers fouled Ray Allen.

The NBA has cited that as a point of emphasis this season. Any player who throws the ball against the standard, regardless of intent, will receive an automatic technical. Jackson said he thought the crackdown was a good idea but he questioned the situations that weren’t provoked by anger or frustration.

“The NBA doesnt want people to make judgments,” Jackson said. “They just want them to be patrolmen. When you violate Rule 169-32, they dont have to use their heads, they just make a call.”
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply