I knew it was time to go home this morning at the Orlando airport when a woman broke down in tears as the security checkpoint crew confiscated a $30 bottle of lotion. You see it all when you travel around the holidays. We’ve been on the road for 11 days now and I’m tired of hauling around 49.999 pounds of luggage.
One of the highlights from practice today came in Phil Jackson tweaking Kwame Brown ever so mildly. It seems that Jackson has identified Brown as the player he can prod the most in his second act as Lakers coach. The question today was about calling more plays out of the triangle offense for Brown.
“Thats the only way he knows how to play,” Jackson said. “He only thinks he can play if his number’s called. That is a real deficit that way and most of the time he either travels and loses the ball on it when you do.
“We don’t mind if he participates in the game. The little things that he can do for us are really important. He doesn’t have to worry about that aspect.”
Brown sat out practice after banging knees in the Orlando game. He’s actually one of the most good-natured guys on the team, as evidenced Wednesday night when he announced to the locker room that he couldn’t wait to hear what Smush Parker had to say to reporters about his big game.
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Fishing for a storyline today at practice, I asked Jackson if he had talked to Michael Jordan since Jordan took over as the Bobcats’ managing member of basketball operations. Jackson said he hadn’t, an answer that unfortunately could not shed any new light on what exactly Jordan is doing for the Charlotte franchise.
ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan wrote an interesting article back in October trying to gauge Jordan’s influence. Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff does say that he talks to Jordan every day about what is going on with the team. The Bobcats have a host of promising young players but also have a payroll that’s barely above the NBA minimum.
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If you looked closely, Kobe Bryant was back wearing his first-generation Nike sneaker in Wednesday’s game at Orlando. Bryant debuted the new second-generation model in the Christmas game and said he will wear them a second time in the Lakers’ Jan. 15 game against the Heat. The shoes won’t go on sale for another couple of months.
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The NBA announced its second returns Thursday in fan voting for the All-Star game starters. Bryant still leads all Western Conference guards with 1.187 million votes but now has to contend with Allen Iverson’s arrival in the conference. Iverson has received 975,319 votes, third behind Bryant and Tracy McGrady.
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Mark your calendars for Feb. 5: It’s going to be time for Slava’s Revenge as the Lakers play the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
The Hawks on Thursday signed forward/center Slava Medvedenko, who played six seasons with the Lakers, to bolster a frontcourt in need of help after losing Josh Smith to hernia surgery.
Medvedenko played on two championship teams but saw his tenure with the Lakers end when he suffered a back injury last season and fainted in an elevator after eating only a candy bar for breakfast.
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It was overlooked in Wednesday’s game, but Jackson again got good minutes from his bench. He put a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Maurice Evans, Vladimir Radmanovic and Andrew Bynum on the court with 8:38 left and the Lakers leading Orlando 85-80.
By the time Jackson brought Bryant back off the bench with 4:59 remaining, the reserves had extended that lead to 95-85. Radmanovic and Vujacic both drove for baskets while Bynum hit a hook shot over Darko Milicic and dunked off a pass.
We’ll see after Friday’s game against Charlotte if this will be remembered as the road trip where the bench players came into their own. It happened for sure in the fourth quarter against Minnesota. The Lakers also got a big lift from Evans in their victory over New Jersey.
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Notes for Friday….
By Ross Siler
CHARLOTTE, N.C.–After 10 seasons with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant has a theory about why he and his teammates are marked men whenever they walk into a visiting arena.
Its more than just the championship banners hanging back at Staples Center. In Bryants opinion, it has something to do with the winter weather as well.
“When you play for the Lakers, Bryant said, “you go on the road in January and December, you go to these cities and its freezing. Its snowing. We live in L.A., so its sunny all the time. So teams just automatically have it out for us.
The good news is temperatures are expected in the 60s before tonights game against the Charlotte Bobcats, a team the Lakers paid the price for overlooking last season.
The Bobcats had lost 13 games in a row last February before stunning the Lakers 112-102 at their downtown arena. The Lakers gave up 40 points in the first quarter, trailed the entire game and were “embarrassed in coach Phil Jackson words Thursday.
Although they are just 7-21, the Bobcats have beaten San Antonio, Detroit, Cleveland and Utah this season. They also are all that remains between the Lakers and a successful road trip while playing without the injured Lamar Odom.
“I think we understand the magnitude of this game, Bryant said. “To be able to go 4-2 on this trip, when were missing one of our key guys, would be a very successful trip if we can get this win.
The Lakers almost never fail to see an opposing teams best effort, particularly playing on the road in the Eastern Conference. The Bobcats have sold out both home games against the Lakers in their existence.
“Its not a curse at all, Jackson said. “Its a blessing that the games are animated and theyre lively and theyre anticipated by the fans. I think that makes teams play harder. It gives us an advantage overall. It makes us have to be a better team all the way around.
Spaced out: Jackson made a couple of teasing comments about forward Vladimir Radmanovic, who had a 17-point game against Minnesota on this trip but has left his coach scratching his head at other times.
Jackson called Radmanovic a “space cadet and said he often asks, “Do you understand really what were trying to get accomplished here? when it comes to the triangle offense. Radmanovic answers yes, even when he doesnt fully grasp things.
“Hes kind of a free spirit on the floor, Jackson added. “You just cant get away from that aspect of his game. Hes going to touch the ball and shoot it, and even though I tell him, `Those arent usually good shots, he still wants to know if hes hot.
“If hes not hot, he wants to get hot. If hes not going to get hot, then he wants to shoot so he can get hot.
Injury report: Center Kwame Brown did not practice but is expected to play tonight after banging knees in Wednesdays game. Guard Sasha Vujacic sprained his left ankle at the end of practice and was helped off the court.
Forward Luke Walton, meanwhile, is suffering from discomfort in the back of his left knee. Walton sat out practice and said he wasnt sure how the injury happened.
“Its one of things that just kind of annoys but doesnt hurt, Walton said. “This morning, I woke up . . . it hurt.
Kennel club: From the time they played together at Gonzaga, Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf and Charlottes Adam Morrison are so beloved in Spokane, Wash., that Turiaf jokes about being the president of the city while Morrison is the mayor.
They will meet tonight for the first time in the NBA. Morrison is averaging 13.4 points and leading all rookies in scoring despite shooting 37.2 percent.
“Hes such a good friend of mine, even though we play on opposite teams, Turiaf said. “We spent three years playing together and have that special bond. Its going to be fun seeing him wear that different jersey.