Wednesday report

Does a Lakers/Kings game in Sacramento still carry the same weight when Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Mike Bibby are the only holdovers left from the 2002 Western Conference Finals? That was one of the questions asked at Wednesday’s practice.

Phil said: “It is different. Theres something that’s different about their team. Their teams still good on their home court. Their fans are still rabid fans. Theyve got an aggressive team. They have not played well this season, theyve had a few things go wrong for them. But theyre back at it now.

Kobe said: “Its always special to go up to Sacramento. No matter how both teams are doing, its always special to go up there because of all the memories that weve had. Its always a fun place to play.

If you need an extra reason to watch Thursday’s game, Charles Barkley is leaving the TNT studios to call the game live. As long as Kobe takes more than three shots and scores more than one point in the second half, we should all be fine.

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Jackson has taken jabs at Kwame Brown several times in the past week, making fun of his bad hands as well as the various injuries he has suffered. But Jackson offered a pretty good analysis of what the Lakers will be missing with Brown recovering from a severely sprained ankle.

“Sometimes hes not successful, things may not go as well as he wants,” Jackson said, “but the ability of him to just knock guys around in there, hes so physical and so strong, that it sends them back on their heels and it makes them a little less reluctant to be aggressive offensively. So that force or that sense of power in there is very important to us.”

Although Andrew Bynum’s length and shot-blocking ability can cause problems, Brown is a physical presence inside. You have to think the Lakers would be happy to play .500 basketball as long as Brown and Lamar Odom are both out with injuries.

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Odom has a great line he’s used a couple of times in talking about big-time college athletics: “Ain’t nobody ever paid money to watch somebody take a test.”

With the news Wednesday that Nick Saban’s leaving for Alabama, I think it’s fair to say: “Ain’t nobody ever paid a coach $4 million a year to graduate players.”

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A scene from practice Wednesday: Rookie guard Jordan Farmar, the last guy on the practice court, getting as many shots as possible with the leather ball.

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Notes for Thursday

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–When the Lakers needed to stay afloat last January, Kobe Bryant was able to bail them out with one of the greatest months in NBA history. He averaged a staggering 43.4 points per game, most by anyone not named Wilt Chamberlain.

The odds are Bryant wont put up the same numbers this season, but he will face a balancing act once again.

The Lakers will be playing the bulk of this month without forward Lamar Odom (sprained knee ligament) and center Kwame Brown (severe ankle sprain) and must account for 26.2 points and 15.3 rebounds per game in their absence.

In the past, that might call for Bryant to score 40 points just to give the Lakers a chance at winning. But Bryant would like to avoid that fate, especially after already shouldering the load with Odom out the last 10 games.

“I just think its better if we all get on the same page and play well, Bryant said. “Its always more enjoyable. Its more enjoyable for me, its more enjoyable for us.

“That being said, some nights youve got to do what youve got to do to try and win the game. But Ill feel much better and be happier if I didnt have to do that.

Bryant faced what he described as “kitchen sink defenses throughout the Lakers recent six-game trip, with teams committing two and three defenders to stopping him. He figures to see more of the same as long as the Lakers are down two starters.

Kid games: Although he hasnt officially been told he is starting, 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum again practiced with the first team Wednesday. He also has gotten the message from the coaching staff about staying out of foul trouble.

Bynum said he watched tape of himself picking up fouls by exposing his body and letting guards collide with him while driving the lane. He resolved to stay out of the restricted area and contest shots from a distance.

In addition, Bynum said he is prepared for teams to attack him with the screen-and-roll, a nemesis for the Lakers in recent games.

“Its more than just myself and the guard at the top, Bynum said. “All of the team has to have a foot in the paint so that if he does get by us, then somebody else is there and we can recover to our man.

“That killed us in the Charlotte game. Kwame and Smush (Parker) were doing a pretty good job up top but our weak-side defense was so far out of the lane, we just didnt have a chance.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, meanwhile, was asked about the need for an emergency big man as long as Brown is out. He revealed that the Lakers are estimating Browns recovery at about four weeks.

“We think that we can see our way through for a short period of time and patch it up, said Jackson, who also will give minutes to Ronny Turiaf and Brian Cook at center.

Injury update: Odom was shooting on the practice court with a knee brace Wednesday but was uncertain when he would be able to play again. He has been able to do some light running but cant afford to rush back even with Brown out.

Feel-good story: By having his right hip replaced on the eve of training camp, Jackson avoided having to take a midseason leave of absence. Miami Heat coach Pat Riley did just that Wednesday to deal with knee and hip problems.

Having both hips replaced would have kept Jackson out three months. He is weighing having his left hip replaced this summer and was able to crack a joke Wednesday.

“Next year, Jackson said, “I know Ill take it off during the season and have a holiday in the middle of this.

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