The blog was down most of the day, but here’s the update from Sunday in Lakerworld. Kobe Bryant had left and gone home by the time we were allowed in the gym at practice. Shaquille O’Neal didn’t talk to reporters at the optional practice the Heat held at Pauley Pavilion.
Phil Jackson said he would just as soon have O’Neal playing in Monday’s game than not. O’Neal said Saturday night in Utah that there’s “zero” chance he’ll play as he continues to recover from Nov. 19 knee surgery. But when Jeanie Buss asked him how he felt about facing the Heat, Jackson said his answer was, “I’m really worried.”
“She said, `Is that because Shaq’s not back,”’ Jackson said. “I said, `I’d be less worried if Shaq was back and it was his first game than if he’s not back and the way they’re playing right now.’ Because now they can spread you out and really stick it to you with their 3-point shooters.”
The Heat hit 13 3s Friday at Golden State and Saturday at Utah. Jason Kapono connected on four 3s and Antoine Walker and Jason Williams three each against the Jazz. Miami has won a season-high four games in a row and finishes its six-game trip tonight.
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A little bit of matchup talk about Monday’s game. Jackson has to consider whether to have Bryant guard Dwyane Wade or leave that for someone like Maurice Evans. One consideration is that Bryant might be a step slow as he plays his way back from a groin strain. Another is the possibility of losing him to early foul trouble.
When the teams played on Christmas in Miami, Bryant guarded Wade the bulk of the afternoon. On the other side, Miami kept Wade on Luke Walton and used Dorell Wright on Bryant. Wright has been replaced in the starting lineup; Jackson noted that Miami used Kapono on Seattle’s Ray Allen in a game last week.
Jackson might just go with that matchup (Bryant/Kapono) if the Heat are inclined to play that way. The Lakers could use Walton on Udonis Haslem (they both go about 6-8, 230) and start Evans on Wade. Brian Cook would come off the bench. We shall see at 7 p.m.
The Lakers also have to figure out how to defend the high screen-and-roll. The Heat set one after another to free Wade on Christmas. He got into the lane almost at will, found teammates for open shots and went on to total 40 points and 11 assists in the game.
That was before the Lakers lost center Kwame Brown to a severe ankle sprain, forcing Andrew Bynum into the starting lineup. Jackson acknowleged that Bynum can’t match Brown’s quickness, which will make containing Wade that much harder.
“We’re going to have to find a defense that is much more consistent,” Jackson said, “and much more capable of handling that space.”
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Make your plans accordingly: Monday’s game will start a half-hour earlier than normal at 7 p.m. Of course, as the second game of a TNT doubleheader, the tip-off might not take place until 7:20.
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Here’s the notes from Sunday. For the sake of clarification, Webber’s right foot injury was listed by the 76ers two ways. The first was as a sprained ankle and foot bruise. The second was as a foot bruise and a chronic foot contusion. He missed 11 games total with the injury.
By Ross Siler
EL SEGUNDO–With Chris Webber possibly 36 hours away from joining a new team, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he spoke with the free-agent forward Saturday night and added, “I will say that we were both pleased with the conversation.
“Hes got some decisions to make and I respect that, Jackson said. “I just asked him how hes doing, what the nature of his health is and what hes looking for in a change of teams here.
Webber talked Saturday to both Jackson and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. The former five-time All-Star was released Thursday by Philadelphia, which bought out the $43 million left on his contract, and will clear waivers Tuesday.
The Lakers can offer Webber, who turns 34 on March 1, a contract for the prorated veterans minimum ($1.178 million for the full season) and would have to release a player to make room on the 15-man roster.
They also would have to fit Webber into the rotation once forward Lamar Odom returns from a knee injury later this month. There are no assurances about the role Webber, who has started all but two games in his 14-year career, would play with the Lakers.
“Thats some of the things we had to talk about – - his playing ability, the time that he wants and some of the things he would like to have, Jackson said. “He said really he just wants to feel like hes a part, feel like he has an important part in a team.
“I told him I think that he would if he came here.
Webbers agent, Aaron Goodwin, didnt return phone or e-mail messages Sunday. Webber reportedly has narrowed his list of teams to Detroit, the Lakers, Miami and Dallas.
The Lakers also have to feel comfortable with Webbers health. Jackson suggested that the condition of Webbers knees wasnt as much of a concern as the right foot injury that sidelined him earlier this season.
Even so, Webber logged more minutes on the floor last season (2,893) than ever before in his career. Jackson said Webber reminded him of that fact in their conversation.
“He looks to be moving OK, Jackson added. “He had a foot problem this year. Thats what we were curious about, obviously. But he says hes doing really well.
Webber has averaged 11 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 38.7 percent in 18 games this season. According to the Web site 82games.com, 57 percent of Webbers shot attempts have been jumpers. His passing skills, though, would fit with the triangle offense.
Forward Luke Walton was asked if the Lakers would be well served adding a player such as Webber.
“Weve got injuries, Walton said, “but as soon as we get those guys back and if we can keep growing as a team, I think we have a legitimate shot at doing some damage in the playoffs with the guys we have right now.
Heat wave: The Lakers will have the chance tonight to avenge their 101-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, a game in which they were “embarrassed on national television and with their families in attendance, as Walton described it.
One issue for the Lakers will be whether Kobe Bryant is capable of guarding Dwyane Wade as he continues to recover from a groin strain.
“Weve thought about it a little bit simply because hes gotten in foul trouble in the last few games when hes played, Jackson said. “That really limits us when he creates early foul situations. It cost us a couple games.
Bryant was called for two fouls in the first quarter of the Lakers losses to Memphis and Houston last week. Wade, meanwhile, has averaged 29 points and 8.8 assists since returning from a wrist injury, with the Heat winning all four of those games.
History lesson: Jackson was asked which figure from American history Miami center Shaquille ONeal would be. It was ONeal who called Jackson “Benedict Arnold after his former coach criticized his work ethic before the Christmas game.
“Well, to me Shaq has always been Abraham Lincoln, Jackson said. “Hes a great emancipator. He frees everybody up to say the things they want to say so that he can deliver the ultimate blow.”