Team unity

The Lakers were united in their congratulations for Andrew Bynum, who signed a four-season contract extension worth $58 million on Thursday. Lamar Odom was eligible for an extention, but did not get one by Friday’s deadline. He said he didn’t feel snubbed by the Lakers. Here’s some of what Odom said of his own contract situation:

“”I’m not worried about it. I can’t worry about that. … My contract is up next year, not this year. I get paid to play basketball this year. I can’t complain. I’m in a good position. I can’t let what happened for Andrew affect me, you know what I’m saying? I saw him today outside the building and I couldn’t wait to congratulate him,
“That’s what they decided to do, and I’m all for it (Bynum’s extension). … Me, I’ll just keep playing and doing what they need me to do. … That’s not going to stop what I do. It’s easy to do because I’m playing on a championship-caliber team. I’m good.”

Odom is now eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, which means he can sign a new contract with any team, including the Lakers.

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Done deal for Bynum

Andrew Bynum has signed his contract extension ($42 million over three years plus a team option for a fourth season that’s worth another $16 million, making the deal potentially worth $58 million). It’s turning out to be quite a week for Bynum.

“This has been a fantastic week for me so far, turning 21, winning our first two games of the season and now getting this contract signed,” Bynum said. “This gives me and my family financial security, and more importantly, cements my future with the Lakers. … I couldn’t be happier.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had this to say: “We’re extremely happy to have signed Andrew to this extension, which will secure his immediate future with the franchise. Andrew has shown a vast array of skills for a player his size and if he continues to stay dedicated and work hard to improve, he has an excellent chance to develop into one of the top players in the NBA.”

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Bynum near deal?

The Lakers and Andrew Bynum are close to an agreement on a three-season contract extension worth $42 million, according to a report this morning on ESPN.com. Bynum is signed through the end of this season, and is eligible for one of those so-called max deals. In his case, it could be worth more than $80 million over five seasons.

However, the Lakers are believed to be concerned enough about Bynum’s season-ending left kneecap injury last Jan. 13 to be wary of such a long-term commitment. The two sides face a Friday deadline to complete an extension. If it can’t be done, then they must wait until next summer, when Bynum can become a restricted free agent.

There’s been little public comment on the matter. Bynum’s agent, David Lee, traveled from New York to meet with GM Mitch Kupchak almost two weeks ago. Lee said then that the sides were “miles apart.” But as often happens, the negotiations take on an added sense of urgency when a deadline approaches. If the ESPN.com story is accurate, then that appears to be what’s happened.

If Bynum were to become a restricted free agent next July 1, then he could sign with another team but the Lakers would have the right to simply match the other club’s offer and retain his services. Bynum also could re-sign with the Lakers. Or he could accept a one-season qualifying offer from the Lakers and become an unrestricted free agent after the 2009-10 season.

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Downtown beat-down

Wow, blowout city, routsville.

The Lakers used a 17-0 run during the second quarter to turn the Clippers’ season opener into a nightmare. The Lakers trailed, 33-32, then calmly, coolly and collectively raced away from the Clippers for a 117-79 victory to improve their record to 2-0.

Think of it, the Lakers outscored the Clippers by a staggering 85-46 after trailing by a point with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter. Their 17-0 run propelled them to a 49-33 with 4:09 left in the quarter.

Seven Lakers scored 10 or more points, led by Kobe Bryant with 16. He also had eight rebounds and three assists. Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar scored 15 apiece. Pau Gasol had 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Andrew Bynum had 12 points and nine rebounds. Trevor Ariza had 11 points and Chris Mihm added 10.

The Lakers’ biggest lead was 40 points. It was their fifth straight win over the Clippers. They outrebounded the Clippers by 51-32 and outshot them by 51.3 percent to 38.5.

Quoteworthy: “We don’t expect to win by 20 and 40, but maybe we do,” Gasol said, referring to the Lakers’ 20-point win over Portland on Tuesday and their 38-point win over the Clippers. “Maybe we do have to expect that and to push ourselves to get to that level every game. We’re capable of doing it like we just proved in the first two games. Maybe it won’t be easy, but we’re going to work against everyone we face.”

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Halftime, Lakers lead Clips, 59-44

The Lakers actually trailed briefly in the first half for the first time in two games, falling behind by a point a couple of times. They held the Clippers to 43.2 percent shooting while shooting 55 percent. The Lakers outrebounded the Clippers, 21-17.

Derek Fisher had 13 points at the half, and Andrew Bynum added 10 for the Lakers.
Trevor Ariza provided a spark off the bench, scoring eight points and taking four rebounds in 11 minutes, 25 seconds.

Here’s an interesting pregame observation from Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy on Lamar Odom, the Lakers’ new sixth man: “He’s like the queen on a chess board. He can move from position to position, except maybe center.”

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Now that was some defense

The Lakers held Portland to the fewest point total (76) in the history of their rivalry. The previous low total was 79 points. How did they do it?

“We talked to each other, we helped each other,” point guard Jordan Farmar said. “Defense is a team thing. I learned that at UCLA. You have to hold every person accountable. It has to be all five working at the same time, rotating, shifting and making it tough on them.”

The Trailblazers noticed.

“ I think they just bought into what he (Phil Jackson) is telling them. I don’t know if individually they really got better, but they really believe in their system,” Blazers forward Channing Frye said. “That’s the same thing that happened in Boston. I mean, who thought Ray Allen or Paul Pierce were like that. But it’s their defensive system and they’ve stuck with it and got a lot of their offense through that.”

The Blazers shot just 34.5 percent on the night.

“You look at a lot of possessions and there was nothing open on the floor,” Farmar said. “You give up nothing but contested jumpshots and you’re going to win more times than not.”

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Lakers 96, Blazers 76

The days past slowly for some, went by in the blink of an eye for others. But after 133 days of summer, the Lakers finally tore off the plastic wrap on their new season Tuesday night with a dominating defensive performance in a 96-76 win over the Portland Trailblazers at the Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Pau Gasol added 15 points and seven rebounds.

It was Game 1 in what they’re hoping will be another nine-month journey, Step 1 in their quest to return to the NBA Finals, where their season ended so sourly last June.

Since then, they’ve searched their souls, their games, and just about anything else that might offer a code to crack the riddle the Celtics used to befuddle them. Five weeks of training camp have offered a few answers and some space to help cleanse their palettes. But just as most of the Lakers players arrived at Staples Center Tuesday afternoon, video of the Celtics raising their 17th championship banner to the rafters of TD Banknorth Arena in Boston streamed across the television screens throughout the building.

“It feels great to start the season, but there’s some mixed emotion because the last time we played a real game it was the Finals,” Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said. “It’s still painful …that’s why we have to make a statement right away.”

How painful?

“I’m not wearing green this year,” Vujacic said. “No green. I’m serious. Anything with green is in the back of my closet now.”

Direct revenge against the Celtics will have to wait until Christmas, so on Tuesday night the young, up-and-coming Trailblazers would have to do and the Lakers wasted no time in announcing their supremacy.

“It’s been a long summer, but it’s here now,” Lakers point guard Derek Fisher said. “There’s a certain adrenaline that flows (on opening night) that doesn’t flow on any other day.”

It was scheduled for opening night, presumably, to showcase what many feel could develop into one of the best rivalries in the league.

But of course that depends on whether Portland actually develops into the fearsome team many believe they could be with young stars Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, last season’s No. 1 overall draft pick who missed all of last season following microfracture surgery on his knee.

“The Lakers are the Western Conference champions until someone knocks them off,” Roy said. “It’s great to measure yourself against the best team in your first game.”

Early on, the Lakers showed just how large the gap Portland will have to close, jumping out to a 24-14 lead at the end of the first quarter behind nine points from Pau Gasol. Their commitment to defense was evident from the opening tip as coach Phil Jackson rotated in nine players during the first 12 minutes so there would be fresh legs to pester the young Blazers into poor shots, decisions and situations.

Portland made just seven of its first 24 shots (29 percent) in the first quarter. By halftime, the Lakers had stretched the lead to 49-34. Portland made a little run at the start of the third quarter, but the Lakers had a quick answer, extending the lead out to 67-46 with 2:36 remaining in the third quarter.

Oden, who only began playing 5-on-5 again at the start of training camp, got into early foul trouble and was not a factor, missing all four shots he took in the first half, and did not come out of the locker room after halftime with a right foot injury.

The Lakers young, potential franchise center, Andrew Bynum, got off to a slightly more auspicious start with a nice lay-in off a Vladimir Radmanovic miss, but still looked to have some wrinkles to iron out, missing a lob from Lamar Odom and struggling to find scoring opportunities.

It’s a rivalry many feel could become one of the best individual match-ups in the NBA, but Tuesday night it seemed a long way off and a little forced.

“This is really the first time we’ve played against each other,” Oden said.

There had been reports the two big men had played against each other as sixth graders, but Oden said he had no memory of the meeting.

“Honestly, it was a long time ago for me,” Oden joked. “I came across a lot of people in the sixth grade. I couldn’t tell you what he was like.”

Bynum finished with eight points points on 4-of-10 shooting, three rebounds and five fouls in 27 minutes of action.

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