Coby’s viewpoint

Right now, second-year guard Coby Karl is the bubble boy around Lakers camp. Will he or won’t he make the team this year? It’s incredible pressure to be under, but having been around this kind of stuff his whole life –his dad is George Karl, coach of the Denver Nuggets — Coby has some idea of the decisions and factors involved.

“I think it’s hard actually because I know the processes the coaches go through,” he said. “I know that sometimes even if they do like a player, they have to get rid of him. … My dad went through that a couple years ago in Denver with a couple players. I understand that. It’s tough to understand those things, but I love these guys and the opportunity I’ve been given here in Los Angeles and I hope I continue to have that opportunity.”

Karl’s contract doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 10. He’s only partially guaranteed up to $100,000, which, if he makes the team, he’d hit rather quickly. In some ways, this is a good thing for Karl because it gives the club the flexibility to keep him around without the obligation of paying him an entire year right now. In other words, it gives them more time to decide if they want to keep him around. Let’s say a couple guards get hurt this season, it would be beneficial for him still to be on the team. Then, on January 10, the team decides whether it still needs him for the stretch run.

“Yeah, it gives the organization some flexibility, and it gives me more of an opportunity to be around and make good impression on them,” Karl said.

Karl said that he’s been working on his strength, defense and maximizing his scoring opportunities. But that the biggest thing he needs to do, right now, is just hit (outside) shots.

“I think currently it’s making shots,” he said. “I haven’t been able to do that this year yet, but I think my track record has shown that I can hit shots.”

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Look for some regulars to play more minutes tonight

The final exhibition games of an NBA preseason usually resemble summer league more than an NBA game. But don’t be surprised if a couple Lakers starters play extended minutes tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While praising Pau Gasol’s preseason last night, acknowledging that Pau looks to be in “midseason form,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson mentioned that he’d like to see how Pau did in extended minutes.

“He’s played well both passing the ball and shooting the ball. But we haven’t extended any minutes out there yet for these guys,” Jackson said. “Nobody’s played a 30 minute game, so we’re going to have to push it a little bit for these guys and get them over 30 minutes.”

That said, Phil seemed impressed by what he had seen from the Barcelonan bomber this fall:

“He’s right in midseason form. I think the experience of the Olympics and the break off for a month, then coming back into camp. He’s still shooting the ball pretty well and looking really good out there offensively.”

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Why Vlade over Trevor

Remember just a few weeks ago when it looked like Trevor Ariza was going to get serious consideration as a starter at small forward this year. It was, at the time, the reason Lamar Odom was potentially being moved to the bench. The thinking being that Ariza’s athleticism, defensive ability against other small forwards and 3-point shooting was more of what the Lakers needed out of their starting small forward than Odom’s all-around game.

In recent games though, Phil Jackson seems to be leading more toward starting Vladimir Radmanovic at that spot, as he did at the end of last year. It’s not for sentimental reasons though.

Right now, it’s looking like the Lakers first unit –Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum — is going to be a more half-court oriented group. And with two 7-footers in the post, Jackson needs a legitimate 3-point threat to stretch the defense and keep teams from packing it in down low on Bynum and Gasol. While Ariza can shoot 3s, he’s not as feared, or established as Radmanovic.

“He’s an accurate 3-point shooter, though i wouldn’t say right now that he’s known as a 3-point shooter,” Jackson said of Ariza. “His tendency is not to shoot the ball, whereas Vlade’s tendency is to pull a defense out.”

Jackson, it seems, prefers to let Ariza’s athleticism shine on the more uptempo second unit led by Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom.

“I don’t want to squelch Trevor’s ability by putting him on the first unit. It would be a disservice to his game,” Jackson said. “He’s much better having the opportunity to play a much more wide-open, quicker game with the second unit. They move the ball well, they run the court well, have a lot of fun on the court. The first unit is more half-court, more settled in and I think that Vlade gives them a great outside shooter to spread the defense so we can run the interior game.”

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Here’s something you didn’t know about Andrew Bynum

I’d heard a few weeks ago that Andrew Bynum is a car guy. Normally in the NBA, that means a guy spends a bunch of his rookie contract on fancy, tricked out, fast cars. But in Bynum’s case there’s a little more to it. Apparently, when he grows up, or finishes his NBA career, whichever comes first, Big Drew wants to become a mechanical engineer and build cars.

“I like cars alot. I work with them on the weekends,” he said. “That’s something I think I want to get into after I’m done playing. Maybe go to school and become like a mechanical engineer.

“I really like it. I like how they work.”

These days, Bynum can be seen scooting around town in either a Yukon Denali, his BMW M-6 or Nissan Skyline.

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Kobe sits out

Kobe Bryant decided against playing Thursday’s exhibition against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Honda Center because of lingering swelling behind his hyperextended right knee. He was hopeful the swelling would subside and he could play in Friday’s exhibition finale against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Ontario’s new arena.
Here’s what Kobe had to say before Thursday’s game:
“We’re just going to knock that out and make sure the swelling is out of there, which it should be soon. Then I’m OK. I feel fine. I lifted weights this morning for my legs. I did lunges and jumps and all that kind of stuff. I’m all right. I just want to get the swelling out. It feels fine. Right now it feels OK. It’s just a little puffy in the back. I want to get it out. Playing on it tonight, and having the swelling be there and having to manage it, that’s the kind of stuff you do during the regular season. Not in preseason. I don’t know (about playing in Ontario). We’ll see. If I can get the swelling out in the morning, which we should be able to do, hopefully. If not, it’s no big deal. After seeing the injury on TV, I’m surprised it’s not worse, to be honest with you. That thing didn’t look too good. So ….”
Bryant did not undergo an MRI exam. Asked why not, he said:
“Well, if I can run, if I can jump, if I can do lunges, if can do leg curls, if I can do leg extensions, chances are there’s no structural damage.”

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The kind of post blogs are made for

It’s taken me a few hours to get to this post, the result mostly of my fear at not being able to do the scene justice with words alone. There are some people who are good at humorous writing, I’m probably not one of them. But since space on this blog is relatively unlimited, and I can’t call our staff’s unofficial humorist Tom Hoffarth in for a consult, here goes.

After Lakers practice today, several of us writer types were standing around, shooting the breeze with Kobe Bryant after we’d poked and prodded every possible angle related to his right knee injury. Normally after we get done with the Q&A session, Kobe makes a pretty quick exit into the training room, presumably to beat the afternoon traffic on his drive home to Orange County on the 405 South. But today, he stuck around, talking about the World Series, the passion of Lakers fans in the 300 level seats, and why he’d never want to meet the Red Sox in a dark alley.

Anyway, the point is, he stuck around a while. Which meant he was there when Sasha Vujacic finished his after-practice shooting. And if you’ve ever tried to wait out one of Sasha’s after-practice shooting sessions, you know just how long that is.

So as Sasha’s coming off the court, he grabs a ball and decides to hurl a hook shot from about 50 or 55 feet away, and yells out, “Take that Kob” … And it clanks off the rim.

The door, was quite clearly, wide open for a challenge.

“I’ll give you $20 bucks if you make that,” Kobe yelled out to Sasha. “I got $20 bucks in my sock right now.”

“Twenty bucks?” Sasha said. “No problem.”

There was a rack of basketballs sitting along the baseline. One-by-one Sasha started hurling them to the basket. Some were close. Really close, off the front of the rim, one foot in front, just off the iron. Some where not close at all. Behind the backboard, off the shot clock on top, you get the idea.

After about 10 tries, we all assumed Sasha would give up. Then we realized this was Sasha Vujacic we were dealing with. The Machine. A guy who has never finished a practice without sweating through his entire shirt. A guy who tires out the person rebounding for him in shoot-around. A guy so competitive, if you held a staring contest between him and a wall, you’d almost bet the wall would give up first.

Anyway, after the first 10 or so tries, Sasha runs across the court and starts picking up the balls, then runs back to the spot and starts throwing up another round of 50-foot hook shots.

“We’re going to have to get you a rebounder,” Kobe yells out.

Sasha, completely focused at this point, just keeps shooting until eventually one of the Lakers staffers comes out from the training room and starts rebounding for him.

Sasha keeps going. Another 10 or 20 tries. Literally every third or fourth ball clanking off the rim. The whole gym is rolling with laughter.

“You need your man-band to make this, your hair band,” Bryant says. “We might be here all night. Come on Sampson.”

At one point, we all start to wonder whether he’s right. Ten, 20 more tries and it’s almost getting tragic. How can the ball clank off the front of the rim so many times and not go in?

“Come on! It’s unbelievable,” Sasha says, about ten times throughout the whole session, clearly dumbfounded at how close he’s come so many different times.

“Here, you shoot. You try,” Sasha says to Kobe.

“It’s your shot,” Kobe says back. “You’re the one taking the shot, not me.”

It’s about this point when we all realize that Mirjam Swanson of the Press-Enterprise has been filming this whole thing.

“You know this is going up on YouTube, Sasha,” one of us scribes yells out.

About 10 minutes into the ordeal, the Lakers staffer who’d come out to rebound gets tired and goes back in.

“You know, you may not be mentally strong enough to make this,” Kobe yells out.

Sasha keeps shooting, and shooting and shooting. And when he needs more basketballs, he sprints across the court to go get them himself.

“This would make a great Snickers commercial,” Kobe yells to Sasha. “You know, if you want to quit you can quit.”

Sasha, stone-faced and stubborn, keeps shooting.

No one was leaving. Least of all, Sasha or Kobe even though it was coming up on 2 o’clock and the traffic on the 405 was getting thick.

“Man, I’m going to have to call home and tell (them) I’m going to be late because of you,” Kobe yells out to Sasha, clearly getting very good at getting under his skin by now. “You better make one. I’m going to take this personally if you don’t make one.”

Finally, after what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, Sasha finally nails one. Straight through the net from 50 or 55 feet away and the whole gym erupted in laughter and cheers.

Sasha runs toward Kobe, grabs a high five and yells out, “Take that, take that.”

Kobe, laughing as loud as everyone else in the gym, turns to all of us and says, “See, this is what I gotta deal with every day.”

No word yet on whether the $20 has been exchanged.

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GM survey

NBA general managers predict the Los Angeles Lakers to defeat the Boston Celtics in The Finals according to respondents of the Seventh Annual NBA.com GM Survey. The complete NBA.com GM Survey results are now posted on NBA.com.

Forty-six percent of GMs believe the Lakers will win their 15th NBA title in 2009. The defending NBA champion Boston Celtics received 19 percent of the vote, followed by the New Orleans Hornets with 12 percent. For the first time in five years, the majority of GMs did not select the San Antonio Spurs (eight percent) to win the title.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (56 percent) was selected by GMs for the third consecutive year to win the regular season MVP. Reigning MVP, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers received 37 percent of the vote and the New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul garnered seven percent.

For the seventh consecutive season, Bryant (89 percent) was selected by GMs as the player they most want taking the shot with the game on the line. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks (67 percent) was voted the top international player and James (67 percent) was voted as the top player GMs would sign to start an NBA franchise.

Here’s some other fun answers:
Spurs’ Gregg Popovich – best head coach in the NBA (54 percent)
Utah Jazz – best home-court advantage (44 percent)
Celtics’ Kevin Garnett – best defensive player (44 percent)
Lakers’ Andrew Bynum – most likely to have breakout season (19 percent)
New Orleans Hornets – most fun team to watch (27 percent)
Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat – most improved team (each 26 percent)
Knicks’ Mike D’Antoni – head coach that runs the best offense (54 percent)
Hornets’ Chris Paul – fastest player with the ball (37 percent)
Blazers’ Rudy Fernandez – which international rookie is most ready to contribute this season (52 percent)

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Kobe’s OK

Just a quick update for all you breathless Lakers fans out there awaiting word on Kobe Bryant’s knee injury today. According to Bryant, his hyper-extended right knee still feels a sore behind the knee, and he did experience some swelling, but other than that Kobe is OK and might even play in Thursday’s exhibition game in Anaheim.

“If it feels good, I’m going to go. I don’t see any reason not to,” he said.

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See for yourself

Just found a video clip of Kobe Bryant’s knee injury Tuesday night. It looks harmless at first, but when they slow it down and spot-shadow Kobe and Josh Powell knocking knees, it’s clear Kobe’s knee bends in a way it did not enjoy bending.

Click here to watch:

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Kobe update

Kobe Bryant said his hyper-extended right knee was sore, but he didn’t have much else to report after the Lakers’ 102-98 victory Tuesday night over the Charlotte Bobcats at the San Diego Sports Arena. He said he would know more Wednesday afternoon. He’s scheduled to be re-examined by the team’s medical staff. The team termed him day-to-day.
Meanwhile at Staples Center, where the Clippers played host to Phoenix, Suns center Shaquille O’Neal told our own Ramona Shelburne, “Wow, I hope he’s OK. That’s my guy.”
The Lakers didn’t seem overly concerned about Bryant’s injury immediately after the game, with Phil Jackson saying rather playfully that the league’s reigning MVP would “maybe” play in Tuesday’s regular-season opener against Portland.
Said Derek Fisher when asked if Bryant would play Tuesday, “Definitely.”
Bryant was hurt with 3:08 left in the first half, when he landed awkwardly while chasing after a rebound. He left for the locker room and didn’t return to the game. He watched the second half from a seat near the bench while dressed in street clothes.

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