Line of the night

Lamar Odom only got around to shooting three shots in the nearly 30 minutes he played in Sunday’s win over the Raptors. He did have 10 rebounds and six assists though.

Afterwards, I got a chance to ask him what he thought of that rather strange stat line:

“The game is called basketball, not shoot,” he joked. “You can play a complete basketball game without shooting a lot of shots.”

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Lakers 112, Raptors 99

All you need to know about this game is that the Lakers were in such firm control the entire time, not one starter played 30 minutes. Not one. Kobe Bryant came close, scoring 23 points in just over 29 minutes of work.

Andrew Bynum had another 18 and 10 night, and Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine rebounds.

Lamar Odom got nearly 28 minutes of PT, but took only three shots. Who says it’s a contract year? Odom did other things while he was out there though. Grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists.

The Lakers are 14-1 now, just two games short of matching the 16-1 start from 2001-02.

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Lamar’s not the only one

One of the main changes in the Lakers this year has been Lamar Odom’s shift from starter to sixth man. It’s a trend that’s actually become somewhat en vogue around the league.

“It doesn’t really matter, you see a lot of players coming off the bench that are extremely successful,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said during training camp. “It doesn’t decrease your value. In fact, if you come off the bench and provide a spark, it increases your value.

“Robert Horry is one of the greatest clutch players of all-time, and he hated starting. He’d literally beg (coach) Phil (Jackson) not to start.

“I don’t see the big thing about starting, to be honest with you. Dwyane Wade came off the bench for us this summer (at the Olympics). People make too much about it because you get to run out, take your warmups off, you get that spotlight thing-a-ma-jiggy that announces your name, big deal. I think that a lot of times when people talk about it, they assume that the starters are the five best players on the team, and that’s not necessarily the case.”

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In case anyone forgot…

Kobe Bryant has 21 points in the first half, which would normally qualify as a great night. But considered alongside his previous games against the Raptors, it’s pretty pedestrian.

Bryant has scored at least 31 points in each of his last four games versus the Raptors at Staples Center, including the second-highest point total in NBA history with 81 in a 122-104 win on Jan. 22, 2006.

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Worst Draft in History?

So I’m watching the Lakers-Raptors game here at Staples Center, excited to see just how good Chris Bosh is this season in person and witness the development of Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft who has taken a little while to translate his game to the NBA.

No sooner do I start typing this blog post than Bargnani airballs a 3-pointer. Yeesh. Anyone can do that of course, and Bargnani does look a lot more comfortable out there than in the past. But still.

It got me curious about the 2006 Draft Class as a whole, who the Raptors could’ve had instead, who the best players ended up being and I have to say, top-to-bottom, that 2006 class was pretty wretched.

Bargnani went No. 1 overall, LaMarcus Aldridge went No. 2, followed by Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas and Shelden Williams.

Aldridge is the only one of that group not looking like a bust.

No. 6-10 yielded a little more bountiful crop with Brandon Roy at No. 6 and Rudy Gay at No. 8. But in between, the Celtics took Randy Foye, the Warriors took Patrick O’Bryant and the team formerly known as the Sonics took Mouhamed Sene.

The second 10 are even worse. J.J. Redick went No. 11 to Orlando (bet they wish they could have that one back?), Hilton Armstrong went No. 12 to the Hornets, Thabo Sefolosha went No. 13 to the Sixers and some guy named Cedric Simmons went No. 15 to New Orleans.

You don’t find anyone who has remotely developed into an impact player until later in the first round, when the Celtics snagged Rajon Rondo at No. 21 and the Lakers drafted Jordan Farmar at No. 26.

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Scouting the Raptors

Toronto came into the season with rather lofty expectations but injuries and a lack of depth to deal with those injuries have contributed to an 8-7 start.

It might be even worse except for the fact that Chris Bosh has been playing out of his mind this season, putting up MVP-caliber numbers.

Jermaine O’Neal has been great, when he plays, but has been hobbled by ankle and knee injuries of late. Point guard Jose Calderon is an assist machine, but a hamstring injury has slowed his progress.

Still, when Toronto plays defense it can win. The Raptors are 7-1 this season when they hold opponents to under 100 points and they’re 8-1 when they hold opponents to less than 45 percent from the field.

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Jermaine O’Neal game-time decision

Just ran into Raptors forward Jermaine O’Neal in the locker room and he still wasn’t sure whether he’d play in tonight’s game with the Lakers. His left ankle is still pretty swollen. That’s more of an issue right now than his knee.

“The knee feels pretty good actually,” O’Neal said. “It’s the ankle that’s still pretty sore. I’m going to go warm up and see how it feels.”

O’Neal has missed the last to games with the ankle injury. If he’s out, that obviously hurt’s Toronto’s attack quite a bit.

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Notes from practice

Andrew Bynum did not practice, but said his injured right ankle was about the same as it was before he played in Friday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks. He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 36 minutes. Bynum certainly looked as if he had no problems, but he admitted Saturday that there was one time in the game that the pain was serious.

“It bothered me one time in the game (Friday) night, when I tried to jump and dunk the ball and it just hurt a lot,” he said. “But it subsided. … If the pain ever increases, I’m going to let everybody know and I’m going to have to take time off. The worst thing that could happen to me at this point is just for the pain to increase. If that would happen, the doctor said that I would need another MRI to see why it happened.”

A bone spur broke free in his ankle during the Lakers’ victory last Tuesday over the New Jersey Nets. There is no risk of further injury, however.

Chris MIhm did not make it through practice because of a sprained left ankle. He participated in the warmup and in half-court drills, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson took him off the court when the team began a full-court scrimmage.

Lamar Odom had an interesting take on the Lakers’ ability to go on scoring runs that stagger the opposition. The Lakers had a 17-0 run that led them past Dallas in the second half.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” he said. “It’s good to know that every game is winnable. Down by 10 points with six or seven minutes to play, we know we’re going to come back and win that game. Is that a position we want to be in? Of course not. You want to beat teams by as many points as possible.”

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Latest round of praise

I always make sure and check the quote sheets after every Lakers game now-a-days, just to see what kind of flattery the opposing coach will heap on the Lakers on their way out of Staples Center.

Here’s what Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said:

“The Lakers are one of those teams that statistically when they don’t look like they are playing well, they still find ways to beat you. ”

Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki went a little further even.

“You know they are going to make a run in their own building. They picked up the energy. On defense they put Ariza in there and Kobe in there at the 2 and 3. They are so long; for a while there we didn’t get any good shots. That’s where they made their run. We still had our chances there. We played well for three quarters and then just weren’t good enough in the fourth. We let Kobe beat us one-on-one. It’s tough. He’s the best player in the world. They just picked us apart at the end.”

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Bynum update

Andrew Bynum foot hurts. Really. It just didn’t seem to affect him very much in Friday’s win over the Mavs. Bynum scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in over 36 minutes of action.

After the game, he said his injured right foot felt no worse for wear, but the real test will come tommorrow morning.

“Right now it feels good,” Bynum said after the game. “It doesn’t feel any worse than it did before the game, which is a good sign. But tommorrow morning is going to determine a lot.”

Asked how his injury –which is on the top of his foot — was affecting his play, Bynum said: “Jumping is difficult, just pushing off is difficult but it’s something I’m able to play through.”

His teammates don’t seem all that concerned.

“Welcome to the league, man,” Kobe Bryant said of Bynum’s injury. “It’s like a badge of honor. It’s only a flesh wound.”

He also clarified the circumstances behind another injury he’s been playing though. He’s been sporting a rather wicked shiner under his right eye for the past few days.

“I caught an elbow in the Sacramento game. I don’t know who did it though,” he said.

With small forward Vladimir Radmanovic having cornered the market on sympathy for such injuries right now, Bynum has been keeping it quiet.

“Nah, he’s got it by landslide,” Bynum joked, when asked if his black eye was worse than Radmanovic’s.

At least one person was worried about Bynum though.

“My mom was mad,” Bynum joked. “She’s like I’m going to beat up whoever did that.”

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