No practice Saturday, so here are a few facts and figures to gnaw on.
The Lakers’ next five opponents were at or below .500 going into Saturday’s action. The Sacramento Kings, tonight’s foe, are 5-9, the New Jersey Nets are 5-6, the Dallas Mavericks are 6-7, the Toronto Raptors are 6-6 and the Indiana Pacers are 5-6. …
The Lakers (10-1) are off to their best start since beginning the 2001-02 season with a 16-1 record. That team went on to win the third of its three consecutive NBA titles to start this decade, sweeping the New Jersey Nets in the Finals. …
The Lakers were second in the league in scoring going into Saturday’s games, averaging 104.8 points, and third in defense (91.3). No team has led the league in offense and defense since the NBA went to a four-division format before the 1970-71 season, according to research by the Lakers’ crack media relations staff. …
The Lakers have led the NBA in scoring four times since they moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960, but have never been the league’s top defensive team. …
The Lakers’ average margin of victory is 13.5 points, best in the NBA. …
Kobe Bryant scored 29 points, leading five Lakers in double figures. Andrew Bynum added 13 points, 13 rebounds and tied his career high with five assists. Lamar Odom also had 13 points despite playing with flu-like symptoms. Pau Gasol had 12 points and Trevor Ariza added 11. Of the Lakers’ starters, only Bynum played in the fourth quarter.
The only downer was an unspecified eye injury to Vladimir Radmanovic in the second half. His status for Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings is uncertain.
“We’re looking at that,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said when asked about Radmanovic’s injury. “He’s concerned about it. That’s a very vulnerable point in that occipital cheek bone area on the eye socket. It’s real vulnerable to elbows and breaking.”
Lakers led the Denver Nuggets by 67-47 at halftime, shredding the lackluster Nuggets’ defense. The Lakers shot a scalding 62.2 percent in the first half. Kobe Bryant had 18 points, Lamar Odom had 11 points and Pau Gasol added 10. Nene led the Nuggets with 13. The story was the Nuggets’ inability to guard anyone in purple and gold. Denver had won seven of eight games since dealing Allen Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups. But the trade had little impact on the Nuggets’ ability (or inability) to stop the Lakers.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson weighed in on the Clippers’ trade with the Knicks, saying:
“(Zach) Randolph gives them an inside presence. For whatever it cost them in that process, I think it was a pretty good deal for them. Randolph is a good offensive rebounder. He’s a guy who can create stuff on his own on the inside. I think they’re ready to move on and try to do some different things. With Baron (Davis) out there I don’t think the guard situation that (Cuttino) Mobley gave them (was working).”
Someone asked Jackson if he thought the deal would make an impact on the races.
“I don’t know how that works,” he said. “Looking at Elton Brand and Philadelphia, everything isn’t coming up roses for them. They’re still learning how to play together. You know, it will take a while for teams to figure out the personalities.”
Sometimes numbers really do tell the story. The Lakers, statistically speaking, have the best bench in the league and it isn’t even close. The Lakers bench has a +/- rating of +263. Utah is next at +215, followed by Chicago at +191. No other team in the league is over 100.
Where does that show up in the box score?
Quite literally, the Lakers just wear people out. In games through November 15, the Lakers outscored their opponents by a league-leading 6.5 points in the fourth quarter and second-best 3.9 points in the third quarter.
In Thursday’s win over Phoenix, the Lakers outscored the Suns 30-23 in the third quarter and played an even 25-25 in the fourth.
Vladimir Radmanovic’s jump shot had been absent for most of the first nine games, so much so that reporters began asking this week about his status as a member of the Lakers’ starting lineup. Coach Phil Jackson declined to answer questions Tuesday about Radmanovic, a guy he once referred to as a Space Cadet, but his silence said all that needed to be said.
Radmanovic said Wednesday he would worry about his 34 percent shooting, but only after the Lakers’ 10th game of the season. Well, the Lakers played their 10th game of the season, and with Radmanovic’s assistance, they hammered the Suns, 105-92, in Phoenix on Thursday night.
Radmanovic scored a season-high 15 points, making all five of his 3-point tries. His only miss was a 2-pointer, a 21-foot jumper midway through the third quarter. Later, he said, “There’s no secret. I just hit my shots tonight. Guys were finding me. The 10th game was big for me. I had to step up.”
When someone asked him if was concerned about his low shooting percentage through the season’s first nine games, he said, “Not really. ,,, Obviously, I don’t get 20 shots a game, so if I miss three or four I have awful stats. That’s it.”
The Lakers did a credible job of defending Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudemire in the first half, limiting O’Neal to seven points on 3-for-7 shooting and Stoudemire to nine points on 4-for-10 shooting. They double-teamed O’Neal in the post and made him pass more often than shoot.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant’s shooting woes continued. He scored 12 points in the first half on 4-for-12 shooting. Andrew Bynum picked up three fouls in the first half and had four points, the same total as Pau Gasol. Vlad Radmanovic had nine points on 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
It’s been a choppy game so far, but what did you expect? It’s still November.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was in the midst of his pregame session with reporters, just outside the visitors’ locker room and the Suns’ practice court at US Airways Center. He was speaking about Shaquille O’Neal when who should appear out of nowhere but the Big Guy himself, sweating profusely after a pregame workout on the practice court.
O’Neal brushed past reporters and hugged his former coach, whispering something in his ear as reporters stood back and gaped. In an instant, a budding feud was over and done. Actually, it was over and done Wednesday when O’Neal took back his comment of last week that Jackson had designed the feud between O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
O’Neal was unavailable for immediate comment before the game, but he’s sure to say a lot after the game. Jackson only laughed when asked what O’Neal whispered to him.
Wow, this is a hilarious story out of cyberspace that I just heard about from our old colleague Howard Beck, who covered the Lakers during the Shaq-Kobe Era and now works at the New York Times.
Here’s the lead. I highly recommend clicking the link to read the whole story:
Shaquille O’Neal had a problem. An Internet impostor using his name was sending messages to unsuspecting Shaq fans. So O’Neal did what any sensible, 7-foot-1, muscle-bound mammoth would do. He started tweeting.
“This is the real SHAQUILLE O’NEAL,” came the message from The_Real_Shaq, via Twitter.com, early Tuesday morning.
A clarification was in order because, for the last several months, someone registered as ShaquilleONeal was sending frequent messages, or tweets, to hundreds of subscribers.
The synthetic Shaq sounded a lot like the real O’Neal. His blurbs were whimsical, boastful and creative, even adopting O’Neal’s unique grammatical flourishes.
“My tweets are Shaqalicious,” ShaquilleONeal wrote Nov. 11.