MEMPHIS — Not much space available tonight (either in print or on-line) for significant game detail on the Lakers’ 115-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. (Andrew Bynum’s right knee injury took up almost all of the column inches). But it should not pass without noting that the Lakers won their second straight to start this six-game trip, rallying from a 13-point deficit in the first half to defeat the Grizzlies, 115-98. The Lakers improved to 37-9.
Kobe Bryant scored 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting and added seven assists. Pau Gasol scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Derek Fisher had 14 points on6-for-7 shooting, Lamar Odom had 13 points and six rebounds and Trevor Ariza added 11 points.
Rudy Gay led Memphis with 23 points, and O.J. Mayo scored 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting. This was my first live look at Mayo, a former USC standout who entered the NBA draft after just one season with the Trojans. He’s very, very impressive, but also very, very raw. I liked his game. But don’t take my word for it.
“O.J. has all the talent in the world,” Bryant said of Mayo. “He has a tremendous amount of potential and a great work ethic. the sky is the limit for him.”
Anyway, the Lakers recovered from their shock at the loss of Bynum midway through the first quarter, rallying from a 13-point deficit. They blanked the Grizzlies for the first 5:57 of the fourth quarter while building a 100-82 lead. The Lakers outscored Memphis by 60-37 in the second half.
“Great disappointment,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of losing Bynum. “It took the wind out of the whole team, and that was a reason why we played like we did. Kobe is very disappointed about (Bynum’s injury). Obviously, he contributed to it, being the one who drove and fell back on Andrew.”
Now, it’s on to New York where the Lakers will face the Knicks on Monday.
MEMPHIS — The only bit of good news for Andrew Bynum was that he sprained his right knee rather than his left one in the first quarter of the Lakers’ 115-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies tonight. It was his left kneecap that he injured in a Jan. 13, 2008 game against the Grizzlies at Staples Center. Bynum missed the rest of the 2007-08 plus the playoffs and underwent surgery last May.
X-rays taken immediately after tonight’s injury were negative and he is scheduled to have an MRI exam Sunday in New York, the next stop on the Lakers’ six-game trip. The Lakers hope to know the extent of his injury and how long he might be sidelined. I will get something posted as soon as I get the news from the Lakers.
“I saw Kobe driving to the basket, and I was able to pick my leg up and that saved me from major damage,” Bynum said. “I can put pressure on it. I can walk. I don’t need the crutch. It’s just there. I definitely feel optimistic as opposed to last year.
“It’s much better than what happened last year. I am able to put weight on it. There were no ‘pops.’ I don’t really need the crutches, but they’d like me to use them for now. I have to stay optimistic. I want to return and continue doing the things I was doing out there.”
Bryant sounded more downcast than Bynum, telling reporters:
“I feel bad for him because he’s been playing so well and putting in a lot of work to get to this point. I’m a little (ticked) off right now because this happened to him at this moment in time. Hopefully, it’s not something that’s too severe and he’ll get back soon and pick right back up where he left off. I’m just upset that this happened to him with all the work he’s done. You have to stay positive. I’m happy he has that approach.”
MEMPHIS — Hello from Memphis, where it’s warm enough to feel like home. The sun felt good after a couple of frigid days in Minneapolis. I’ve always thought of basketball as a summer sport that’s played in the winter for some strange reason. Of course, living most of my life in Southern California means playing pick-up games outdoors year-round. Anyhow, Memphis is home to Graceland and Beale Street and the Memphis Tigers. The Grizzlies have been a tough fit here, moving here from Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2001. Vancouver is one of the great cities of the world. Memphis, with apologizes to Elvis and B.B. King, is not in Vancouver’s class. Good BBQ, though. The Grizzlies are on an 11-game losing streak that’s probably going to hit 12 by night’s end.
So, um, forget all that stuff he said, the rap video, the veiled insults. Whatever feud we thought he had with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson was all a game, Shaquille O’Neal said in an interview that will air on ESPN.
“We helped you hype it up,” O’Neal said. “I know what I’m doing, brother. I’m the smartest player in the world … It was all marketing.”
Behind all the “marketing,” O’Neal said, he had a great affection for Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.
“I always loved Kobe,” he said.
And Phil Jackson?
“Yes, he’s the greatest coach ever. He’s done a lot for me. Phil’s my guy. It was all marketing brother,” O’Neal said.
So if they didn’t break up after the 2005 season, what would’ve happened?
“We’d probably have about six or seven (championships) now, easily,” O’Neal said.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Lakers learned why the Minnesota Timberwolves are 10-3 in January, struggling to stay ahead of them in the first half. Andrew Bynum scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 64-60 lead. Kobe Bryant had 14 points and five rebounds and Pau Gasol had nine points for the Lakers. Ryan Gomes led the Timberwolves with 14 points, and Al Jefferson added 11 points. Kevin Love, a former UCLA standout, had a much better showing than in his first game against the Lakers. Love had eight points and six rebounds.
MINNEAPOLIS — Trevor Ariza was cleared to play tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves after he was examined by a Twin-Cities neurologist earlier in the day. He underwent a CT scan and an MRI, the results of which were normal. Ariza suffered a concussion in the Lakers’ double-overtime loss Tuesday to the Charlotte Bobcats.
MINNEAPOLIS — Greetings from frigid Minnesota, the first stop on the Lakers’ six-game trip. Beautiful day, if you can handle the 8-degree temperatures. It hasn’t been above 32 degrees all month. Not once. Not even for a minute. The fellow on the local TV news smiled as he said it definitely won’t make it above freezing today, but might approach it Saturday afternoon. And you wonder why the Lakers fled for Los Angeles in 1960? That said, I love Minneapolis and St. Paul. Great sports towns (the Timberwolves, Twins, Vikings and the University of Minnesota are in Minny and the Wild play a few miles away in St. Paul). People are unfailingly friendly. Prince and Bob Dylan are Minnesota natives.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be teamed together at the All-Star game for the first time as Lakers teammates. Of course, that will be overshadowed by Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal playing together for the first time since the 2004 NBA Finals. O’Neal was named an All-Star for the 15th time in his career. Bryant has been picked 11 times and Gasol twice.
O’Neal was interviewed on ESPN this morning (taped, not live) and spoke again about how he and Bryant were the best one-two combination in the history of the league. He said he believed they might have won “six or seven” NBA titles had they stayed together. He said their feud was simply “marketing” and called Lakers coach Phil Jackson “the best ever.”
Asked if he would play Bryant and O’Neal together in the All-Star game, Jackson smiled wryly and said, “Of course. I wouldn’t miss that opportunity.”
The All-Star game is Feb. 15 in Phoenix. Bryant will start for the West and O’Neal and Gasol will serve as backups. Jackson will be the coach. Think there will be many interesting comments coming out of that weekend?
All indications are that Pau Gasol will be named as a reserve to the Western Conference All-Star team later today.
But as of 12:30 this afternoon, he said he had been given no word on whether he was going to get the nod.
“They’re not telling me anything,” Gasol said before boarding the team’s flight to Minneapolis. “The year I made it, they told me a day or two prior to the announcement, but this year I haven’t heard anything.
“I’m looking forward to knowing just so I can be really excited and happy about being a part of it, or you know, maybe a little disappointed and upset about it.
“If I win, I’ll be extremely happy and excited about it. It’s something that would give me pride and honor. It’s nice to make it and be amongst the best. And if I don’t, I’ll be disappointed. But I’ll try to keep it cool.”
Lakers forward Trevor Ariza (concussion) will travel with the team on its upcoming six-game road trip, but is still day-to-day. He was evaluated again Thursday morning by Dr. John Moe and there was slight improvement in his condition, a team spokesman said. But it’s not clear if he will be able to play tommorrow night against Minnesota.