Phil Jackson will speak with reporters this afternoon in his annual pre-training camp session. Presumably he’ll have plenty to say about turning 64 earlier this month and about returning to the Lakers in an attempt to add to his NBA record of 10 championships. He might even have an opinion or two or three on the team’s signing of Ron Artest and Lamar Odom’s wedding plans. Check back later for further details. Should be some good stuff.
With 55 percent of the vote, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant edged out San Antonio’s Tim Duncan in an informal Sporting News poll.
Of course that could have a lot to do with Bryant’s recent success, the popularity of the team he plays for, etc., but it’s still a nice honor.
The article, written by the excellent Sean Deveney, has a really interesting quote from Shaquille O’Neal on Bryant.
“The thing about Kobe is that, over the course of my career, I have never played with anyone who was as fierce as he is,” O’Neal said. “By fierce I mean just having that extra killer instinct that you know when the game is on the line he is not going to shy away from the big shot, he is not going to make excuses. If we would go into the fourth quarter, playoffs or just some game in the season and we were within a little bit of the other team, Kobe was not going to shy away from the challenge of getting the win. He was going to take the shots.”
Really good story out of Houston this morning from my colleague Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Jon catches up with former Laker Trevor Ariza and gets some interesting perspective on the how and why behind Ariza’s rocky free-agent negotiations.
Ariza admitted to being “hurt” by the Lakers initial stance with him — saying they’d match any offers at the midlevel exception, but would not offer more than that — but now seems to feel that moving to Houston will be a great opportunity for him to develop as a player.
“”Every player wants to grow. Every player has goals,” Ariza told the Chronicle. “Every player wants to be the best player he can be. In L.A., they have so many great, great players. Kobe is the best player in the NBA, arguably ever. Pau Gasol. Lamar Odom. Andrew Bynum is coming into his own.
“I think I would have been stuck into one role there. Here, everybody said, ‘We want you to work on your game. You have to do more. We believe you have the skill and the talent to do it. Come do it.'”
As for his contract negotiations with the Lakers, Ariza said, “I’m not a greedy person by any means. Fair is fair. I helped your team win. I’m not asking for the bank. I’m not asking for the house and the farm. I need something fair. At first, I felt hurt. It’s my home. I was a little upset. But you get over it. I have great memories there. I had my first real opportunity to play there, won a championship. It was a great experience. … But you know, things happen.”
About the only significant competition at training camp will be in the backcourt, where point guards Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar will battle for playing time. It’s assumed that Fisher will retain the starter’s role, with Brown and Farmar providing backup help. Brown made significant progress after the Lakers acquired him from Charlotte last February. Additional steps must be taken before Brown moves into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, however. Farmar has greater knowledge of the triangle offense, but a knee injury last December blunted his progess and opened the door for Brown’s advancement later in the season. This is a duel that bears monitoring from Day 1 at training camp.
Not to throw a wet blanket over the Lakers’ chances at a second straight NBA title, particularly when they haven’t fired a shot in anger yet. But what’s their motivation for winning in 2009-10? Last season, they made it clear they were out to avenge their humiliating loss to the Boston Celtics in the Finals in 2008. It carried them through good times and bad, and then they took out their remaining frustrations on the Orlando Magic last June. Now another championship next spring would be nice, but will the Lakers have the same fire as last season? Will they rise above the crowd to claim another title? No team has won repeat titles since the Lakers won three straight at the start of the decade, so the odds are stacked against them as they count down the days to the start of camp.
Just checked in with the excellent Mark Ziegler of the San Diego Union Tribune, who was in attendance yesterday when Ron Artest made a rather splashy appearance in front of the 619 media to promote the Lakers exhibition game down south.
As you can tell from the hilarious stories that came out of the press conference Artest had quite a lot to say.
But I’d heard from someone else who was there that Artest also had a lot to say about Lamar Odom’s pending nuptials to Khloe Kardashian —which I wrote a column about today — but that the comments somehow didn’t get picked up by too many people.
I called Mark to check about it and he graciously filled me in. Anyway, here you go, from Ron’s mouth, through Mark’s tape recorder, to your computer screens:
ARTEST: “It’s great to be a Laker and reunite with Lamar Odom. I’ve known Lamar Odom since I was 8 or 9 years old. We played against each other from ages 8 or 9 up until ages 11 or 12, then played with each other from ages 11 or 12 all the way up to age 17. We’re both from Queens. His birthday is on the 7th of November and mine is on the 13th — same age. To reunite is great.
“Lamar is marrying Khloe. Congratulations. I love him. I’ll be at the wedding. I can’t wait.
“I needed him there. I felt really confident in my game, and then we’ve got Kobe. That makes you feel even more confident. Over the last couple years, I’ve been the main guy on my teams. I feel I can win. When you put Kobe in that situation on your team, you know you can win. But if Lamar’s not there, you’ve got to find a way to win. With Lamar coming back, it just boosts that confidence even more.
“With Lamar there, it gives us a better chance, especially with Rasheed Wallace over there at Boston. Rasheed is going to extend the defense, and Lamar is 6-11 and can go out there and play a little defense, and he’s a great rebounder and a great slasher.
“I tried to do all I could to get him to come back to L.A. But the main thing is, I wanted him to be happy, just being his friend. If he would not have come back to LA, you know, I would have been disappointed but I would support him. I’m more than happy to have him playing on this team.”
Another in a series of issues facing the Lakers going into training camp:
Ron Artest wasn’t all together wrong when he said Monday that it will be his fault if the Lakers don’t repeat as NBA champions next June. A good many sets of eyeballs will be on him this season. His signing, after Trevor Ariza bolted to the Houston Rockets as a free agent, could be viewed as a high risk, high reward type of deal. The Lakers might coast to a second consecutive title with Artest supplying a veteran presense in 2009-10.Then again, they might implode just as easily with Artest hitting the switch that ignites disaster.
Pau Gasol led Spain to the Eurobasket championship Sunday in Poland, scoring 18 points and taking 11 rebounds in a rout of Serbia. He led Spain to its first victory after six defeats in the tournament final, including a one-point loss to Russia two years ago in Spain. Now he has a little more than a week to rest and recover in time for the start of the Lakers’ training camp. Media day is Sept. 29 and the first workout is the next day.
There’s a good chance the Lakers will give their starting power forward a light workload for the first few weeks since he had a short rest followed by training camp with Spain. There’s also the issue of the damaged finger Gasol suffered while working out with his countrymen before the tournament began. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti traveled to Spain to check on Gasol, and pronounced him fit to play in Eurobasket.
The NBA announced this afternoon that it will begin its referee training camp with replacements, which means there is a very good chance the Lakers’ first exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 7 at the Honda Center in Anaheim will be staffed by fill-ins. It’s certainly possible the regular season could start with replacement referees. The referees’ union declined the league’s final contract offer Thursday, setting the stage for today’s announcement. The referees’ contract with the league ran out Sept. 1. The Lakers open their training camp with media day Sept. 29. They start the regular season Oct. 27.
OK, I find this to be very hard to believe, and the first calls I’ve made on this are coming back with scoffs and “I don’t know anything about this” reactions, but I felt like I should put it out there since it’s coming from a source that is above tabloid status…
According to E! Online, Lakers forward Lamar Odom and his girlfriend Khloe Kardashian are planning to get married.
Yikes, that was fast.
Here’s some of the article:
A source close to the couple tells E! that Odom, a forward for the L.A. Lakers, and Khlo recently have been “talking about rings.”
Members of the Kardashian family are neither confirming nor denying the wedding plans or a date. A rep for both stars have declined to comment.