Coach Phil Jackson ruled out a return of Pau Gasol in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks. Said Jackson after today’s practice, “No, there’s not a chance he’s going to play.” The Lakers say they’re not worried about Gasol and his strained right hamstring, but the plain fact is that he has already missed their first two regular-season games plus their final six exhibitions. He last played Oct. 9 in an exhibition against Golden State at the Forum. It remains to be seen if he can play in either Tuesday’s game at Oklahoma City or Wednesday’s contest at Houston. He’s not practicing with the team and there’s no timetable for his return to the court. Gasol wasn’t available to talk today, but I’m hoping for a chat before Sunday’s game against the Hawks at Staples Center.
Hard to imagine the Lakers matching or passing the Chicago Bulls’ league record of 72 victories after watching their lackluster defeat tonight against the Dallas Mavericks. Ron Artest had a night to forget, scoring three points on 1-for-6 shooting with three rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, five fouls and one technical foul. It wasn’t all his fault. Kobe Bryant had 20 points on 6-for-16 shooting. Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 21 points.
Pau Gasol couldn’t play for the second consecutive game because of a strained right hamstring. DJ Mbenga was the first man off the bench after Andrew Bynum picked up his second foul late in the first quarter. Kobe Bryant also drew two fouls in the first quarter and had to go to the bench. Ron Artest picked up his third foul late in the half and had to go to the bench. The Mavericks led most of the way in the first half despite getting only eight points from Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry led the Mavs with 10 points. Bryant had 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting, and Bynum and Shannon Brown added 10 each for the Lakers.
The Lakers’ substitutes, aka the Bench Mob, got outhustled and outscored in the season-opening victory Tuesday over the Clippers. Are they worried? A little bit, judging by comments made today at practice by Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic.
“Obviously, we want to play more,” Walton said. “Obviously, we want to play better. We played like trash in the second quarter. Sometimes things just don’t work out for you. It was a perfect storm (on) opening night.
“I know the guys on the bench are upset with the situation. The coaches are probably upset with us. But it’s one game. We have 81 more. We’ve proven over the last few years that we have a pretty reliable bench.”
Said Vujacic: “There are big expectations from our bench. “We have the best bench in the NBA, and there’s no secret about it, we want to play up to that level. We all want to play a lot of minutes. First night was tough on a lot of guys, but we’re not giving up. We’ve got to stick together. … It was one of those nights. We have 81 games to go.”
Pau Gasol’s strained right hamstring is still causing him trouble. He didn’t practice today and isn’t likely to play Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Are the Lakers worried? Not hardly. “Maybe Sunday,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said when asked when Gasol might make his season debut. “We’re not worry about this. We’re just taking it real slow. Don’t you worry about it either.” The Lakers play host to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
Here are a few paragraphs from the (Springfield, Mass.) Republican updating Tony Gaffney’s next move:
“Well it certainly didn’t take former UMass star Tony Gaffney long to recover from his departure from the Lakers. He’s headed to Israel to play professional basketball.
“Which does not come as a surprise at all. In August Tony signed a pro contract with Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon, a team in the top professional league in Israel. Gaffney will be joined by three other former college players from the United States. Jeremy Pargo, a point guard from Gonzaga, Dion Dowell , who played at Texas and the University of Houston, and Brian Randall who played at Illinois. Interestingly enough Gaffney will be one of the tallest players on the team.
“In seven preseason games with the Lakers, Gaffney averaged 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.7 minutes.
“Gaffney, an undrafted forward, finished his senior year with the Minutemen averaging a double-double with 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
“The 6-8 forward was ranked third in the nation in blocked shots (3.8) and was named the 2009 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year. Gaffney was a member of the 2009 Lakers summer league team, where he averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in four games played.
“This is obviously great news for Tony Gaffney. He’s a terrific kid, a solid college player, and now has a chance to refine his skills against pro competition, and perhaps return to the NBA one day.”
Here are some of the best postgame quotes from the Lakers’ locker room:
Ron Artest on sitting in the locker room while his new teammates collected their championship rings before the game and a few other comments …
“I had some good seats right in here. it was me by my lonely. The whole team said they wanted to win and they wanted to win today. So we just had to continue to move forward. That was the focus. I guess they had 15 or 20 minutes to really enjoy it, then it was
time to go play. That’s called focus you know. that’s called wanting more, wanting to
reach more. I’m already self-motivated. I’ve been playing for a long time, trying
to win for a long time so I’m there already. I stand by my word. all you got is your word.”
Sasha Vujacic on the emotion of the ring ceremony …
“We had all summer to cry… It was great emotion, it was unbelievable what they did for us. We definitely enjoyed the moment, but it was something we did last year and we have a new journey now. I think we have a very good team, i think we’re much stronger than last year. We’re young, but we’re mature enough to win another one. Each night
is going to be a real challenge for us, everyone is going to come in and try to beat us, but i think we’re good enough to hold them off.”
Phil Jackson on the play of Artest and Andrew Bynum …
“Ron did really well. I thought he shut down defensively really well. Some offensive things he had opportunities on he didn’t complete, but I thought he looked like he was in the mix and knew what was going on most of the time and felt comfortable with what we were trying to do. (Bynum) did pretty well (defensively). In the first half, we talked a little bit about our rotations and help defense and I thought Drew was much better in the second half giving help (to his teammates).”
It got close there for a minute, as the Clippers cut the Lakers lead to 76-75 at the end of the third quarter, but this one ended up being a rather easy win as the Lakers surged in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Bynum had a happy birthday –his 22nd — scoring 26 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 33 points. Eric Gordon led the Clippers with 21 points. Chris Kaman had 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Baron Davis had an awful night from the field (1 for 10) and scored just two points in 28 minutes. He did have eight assists though.
It seemed like something of an oversight at the time, but the Lakers didn’t mention the return of Tex Winter as the rest of the team received its championship rings before the game. But there was a method to their madness. The Lakers just presented Winter with his ring in a separate ceremony just before the start of the fourth quarter. It turned out to be a nice touch. Winter, a longtime assistant to Lakers coach Phil Jackson and the architect of the triangle offense, suffered a stroke last spring. He has recovered well and looks great, however.
Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum scored 17 points apiece to the lead the Lakers to a 10-point lead over the Clippers by halftime. Bynum had six rebounds and Bryant had five. Lamar Odom had eight points and Ron Artest had eight in his Lakers debut. He missed his first four shots before sinking a layup in the closing seconds of the first quarter. Craig Smith led the Clippers with 12 points in a reserve role. Chris Kamam added 10 points.