The Lakers got their rings tonight before raising their 2008-09 championship banner in a ceremony that celebrated the franchise’s previous nine titles in Los Angeles. Representing past teams were: Jerry West (1972), Norm Nixon (1980), Jamal Wilkes (1982), James Worthy (1985), Michael Cooper (1987), Magic Johnson (1988), A.C. Green (2000), Rick Fox (2001) and Robert Horry (2002). Magic and Horry got the biggest cheers.
The Lakers’ trainers and coaches were introduced and given their rings with NBA commissioner David Stern acting as the master of ceremonies. Then it was the players’ turns. They smiled from ear to ear as they tried on their rings. For all but Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, it was their first championship hardware. Bryant and Fisher each picked up his fourth ring.
The rings are big and bright, by the way. They are 15-karat yellow and white gold. There also are 14 white diamonds surrounding a centered championship trophy. Each player’s name is inscribed on the side on his ring with his likeness and uniform number and the team’s regular-season record.
UPDATE: Kareem attended tonight’s game, but had no comment about Memphis.
We know the Lakers moved to reduce Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s role as an assistant last month, but it appears he’s on the verge of moving to Memphis to work with the Grizzlies’ big men. Here’s a short story from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s Website:
“Legendary NBA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sat in on the Grizzlies’ practice Monday morning. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer will entertain joining the organization, several sources confirmed. Grizzlies management had no comment about Abdul-Jabbar’s presence. Memphis, however, asked for and received permission from the Lakers to speak with Abdul-Jabbar.
“Abdul-Jabbar, 62, is under contract with the Lakers after having tutored Andrew Bynum over the past several seasons. But the Los Angeles Daily News reported earlier this month that Abdul-Jabbar’s interaction with Bynum would decrease and he’d take a lesser role with the Lakers this season.
“The Griz have three centers — two of whom are considered projects — who could benefit from Abdul-Jabbar’s knowledge and experience. Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi and rookie Hasheem Thabeet met Abdul-Jabbar for dinner Sunday night.”
New and notes from the final practice before the regular season starts:
Pau Gasol did not practice this afternoon and was called doubtful to play in Tuesday’s game against the Clippers at Staples Center. Gasol missed the last six exhibitions because of a strained right hamstring. He practiced last Wednesday, but had a setback.
Kobe Bryant also did not practice. He has a sore left foot, but probably will play against the Clippers. In other words, you would need an army to keep him off the court when the Lakers face the Clippers in the opener.
Coach Phil Jackson got a sneak-peak at the Lakers’ championship rings and said they might be too big to wear. Jackson said he likes to wear a new championship ring for about six weeks or so, then puts them aside to focus on the season.
Tex Winter, Jackson’s longtime consultant and the architect of the triangle offense, was a visitor to the training facility. Winter suffered a stroke last spring, but looked good. He plans to attend the Lakers’ ring ceremony Tuesday.
Here is a sneak-peak at the Lakers notebook that will appear in Monday’s paper:
Andrew Bynum said he would be ready to play in the Lakers’ regular-season opener Tuesday against the Clippers. His strained right rotator cuff was no longer troubling him this afternoon. Neither was a sore left Achilles or a tight left hamstring.
Pau Gasol’s status for opening night was less certain, although he made it seem as if Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks or next Sunday’s contest against the Atlanta Hawks might be more realistic. His strained right hamstring was no better.
Bynum laughed when asked if he was ready to play all 48 minutes Tuesday.
“Everything’s good,” he said. “I came in early and got treatment, so everything’s good. I’m feeling good. The shoulder, I got over it in a few days. I also had something tender in my hamstring, but I took a couple of days off and it calmed down.”
Gasol couldn’t say for certain whether he would suit up against the Clippers.
“I didn’t practice today and it doesn’t look like I’m going to practice tomorrow,” he said. “In the long run, in the big picture, I try to tell myself that the most important thing is that I get myself healthy at this point in the year, so I can continue to be healthy.
“I don’t want to re-injure myself or put myself in a risky situation. Then I won’t be helping my team in the long run. That’s what I’m trying to keep in mind.”
The Lakers made their final cut today, waiving Tony Gaffney to trim their roster to 13 players for opening night Tuesday. Gaffney,an undrafted forward from UMass, had his moments during training camp and in seven exhibition appearances. He averaged three points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.7 minutes. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Gaffney had a future in the NBA, but it would be elsewhere. The Lakers have the league’s highest payroll at $91.4 million, which puts them roughly $22 million over the luxury tax threshold. So, they’ll keep the league minimum of 13 players on the roster and wish Gaffney well.
SAN DIEGO — The final totals were six technicals, two flagrant fouls and one near fight. There were no punches thrown and no ejections as the Nuggets thumped the Lakers in the exhibition finale tonight. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher played only a handful of minutes in the first quarter, then watched the rest of the game from the bench. Sasha Vujacic led the Lakers with 18 points, and DJ Mbenga had 14. Rookie Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 29 points.
SAN DIEGO — Here’s what Pau Gasol said during a halftime interview tonight about his hamstring injury and whether he can play in the season opener against the Clippers:
“I tried to practice a couple of days ago, and it got a little worse. It got irritated. It got a little aggravated. So we took a step backwards. We have to let it heal so I can get back there. I don’t know (about playing Tuesday). It’s not out of the question. I’ve got to see how it feels on a daily basis. Just let it heal. Hamstring injuries are tough. If you don’t treat them right, it can create a long-term issue. That’s something we don’t want to do, especially at this time of year. If I don’t (play Tuesday), I won’t be too disappointed. If I do, I will obviously be very excited, because I don’t like missing games. I have to try to be smart about it. I don’t want it to linger long term. I want to let it heal.”
SAN DIEGO — The Lakers and Denver Nuggets played a rough-and-tumble first half that tested the patience of the players, coaches and, above all, the replacement referees. In the end, no punches were thrown, but Lamar Odom and Denver’s Chris Andersen nearly came to blows. Odom and the Nuggets’ Kenyon Martin also nearly squared off. Odom and the Lakers were upset with Andersen, who set a number of questionable screens in the half. DJ Mbenga led the Lakers with 10 points in relief of Andrew Bynum (strained right rotator cuff). J.R. Smith led the Nuggets with 16 points. Oh yeah, Denver led, 57-49.
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points tonight at the Honda Center, Lamar Odom had 17 points and nine rebounds and Josh Powell had 15 points in a reserve role as the Lakers improved to 6-1 in exhibition play. Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points to lead the Nuggets (3-4). The teams play again Friday night in San Diego, the Lakers’ final exhibition. The start of the regular season can’t come soon enough as far as Bryant is concerned. Said Bryant: “It’s been a long preseason. It seems longer than usual. I think we’re kind of antsy to get going. We’ve had a lot of downtime. We’ve had games and then had a week off.”
Lamar Odom scored 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 5-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc, to lead the Lakers to a modest lead. Odom also had six rebounds while starting in place of the injured Pau Gasol. Kobe Bryant added 12 points for the Lakers. Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets with 15 points, and Carmelo Anthony had 12 points.