Josh Powell started in place of injured power forward Pau Gasol, who sat out for the third consecutive game because of a strained right hamstring. Lamar Odom did not play for the second straight game because of a bruised right lower leg. Luke Walton didn’t play for the third game in a row because of a sore back. They all would have been fit enough to play if this had been a regular-season game, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before tonight’s game. Craig Smith led the Clippers to a three-point lead with 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Shannon Brown had 13 points for the Lakers.
By now you know Lakers coach Phil Jackson has a way with words. Here’s what he had to say when asked by a Charlotte reporter whether Adam Morrison’s confidence was damaged after the trade from the Bobcats to the Lakers last Feb. 7: “He’s liked by his teammates. He has a chance here. … He was like a wounded dog. We had to really take care of him. Feed him right. Groom him. He looks much better now.”
Jordan Farmar’s steal helped the Lakers fend off the Charlotte Bobcats by four points in tonight’s exhibition at Staples Center. Andrew Bynum and Josh Powell led the Lakers with 15 points apiece. Kobe Bryant had 13 points and Farmar and Sasha Vujacic had 11 each. Vladimir Radmanovic, a former Laker, led Charlotte with 15 points. Gerald Wallace had 13.
Pau Gasol couldn’t play tonight because of a strained right hamstring. Lamar Odom sat out because of a bruised right calf. Luke Walton didn’t play because of a sore back. Shannon Brown started at the shooting guard spot and Kobe Bryant moved to small forward, with Ron Artest taking the power forward position. Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 10 points by halftime. Bryant had nine points. Gerald Wallace led Charlotte with seven points.
LAS VEGAS — The sports book at the venerable Las Vegas Hilton hotel recently posted win totals for all 30 NBA teams, with the Lakers leading the way with 62. The Cleveland Cavaliers were next with 61 1/2 (yeah, yeah, you can’t win a half-game; it’s used for overs and unders purposes). The Orlango Magic had 57 1/2 and the Boston Celtics had 56 1/2, followed by the San Antonio Spurs 54 1/2 and the Denver Nuggets 52 1/2.
The totals seem a little low at the top end, what with all the talk about the Lakers capable of chasing the Chicago Bulls’ league record of 72 set in 1995-96. Then again, I’m not a gambler so don’t listen to me. Take your money and stick in a bank. Oh, wait. Never mind. Buy gold. They tell me that’s a good investment!
LAS VEGAS — Here’s my early edition story off Thursday’s 98-92 exhibition victory over the Sacto Kings, the one that you won’t find on the Website or in the late print editions:
There are big lineups, bigger lineups and biggest lineups.
Then there’s the possibility of a Lakers’ lineup of Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. If you’re scoring at home, that’s a 6-foot-6 man playing with a 6-8 guy, a 6-10 dude and two 7-footers.
Now, that’s a really, really big lineup.
The question is whether Lakers coach Phil Jackson would actually use it at any time in a game this season. He didn’t employ it during the Lakers’ exhibition Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Oh, I wouldn’t waste it in the preseason,” Jackson said, smiling.
Obviously, the Lakers would hold a huge size advantage over some teams, but it could also leave them vulnerable to small teams with a fleet of quick players. After all, they have had trouble corralling speedy guards with a small lineup in the past.
“I think they’re very capable of playing like that,” Jackson said of playing an extremely big lineup. “I don’t think defense is going to be a problem in a half-court set. But in transition if you have those young burners who can race the ball up the court, that would be something we’d have to work on.”
Jackson had the option of playing Odom, Gasol and Bynum together last season, but after a good deal of talk during the lead-up to training camp and during the exhibition schedule, it never materialized. They were never on the court at the same time.
Jackson also could have played Bryant, Odom, Gasol and Bynum with Trevor Ariza last season, but that never happened either. What’s changed, aside from Ariza’s departure for the Houston Rockets as a free agent last summer?
Well, the addition of Artest, for one thing.
Artest, who signed as a free agent from Houston, means Jackson has a capable big man who also can be a facilitator. Ariza is not as accomplished playing at the top of the floor, as a point guard would in the Lakers’ triangle offense.
“(Adding Artest) gives us the possibility of really doing that,” Jackson said.
Even if it does come to pass, even if Jackson plays with five big guys, it doesn’t mean he would use it to the exclusion of his standard starting five of Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum with point guard Derek Fisher. It would simply be another option.
“I do like little guards,” Jackson said. “They’re toys. You just use them. I like a big lineup. I like big guards who can handle the ball because it puts tremendous pressure on a team. But we’ve had tremendous success with Fisher in the lineup.”
LAS VEGAS — Andrew Bynum scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Lakers’ six-point victory over the Sacramento Kings. Kobe Bryant added 18 points as the Lakers improved to 2-1 in exhibition play. Sasha Vujacic scored 10 points. Jason Thompson led the Kings (0-3) with 19 points, and Spencer Hawes had 18 points.
LAS VEGAS — It was close for a while, then the Lakers dropped the hammer on the Sacramento Kings in the second quarter of tonight’s exhibition at the Thomas & Mack Center. Andrew Bynum got the Lakers started by scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first quarter. Kobe Bryant added 10 points by halftime. Neither Pau Gasol nor Luke Walton dressed. Gasol has a strained right hamstring and Walton has a sore back. Bynum filled the void created by Gasol’s absence. He torched Sacramento’s Spencer Hawes again and again.
I swear there have been teams in the NBA that could have run the table during the regular season. They were that good. The Chicago Bulls team that won 72 of 82 games in 1995-96 was one of them, but there have been a few others down through the years. The current Lakers team appears capable of winning 70 or more, assuming they avoid injuries and the sort of inner turmoil that could derail a talented team.
The question is, do they want to expend that much energy? It might be unwise, particularly if they have a goal of winning a second straight NBA title. Push too hard and they might go off the rails. Better to coast through the regular season, win whatever it takes to secure the best record in the Western Conference and focus on a title charge.
It’s just my opinion. What do you guys think?
Luke Walton could not play in today’s scrimmage because of a sore back. He was unavailable for immediate comment after the workout because he was on the trainer’s table. Twenty-four hours earlier, Lakers coach Phil Jackson deflected questions about Walton’s play so far in training camp. He joked that Walton’s training camp was a success so far because he hadn’t come down with a nagging injury as in past Octobers. Then, lo and behold, Walton suffered a back injury after Monday’s practice. It’s unknown how long Walton might be sidelined. He played only a handful of minutes in each of the Lakers’ first two exhibitions, a win last Wednesday over Golden State and a loss Friday to the Warriors.