Halftime: Kings 57, Lakers 55

SACRAMENTO — Beno Udrih scored 13 points and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lead the Sacramento Kings to a two-point lead over the Lakers at halftime tonight. Kobe Bryant had 14 points to lead the Lakers, and Pau Gasol had 12 points. Lamar Odom scored nine points while starting in place of Ron Artest, who did not make the trip after suffering a concussion in a fall at his home Christmas night. The Lakers played with far more intensity and efficiency than during their dreary loss Friday to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Artest suffers concussion

SACRAMENTO — Ron Artest suffered a concussion after a fall at home Friday night, the Lakers announced today. Artest will not be available to play in tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings. He has improved since tripping over a box at home and falling down a flight of stairs. He was treated at the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center and received stitches to close wounds on his head and left elbow. He was examined by a neurologist today and will return for further examinations daily until he is cleared to return to the active roster.

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Cavs 102, Lakers 87

The Lakers paid for their indifference going into today’s game. They treated it was if it was just another game. The Cleveland Cavaliers treated it as something more, and the results were obvious. The less said about the “fans” who chucked promotional foam fingers onto the court in the fourth quarter the better. Here’s all you need to know about the Lakers’ feelings about their Christmas clunker, courtesy Pau Gasol:

“Obviously, we didn’t come out right and weren’t ready to play. They played harder and they played better, and they took the game. Things happen. We just thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually became. I’m disappointed how the game turned out. I’m disappointed how we approached the game. I’m disappointed how we played the game.”

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Halftime: Cavs 51, Lakers 42

Well, the Lakers said they didn’t particularly care about facing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day, and then they went out and played like they didn’t particularly care about facing the Cavs on Christmas Day. The Lakers trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half today before the alarm clock sounded and they crawled within 51-42 by halftime. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting in the first half. LeBron James and Mo Williams had 11 points apiece for Cleveland. The Lakers shot 36.4 percent in the first half.

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Kobe updates

Here are a couple of items about Kobe Bryant, one minor and one not so much.

First and foremost, Bryant said he went through today’s practice without suffering any pain in the left knee he tweaked during the Lakers’ victory Tuesday over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also said of his knee, “It’s good. No problems. I feel fine.”

Also, Bryant continues to be the overall leader in All-Star voting by the fans, outpacing James by 1,380,383 to 1,315,292 in the latest balloting update released by the league. Additionally, Andrew Bynum was second to Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire among centers in the Western Conference.

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Gasol press conference

Here’s some of what Pau Gasol had to say after signing a three-year, $57-million contract extension today: “It’s a beautiful thing. … It gives me tremendous peace of mind. … We both compromised in this deal, and we’re both happy about it. Hopefully, a lot of great things will continue to come.”

Here’s some of what GM Mitch Kupchak said about trying to sign Kobe Bryant to a three-year extension: “We’ve continued to have a dialogue with Kobe and his representative. … I do anticipate further discussions. … I’ve always felt Kobe began his career here in Los Angeles and he should and will end his career in Los Angeles.

Speaking more generally, Kupchak also said, “You can’t predict what the economy will (have) in store for anybody, but being able to know the core of our team will be together is most important for our fan base. …

“We’re trying to send a message … that we want to keep this team together for as long as possible, so we can continue to pursue what Los Angeles wants us to continue to pursue, which is championships.”

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Gasol gets his contract extension

The Lakers have just announced they will hold a press conference this afternoon to announce a three-year contract extension for power forward/center Pau Gasol. The money is in the neighborhood of $64 million over the three seasons. The exact figures won’t be locked in until after the salary cap is set for the first year of his deal. Gasol still has two seasons left, including 2009-10, on his present contract. The next item of business for Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is completing a similiar three-year extension for Kobe Bryant.

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Travel troubles (cont’d)

Blue Bruin raises a couple of good questions in response to my post on the travel problems experienced by the Lakers’ beat writers, who were snowed-in here in New York.

First of all, the Lakers travel by chartered aircraft from city to city. In the case of Saturday, their plane was waiting for them on the tarmac at Newark Airport. After beating the Nets, showering and speaking to reporters, they hopped aboard a bus and made the drive through the snow to the airport. After some serious de-icing, they flew to Detroit to face the Pistons. After the Detroit game, they showered, spoke to reporters and flew back to LAX.

Lakers beat writers never fly with the team. We fly commercial on the day after the game. We watch the games, interview the players and write and file our stories, update our blogs shortly after the final buzzer and head back to the hotel. Next day, we fly to the next city. Our flights are sometimes delayed or canceled and it makes life difficult. But, as I said in the earlier post, I’ve been at this a while but have never missed a game until Sunday.

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Lakers 93, Pistons 81

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points on 11-for-23 shooting and the Lakers completed their first extended trip of the season with a victory tonight over the struggling Detroit Pistons. Andrew Bynum scored 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Ron Artest had 14 points, five rebounds and nine assists. Pau Gasol added 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Lakers improved their league-leading record to 22-4 and won their fourth in a row despite scoring only 10 points in the fourth quarter. Rodney Stuckey scored 16 points for Detroit (11-16). The Lakers barely escaped a blinding snowstorm in the New York area, leaving the Newark airport after some serious de-icing on their chartered plane early this morning. They landed at a suburban Detroit airport at 3 a.m., and checked into their hotel around 4.

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Weather troubles

NEW YORK — I won’t be in Detroit to cover tonight’s game against the Pistons. Can’t get there from here. A massive snowstorm hammered the Eastern seaboard Saturday afternoon through this morning. Most flights into and out of the New York area have been canceled. This is a first for me in nine seasons of pro beat reporting. I’ve never missed a game because of weather or travel problems. None of the four beat writers will make it to Detroit. It will be a weird feeling to be here in New York while the game is going on.

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