EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Lakers added to the New Jersey Nets’ misery with a comprehensive victory here tonight. Kobe Bryant scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the league-leading Lakers (21-4). Pau Gasol had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Lamar Odom had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Jordan Farmar had 14 points. Devin Harris led the Nets (2-26) with 21 points. The Lakers led by only 10 after the third quarter, but raced away with a superb final period. Next: at Detroit on Sunday.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Phil Jackson said tonight that the Lakers’ move to sign Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant to three-year contract extensions would not impact his decision whether to coach the team beyond this season. He praised the move to re-sign each player, although neither has actually put ink to paper. (Gasol’s signing could come Monday or Tuesday and Bryant’s could follow soon). Jackson said his health and the team’s success would have the greatest impact on his future. Jackson is in the last season of a contract that pays him about $12 million.
Here’s more, in his own words:
“How the team does this year has a lot to do with it, too. They have a great chance to be a very good team for a while. Drew (Andrew Bynum) is locked in. That’s a great start from a standpoint of putting together a roster that has some commonality. They’ve played together. They give them a good base. There are a couple of other things that have to get done and they’re going to feel good about it.”
Question: When will you decide?
Answer: “June. July.”
Question: If you repeat, will that make a difference?
Answer: “Oh, sure. It really does. But it’s not a definitely that I would continue even we were to repeat.
Question: So, winning will determine whether you return?
Answer: “If things didn’t go well, if we didn’t win, that would obviously be something that would be … you would think maybe it would be time for someone else to look at this job and carry this team forward from there. That’s possibly not going to happen that way, where it’s going to be that kind of an issue. But just winning it outright doesn’t mean it’s a natural to come back and coach this team. I don’t see that as a natural thing. A lot of it has to do with the direction the league is going in. The direction the ownership wants to go in. You know, people are cutting costs all around the league, and that’s a big part of it. Coaches’ salaries are going to take a cut, too, along the way. They might not want to hire me, you know what I mean? They can save some money. They can’t write that off.
Question: So, You wouldn’t work for less?
Answer: “Why would you?”
Then he laughed.
Here are the key paragraphs in a story posted on the Web site Hoopsworld:
“A well-placed source has told HOOPSWORLD that Gasol and the Lakers are nearing a three-year contract extension.
“Currently Gasol’s deal is set to expire after next season. He’s currently earning $16.5 million for the current campaign and $17.8 million for the next.
“The additional three years would be the maximum permitted under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
“While it’s not clear what dollar figures are being discussed, Gasol would be eligible for $18.7-$19.7 million in the first year of the extension depending on where the salary cap falls that year.
“Of course the CBA still needs to be renegotiated, which could have an impact on the numbers.”
The Lakers declined to comment.
Let the debate rage. Or not. Whatever. But there were differing opinions on whether Kobe Bryant charged into Andrew Bogut to draw a foul after making a short shot late in overtime. Or did the referees get the call right? Bryant thought Marc Davis made the right call by whistling Bogut for a foul. Bogut was sure Davis got the call wrong, although he declined to come out and say so for the record. He did tell the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “If I gave you my honest opinion, I’d probably get fined. Let’s just leave it at that. History tells you that if I tell you the truth, I’ll get fined.”
MILWAUKEE — Kobe Bryant swished a 15-foot jumper just off the left elbow as the buzzer sounded to give the Lakers an overtime victory tonight over the Milwaukee Bucks. Bryant finished with 39 points one night after scoring a season-best 42 in the Lakers’ victory over the Chicago Bulls. He made 13 of 28 shots. Michael Redd missed a runner from the paint with 8.9 seconds left and the Bucks ahead by 106-105. Bryant took the ball at Charlie Bell and swished his jumper at the buzzer. Pau Gasol added 26 points and a career-high 22 rebonds for the Lakers (20-4).
MILWAUKEE — Kobe Bryant missed a jumper from about 15 feet at the buzzer and the Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks headed to overtime tonight. Bryant has 32 points and Pau Gasol has 24 points and 20 rebounds. Andrew Bogut had a chance to put the Bucks ahead by missed a free throw with 20.7 seconds left in regulation.
MILWAUKEE — The Lakers played down to the level of their competition for the second consecutive first half. Still, they were within striking distance tonight after Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings gave the Bucks a two-point lead with a driving layup with 1 second left in the half. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the half, and Kobe Bryant had 12 points. Michael Redd led the Bucks with 11 points in a reserve role.
CHICAGO — Here’s Chicago’s Joakim Noah speaking about Kobe Bryant, who scored a season-high 42 points in the Lakers’ victory tonight over the Bulls: “He’s the best player in the world. He’s unbelievable out there. What a talent. We had some opportunities, but there’s a reason they’re world champions. It’s not just Kobe. They have a lot of weapons and they are so well coached. They have the best coach in the world (Phil Jackson) and the best player in the world, so that can be a pretty tough thing to handle.”
CHICAGO — Kobe Bryant put the sluggish Lakers on his back and carried them to a victory tonight over the Chicago Bulls. Bryant scored 20 of his season-high 42 points in an electric first quarter. He made eight of his first 10 shots, setting the tone early. His fractured right index finger did not seem to slow him in the least. He made 15 of 26 shots one game after making only 7 of 24 in the Lakers’ loss Saturday to the Utah Jazz. Andrew Bynum scored 11 points and Pau Gasol added 10 points and a team-leading 16 rebounds. Derrick Rose and Luol Deng led Chicago with 21 points apiece, and Joakim Noah had 11 points and 20 rebounds.
CHICAGO — The Lakers trailed by as many as 10 points in the first quarter tonight before Kobe Bryant got hot and snapped them to life. Bryant scored 20 points in the first quarter, making eight of his first 10 shots. He swapped splints on his injured right index finger, dropping the one he used during Saturday’s loss to the Utah Jazz. The old one was metal; the new one is plastic. Bryant made only 7 of 24 shots against the Jazz. He made 10 of 17 in the first half en route to 25 points. Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 12 points.