NEW YORK — Here are a few of the best comments following the Lakers’ 115-105 victory tonight over the New York Knicks, one night after they faded in the stretch while losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers:
Kobe Bryant on the Lakers’ play after scoring 27 points: “We did OK. We just have to stay focused and do better on this trip. We started playing with more energy (in the fourth quarter). We started playing with more intensity. We focused more on the task at hand instead of dropping our heads and going through the motions. We got ourselves going.”
Bryant on Pau Gasol (20 points) and Andrew Bynum (19 points): “When they are on point and they are playing well it makes us a very tough team because of their length, because of their size and their versatility. They can cover a lot of ground defensively.”
Ron Artest: “We didn’t do a good job on anything tonight. That’s basketball. That’s the game. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t play 100 percent tonight. … We gave ourselves a chance to win the other night (during Thursday’s loss to Cleveland) and we gave ourselves a chance to win tonight.”
New York coach Mike D’Antoni: “I thought we played them pretty good. And then Kobe and Pau (got hot) at the end of the game (and it was) a little too much.”
Here comes word from Denver-based reporter Chris Tomasson that Clippers center Chris Kaman doesn’t believe Lakers power forward/center Pau Gasol doesn’t deserve to be selected as a reserve to the Western Conference All-Star team. The picks will be announced next Thursday before TNT’s doubleheader.
“I don’t think Gasol should be in it at all,” Kaman said Thursday night when asked if he would be disappointed if Gasol, who starts at power forward for the Lakers, is moved over to be the backup center. “He’s only played like 20 games (he played Thursday in his 25th out of 42 Lakers games) this year. I think there should be a number of games you should play. I think you should have to play like 80 percent of the games.
“It shouldn’t be 50 percent (of games a player has logged) over a guy who plays 90 percent and who has better numbers. Not just me. Zach Randolph, a power forward, he has better numbers (than Gasol). But he’s not on the Lakers.”
For what it’s worth, Gasol is averaging 16.8 points and 11.1 rebounds to 20.4 points and 9.2 rebounds for Kaman, who has played in 38 of 42 games. Randolph is averaging 20.8 points and 11.5 rebounds while having played in all 41 games.
What’s more, Kaman also said he should be picked over Andrew Bynum who is averaging 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds.
“I think I’m more deserving than Andrew Bynum,” Kaman said. “I’d be disappointed if they put Pau Gasol in front of me. If they put Bynum (ahead of me), it would be disappointing but it would be easier to accept.”
CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers rallied for a victory tonight that moved them within percentage points of the Lakers in the overall standings. So, it’s only January. So, the Lakers could regain the lead with a victory Friday over the New York Knicks. The Cavaliers seemed to want the game more down the stretch, with LeBron James leading them by scoring 12 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant scored 31 for the Lakers.
Here’s what James said after the Cavs swept the two-game series: “I don’t look too far into it. You don’t want to look too far into beating one team twice. The championship still goes through L.A. If doesn’t matter if you beat a team four times, you still have to beat them in the Finals to take that trophy away from them.”
CLEVELAND — Kobe Bryant reached the 25,000-point milestone tonight with a free throw with 3 minutes remaining in the first half. He had 19 points to help the Lakers to a 40-36 lead. He scored his 17th and 18th points of the game on a jump shot, then drew a foul on Cleveland’s Anthony Parker while driving along the baseline moments later. He sank the first of two free throws to become only the 15th player in league history to hit 25,000 points.
UPDATE: The Lakers led the Cavs, 46-44, at halftime as Bryant scored 20 points. LeBron James led the Cavs with 18 points. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol each drew three fouls.
Kobe Bryant was voted to start for the Western Conference All-Star team. LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was the leading vote-getter with 2,549,693 to overtake Bryant, who received 2,456,224 votes. James will start for the East.
Bryant was selected for the 12th time in his career. He was the MVP of the game in 2002 and 2007 and was the co-MVP with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal (then of the Phoenix Suns) last season. O’Neal now plays with James in Cleveland.
Reserves for both teams will be announced next before TNT’s doubleheader next Thursday. The All-Star Game is set for Feb. 14 at the Dallas Cowboys new stadium in Arlington, Tex., with a crowd of 80,000 expected.
CLEVELAND — The news out of the Cavaliers’ shootaround this morning is that guard Mo Williams won’t play tonight against the Lakers because of a separated left shoulder. From The Associated Press story: “The Cavaliers did not say how long they could be without Williams, their second-leading scorer. The team said Williams, who scored 28 points against the Lakers on Christmas Day, was being evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic. … Cavs coach Mike Brown said Delonte West will start in place of Williams.”
UPDATE: Williams will miss at least one month with a sprained left shoulder.
The NBA’s trade deadline is four weeks from today, which means the silly season has started. ESPN has reported that the Lakers have asked about the availability of New Jersey guard Devin Harris. Now, the thing to remember is general managers talk all the time, so just because ESPN has reported something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Also, you might recall that ESPN reported breathlessly that “Kobe Bryant has played his last game with the Lakers” in the summer of 2007. Now, that didn’t happen either.
Certainly, acquiring a player like Harris makes sense for the Lakers. Derek Fisher is 35 and his contract is up at season’s end. He’s not as fast as some of the faster point guards around the league (see: Aaron Brooks of Houston). But even the fastest guards have trouble staying in front of other fast guards. Can Brooks really stay in front of Tony Parker of San Antonio on every single possession? Not likely.
Secondly, what would it take for the Lakers to trade for Harris, who makes $8.4 million this season? They would have to send New Jersey a package of players to make the salaries line up under the league’s trade rules. You can’t swap a player making $8.4 million for a guy making $4.4 million, for instance. So, who do the Lakers part with to get Harris? No chance they would give up Shannon Brown, who looks more and more like he will become Fisher’s replacement some day. Jordan Farmar continues to prove his worth as a backup and probably will stick with the team through the end of his contract.
Lastly, the Lakers don’t appear likely to make a move before the deadline. However, they have done deals in each of the last two seasons. Last season, they dumped Vladimir Radmanovic and picked up Brown and Adam Morrison from the Charlotte Bobcats. Brown is a valuable player, but Morrison could be dealt if the Lakers find a dance partner. Two years ago, the Lakers swindled the Memphis Grizzlies out of Pau Gasol, trading them Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and the rights to Marc Gasol. In the end, the Grizzlies didn’t suffer too much. Marc Gasol is terrific and the team is winning.
So … stay … tuned. More rumors are sure to follow.
The starters for the All-Star teams are scheduled to be announced before the Lakers-Cleveland Cavaliers game is shown Thursday night on TNT. A special one-hour pregame show starts at 4 p.m. (PST), with the Lakers and Cavs following at 5 p.m. Kobe Bryant has been the overall leader in voting from the beginning and he’s expected to be named as a starter for the Western Conference team for the 12th time in his career.
This story slipped under the radar. Here are the top lines from the news release:
“Lakers star Pau Gasol will receive the prestigious 2009 Sportsman of the Year award at the fifth annual LA Sports Awards, which will be held Feb. 19 at the new JW Marriott at L.A. Live. The LA Sports Awards are presented annually by the Los Angeles Sports Council to celebrate the greatest moments of the year in sports in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. The Sportsman award is given to the local male athlete whose performance and character best exemplified the ideals of sportsmanship during the calendar year.”
Here are a few fun facts from the NBA’s news release today:
“The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant has retained the top spot on the NBA’s Most Popular Jerseys list, the ranking he has held since the start of the 2008-09 season. The rankings are based on sales at the NBA Store in New York City and NBAStore.com since the start of the 2009-10 NBA season.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James maintains the No. 2 spot, while the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose appear in the Top 5 for the first time. Howard makes a dramatic jump, moving from No.10 to No. 3 on this year’s list. Rose’s popularity continues to grow and moves into the No.4 spot from No.11 last season. The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade rounds out the Top 5.”
Additionally, Pau Gasol was 10th on the list and the Lakers were No. 1 as a team, beating out the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavalilers.