So this is what the new season might look like for the Lakers: Steve Blake sinking the go-ahead 3-pointer tonight off a pass from a driving Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol leading the Lakers in scoring and rebounding (29 and 11), Bryant recording seven assists (to go with 27 points), Shannon Brown scoring 14 of his 16 in the fourth quarter, Derek Fisher sitting on the bench during crunch time while Blake and Brown stay in the game until the end. It’s a reminder of the Lakers’ depth, even as they struggled with the Rockets tonight.
Did anyone not see this coming? The Lakers went through the championship ring ceremony as if floating on clouds. Then they played as if they were floating on clouds instead of battling the Houston Rockets in the trenches. The Lakers shot a woeful 38.9 percent in the first half tonight at Staples Center. The Rockets shot a credible 47.9 percent. The Lakers had a few flashes of excellence, but could not sustain them. Kobe Bryant scored 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol scored 12 apiece. Kevin Martin scored 19 and Aaron Brooks had 18 for Houston.
When the ball goes up tonight, Kobe Bryant will become the longest-tenured Laker in the franchise’s history. This is his 15th season in purple-and-gold, one more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Magic Johnson played 13 seasons with the Lakers. John Stockton holds the league mark with 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz.
The Lakers will go with their 12 healthiest players for the regular-season opener Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton will start the season on the inactive list. Bynum’s right knee isn’t sound yet after offseason surgery and Walton aggravated his strained right hamstring Friday. Rookie forwards Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks will be in uniform and available to play against Houston.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson called Thanksgiving a “reasonable” date for center Andrew Bynum’s return to the active roster. Jackson said today that the 7-foot Bynum ran on a treadmill and participated in a shooting drill with his teammates. He was shooting flat-footed and “not jumping and not dunking,” according to Jackson. Bynum underwent surgery on his right knee July 28 and has been making a long, slow recovery. He has missed large portions of each of the last three seasons because of knee injuries. Of course, this makes it four consecutive seasons. Bynum could be out 15 games if Jackson’s target date is correct.
The Lakers’ disjointed training camp came to an end tonight, but not until they worked five extra minutes to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Ontario. They finished with a 4-4 record after starting 0-2 on their trip to London and Barcelona. Injuries are the biggest issue facing the Lakers going into Tuesday’s opener against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant isn’t close to 100 percent after having right knee surgery in the offseason. Andrew Bynum hasn’t practiced yet after his offseason right knee surgery. Luke Walton aggravated his strained right hamstring tonight. Lamar Odom didn’t play because of a broken nose. Theo Ratliff didn’t play because of a sore left knee. A slow start seems inevitable while the Lakers try to get everyone healthy for the long haul.
Luke Walton aggravated his strained right hamstring in the first half of tonight’s exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors in Ontario. Walton played only 4 minutes, 30 seconds tonight and did not score. He was rule out of the rest of the game. His status for opening night Tuesday is not immediately known. He scored five points in the Lakers’ victory over the Warriors in San Diego after sitting out their first six exhibitions.
Coach Phil Jackson remained at home tonight because of flu-like symptoms and will miss the Lakers’ exhibition finale against the Golden State Warriors. Brian Shaw, who made his coaching debut in Thursday’s victory over the Warriors in San Diego, will guide the team again. Also, the Lakers expect Kobe Bryant to play tonight. He didn’t play Thursday, resting his surgically-repaired right knee. Opening night is Tuesday at Staples Center.
SAN DIEGO — Pau Gasol scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 26 minutes to lead the Lakers past the Golden State Warriors in an exhibition game tonight. Steve Blake added 18 points and six assists and Lamar Odom had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers (3-4). The teams play again tonight in Ontario. Kobe Bryant did not play tonight, choosing to rest his surgically-repaired right knee instead of playing on the San Diego Sports Arena’s ancient court. Sasha Vujacic replaced him and scored nine points. Luke Walton, who sat out the first six exhibitions because of a hamstring injury, had five points.
Phil Jackson missed the game because of an illness and Brian Shaw filled in as the Lakers’ coach. Shaw called only one timeout during the game. Later, he explained why: “If you sat in that locker room, you could see how hot it was and how much it smelled and you wanted to get out of here as quick as possible.”
SAN DIEGO — Sasha Vujacic and tennis standout Maria Sharapova are engaged to be married, the Lakers backup guard confirmed tonight. He wouldn’t dish on the details, as they might say in the tabloids, but he did say he popped the question on the one-year anniversary of their first meeting. They were introduced at a party held by mutual friends in Manhattan Beach. No date has been set for the wedding.