Mike Brown’s route to the Lakers began in Denver

A sneak peak at tomorrow’s notebook tonight …

Lakers coach Mike Brown maintains a special fondness for the Denver Nuggets.

After all, they gave him his first job in the NBA.

Actually, his first job wasn’t a job at all.

Brown served as an unpaid intern during the summer of 1992, before he finished his final course work at the University of San Diego. Then-Nuggets general manager Bernie Bickerstaff then hired him as the team’s video coordinator.

“All I can remember is he offered me 15 grand,” Brown said today. “In my head I was, like, ‘Sucker, I got you fooled. All you had to do was offer me a couple pairs of sneakers and some sweat suits.’ He paid me 15 grand and I thought I was rich.”

Brown turned down the job initially in order to finish school. Bickerstaff held the position open for him until he completed his final semester Dec. 15, giving several assistant coaches the tasks of breaking down game film until Brown arrived.

Unlike today’s video coordinators around the league, who don’t work with tape anymore, Brown worked with two clunky decks. If he needed to make a tape of all the Nuggets’ fastbreak baskets, he watched the game tape and put it together.

If he needed to make a tape of all their plays when throwing the ball inside to their big guys, he had to watch the whole tape over again and put together that tape. It was arduous, time-consuming and thankless work.

Patrick O’Keefe, the Lakers’ video coordinator, works with a laptop and DVDs.

“It’s so advanced now, I have no clue how it works,” Brown said.

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Kobe Bryant: knee is ’95 percent better’

A sneak-peak at tomorrow’s notebook …

The only thing Kobe Bryant hates more than losing is talking about his many injuries, so after a mob of reporters descended upon him before the Lakers’ faced the New York Knicks tonight at Staples Center, he asked for a little help from a team official.

“This is a long five minutes, isn’t it?” he asked media relations czar John Black.

Bryant spoke for the first time about his offseason trip to Germany to have a relatively new procedure called Orthokine performed on his ailing right knee. It is similar to platelet-rich plasma therapy, an increasing popular blood procedure among athletes.

In Bryant’s case, it helped ease the pain in his arthritic knee, restoring his explosiveness. Last season, he described his knee as “pretty much bone-on-bone,” because of the loss of cartilage and the onset of arthritis.

“I’m 95 percent better,” he said. “It has to make sense. You can’t just try it to try it. It has to be something you come back with research and study. It’s my job to know these things. You have people you pay to know these things.

“You sit them down and talk to them. You listen to their opinion.”

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Defense carries Lakers over Jazz

Tomorrow’s game story tonight …

The Lakers finally got it right tonight.

No muss, no fuss, no reason to panic about a winless start to the season either.

The Lakers hammered the Utah Jazz 96-71 in front of a relieved sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center. They looked coolly confident while playing for the third time in as many days to start the lockout-delayed and shortened 2011-12 season.

Order restored?

Crisis averted?

Well, that remains to be seen.

The Lakers did take a few determined strides in the right direction, however. They played their first cohesive game, their first complete game after disjointed efforts in losses Sunday to the Chicago Bulls and Monday to the Sacramento Kings.

Maybe back-to-back-to-back games helped them find their rhythm. They certainly filled in the gaps in their play while building a 29-point lead in the second half and improving to 20-4 all-time against the Jazz at Staples Center.

“I’m glad that’s over,” a smiling Kobe Bryant would later say of playing three games in three days to start the season. “There were a lot of positives. We were a lot more consistent (Tuesday) and we didn’t have to think as much out there.”

Late in the game, Bryant stuck out his tongue in a child-like celebration after swishing a 3-pointer over C.J. Miles that gave the Lakers an 86-62 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. It was clear they were having fun again.

Bryant scored 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds and added five assists in 30 minutes, 51 seconds. Pau Gasol had 22 points and nine rebounds in relief of suspended center Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace scored 14 points in a reserve role.

Paul Millsap scored 18 points for Utah, which shot only 32.2 percent (29 of 90). Josh Howard added 10 points, but he and Millsap were the only Jazz players to score in double figures as the Lakers held them to only 31 points in the first half.

“It’s hard to hold a team to 71 points and 32 percent shooting, I don’t care who you’re playing,” Mike Brown said after his first victory as the Lakers’ coach. “It was exciting to see. … It was a fun game for me to watch.”

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Defense fails Lakers in loss to Kings

SACRAMENTO — Lakers coach Mike Brown was a happy camper after they gave the Chicago Bulls fits with their defensive pressure in their season opener Sunday. He wasn’t as pleased with their effort during tonight’s 100-91 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

After all, the Kings shot holes in Brown’s defensive scheme, making 9 of 18 from behind the 3-point arc (50 percent) and 35 of 75 overall (46.7 percent). The Kings broke down the Lakers’ defense with drives and passes to the perimeter.

More often than not, the Kings had easy paths to the basket.

“We were trying to get stops,” Brown said. “We were trying to limit the amounts of straight-line drives that they were able to do. We were able to do that for a while, and that got us back into the game.”

In fact, the Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit to cut the Kings’ lead to 89-87 with 4:24 remaining, but then failed to box out at the free throw line and Sacramento was able to hold on for its first home victory over the Lakers in six games.

“Teams are going to get 3-point shots against us if we let them drive past us during the game and kick it out,” Brown said. “We allowed them to get past us. When we would collapse on defense, they would kick the ball out to the open man for the 3.

“Anybody will be able to knock those shots down.”

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Lakers win TV ratings battle

The Lakers-Bulls game Sunday drew a 6.5 overnight rating nationally, making it ABC’s third-highest regular-season game behind the Lakers-Miami Heat game on Christmas Day in 2004 (7.9) and the Dec. 25 contest between the Lakers and Heat last year (7.3).

ESPN’s game between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors on Sunday had a 2.3 overnight rating. But the Clippers couldn’t come close to the Lakers’ rating in Los Angeles, drawing only a 3.4 rating compared to 12.1 for the Lakers.

What’s more, the Lakers-Bulls game attracted a higher overnight rating that even the Boston Celtics-New York Knicks game Sunday on TNT, which produced a 3.4 rating to make it the fourth-highest regular-season game in cable history.

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Lakers news about Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and more

Tomorrow’s notebook tonight …

Kobe Bryant made it through Friday’s practice without aggravating his injured right wrist, Andrew Bynum had his suspension lowered to four games from five and Lakers coach Mike Brown announced Devin Ebanks would start Sunday.

Some day, huh?

After two weeks of non-stop bad news and disappointment, the dark clouds that seemed to be hovering over the Lakers finally lifted as they went through the next-to-last practice of their lockout-shortened 16-day training camp.

Of course, they still have issues, starting with the torn ligament in Bryant’s wrist, the fact that Bynum must sit out for four games and the notion that the inexperienced Ebanks is the best they could do at the small forward position.

The Lakers’ starting lineup for the season opener Sunday against the Chicago Bulls will be Bryant and Derek Fisher at the guard spots, Ebanks and Josh McRoberts at the forward positions and Pau Gasol at center.

It’s unclear how effective Bryant will be Sunday, after he injured his wrist in a fall midway through the third quarter of the Lakers’ exhibition loss Monday to the Clippers. He didn’t play in Wednesday’s defeat to the Clippers.

“I’m just really ignoring it,” he said.

The Lakers’ athletic training staff will make a special brace to protect him.

“I didn’t see anything different,” Brown said of Bryant. “He’s good to go. He’s tough. He’s a tough, tough, tough man. He did not sit out of anything. If he did (make adjustments), I didn’t notice it. I don’t think he did. … He looked as good as ever.”

Bynum will be eligible to return to the lineup for the Lakers’ game Dec. 31 against the Denver Nuggets. He can’t play Sunday against Chicago, Monday against Sacramento, Tuesday against the Utah Jazz and Thursday against New York.

“Hey, hey, way to go NBA, yes,” Brown said when asked for his reaction.

Brown then gave a fist-pump in case anyone misunderstood his happiness.

“I am greedy,” he added. “I would have taken zero, but four is better than five.”

Bynum was suspended for clobbering J.J. Barea on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ embarrassing 36-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the decisive Game 4 of their second-round playoff series last May.

“The only reason it was reduced is because the season is shorter,” Bynum said, referring to the fact that the lockout reduced the schedule from the standard 82 games to only 66 in 2011-12. “It makes sense.”

The Lakers’ Chicago-Sacramento-Utah slog to start the season is their only stretch of back-to-back-to-back games. However, it’s only part of a grueling start to the season, when they play six games in the first eight days.

McRoberts, a newly signed free agent, will replace Bynum. Gasol will then shift from power forward to center and McRoberts will start in Gasol’s spot. Gasol is adept at filling in for Bynum during his frequent absences because of injuries.

McRoberts’ accession is something new, however.

Lamar Odom usually stepped into the starting power forward’s role whenever Bynum was sidelined. Odom ceased to be an option after the Lakers dealt him to the rival Mavericks for a first-round draft pick and a trade exception earlier this month.

McRoberts signed Dec. 14 and has been playing catch-up ever since.

As for Ebanks’ move to the starting lineup, Brown decided some time ago he wanted to have Metta World Peace on the bench to spark the second unit. The competition for the starting position was between Ebanks and Matt Barnes.

“Rebound, play defense, hit the open shots and run the floor,” Ebanks said of his instructions from Brown for only his 21st NBA game.

Ratings bonanza

The Lakers’ exhibition losses Monday and Wednesday to the Clippers were the two most-watched preseason games in NBA TV history, the network announced. The first game attracted 509,000 viewers and 556,000 watched the second.

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Kobe Bryant plans to play Sunday in Lakers’ opener

Kobe Bryant said today he plans to play in the Lakers’ regular-season opener Sunday against the Chicago Bulls despite suffering a torn ligament in his right wrist Monday. He did not participate in today’s practice and wore a protective brace on his wrist.

“I should be fine,” he said.

Bryant was hurt when he fell to the court after DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers blocked his shot on a drive to the basket midway through the third quarter of Monday’s exhibition. Bryant continued to play in the game and practice for a while Tuesday.

“It just swelled up,” he said. “It got real big. In the morning, it felt a little better and I tried practicing and I couldn’t do much. It still got worse. That’s why I knew we had something else going on. I’ll just try to take care of it. It’s always been in my nature to try to figure out a way to play.

“The injuries I’ve had I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play through. I haven’t had injuries where it could get worse. I’ve had tears of ligaments and they’re just not there anymore, so it’s not like it’s going to get any worse. So, if you can play through the pain, if you can catch a basketball, you should be fine.”

Bryant referred to pinky and forefinger injuries he has suffered in recent seasons.

Said coach Mike Brown: “You talk about a guy with a high tolerance for pain, it’s Kobe. Nothing would surprise me at this point in terms of him playing or not playing. I’ve coached some tough guys. … He’s got to be one of the toughest, if not the toughest.”

It’s uncertain what the Lakers might do if Bryant can’t play for an extended period. It’s certainly possible they could take a run at free agent guard/forward Mickael Pietrus, whose contract the Phoenix Suns bought out this afternoon.

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Lakers after deadline

Tomorrow’s notebook tonight. …

The Lakers led the Clippers by 11 points in the second quarter of their exhibition game tonight at Staples Center, but lost it all in the third. The Clippers led the Lakers by 13 points in the fourth, but wouldn’t let it all get away.

Blake Griffin scored 10 of his team-leading 30 points in the final period, leading the Clippers to a 108-103 victory over the Lakers in front of a boisterous sellout crowd of 19,060 in the final tuneup for both teams.

The regular season begins Sunday, with the Lakers playing host to the Chicago Bulls and the Clippers visiting Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors. After two exhibitions, it looked like the Clippers are a little more ready than the Lakers.

Mo Williams and Caron Butler added 16 points apiece for the Clippers, and DeAndre Jordan scored 14 points. Newly acquired guards Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul scored eight and seven. Paul also had 10 assists in a little less than 34 minutes.

Andrew Bynum scored 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in 31 minutes for the Lakers. Pau Gasol had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes and Metta World Peace scored 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

Kobe Bryant didn’t play because of a torn wrist ligament. Derek Fisher did play after sitting out Monday’s game and the Lakers’ scrimmage Friday at USC because his conditioning was lacking. Fisher had seven points and eight assists in 24 minutes.

Kapono steps in

Lacking a legitimate 3-point threat for the better part of last season, the Lakers signed free agent Jason Kapono before training camp started. Lacking a true backup for Bryant, they turned to Kapono as a replacement tonight.
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“It’s a good opportunity,” Kapono said before the game.

It might have been the understatement of the night.

Bryant’s value to the Lakers cannot be underestimated.

Kapono’s value to them is still to be determined.

“I don’t think about what it means to start or anything like that,” Kapono said. “I’m just glad I’m here and have a chance to play and try to use my skill set and help this team win. My goal is to blend my talents in here.”

Shooting from the perimeter is Kapono’s best skill. After all, he begins the 2011-12 season with the sixth-highest shooting percentage from 3-point range in league history, a scalding 43.7 percent. He won the 3-point shooting contest in 2007 and ’08.

Shannon Brown served as Bryant’s backup the last two-plus seasons, but he signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent and the Lakers had to find a replacement. Brown made only 34.9 percent of his 3-pointers last season, so an upgrade was in order.

Kapono won’t deliver the kind of highlight reel-caliber dunks that Brown did, but the Lakers aren’t asking for a high-wire act. The Lakers want 3-pointers and baskets from the perimeter from him, and maybe some solid play while Bryant nurses his injury.

Kapono was scoreless in 12 minutes Wednesday.

Ebanks impresses

Coach Mike Brown gave second-year forward Devin Ebanks a start Wednesday while he continues his search for a starting small forward. Brown wants World Peace to move to the second unit in order to strengthen the bench.

Matt Barnes is likely to be the starter in the Lakers’ regular-season opener Sunday against the Chicago Bulls, with World Peace and Ebanks serving as his backups. It’s one spot in the starting lineup that could be in flux as the season progresses.

Ebanks had eight points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first quarter Wednesday, but then didn’t score the rest of the way, playing 13 minutes total. Barnes started in the second half and scored three points in 11 minutes.

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Kobe Bryant OK with Lakers coach Mike Brown’s criticism

Lakers coach MIke Brown criticized Kobe Bryant’s poor defensive play during Monday’s exhibition loss to the Clippers. Bryant said today he had no problem with that, and would be upset if Brown didn’t take him to task for trying to get by with a lackluster effort.

“They’re the coaches,” Bryant said. “We’re here to be coached. I’m here to be coached just like everybody else, you know what I mean? It’s important for everybody to understand that. If I make a mistake, it’s the coach’s job to correct that. You can’t be sensitive or a baby. You’re here to win. That’s his job. I would upset if he was just letting me skate through things. You make mistakes, it’s the coach’s job to point that out. If he can’t point that out to me, he has no chance of pointing it out to anybody else.”

Bryant said he’s been surprised by Brown, who hasn’t lived up to his reputation.

“What I heard about him was he was a pushover, doesn’t say what he’s thinking,” Bryant said. “I haven’t seen that at all. He’s been the complete opposite. He’s been detail oriented. He’s been up front and open and honest. He praises guys when they do well. He jumps on them when they’re messing up right away. He does that me. He does that with Pau (Gasol). He does that with (Devin) Ebanks. There’s no difference. I’ve been extremely, extremely surprised and very, very pleased about that.”

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Same old defenseless Lakers

The Lakers who lost tonight to Chris Paul and the Clippers by 114-95 looked a lot like the team that got bounced from the playoffs in the second round by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks last May. They were slow and didn’t play adequate defense.

New coach Mike Brown noticed. “It was an ugly game for us,” he said

Brown was especially upset about the Lakers’ inability to cover the perimeter.

“Lack of focus and lack of effort,” he said. “If we had more timeouts, I would have used them all. I wanted to call timeouts because of all the uncontested shots we gave up. We didn’t do our job, which was to get better tonight. We took a step backwards.”

Brown did not spare Kobe Bryant in his postgame critique.

“Kobe was just as guilty as everybody else in not contesting shots,” Brown said.

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