Lakers stay diplomatic on David Stern vs. Gregg Popovich

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich insists he ensures his aging stars escape the NBA grind as best they can. So much that he sat Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Gerald Green in the team’s 105-100 loss Thursday to Miami.

NBA commissioner David Stern seems adamant that nothing compromise his brand and TV ratings. So much that he levied a $250,000 fine against the Spurs for leaving their stars out of a TNT-broadcast game.

Nearly 3,000 miles away, the Lakers mostly played the role of Switzerland.

Coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t want to offend Stern: “I’m glad the commissioner is the commissioner. I think everybody has an opinion. But it’s not my place to have one.”

Lakers center Dwight Howard didn’t want to involve himself in any controversy: “It has nothing to do with the Lakers. It has nothing to do with what we’re trying to accomplish.”

But there was one veteran who sounded more than eager in giving enlightened perspective.

“I thought as a coach you can do what’s best for your team,” Lakers forward Antawn Jamison said. “But with the ratings, being on TNT and people seeing the San Antonio Spurs play Miami, David has a different agenda. It didn’t surprise me he rested those guys. It surprised me the NBA said something.”

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Pau Gasol appreciates Mike D’Antoni’s support

EL SEGUNDO — Filling Pau Gasol’s free time hardly involves scrolling the net to see if his name stays attached to trade rumors.

Lately, Gasol’s spent those moments on the team plane and before going to sleep reading Mike Krzyzewski’s book titled, “Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life.” He’s only reached Chapter 3, but the page-turning experience has given Gasol enough of an impression.

“So far, it’s been good and positive,” Gasol said.

One of the earliest anecdotes involves Krzyzewksi’s revelation that he has all the players exchange their home and cell phone numbers so everyone in the program remains reachable at all time. Such a practice, in theory, then creates a stronger bond where players feel more inclined to stay in touch. It also makes them easier to reach each other in times of need.

“I like that,” Gasol said. “It’s something that a professional team should do more of.”

It’s unclear if Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni would adopt the practice even if he served as an assistant under Krzyzewski for both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. men’s basketball Olympic teams. But D’Antoni connected with Gasol another way.

As Gasol continuously struggles on adapting to D’Antoni’s fast-paced, pick-and-roll offense, the Lakers coach expressed a vote of confidence that everything will work out. The words struck Gasol the same way Krzyzewksi’a book has.

“It’s important that your head coach has trust in you, and confidence in you, and respects your game, and wants you to be a big part of what he’s trying to do,” said Gasol, who’s averaging a career-low 13.1 points on 42.3 percent shooting. “So, it’s a big plus.”
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Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace happy to see Derek Fisher in uniform

Derek Fisher, who won five NBA championships with the Lakers, joined the Dallas Mavericks after former UCLA product Darren Collison struggled manning the point guard spot.

“I want him to play as long as he wants and I know he kept himself in shape,” Gasol said of the 38-year-old guard. “I’m happy for him.”

The Lakers traded Fisher last season before the trade deadline to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill, both for cost-cutting measure and to make room in the backcourt for Ramon Sessions. After the Rockets and Fisher negotiated a buyout, Fisher joined the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team immediately gravitated toward his championship experience and leadership.

Yet, it wasn’t enough for the Thunder to keep him this season. Plenty on the Lakers, including Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Metta World Peace, hold Fisher in high esteem because of his penchant for clutch shots, team mentality and positive locker room presence.

Derek Fisher, who helped the Lakers win five NBA championships, signed a free agent deal with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, extending his 16-year NBA career for another season.

“Fish brings a lot to the table,” World Peace said. “He’s amazing.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail Mark Medina at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Kobe Bryant practices on Thursday

EL SEGUNDO — Despite nursing a flu that has ailed him for the past two days, Kobe Bryant practiced today at the team’s facility here without any limitations.

This should hardly be surprising. After all, Bryant dropped 40 points with the illness in the Lakers’ loss Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers. Bryant wrote on his Facebook page that he spent most of the team’s day off on Wednesday resting in bed.

“That’s little in his life,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s not going to bother him.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail Mark Medina at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Steve Nash to miss next two games; Steve Blake out for at least two more weeks

The Lakers don’t appear to be bolstering their point guard spot anytime soon.

Despite completing agility and jogging drills for the past two days, Lakers guard Steve Nash will miss at least two more games because of a non-displaced fracture in his left leg that has already sidelined him for the past 13 contests. The Lakers also expect guard Steve Blake to sit out for at least two more weeks after having an MRI exam on his lower abdominal strain. The MRI, conducted by Dr. Peter Yoon, also revealed Blake’s tissues are torn from the bone, according to a person familiar with the results.

According to the Lakers’ time table, Blake will miss at least seven more games, including contests against the Denver Nuggets (Friday), Orlando Magic (Sunday), at Houston (Dec. 4), at New Orleans (Dec. 5), at Oklahoma City (Dec. 7), against Utah (Dec. 9) and at Cleveland (Dec. 11). Nash is penciled out at least for the Lakers’ remaining homestand against Denver and Orlando.

The Lakers (7-8) had the day off on Wednesday, but Nash spent that time receiving treatment. The Lakers originally planned for Nash to take an MRI on Monday, but decided to evaluate how his body would respond to the agility and jogging drills. Nash completed those exercises without further pain, according to Lakers spokesman John Black, and the team currently hasn’t planned for him to take another MRI.

Nash’s 13 game absence has marked his longest stretch since 1999. Meanwhile, Blake has missed the past eight games. During that time, Darius Morris has started at point guard while Chris Duhon has played the backup spot, both with mixed success.

The Lakers have sounded eager for Nash and Blake to return soon.

“Once the Steve’s come back, all of this stuff will go away,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of his team’s offense, which has eclipsed 100 points only once in his five games. “If we have this problem when that happens, then we’ll have to really talk.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Lakers assign Robert Sacre to D-Fenders

The Lakers assigned reserve center Robert Sacre to the D-Fenders, the team’s Development League affiliate.

Sacre was selected by the Lakers with the last pick (60th overall in the 2012 NBA draft. Although he has impressed the Lakers with his endless energy and ability to stave off minutes for Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol during the preseason, Sacre has only appeared in eight games this season totaling 19 minutes.

The Lakers also assigned second-round draft pick Darius Johnson-Odom to the D-Fenders over the weekend. That leaves the Lakers’ current roster at 13 players.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Lakers struggling at the free throw line

Forget Hack a Dwight.

Opposing teams may just want to adopt this strategy to win games: Hack the Lakers.

The Lakers (7-8) rank 29th out of 30 NBA teams in free-throw shooting, making 66.8 percent of those shots from the stripe. In four of the Lakers’ eight losses, the margin between made and missed free throws exceeded the point differential between winning and losing. Among the worst Lakers players to send to the free throw line include Dwight Howard (47.8 percent), Darius Morris (56.5 percent), Jordan Hill (61.5 percent) and Antawn Jamison (63.2 percent).

“Stop talking about it. I don’t want to hear about it,” Howard said after going three of 12 from the line in the Lakers’ 79-77 loss Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers. “That’s my problem, thinking too much at the line.”

Interestingly enough, the Lakers post vastly different numbers in practice. According to a whiteboard at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, the Lakers have made 90 percent of their free throws, led by Jodie Meeks (97 percent), Steve Nash (97 percent), Steve Blake (93 percent) and Kobe Bryant (91 percent).

Even the Lakers’ poor free throw shooters have fared well in practice, including Jamison (89 percent), Hill (88 percent), Morris (83 percent) and Howard (80 percent).

But that means very little if they’re not translating into games.

“It’s a mental thing and a confidence thing,” said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who has averaged 75.9 percent from the free-throw line this season. “It’s something you have to work on mentally. It’s not just repetition. We have to step it up as a team and step on the line because a lot of close games will be decided by free throws.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Despite 40-point performance, Kobe Bryant blames himself for loss to Indiana

There Kobe Bryant sat by his locker with his face down. His voice muffled. He constantly cleared his throat.

The site looked as depressing as the Lakers’ 79-77 loss Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers.

“I was tired,” said Bryant, who had been battling the flu all day. “You know how it is. When you get sick, you just feel drained.”

Here’s a sign Bryant really feels out of it. After posting 40 points, Bryant actually blamed himself for the loss.

“I have to minimize my mistakes,” Bryant said. “Having 10 turnovers is way too many for me. I have to work on perfecting that and bringing that down. I felt like I played to the crowd too much.”

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Kobe Bryant to play against Indiana

Despite having flu-like symptoms since Tuesday morning, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will play in tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

“He told me it’s not going to bother him,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. “He seemed okay. I don’t really want to know. He’ll play and he’ll play hard. He’ll be good.”

Not that this is entirely surprising. This is Kobe Bryant we’re talking about after all. Yet, Bryant’s illness affected him enough to miss the Lakers’ morning shootaround. In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Bryant also detailed how he had to take extra precautions Tuesday afternoon.

“Laid up in bed.. I’m under the weather,” Bryant wrote on his Facebook profile “Drinking a lot of fluids. Trying to shake the aches and chills thru rest, medicine and a lil Bob Marley on the speakers.”

Still, D’Antoni said Bryant’s illness won’t prompt him to limit him. Nor does he expect Bryant’s play to drop off. That’s a scary thought considering Bryant leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 26.9 points per game. The Lakers guard has posted those numbers on a career-high 51 percent clip.

“I see him playing better now than he ever has,” D’Antoni said. “One thing you’ve seen in Kobe is his intensity. That comes a long way. As his body gets older, you lose it mentally. You don’t want to train and you got a lot of money. It’s hard. Kobe is not going to let that happen to him. He’s too intense and too much of a champion.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Metta World Peace in cell phone/watch commercial


The reputation surrounding Metta World Peace involves how distracted he can become.

He stars in music videos and television shows. World Peace parties during the offseason. And a quick look at his Twitter account shows the Lakers forward will riff on anything at all hours of the night.

So it’s totally believable that World Peace would actually use a cell phone watch, as he touts for iCellWatch.com

“I can check the weather while I play basketball,” World Peace boasts.

Yet, even watching the commercial shows World Peace is focused. He looks chiseled, in shape and worried mostly about basketball. And the results are paying off. World Peace ranks third on the team in points per game (14), third in rebounds (five) and fourth in minutes played (34.9), his highest totals since joining the Lakers in 2009.

So let World Peace check the weather while playing all he wants. Most likely it will happen after he nails a three-point shot or drives through the post.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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