Dwight Howard loses to Kings mascot in shooting contest

The rules kept changing.

L.A. Kings mascot Bailey arrived at the Lakers’ shootaround Tuesday along with the MLS cup to film some segments with various Lakers players. It featured them interacting wtih the mascot of the championship Kings and the trophy of the Galaxy’s MLS Cup.

Dwight Howard soon challenged Bailey to a free-throw shooting contest. He lost. Then Howard insisted Bailey’s victory wouldn’t count unless he won on the main court. Howard lost there too. Then he insisted they shoot behind the NBA 3-point line from the corner. Bailey wore a lion costume and “couldn’t really see the rim” as Howard marveled. Yet, Bailey still made five three-pointers before Howard did.

“Anything I can do to help the team,” Howard said. “I was being a team player today, missing shots. Allowing him to get his shots off so he can feel good about himself. Sometimes you have to lose to win.”

It looked like you were trying to win though, I said.

“No. I really wasn’t,” Howard said. “You have to lose to win.”
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Steve Nash, Steve Blake recovery time table still unclear

Although Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni both touted them as “making progress,” it’s unclear when Steve Nash and Steve Blake will ever return to the court.

Both will miss tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers. Beyond that – it’s anyone’s guess.

Nash, who has missed 12 games because of a small non-displaced fracture in his left fibula, didn’t have an MRI on Monday so he could go through a series of on-court drills for the next few days. The Lakers will then see how his body responds at some point before the Lakers (7-7) host the Denver Nuggets Friday at Staples Center.

“It’s subsiding a little bit,” D’Antoni said regarding Nash’s nerves in his left leg. “He can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t know if that means three days, five days, or 10 days. But he’s more upbeat today than he was yesterday.”

Blake, who has missed the past seven games because of a lower abdominal strain, appeared at the team’s tail end of morning shootaround shooting free throws. But D’Antoni said he didn’t participate during the team session.

“It’s going to be a little while,” D’Antoni said regarding Blake. “He said he felt better today. But he still feels it a little bit. He can’t feel that when he starts to practice. If he doesn’t feel it in practice, then he’ll play.”

Does that mean Blake definitely won’t play against the Nuggets?

“I don’t think anything is out of the question, but it’s also not in the question,” D’Antoni said. “You just don’t know. If he wakes up one day without pain and practices, then he can play. But he can’t do that until there is no pain.”

Meanwhile, the Darius Morris will continue to start at point guard and Chris Duhon will play at the backup spot. Kobe Bryant has also shared ball handling responsibilities.

Even if the recovery timetable has appeared like a slow crawl, D’Antoni insists on remaining patient.

“They’re making progress. We’re not there yet,” he said. “It’s a few more days. Both of them are making progress. We’re happy with both of them. They’re getting a little bit more reassured that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Kobe Bryant with flu-like symptoms, game-time decision against Indiana

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant remains a game-time decision tonight against the Indiana Pacers because of flu-like symptoms.

The illness proved severe enough for Bryant to miss the Lakers’ morning shootaround. Does Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni believe Bryant will become healthy enough or at least fight through it to play?

“I don’t know,” D’Antoni said. “Me as a coach, I hope. But you never know. I want him to be well.”

Should Bryant sit out, it’s likely the starting shooting guard spot would go to Jodie Meeks. He has particularly flourished under D’Antoni. Meeks has tallied 10.7 points on 50 percent shooting from 3-point range the past three games, a sharp increase from the 2.8 points per game average on 22.7 percent shooting from the perimeter in his first nine appearances.

Meanwhile, Bryant has averaged a league-leading 26.9 points per game on 51 percent shooting.

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Dwight Howard fought fatigue during Lakers’ three-game trip

Throughout the entire trip where the Lakers lost two of three games, Dwight Howard refused to point fingers. He declined to complain about getting a lack of field-goal opportunities. Howard hardly questioned anyone else’s effort. He repeatedly stressed the need for the Lakers to play as a team.

Once the trip ended, Howard pointed fingers. Entirely at himself.

“I was so tired,” Howard said. “I know the last two games before that, my energy wasn’t there and for this team to be successful, it doesn’t matter how many points I score or how many rebounds I get. As long as my energy is there on the defensive end and I’m active and on the offensive end and I’m running and all that stuff, it picks everybody up.”

That didn’t happen in the Lakers losses last week to Sacramento and Memphis.

He averaged just seven points and 6.5 rebounds in those two games. Against Sacramento, Howard took only four field-goal attempts. In the Kings and Grizzlies games, Howard showed as if his seven-month back surgery limited him. Howard looked confused running pick-and-roll plays. He appeared frustrated anytime the team ignored him. It hardly helped that Pau Gasol only logged single-digit figures as well.

That all changed in the Lakers’ 115-87 win Saturday over the Dallas Mavericks. Howard posted 15 points, seven rebounds, five steals and two blocks.\

“That’s what I have to do,” Howard said. “I can’t really focus on getting the ball every play. That will come with time. Right now, my energy and activity has to be there every night for this team.”


Lakers Q&:A: Assistant Dan D’Antoni breaks down the Lakers’ offense

LAKERS: Dan D’Antoni says team has only started to learn new system

LAKERS NOTEBOOK: Steve Nash, Steve Blake to sit out again tonight

Pau Gasol acknowledges preference for triangle offense

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

Lakers Q&:A: Assistant Dan D’Antoni breaks down the Lakers’ offense

I highlight the nuts and bolts in my recent conversation with Lakers assistant Dan D’Antoni, who has helped oversee the Lakers’ offense. Incidentally, he’s also the brother of Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni. Considering Mike has paced himself back from recent knee replacement surgery, Dan had helped as another voice in implementing the new fast-paced offense. Below are other portions of my recent interview with Dan

How would you evaluate the Lakers offense right now?

“We’re going through a faster paced offense than more half court. That’s 10 years of one way of playing and then a week or two trying to change mindsets. You can be successful the other way, but also successful running. We think running provides a good way toward winning a championship and an entertaining way to get there. Championships can be won many ways. It’s not any one way. Everyone tells you they got the right way. I’ll show you last year’s champion and they probably did it some other way. It’s a matter of our guys perfecting what we do and being confident in what we do, buying in offensively and defensively. Feel good, play hard as you can, get a break or two and win a championship.”

Where is the team at conditioning wise?

There’s more question they need to get in better shape. I don’t care what you’re doing. Id on’t care whether you’re a fighter or a track star, if you’re not in shape you’re not going to be at your best. If you’re not at your best, you’re going to get beat in the NBA. A little bit is conditioning and conditioning the body to run. A lot of it is mental conditioning. The thought that when that ball comes off and I’m going this way. Usually in basketball, it’s not who’s the fastest. It’s who starts first. We right now haven’t timed that start. We haven’t got the starter’s gun. HE blows the starter’s gun and then we realize a race is on. We have to get where we react to a faster pace. That’s not visible. That’s more of a mental process and conditioning process that when the ball gets through the basket, we’ll get it down the court a little quicker and catch the ball down the floor a little further. As soon as the ball goes up, take that first two steps and move on the other end. The speed takes care of itself. If you have fast players, they’ll be faster. If you have slower players, it will be a little slower. But it will still be effective.

How do you measure the mental aspect versus the reality that this is an old team?

If you’re too old to play in this league, you probably ought to get out of the league. I don’t believe that. I’ve seen John Havlicek at 38 and he was still running. All of you guys who have never played that much have written that so it’s true. I’m not sure it’s true. If they take care of themselves and coach watches their minutes a little bit, they should be in condition to run. They get paid a lot of money to get up and down the floor, provide entertainment and give a good brand of basketball. That’s a mental thing that you have to do it. Granted, you watch minutes a little closer. That’s about it.

What feedback do you give your brother?

I don’t care if you’re brothers or not, everybody has a different opinion. Everybody thinks their opinion is right. Just ask anybody. They’ll tell you you’re right and everybody else is wrong. I throw an opinion out and hten he makes that decision. Some people, if you want o keep your job and are worried about him liking you so you keep your job, you might watch what you say. I don’t need to do that. I just tell him. He understands basketball and is smart. He’ll pick and choose. He’s strong. Our family grew up competing against each other. He’s strng willed. He’ll take what he wants and not take what he wants.
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Pau Gasol acknowledges preference for triangle offense

It seems the cycle stays set on repeat for how Pau Gasol handles his role with the Lakers the past two seasons.

He willingly adapts to changes and plays second (or even third) fiddle for the good of the team. Gasol eventually vents his displeasure that the team hasn’t featured him enough in the offense, namely in the post. The Lakers respond by feeding him the ball. Gasol responds by playing more aggressively. All of this happens with persistent rumors that Gasol’s days with the Lakers are numbered.

That’s why it should be of no surprise that Gasol admitted following Monday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo that he prefers playing in the triangle offense. After all, he appeared in three NBA Finals and won two NBA championships under that system

“It put me in a natural position for me, which was post. I could score and I could pass,” he said. “It was a perfect fit for me when I got here and Andrew [Bynum] was out. I had a lot of minutes and it was a need to cover.”
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Dwight Howard pokes fun at 75-year-old Kobe Bryant

The revelation raised Dwight Howard’s eyebrows.

“You heard that?” Howard said, slightly concerned. “Oh crap. Oh man.”

Lakers guard Steve Nash tweeted out a video that has since gone viral, featuring Howard taking the in-flight speaker system on the team plan making jokes at Kobe Bryant’s expense.

Imitating Lakers assistant Dan D’Antoni and his West Virginia accent, Howard yelled out, “We can’t leave Kobe on an island! We know he’s 75!”

Hardly anyone cared. In fact, plenty of the Lakers laughed at Howard’s antics after they lost two consecutive road games to Sacramento and Memphis. Still, Howard sounded concern that the video leaked out.

“Those were just jokes,” he said. “Just trying to keep the mood light. We had two tough games. I wanted everybody to forget about it. We have to stay positive and have fun.”

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Pau Gasol: Tendonitis in both knees “bothering me for a while”

EL SEGUNDO — For unknown reasons, Pau Gasol revealed that tendinitis has emerged in both of his knees ever since training camp.

“It’s been bothering me for a while,” he said. “I play through it and try to keep it under control. It’s a little limiting. But it is what it is. I can’t do much about it.”

Gasol has worn bands over both knees during games to control the swelling and pain. But he didn’t reveal his injury until after the Lakers’ 117-89 victory Saturday over the Dallas Mavericks. Gasol expounded on the injury more after practice Monday at the team’s facility. Gasol decided against sitting out any games, but acknowledged how it’s affected his game.

“You lose a little bit of explosiveness and quickness and athleticism,” said Gasol, who has averaged 13.4 points on 43.4 percent shooting and 9.1 rebounds in 36 minutes per game. “It’s been under control more or less. Hopefully it won’t force me to miss any games unless i feel like my percentage of performance is way down. I can’t do that to myself or the team.”

Gasol’s time during the Lakers’ 1-3 trip in the past week featured plenty of ups and downs. After postin g only double-digit performances in losses to Sacramento and Memphis, Gasol revealed his hope to be featured more in the post. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni also benched Gasol for the entire fourth quarter against Memphis, both for his sluggish play and because Antawn Jamison posted a season-high 14 points.

Gasol responded against Dallas by posting 13 points on a four of seven clip, nine rebounds and better energy.

“That tells me what I know about him. He’s a great guy, a competitor, has had a great career and will have one. I didn’t have any doubts. It was just a matter of simplifying what we know as coaches and getting the frustrations out and he did it. I would be shocked if he responded any other way. He’s that good of a guy.”


Steve Nash, Steve Blake ruled out Tuesday vs. Indiana

Pau Gasol, Mike D’Antoni show willingness to adjust

Jordan Hill respectful of Mike D’Antoni giving him limited minutes vs. Memphis

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Steve Nash, Steve Blake ruled out Tuesday vs. Indiana

The wait for the Lakers to restore their full backcourt continues.

Both Steve Nash and Steve Blake will sit out when the Lakers host the Indiana Pacers Tuesday at Staples Center, though team spokesman John Black said the two are “slowly improving” from their respective injuries.

Nash, who has missed 12 games because of a small, non-displaced fracture in his left fibula, was scheduled to receive an MRI on Monday. But the Lakers canceled those plans so Nash could participate in unspecified on-court drills in the next two days and see how his body responds. Nash also had worked out with strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had hoped Blake would return so long as he participated in Monday’s practice. But he missed today’s sessions in favor of more therapy on his lower abdominal strain. Blake has missed the past seven games.

That means the Lakers will continue featuring a backcourt with Darius Morris and Chris Duhon. Kobe Bryant has also shared ball handling duties.

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

Pau Gasol, Mike D’Antoni show willingness to adjust

A point of contention emerged again between Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni. But it had nothing to do with the offense, benching or his role.

It had to do with the details over an apparent conversation D’Antoni had with Gasol that showed everything is actually all right between the two.

“He got some oatmeal this morning and I said, ‘Nice choice,” D’Atoni said.

Gasol shot down that premise, saying he doesn’t eat oatmeal and didn’t even talk with D’Antoni during breakfast. Instead, Gasol said the two talked on the team bus.

These details, of course, are trivial. But it helps establish that some conversation took place, and it at least showed the two willing to exchange differing ideas without taking offense to it.

D’Antoni benched Gasol for the entire fourth quarter in the Lakers’ double-digit loss Friday to the Memphis Grizzlies, questioned his conditioning and then predicted he’d bounce back. Gasol respected D’Antoni’s demotion, pleaded for more looks in the posts and then suggested D’Antoni could shorten up his rotations to ensure he has more energy.

“We’re in this together,” Gasol said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. It takes a little time to figure things out.”

Gasik’s 13 points on four of seven shooting in the Lakers’ 115-89 victory Saturday over the Dallas Mavericks featured everything the two wanted.
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