Kobe Bryant says “ankle still throbbing”

Kobe Bryant’s cemented a well-earned reputation for managing his pain level.

But hours after the Lakers’ 95-90 victory Tuesday over the New Jersey Nets, the Lakers’ star found himself halting his halt cycle to treat his strained right foot and ankle.

“Had a hard time sleeping last night,” Bryant said on his Facebook. “Ankle still throbbing. Had to get up every few hours to ice it. Tried The Stones and The Beatles and I gotta say I’m into it! It has a calm aggression. Sets the tone for our game tonight in Sacramento.”

Regardless, Bryant still plans to suit up against the Kings.

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Snoop Lion, L.A. City council celebrate “Dwight Howard Day”

The moment he walked out of a hotel elevator, Dwight Howard spotted someone well whose name rolls off the tip of everyone’s tongue in both Long Beach and the hip hop community.

Snoop Dogg.

The two were in San Diego two years ago for the Comic Con, the nation’s largest comic book convention. Howard sounded hurt Snoop sported a Lakers jersey instead of his own.

“Hey man,” Howard said, “why don’t you have my jersey on?”

“You got on the wrong jersey,” Snoop said in his signature smooth voice. “You need to be in that purple and gold.”

Incidentally enough, Howard now wears a Lakers jersey. And in a ceremony last Wednesday at City Hall, Snoop Dogg (now as Snoop Lion) presented 6-foot, 10-inch-tall framed resolution proclaiming “Dwight Howard” day.

“We do hereby declare November 14, 2012 as Dwight Howard Day in the city of Los Angeles,” read Snoop Lion from a statement.

Of course, this sparks questions on why council members Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry would initiate this motion instead of something – ahem – far more important. But a news release from Parks highlighted Howard’s efforts with his foundation, which provides scholarships for students to attend Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy and grants to Lovell Elementary School and Memorial Middle School in Orlando, Fla.

Howard, who’s averaged 20.3 points on 61.8 percent shooting and 11.7 rebounds through 11 games, then returned the favor by offering his strongest public endorsement yet that he’d stay with the Lakers after becoming a free agent this offseason.

“Our team is working extremely hard so we can bring another championship to L.A. That’s our goal, that’s our plan,” Howard said. But our biggest plan is to makes sure that we bring the city together. One way we can do that is by winning games and also getting out in the community. Hopefully I’ll be doing it here for a long time.”

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

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New-look Lakers drawing rave reviews after Mike D’Antoni’s debut

The Lakers are different under new coach Mike D’Antoni. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what others were saying after the Lakers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 95-90 in D’Antoni’s debut on the bench Tuesday night at Staples Center:

“I would say it’s been weird, but in L.A. there is no such thing. It’s unfortunate anytime you see a coach lose his job. It’s always tough. For us, we just have to put one foot forward and continue to work. Coach D (D’Antoni) has come in here and done a fantastic job.”
–Kobe Bryant, Lakers guard.

“I don’t think they are thinking as much. As an athlete, you want to play the game on instinct. Part of what they were doing (with that Princeton offense) is that no one really knew what they were doing. You can see now the energy and confidence with which they are playing.”
–Greg Anthony, former NBA player on NBA TV Tuesday night.

“The best thing (D’Antoni) does for this team is give them a calming presence. He’s making guys comfortable, letting them know they can trust the process. When you have someone with a good presence inside, it really allows you to relax and focus just on your job. And when you’re in L.A. (with that circus), you need someone to control that because, if not, your attention will be everywhere.”
–Chris Webber, former player on NBA TV.

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Mike D’Antoni mostly satisfied with Lakers’ coaching debut

With the sweat soaking through his dress shirt, it seemed clear the anxiety wore on Mike D’Antoni.

As he stood up on the sideline coming off of recent knee replacement surgery, it appeared the adrenaline rush and a healthy dose of pain killers fueled him.

As he sat on an elevated cushion that looked eerily similar to Phil Jackson’s chair, it appeared Mike D’Antoni filled a seat that will leave the Lakers at least comfortable for now.

So what exactly to make of the Lakers’ 95-90 victory Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets? Weight equally the conflicting messages D’Antoni offered afterwards.

“I’m really happy to get a win obviously,” D’Antoni said with a wide smile on his face. “I got about 15 minutes more of Vicodin so I’ll say something I shouldn’t say. Come hit me. I’m right at the end of it.”

Without prompting, D’Antoni this offered this appraisal.

“We weren’t clicking offensively and we didn’t play real well overall,” D’Antoni said.
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Lakers fine with “Hack a Dwight” strategy

The instant Dwight Howard crossed the half-court line, New Jersey center Brook Lopez greeted him and hugged him.

Or fouled him.

Howard had shot so poorly at the free-throw line that he even airballed one attempt. Hence, why the Nets implemented a “Hack a Dwight” strategy, hoping Howard’s frequent misses at the charity stripe would extend their winning streak to six.

As Howard mused afterward, “it didn’t work tonight; we won.” Indeed, the Lakers did. They opened Mike D’Antoni’s debut as Lakers coach with a 95-90 win Tuesday over the Brooklyn Nets. Still, there’s no denying a 19 of 37 mark from the free-throw line should prompt concerns moving forward. D’Antoni groaned for about five seconds when I asked about it before spitting out a one-liner.

“I don’t know who’s in charge of free-throw shooting,” D’Antoni said.

But he does know who’s in charge of contributing to it. Howard’s 23 points on eight of 11 shooting and 15 rebounds sourced with a seven of 19 mark from the foul line. In a fourth quarter that featured three ties and two lead changes, Howard went 3 of 10 from the stripe, mostly after the Nets intentionally fouled him.

Instead of mulling over the issue, D’Antoni simply provided positive reinforcement.

“The thing with Dwight that I hope he knows is they started “Hack a Dwight” and he made one out of two,” D’Antoni said. “That’s one point per possession. That’s pretty good basketball especially down the stretch. That’s fine. If they want to do that, that’s great. I have no problem.”

Plenty of the 18,997 fans at Staples Center had a problem, though.

Anytime Howard went to the foul line, the crowd tensed up the same way they did in recent seasons when Metta World Peace shot ill-advised three-pointers. Ironically, he’s become a dependable outside option as he scored 17 points on a six of 13 clip from the field, including a four of nine mark from three-point range. As for Howard, plenty of Lakers fans began cheering for him in hopes the positive vibes would tip the balance.

That approach worked two times after missing the first free throw. Howard once extended the Lakers’ lead to 77-73 with 10:32 remaining. He then sliced Brooklyn’s cushion to 84-83 at the 4:07 mark. Howard touted that “the fans did a great job tonight.”

“I just got to keep playing no matter how many free throws I miss,” Howard said. “I can’t allow that to affect me on the defensive end or being aggressive on offense. The free throws will come. I will keep shooting them and keep practicing them every day. They’re going to start falling.”

Howard encountered similar issues this season.

In the Lakers’ 99-91 season-opening loss Oct. 30 to the Dallas Mavericks, Howard went only three of 14 from the free throw line. The following day, Portland coach Terry Stotts openly talked about employing the “Hack a Dwight” strategy. The approach backfired. Howard refused to overthink. He took advice from assistant coach Chuck Person on maintaining a consistent form and follow through. Howard then went 15 of 19 from the line against Portland.

According to the Lakers’ whiteboard at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, Howard has shot 576 of 716 (80 percent) from the free throw line in practice. The Lakers believe those averages will soon translate over into games, even more so if opponents continue forcing Howard to the stripe.

“I think it’s great for him to be in that situation,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said of Howard. “You don’t have to deal with it. You can relax and step up and shoot.”

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

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Kobe Bryant impressed with Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor scoring 138 points

The news struck Kobe Bryant faster than his efficient footwork, aggressive drives to the basket and uncanny scoring punch.

A reporter just informed a college basketball player scored 138 points and took over 100 shots.

“Wow,” Bryant said as he eyes lit up following the Lakers’ 95-90 victory Tuesday over the Brooklyn Nets. “No kidding? Where?”

Jack Taylor, A 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore guard at Division III Grinnell College, accomplished the feat.

“Really? Wow. That’s impressive,” Bryant said. “That’s crazy. I don’t care what level you’re at. Scoring 138 points is pretty insane. How many 3s did he shoot?”
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Mike D’Antoni says he’s “ready to go”

Mike D’Antoni sat at a press conference table sporting a new haircut and a wide smile, a symbolic image suggesting his readiness to make his head coaching debut when the Lakers (5-5) host the Brooklyn Nets (6-2) tonight at Staples Center.

“Ready to go,” said D’Antoni, who’s going through physical therapy after recent knee replacement surgery.

D’Antoni will sit on the sideline on an elevated seat that looks familiar to the one Phil Jackson once sat on, but it’s a different one. D’Antoni doesn’t plan on having any crutches nearby for support, joking “I was looking today for a parrot and an eye patch.” And even if he joked that he refused to see trainer Gary Vitti for clearance, D’Antoni remains confident he can make it through the game.

That’s not to say he won’t have limitations.

“I’m never pain-free,” D’Antoni said. “I’m 61 years old. I haven’t been pain free since I was 30.”

But nothing that will prevent him from coaching from the sideline.

“It’ll be fun,” he said. “I got the greatest job in the world with the greatest players in the world. I’m not sitting here moping or anything. I’m looking forward to it.”

Instead, D’Antoni sounded self-deprecating on everything surrounding his team.

What if the Lakers lose and fans suddenly clamor for the return of Bernie Bickerstaff?

“He’s right beside me or right behind me,” D’Antoni said with a smile. “He’ll jump right in there.”

Will the Lakers manage to keep up the pace that has enabled them to average 116 points per game using elements of his system?

“That’s a danger. I’m not kidding,” D’Antoni said. “We got up to 119 points. I’ll coach them and coach them down.”

What precautions does D’Antoni need to take during the Lakers’ three-game trip at Sacramento (Wednesday), Memphis (Friday) and Dallas (Saturday)?

“I’ll wear some stockings, put a game ready on, take some blood thinners and try to eat healthy and go for it.” D’Antoni said. “I’m good. This is great.”

At least there’s one less absence the Lakers have to monitor. D’Antoni remained unsure whether Steve Nash will miss any more games after the Lakers’ three-game trip because of his fractured left leg. D’Antoni also penciled out Steve Blake for the those games because he wants him to practice once he fully heals from a lower abdominal strain. And Darius Morris will start at point guard for the fourth consecutive game.

Beyond measuring his health, D’Antoni will also have to measure the Lakers’ progress.

“We have 72 mores games we can be patient,” he said. “The only thing we can’t do right now is win 77. We have plenty of time. There will be no panic. I don’t know how good we can become. But our goal is to be the best team in the league.”

And that thought alone kept D’Antoni energetic enough, even if he’s fighting the pain from his recent surgery.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said. “It’s a special place. Ill do my best to take care of it as best as I can. Anyone who plays here or coaches here is privileged.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medi’na on Twitter.

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Darius Morris making most of opportunity

The Lakers had numbers and they wanted to push the pace.

So the Lakers guard sped up, kept scanning the open court and then found Dwight Howard behind him. The Lakers center slammed it home.

It’s so easy to envision this sequence unfolding between Steve Nash and Howard, the Lakers’ signature offseason acquisition. But this play actually involved Lakers guard Darius Morris, who posted a career-high 12 points in the Lakers’ 119-108 victory Sunday over the Houston Rockets.

After Howard blocked Cole Aldrich, Morris led the fast-break. A few seconds later, Morris then set up Howard for the powerful dunk.

“I have to reward him,” Morris said afterwards. “He made a great play on defense and then he sprinted really hard. That’s signs of him getting his legs back. He finished it with a nice dunk. It’s good to reward him.”

It’s good the Lakers have rewarded Morris, too.

He’s become the team’s silver lining since the Lakers’ backcourt became depleted with injuries, ranging from Nash (fractured left leg) and Steve Blake (strained abdominal muscle). As a starter in the past three games, Morris has averaged six points and fours assists in 27 minutes. The Lakers have raved about the second-year 6-foot-4 guard for his work ethic, length and athleticism. They’ve also taken a liking to attention on defense.

“He is playing extremely well,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “He is playing with a great deal of maturity on both ends of the floor.”

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Mike D’Antoni to make Lakers coaching debut against Brooklyn

The instant Mike D’Antoni woke up Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. he remained convinced he would make his Lakers (5-5) coaching debut tonight against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center

He had slept for nearly 12 hours after going through physical therapy and taking pain medication for his recent knee replacement surgery. D’Antoni felt much more energetic than in recent days that forced him to sit or nap throughout the day. And with the Lakers embarking on a three-game trip this week, D’Antoni much preferred marking his first game appearance as Lakers Coach before the home crowd.

“I was a lot better today,” D’Antoni said following the Lakers’ morning shootaround. “I know I’m going to be a little tired. But I think the adrenaline will carry through the first couple days.”
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Dwight Howard stars in NBA’s Christmas Day promo

Throughout his entire first season with the Lakers, Dwight Howard’s constantly refrained how it all remains a “process.”

He said it when he rehabbed his surgically repaired back. Howard said it when the Lakers struggled learning Mike Brown’s Princeton-based offense. The Lakers center said it when he’s taken his sweet time getting dressed before talking after the game. He’s said so in regards to the Lakers finding a defensive identity under Mike D’Antoni’s prolific offensive system.

So one can only imagine what the “process” entailed when Howard, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, New York’s Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson dribbled out the rhythms of “Carol of the Bells.” The NBA filmed this spot to highlight their various Christmas Day games (Boston at Brooklyn, New York at Lakers, Oklahoma City at Miami, Houston at Chicago and Denver at Clippers). The promotional ad also coincided with all the teams playing those Christmas Day games in BIG Color jerseys, which features a basic design with a solid monochromatic color scheme and team logo. (all available at NBAStore.com) For the Lakers, they’ll be sporting white jerseys.

Howard has an in depth musical taste. He’s played his extensive playlist to reporters before games, which includes gospel, r & b, hip hop and oldies songs. Howard also grew up singing in the choir. So it’s not surprise that Howard would be a good fit for this promo. But as the Lakers know all too well in syncing their talented starting lineup together, filming that spot surely became a “process.”

The uniforms feature a very basic design with a solid, monochromatic color design, team logos and a very minimal amount of color.

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Mike D’Antoni can’t say if he’ll make his Lakers coaching debut Tuesday

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

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