Lakers 99, Clippers 92: Enormous jewelry with a side of victory
All in all, a strong opening to the '09-'10 season. Breakdown below.
This was a TNT game delayed at the start with a ring ceremony before the tip. Needless to say, it took a while. That means less analysis, more video. But here are a few thoughts:
-We touched on it in the talkie up top, but despite the poor shooting both from the field and the free throw line, Ron Artest was able to display the wide array of talents that made such an appealing target for Lakers and Phil Jackson. No disrespect to Trevor Ariza, but Artest can do more things. He can post up, is a better passer, and is more versatile on the defensive end because his strength allows him to guard a wider variety of players effectively. Ariza is better in the open floor, but Artest had a couple nice plays beating the Clips down the lane, too. Dude's not exactly a plow horse out there. Where Ariza was stealthy, Artest is a beast. (That's what Mike Dunleavy called him after the game.) Time will tell if his greater talent is a better fit, but I saw nothing tonight to make me question the path the Lakers have taken.
-Andrew Bynum scored 26 points, and much of it came from hustle, knowing that if he got down the floor there's a good chance he'd be rewarded with a lob and an easy bucket. One thing the Lakers did through the preseason and again tonight was to have Bynum release quickly when contesting a shot on the perimeter. The Lakers have so many good rebounders that his presence isn't always required under the bucket in those situations. Meanwhile, if he's the first Laker down the floor, it creates an instant mismatch and an appealing target for a teammate. 13 boards is very encouraging as well.
-That he hits his free throws is also a major boon to the squad.
-16/13/5 for Lamar Odom, plus two steals and a pair of blocks. PJ spoke highly of the way Odom guided the second unit in the second half, adding some stability after the reserves (a truly reserve group of DJ Mbenga, Luke Walton, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Josh Powell) struggled in the second quarter. After the game, LO was positively ebullient, riffing with the media on any number of subjects (from "How about them Yankees?" to putting down the candy... apparently the Captain Cavity caught up to the Candy Man). This is a guy with enormous pride in having won a ring.
-Speaking of the rings, they were freakin' huge. I saw Sasha's up close. Thing looked like a diamond encrusted half dollar. Not exactly something you throw on for a casual evening at the Cheesecake Factory.
Plenty more to come tomorrow and throughout the week. Lakers have the day off today, then return to practice Thursday.
Jackson, on the ring ceremony, Artest's debut: "Ron did really well. I thought he shut down defensively really well. Some offensive things he had opportunities on he didn't complete, but I thought he looked like he was in the mix and knew what was going on most of the time, and felt comfortable with what we were trying to do." And Bynum... even praising the defense:
PJ on Odom, and how Artest's post game changes LA's approach offensively:
Jackson on Bynum playing large minutes in the absence of Pau Gasol, and the struggles of the bench in the second quarter:
Odom, on the mindset of the team. It an answer to an interesting question, wondering about that line between assuming they're going to win, and knowing they're going to win. Assuming isn't good. Knowing? That's good stuff:
More vid and such...
VIDEO Andrew Bynum expresses his excitement over receiving his championship ring. It just so happened to come on his 22nd birthday (one he labeled his most special so far) and times like these reminded you that Drew is, in fact, barely into adulthood. Of all the Lakers I witnessed after the game, Bynum was by the far the most geeked to slip the ring on his finger.
Drew's never struck me as much of a "bling" guy, so I wondered how often he planned to wear that rather large championship token. He figured it would be an "out to dinner" kind of accessory. So if you're ever out grabbing a bite and suddenly blinded while ordering a Veal Piccata, it's probably Drew over at the next table. Ask him to shift his hand a little in the other direction.
Here, Andrew evaluates the team's performance against the Clips, blaming the third quarter issues on too much one-on-one play, himself included. As he notes, when the Lakers run their offense, they become harder to defend and, in turn, become a better defensive team. He also lays out a goal for the season: 73 wins. Bold, but hey, might as well shoot big, right?
In a stream of consciousness style that I'm guessing (and by "guessing," I mean, "praying to the highest of higher powers") will be typical for the season, Ron Artest offers thoughts on the Lakers' performance (could be better, but happy with the effort and "W") and his hair (courtesy the talented Boogie from Orlando). Plus, plans are announced for future do's. Styles be switched up, and fan suggestions will be considered. "They wanted me to color it gold, but today wasn't the day. Maybe, like, next game."The best part was when Artest noticed a female reporter jammed amongst the flock reporters and crouched down while feebly sticking her mike out at around ankle level. Quite amused, Ron Ron cooed "hey, down there," then ordered everyone to clear a path for his new friend. "Give her some room. I'll wait for you." Once she was properly situated and chivalry was restored, Artest continued to hold court.
The man's not even in mid-season form yet.