1 down, 81 to go
It was Giant Bling Night at Staples Center as the Lakers raised a banner and received their championship rings. All the pomp and circumstance made for a great pregame celebration (check out the photo gallery here), but as Phil Jackson reminded his players the other day, the purple and gold still had a game to play, a tough thing to do on ring night. Nothing spoils the fun like losing an opener. Well, the Lakers got the message, getting 33 points from Kobe Bryant and 26/13 from Andrew Bynum and using a strong fourth quarter push en route to a 99-92 win over the Clippers Tuesday night at Staples.
With Pau Gasol on the sidelines, his hamstring hamstrung, the Lakers also benefited from a very strong night for Lamar Odom (16/13/5, plus some war wounds), and while Ron Artest struggled from the floor, as we noted in last night's wrap there were encouraging signs on that front as well. He certainly enjoyed the evening. The box score reveals LAL's dominance in the post, reflected mostly in a free throw imbalance as the Clippers struggled to defend the Lakers near the bucket.
More from around the web on last night's win:
Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports:
"...The sharp teams figure out that if they can keep it close, then a five-minute burst of quality play at a strategic time is all it takes to win against most teams. The Bulls in the early 1990s knew that. So did the Lakers in the '80s. Apparently, this group in gold realizes it, as well. That's exactly what they did at the start of the fourth quarter; Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom did the bulk of the work as the Lakers turned a one-point lead into a 10-point advantage in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I felt like we had control," Bryant said. "Even when it was a one-point game, I still felt like we had control..."
"...In the rugged West, that’s a stretch. But Bynum gives the Lakers reason to dream. Already, he looks both leaner and faster. After taking a month off to backpack around Europe, he spent much of the remainder of the summer working on strengthening his lower body. In previous years, Bynum weighed close to 290 pounds at the start of camp. This year he checked in at 272. Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn’t quite ready to declare that Bynum has regained the level of dominance he showed just before he injured his knee at the end of January. In the five games prior to the injury, Bynum averaged 26.2 points and 13.8 rebounds. Kobe Bryant also is quick to caution that “with him, focus is always key.” But Jackson and Bryant do have a better idea of what their 7-foot center is capable of delivering. With Pau Gasol sitting out Tuesday’s game with a hamstring strain, the Lakers repeatedly found Bynum around the rim..."
"...The Lakers have officially signed Chuck Person, an Artest confidante and the one escorting him off the Detroit court in 2004 while trying to protect Artest's head from tossed debris, as a special assistant for the entirety of the season. Person is the security blanket, but if you needed further proof of the Lakers' trust in Artest, they handed him the public-address microphone to offer a pregame greeting to the fans. And his first words were telling as far as what he feels now that he's here: "L.A., big city of dreams …" Artest wasn't sharp on offense, hurt as much as anyone by the lack of flow in a triangle missing smooth-operating Pau Gasol because of his sore hamstring. But Artest's commitment to and skill in passing was evident, and he showed more aggressiveness in grabbing post position away from teammates when appropriate. Defensively, Artest easily met Jackson's challenge to throw a sack over Clippers small forward Al Thornton and set a tone..."
"...Some years, it took several months for those Lakers to summon the sense of urgency they'd need for another playoff run. "Oh yeah, we battled it," said former Laker Rick Fox, who won titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and was on hand for Tuesday's ceremony. "That third year (2002) we really battled it. Then the fourth year, we were uhhhhh ... and we just couldn't stay healthy. "The fifth year, when we added Gary (Payton) and Karl (Malone), that was the aligning of a lot of talented people, and it would've been great for one night, for an All-Star Game, but what we found out, as we know, it only looked great on paper." So what advice, if any, can Fox give to this year's team? "For those that are wearing a ring for the first time, it will be hard," Fox said. "Because when you're young, you think it can happen every year. It doesn't."
"...A couple of the current players are new, the championship ring is bigger -- think dinner plate -- but the Lakers' experience seemingly never changes, the world's most trendy fan base once again happily stuck in time. "As we look forward, we're always about the past," said Tim Harris, the Lakers' vice president in charge of such things. "We wanted tonight to be a reminder of what this franchise is. We are not just the 2009 championship team. We are everything that came before that." This is why the Lakers work. This is why the Lakers win. "Our current players can look up and see our past, understand what we are about, see where they could be going," said Harris. "We think that's important." This is the vision of owner Jerry Buss, who stayed virtually hidden in his luxury suite Tuesday because it is not about him..."
Other news and notes:
-George Karl doesn't think Coby Karl should lose his roster spot if the Cavs sign Antonio Daniels.
-Tony Gaffney is off to Isreal. He signed a contract in August with an exit clause if he was to make the NBA, so it was a good situation for sure. Gaffney was never going to be without a job.
-The Grizzlies may be courting the Cap.
-The Celtics and Rajon Rondo are still hoping to get an extension ironed out before Saturday's deadline.
-'Sheed says the Cavs are still very vulnerable to the pick and roll.
-More on Magic and Isiah.
-Want to buy LO's old house in Manhattan Beach?
(Photos: Lakers Championship Banner Unveiled, Ron Artest, credit Wally Skalij, LAT)