Lakers Now

Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

Category: 2010 exit interviews

Lakers' 86-78 victory over Atlanta Hawks looked ugly

Andrew Bynum

Game stories

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan highlights the Lakers' struggling offense in their 86-78 victory Tuesday over Atlanta.

--The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Michael Cunningham details the Hawks' shooting struggles.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford focuses on the Lakers' improved second half.

Notebooks

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan focuses on Mike Brown's conversation with Metta World Peace about his frustration that Brown is a "stats guy."

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding highlights Kobe Bryant's high volume of minutes.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford details Brown's conversation with World Peace.

Sidebars

--I explain why Bryant plans to make adjustments on what will give him better looks at the basket.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin also details Brown's meeting with World Peace.

--Sports Illustrated's Britt Robson ranks the Lakers at No. 8 overall.

Columns

--The Times' Bill Plaschke remains bored with the Lakers.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding remains encouraged with the Lakers' progress.

--Fox Sports West's Joe McDonnell argues Pau Gasol continues to shed the soft label.

Blogs

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky breaks down the Lakers' win over Atlanta.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell  provides a running diary of the Lakers-Hawks game.

--Forum Blue and Gold's R.R. Magellan breaks down the good, bad and ugly in the Lakers' win over Atlanta.

Tweet of the Day: "Jeremy Lin can score on anyone without a ProbLIN." -- MettaWorldPeace (Lakers forward Metta World Peace)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "The team had better do something. Empty seats in the Staples Center show that fans are becoming unhappy. Every week we get a new carrot to hope about, every week we are disappointed. You would think that the front office would sign someone just to keep the fans happy and to fill seats. How the mighty have fallen." -- Jay Taylor

-- Mark Medina

Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum, left, hauls in a pass in front of Atlanta forward Marvin Williams during the first half of Tuesday's game. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Associated Press / February 14, 2012

Former Lakers announcer Spero Dedes joins Knicks broadcast team

LakersAfter nearly a monthlong delay before a formal decision, former Lakers radio play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes was officially named Thursday as the New York Knicks' radio play-by-play announcer.

The announcement was held up after reports circulated that Dedes was arrested, allegedly for drunken driving, July 4 in the Hamptons. Dedes, who also will back up MSG Network play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, was considered a rising star within the Lakers after spending the last six seasons as the team's radio play-by-play announcer and was a favorite to replace Joel Meyers as the team's television play-by-play announcer after the Lakers decided not to renew his contract.

The Lakers, however, went in a different direction.

They chose Bill Macdonald, who has been with Fox Sports West since its inception in 1985, to serve as the Lakers' television play-by-play announcer on both KCAL-TV and Fox Sports West broadcasts with color commentator Stu Lantz. They selected John Ireland, who has served as the Lakers' sideline reporter on KCAL since the 2002-03 season and the current host of of 710-AM's Mason & Ireland, to call play-by-play for the Lakers' flagship radio station with former Laker Mychal Thompson. Lakers spokesman John Black told The Times' Broderick Turner that the organization changed their decision because "Spero had a change of heart" and that he "decided to pursue other options.

Dedes, a Fordham University graduate, has plenty of connections to the New York area. He worked at the YES Network in New York, calling play-by-play for college football and basketball games and serving as the No. 2 play-by-play announcer for the New Jersey Nets. He also was a studio host for the Yankees and Nets pre-game and post-game shows and worked for NBA TV as an anchor. His duties since he moved to Los Angeles weren't confined to the Lakers. With the organization's blessing, Dedes has also called NCAA basketball tournament games and NFL games on CBS and was a host in 2008 on the NFL Network's "NFL GameDay Morning" show.

"I can remember walking into [Madison Square] Garden for my first Knicks game as a teenager and feeling the magic of the place,” Dedes said, according to the New York Post. "I've been in love with this franchise ever since. When I was a broadcast student at Fordham all I dreamt about was what it would feel like to be a Knicks announcer and now it's become reality. I'm truly humbled by this opportunity, and having my family close to me again means a great deal. In addition, I’m forever grateful to the Lakers organization for my time spent there."

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Lakers name Bill MacDonald and John Ireland play-by-play announcers

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Analyzing the Lakers' psychology on winning

As the Lakers have reflected on their 2010 NBA championship, two themes have emerged. They especially appreciated this title because they earned it by beating their archrival, the Boston Celtics, and because it capped a season full of challenges stemming from injuries, inconsistent performances and fatigue. Yet, not all players have experienced the joy of winning in the same way. Their reactions can be different, and quite telling.

Not everyone celebrated like Ron Artest, for instance, who proclaimed giddiness over a Wheaties championship box to reporters and shared his random, fun-filled thoughts in tweets.

Lamar Odom may not have been singing the praises of Wheaties, but he savored the win as well. "The feeling is amazing," the Lakers forward said of nabbing the championship. That’s opposed to losing – which, he noted, really hurts.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol uses the pain of remembered loss to boost his motivation. “Something that I like to do mentally is picture how it feels to lose," he said. "If we lose this game … how hard it's going to be,” and then he does “whatever it takes so it doesn't get to that point."

But for guard Kobe Bryant, it’s not “I really don’t want to lose this series. We want to pummel these guys,” it’s all about “the joy of winning,” he said. “Everything else adds to it. … It's always the excitement of winning."

Yet as much as the chance to win provided motivation, criticism may have added fuel to Bryant’s fire. There was the perception that he was too old against the Thunder's youth, and the semifinals matchup against Utah likely reminded him of his early struggles against the Jazz. The West Finals series against Phoenix probably brought back memories of the Lakers' 2006 and 2007 first-round exits to the Suns. Eventually, the NBA Finals against Boston partly served as redemption for the 2008 Finals loss, as well as adding to the historic rivalry.

As the Lakers prepare for next season, it’s interesting to mull what kind of attitude is the best for winning. The answer could prove important in the team’s chance at a three-peat.

Over the years, Lakers legends have used both positive and negative energy as part of their success strategies. Lakers owner Jerry Buss has shown willingness to spend money to build a championship team even if it eats into his profits. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson stresses meditation so his team relaxes and visualizes success. He has said he values the journey to a championship even more than the Larry O'Brien trophy itself. Lakers guard Derek Fisher prides himself on being a positive role model. He’s provided leadership in a utility position, although he has admitted that the bite of criticism – age and slowness against quicker guards – has pushed him to succeed.

Magic Johnson, who won five titles with the Lakers, personified the positive persona. Jerry West, who won a title in 1972 and helped orchestrate the Lakers' three-peat from 2000-2002 as general manager, was known as a perfectionist who succeeded through constant self-doubt.

Perhaps winning can become too much of a given for a championship team, becoming numbing at times for the Lakers. There’s a false impression that success can come at the flip of a switch. The fear of losing can provide a nice jolt, a reminder that success can be fleeting.

Balance is needed, though.

I've always appreciated Bryant's joy in small victories. After a reporter asked Bryant in his recent exit interview how much it helped working with Lakers shooting coach Chuck Person and former Celtics scout Mike Procopio, I followed up, remarking to Bryant that he seemed to gain satisfaction from adding a new wrinkle to his game.

"It's just fun for me," Bryant answered. "I enjoy what I do. So you love what you do, you're constantly looking for ways to do it better or do it different. I just love the game."

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Co-dependency between Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol is integral to Lakers' success

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Once the buzzer sounded, Lakers center Andrew Bynum immediately knew who to meet. The Lakers had just clinched the 2010 NBA championship with their Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics, and Bynum raced toward center court to meet Pau Gasol. Bynum's arms securely locked around Gasol, who appeared to let out a roar.

It was a scene, as shown in the photo above, that reflected the Lakers' pure joy after securing their second consecutive championship and rectifying their 2008 Finals loss to Boston. But the scene also illustrated the improved relationship between the Lakers' two big men, which largely helped the team to another title run. For Bynum, the scene also resembled something he'd do throughout the 2009-10 season when he'd huddle up with Gasol.

"I was trying to keep him inspired," Bynum said. "He doesn't need it. He's a great player. I would tell him to grab as many rebounds as he can."

Before, it seemed like Bynum almost dreaded playing with Gasol because it usually resulted in Bynum taking a back seat. After averaging more than 20 points and 12 rebounds during Gasol's 11-game absence due to a right hamstring injury at the beginning of the season, Bynum entered Christmas averaging only 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds. And when Gasol missed six games in mid-January because of a left hamstring injury, Bynum averaged four double-doubles. Fast forward to the end of the season, and you have both players equally acknowledging the other helped complement their game.

"It helps because he's a big presence and he's a guy that can be very effective down low," Gasol said of Bynum, who averaged a career-high 15 points in the 2009-10 season. "He attracts a defender with him so he adds up a lot of space and size. He makes it easy when he's out there with the spacing. We played well together. I think we can still develop more to both of our games together when we're out there."

There are going to be plenty of reports suggesting that Bynum is going to be on the trading block with free agency approaching. It's a subject that sparked little reaction from the young center, who said, "I don't even care about the trade rumors. I love the game so I'll play anywhere. I know it's a cliche, but that's the truth. Hopefully I'll be here for a long time." The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner also quoted a source familiar with the thinking of the Lakers' front office who says the Bynum trade rumors are "ridiculous." Nonetheless, some believe because of Bynum's injury history, including a sore right knee that kept him limited throughout the playoffs, he should be on the trading block.

It's a misconceived notion for several reasons. Part of the reason why fans questioned Bynum's hunger for the game points to his slow rehabilitation process and poor attitude when he missed 46 games in the 2007-08 season, including the entire postseason because of a left knee injury, as well as sitting out 32 games last season because of a right knee injury. This season, he played through the torn cartilage in his right knee and earned universal respect within the locker room. In years past, the Lakers easily absorbed Bynum's absence. This season, the Lakers went 6-7 when Bynum missed the final 13 games of the regular season because of an Achilles' tendon problem. Bynum's presence helped Gasol thrive on the high- and mid-range jumper. Gasol's presence allowed Bynum to camp inside for easy put-backs and lobs.

Moving forward, Bynum's eager to take pointers from Gasol. vowing to replicate Gasol's counter with his left hook. As Gasol's two hamstring injuries prompted him to sit out this off-season with the Spanish national team, Bynum is also looking at different ways at managing his body, including working more on core strength so he can better tolerate contact.

"We had a tendency before to do a lot of isolation style of basketball," Bynum said. "But when we're moving the ball, I think the high-low has been very effective. He's throwing me countless lobs. When he dunks on the weak side, I catch him on the high post and he's my first look ducking on the weakside. Defensively, it creates havoc for teams."

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum embrace in the middle of the Lakers' celebration on the Staples Center court following an 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.

D.J. Mbenga brings hope, championship ring to his native Democratic Republic of Congo

Visiting his native Democratic Republic of Congo, Lakers center D.J. Mbenga sported his 2009 championship ring for all the citizens to see.

Even if he played a marginal role in securing the Lakers' second consecutive title, Mbenga's ring symbolized hope for a country ravaged by poverty, violence and corruption.

"All we have are sports," Mbenga said. "That's why all these kids listen to you easily. But they won't listen to politicians. They don't trust the political people."

Mbenga's visit over the weekend coincided on the 50th anniversary of Congo's independence from Belgium, yet the area's still suffering with rebellions forcing a reported quarter of a million people from homes. Mbenga's limited playing time; the eye, head and ankle injuries he suffered this season; and the uncertainty of whether the Lakers will keep him once he becomes an unrestricted free agent Thursday heavily pales in comparison to the problems facing his native country.

That's why he makes sure to give back. He donated a basketball court in Kobe Bryant's name to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He visited South Africa during the last off-season for the NBA's Basketball without Borders campaign and shared the issues Congo faces. And he shared his aspirations to become president of his native country one day.

"I always dream to be president. I like politics," said Mbenga, who joked that Lakers spokesman John Black would serve as what Mbenga called his "special secretary." "I know more on politics than you know I do. I love to see kids be educated. I know it's very important. When you have a good education, you save the world. Especially for young women, they always say when you educate a women you educate the world. What's going on in my country now is a lot of bad stuff."

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Ron Artest still soaking in the championship excitement

There's not a day that's gone by since Game 7 that Ron Artest hasn't soaked in winning the 2010 championship. The immediate aftermath entailed an emotional, random and wildly entertaining interview with reporters in the locker room as teammates poured beer on him and he drank champagne. It continued into the media room with one of the most memorable postgame news conferences in Finals history. The Lakers forward expressed giddiness over a Wheaties championship cereal box, asked reporters to "acknowledge me" and recounted in elation Kobe Bryant's willingness to pass the ball in what proved to a critical shot in the Lakers' clinching victory.

As soon as the Lakers officially clinched their second consecutive title, forward Lamar Odom says he was "most happy for him" because it helped him further rewrite the notoriety he received during the infamous Brawl at the Palace in 2004, validated the Lakers' off-season acquisition and gave Artest his first ring in his 11-year career. General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Kobe Bryant were among the many people who watched Artest's postgame theatrics and concluded it just represented what he brought to the team.

"He was delightfully different," Kupchak said, "in so many ways."

"That's Ron," Bryant said. "He's a sweetheart, man. He just has such innocence about him and just having such a great time, that's the Ron that we know."

Plenty have gotten to know him more since the title, as Artest released a rap single titled "Champion" and has appeared in numerous television shows and nightclubs to promote it. He's been receiving little to no sleep lately as he's trying to soak in the entire experience. When I asked him if he's considered taking any energy drinks to keep him afloat, Artest said, "I don't like that. I'm afraid my heart might just go fast and then just stop."

Clearly, Artest doesn't want the elation to stop, though he knows the celebration will die down once he returns from a two-week vacation. At that point he'll be back to work preparing for the 2010-2011 season, when he predicts his confidence is "going to be out of the roof," because he contends he finally fully understood the triangle offense in the final week of the NBA playoffs.

"I was waiting to enjoy it because I was telling you I wasn't enjoying the playoffs," Artest said. "I just did not enjoy the ride when I was in it. When I was on the ride, I didn't enjoy it because I was so much focused on the ride itself. Finally I got a chance. When I had that chance, I took advantage of the chance and enjoyed it."

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Adam Morrison doesn't expect the Lakers to keep him but appreciates teammates' support

Many members of the Lakers gathered around the set of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," basking in the glow of their championship. But Kimmel wanted to crack a joke at one of their teammates' expense.

"Where is Adam Morrison because he was in a suit pretty much the whole time," Kimmel cracked. "I thought it'd be funny if he came out in a uniform for once."

The Lakers on set -- Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell -- partly played along, laughing to Kimmel's joke that Morrison looks like a 70s'  porn star and appeared engaged with watching a clip highlighting Morrison's contributions in the Finals. The reel consisted of various zoom-in shots of him sitting on the bench, high-fiving a teammate or jumping up and down on the sideline after a huge play. The Lakers' reaction could've been a lot stronger and the insults would've been largely welcomed since Kimmel wanted to generate laughs. Even though Bryant acknowledged the clip was "funny as hell," he used the opportunity to share how much Morrison  meant to the team.

"That's a testament to our team, honestly, because Adam can really play," Bryant said. "He can really,  really go. For him to take a step back and to do things like that really helped us get to that championship level."

Morrison appeared in only 31 games, averaging 2.4 points on 37.6% shooting in 7.8 minutes. Morrison also acknowledged he doesn't think the Lakers will keep him once he becomes a free agent Thursday, saying, "I didn't play so I don't know why they'd want to bring me back." But Bryant's public support made Morrison feel appreciated.

"It was tough not playing as much, at all, really," he said. "But being part of the team was fun and being with the group of guys that we have is cool."

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Lamar Odom enters the off-season hoping to add more to his game

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There rarely comes a moment where Lamar Odom's two children, Destiny and Lamar Jr., aren't tugging at the covers of their father's bed.

"Get up" is a phrase Odom heard often during the 2009-10 season, which featured Odom fighting fatigue while juggling a heavy workload. He married reality TV star Khloe Kardashian a day before training camp despite knowing her for only a month, appeared in several television commercials and tried to validate the four-year, $33-million deal (with a team option for the final year) he signed in the off-season. But the added celebrity and three consecutive NBA Finals appearances led Odom to say during his exit interview that "I'm tired man."

"I can't help it. I'll fall asleep right here, right in front of you guys right now," Odom said. "I could fall asleep no problem. Forget the physical part, but mentally, I'm tired."

You can't really forget about the physical part, though. Ever since dunking over Boston guard Ray Allen on Feb. 18, Odom nursed a left shoulder sprain for the rest of the season. He had predicted the injury would limit his shooting percentage and rebounding, but he followed through on his vow that he'd never use the injury as an excuse. He also played through most of the postseason with a sprained right knee, an injury that only exacerbated Odom's fatigue level. When asked what part of his body needs the most rest, Odom, said, laughing, "Head to toe," before adding that he'll soon have MRIs on both his left shoulder and right knee to determine whether he needs off-season surgery.

"I didn't let [the injuries] deter from my mind or my mindset," said Odom, who played in all 82 regular-season games. "That's to go out there and ball and give it what I got. Obviously it feels like it's worth it -- second championship, second in three years; we feel like we can continue to fight for this No. 1 spot."

But with Odom on vacation with Kardashian in Cancun, Mexico, to rest up, the Lakers apparently are weighing whether it was worth it for them to keep Odom, as The Times' Mark Heisler recently reported that Lakers owner Jerry Buss is considering dumping Odom's salary. Heisler wrote, "Now Odom, one of their most valuable players, is going on the block, supposedly because he didn't do much in the Finals, but actually because of his $8.5-million salary?" and then went on to advise the Lakers should keep Odom. Regardless of what happens, the mere possibility that Odom's being considered trade bait only a season after the team re-signed him shows his off-season goes beyond resting and recovering from injuries.

Odom's exit interview took place before Heisler first reported about the Lakers forward's job insecurity, but it remained clear Odom felt far from pleased with his performance in the 2009-10 season, which featured a points-per-game average of 10.8 points (career-low) on 46.3% shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 25 double-doubles (an increase from 18 the previous season). 

Some may point to Odom becoming distracted with his increased celebrity, as Odom admitted "it's a work in progress" in juggling his responsibilities. Some may point to those aforementioned injuries limiting his physical capabilities. And some may point to Odom's cemented reputation as a versatile and team-first player yielding unpredictable results because of inconsistent hunger and focus. The reasons aren't so much important as the results mostly because Odom avoids talking about his marriage, downplays his injuries and shrugs off up-and-down performances. But with the full 2009-10 season in the books, Odom pointedly diagnosed what he didn't like about the season.

"I didn't shoot the ball the way I wanted to this year," Odom said. "In the beginning, I was really streaky. I had one part of the season where I was consistent and then it just kind of fell off."

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Luke Walton shares frustrations regarding his back injury

Plenty of episodes transpired this season that helped push Lakers forward Luke Walton into what he called a "dark moment."

He played in only 29 regular-season games because of a pinched nerve in his lower back. Even when he finally returned in mid-January, it took only a month before the pain returned. And then there's his father, Bill Walton, who went through similar problems with his spine, injuries that doctors believe aren't genetic in the Walton family but have been all too common.

Luke Walton's injury-plagued career with the Lakers inevitably raises questions about whether the Lakers should absorb the three years left on his $16-million contract. All those negative issues often became too much for Walton to bear.

"There were a lot of times this year where I was really down and out," Walton said. "I was struggling. I wasn't a happy man."

Walton enters this summer in what should be the most important off-season in his seven-year career. His exit interview this week primarily centered on how he'll treat his back this summer. Walton's back also influenced Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak in selecting West Virginia forward Devin Ebanks with the 43rd pick Thursday in the NBA draft. And how Walton recovers this summer will strongly influence his standing with the team.

"With Luke's back, we're not sure what the future holds for him," Kupchak said. "He struggled this year and to his credit, came back and was available during the playoffs. But he really struggled. He's going to devote the summer to rehabilitation. But if Luke can't really make a contribution next year, we felt we really had to get somebody who could back him up."

That's why Walton views it as critical that he tackles his off-season work the right way. He's visiting several "specialists" who will work with him to increase his strength so he can avoid surgery. He's refusing to dwell on his extensive injury history. And he's hoping to maintain a positive attitude, which helped him get through the season despite some dark moments.

Some Lakers fans roll their eyes at the following premise considering Walton's marginal statistical impact. But the Lakers coaching staff and players value Walton for his passing abilities, understanding of the triangle offense and fulfilling the team-first player that Coach Phil Jackson preaches. It's not a bold claim that had Walton been healthy this season, the offensive fluidity in the regular season would have been much smoother and Ron Artest's struggle with the triangle wouldn't have been as heavily exposed.

That's partly why the team embraced him, which helped Walton fight through his frustrations this season, described by him as the "toughest" and "frustrating with exception to winning the team championship." Walton enjoyed the rare moments he spent with his father. He cherished the opportunity Jackson granted him in helping out the coaching staff. And he relished traveling with the team.

"It gave me my sense of self-worth," Walton said, "even though I wasn't able to play."

Walton hopes his self-worth next season will be derived from playing, something that will be answered this off-season. He believes there will be a pay off so long as he keeps a positive attitude.

"I've got to be optimistic about it," Walton said. "I've got to be looking forward to the challenge in getting this thing better and letting it play out how it does."

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Josh Powell maintains positive attitude despite lack of playing time

Before every game, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hears words of encouragement from teammate Josh Powell.

It sounds like a simple gesture, until you realize what the dynamic means. Bryant, one of the world's most recognizable players and the Lakers' franchise player, openly admits there's not many he allows within his inner circle. Yet, Powell, who averaged only 2.7 points in 9.2 minutes per game in the regular season and struggled in becoming an effective fourth big man, somehow has earned Bryant's respect. It all points to what Powell presents in practice where he's solidified his reputation for his hard work and positive attitude, two admirable qualities for a bench player whose opportunities remain scarce.

"Through my work ethic and my drive," Powell offered as reasons veterans, such as Bryant and Derek Fisher value their relationship with him.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak offered similar sentiments Friday in Powell's exit interview, an assessment Phil Jackson and his assistants outlined in note form since Jackson has already left for Montana to help clear his mind before deciding next week whether he'll retire or remain the Lakers' coach.

"He was understanding of the fact that the opportunities were less, but just saying I worked really hard and was a professional off the court," Powell said of the meeting with Kupchak.

It's unclear what Powell's future entails once he becomes a free agent Thursday. It if it were his call, he'd remain on the Lakers because of the two championship rings he's gotten, the learning experience and the appreciation he's felt from the team. Whether the Lakers cut Powell -- something an NBA executive told The Times' Broderick Turner the team will likely do -- or keep him, Powell says he isn't going to fret about his future.

"I'm just going to put it in God's hands and understand the organization has decisions they have to make," Powell said. "I understand it and respect it. I just have to make sure that no matter what, I'm ready, wherever it is I'm supposed to land next year."

It's the same mindset he carried as a reserve. Even if the constant work in practice yielded little in playing time, Powell wanted to show he could somehow contribute to the team. Even if his approach required extra work since limited minutes makes it harder to maintain a rhythm, he wanted to remain sharp in case he earned some run. Though Powell played a team-low 3.1 minutes per game in the playoffs, Jackson often said he'd feel most comfortable with Powell playing in the NBA Finals if Lamar Odom remained ineffective because of how alert Powell had been in practice.

Powell never received those kind of minutes Jackson envisioned, but he believes his attitude opened many eyes. It gave Jackson reason to consider playing him, Bryant a willingness to listen to him and other teammates to appreciate him. Whether or not the Lakers keep him remain another issue. But Powell said he felt at least comforted hearing the staff noticed his effort.

"We did our parts especially in practices to get the guys ready and make it competitive and go really hard," Powell said of himself and the bench. "Whatever we could do to help with the practice or the energy we brought in games, hopefully that was very helpful to the guys performing."

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com.

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