Caught in the Web: Having visited White House, Lakers now meet Wizards
Plenty of stories -- funny and emotional -- from the Lakers' visit to the White House Monday in honor of the 2009 NBA championship will surely remain fresh in the team's mind for a lifetime.
There was President Barack Obama teasing former Lakers great and minority owner Magic Johnson for losing to his esteemed Chicago Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals. There was Obama carefully shaking Kobe Bryant's hand out of concern the simple handshake could harm his injured right index finger. And there were several other members of the Lakers family Obama singled out.
He called Lakers Coach Phil Jackson by his nickname, the "Zen Master," thanked Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar for their help with Haiti relief efforts, wished Shannon Brown luck in the NBA dunk contest and quoted Lamar Odom ("We kind of always saw that light"). Let's also not forget the personal face time Obama gave Khloe Kardashian.
While ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin vividly outlines how something like basketball can unite Obama and the Lakers, that enthusiasm also has the same affect on the children who attended a Lakers clinic in the D.C. area. With Obama expressing admiration for the Lakers championship run last season, the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding said that message "should encourage the Lakers to make him proud again." That can start today with the Lakers' game against the Wizards.
More Lakers links (after the jump)
--Lakers forward Ron Artest will play tonight against Washington, after missing Monday's White House ceremonies because of flu-like symptoms.
--The Lakers are trying to rectify a rough trip so far that's yielded two losses in the past three games. That's why Silver Screen and Roll thinks the Lakers' upcoming opponents - the Wizards and Pacers -- come at the right time. With Washington's 14-29 record and Indiana's 16-29 mark, the story rightly observes that the Lakers could be "dining on empty calories."
--The Wizards have had plenty of drama to deal with this season, first with Gilbert Arenas and now the news that backup guard Javaris Crittenton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun possession charge stemming from his locker room confrontation with Arenas at Verizon Center last month.
--Washington is currently in its fifth three-game losing streak of the season. But the Washington Post's Michael Lee points out the Wizards should at least be able to put up a fight tonight, simply because three of the Wizards' eight home wins came against Cleveland, Portland and Orlando.
--New rankings are out, something Lakers fans probably aren't as eager to look at this week. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix has L.A. at No. 3. Fox Sports' John Galinsky has the Lakers at No. 2, a position he says will drop if the Lakers don't improve their road record.
--Despite Pau Gasol's 17-game absence and poor performance against Cleveland, HoopsHype's Roland Lazenby reports that coaches and league personnel see Gasol as an All-Star candidate because of his overall consistency since joining the Lakers nearly two years ago. This should provide some comfort for Lakers fans since coaches vote the all-star reserves (to be announced Thursday) and not Clippers center Chris Kaman.
--Forum Blue and Gold ponders whether the Lakers should make a trade before the Feb. 18 deadline. Hoopsworld's Eric Pincus suggests the Lakers should be in the mix for Kirk Hinrich of the Chicago Bulls (Pincus' suggestion is in the comments section).
--Hardwood Paroxysm has a very detailed take on analyzing player efficiency ratings. A must read.
Tweet of the Day: "When do I get to go to the white house? Lol" -- TA_Iam1 (Former Lakers forward Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Houston Rockets this off-season.)
-- Mark Medina
Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org