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Caught in the Web: Lakers' Empire State of mind

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The play on the court may not have been pretty, but the atmosphere that surrounded the game certainly made it worthwhile.

The Lakers bounced back from Thursday's loss to Cleveland with a 115-105 victory over the New York Knicks a day later. Lakers forward Pau Gasol, in particular, partially redeemed himself for the underachieving performance against Cleveland. Even if Kobe Bryant's shooting woes continued, his fourth-quarter resurgence at least illustrated, for better or worse, his refusal to fold under adversity.

It wasn't exactly the same theatrics Bryant provided a year ago when he dropped a Madison Square Garden record of 61 points, but the NYC atmosphere shows that "these streets will make you feel brand new; the lights will inspire you."

And thankfully, Gasol's resurgence of 20 points came at the right time. Through Wasserman Media Group, Gasol pledged to donate $1,000 for every point he scored through Haiti relief efforts organized by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

With Gasol donating $20,000 for last night's performance, Lakers backup guard Jordan Farmar also donated an undisclosed amount, an effort that involved a total of 47 NBA players through the sports agency. It's an effort ESPN's J.A. Adande says illustrated "the best side of the NBA."

So even if the Lakers still have plenty of issues to iron out, the game still made for a memorable night.

More Lakers links (after the jump)

-- A day after Bryant criticized the Lakers' toughness in the team's 93-87 loss to Cleveland, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and forward Lamar Odom told The Times' Mike Bresnahan that the toughness issue was overstated.

-- Even with Clippers center Chris Kaman saying All-Star bids shouldn't go to Gasol (he missed 17 games) and Bynum (Kaman says he's better), Gasol and Bynum told the Riverside Press-Enterprise's Jeff Eisenberg that they're not going to campaign for the positions.

-- Would the Lakers have been better off if Andrew Bynum replaced Marc Gasol as part of the trade to the Memphis Grizzlies two years ago for Pau Gasol? That's the question a reader poses to The Times' Broderick Turner. Though the numbers between Bynum and Gasol are similar, Turner notes the Lakers believe in Bynum's upside.

-- Here's news that's not exactly breaking: There are many Lakers fans. The Lakers will play on NBA TV on Tuesday against the Washington Wizards, marking the fifth time out of 13 weeks the team has played on the network's Fan Night broadcast every Tuesday.

Tweet of the Day: "Team plane is about to take off for Canada, which makes me wonder which Laker would be the best hockey player. Hmm." ... "Votes were split between Walton & Artest; I'll have to ask if they've ever played hockey. But I'll go w/pre-haircut Sasha." -- LakersReporter (Lakers.com reporter Mike Trudell)

-- Mark Medina

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

Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol forces the Knicks' David Lee to pass during a drive in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press

 
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Artest is suffering from plantar faciaitis in his right foot. The pain is not just unavoidable, but weakens ones ability to jump and run. It lowers ones verticle and slows ones lateral.
Posted by: LakerMike | January 23, 2010 at 09:53 AM

are you sure luke or dfish arent suffering from plantar faciaitis? maybe vitti should look into it.


How long will it take for Kobe's finger to heal? I heard it was supposed to be 4-6 weeks and that was 4-6 weeks ago.

TOUGHNESS CAN BE OVERRATED...

Yes, my NINE GAMES report card includes "toughness" as a category. But, I have to say something about this obsession some Laker fans seem to have with this specific trait.

I will admit, toughness is needed to succeed. Not just physical toughness (ability to stand up against the strong, sometimes bully-like contact of typical NBA games) but more importantly mental toughness (as JAMES KATT points out). I prefer to call mental toughness "FOCUS" to help separate the two attributes, because they are definitely different.

Shaq is physically tough ~ Kobe is mentally tough. Hate to use them in comparison against each other after all the destructiveness we Laker fans had to endure in the past with them, but they are classic examples of the difference. It has A LOT TO DO WITH SIZE VERSUS SKILL.

Wayne Gretzky had skills, but was not "physically tough" like some bouncer transformed to defenseman. Gretzky could knock an apple off your shoulder with a slapshot from 50 feet away. The bouncer-defenseman would need a dozen shots just to hit YOU once ~ forget about the apple!

Michael Jordan had skills, but never intimidated others with brute force like Mr. Mahorn from the bad boys of Detroit.

I want Gretzky. I want Jordan. I also want someone to protect them.

So here's my point. STOP trying to turn Bynum into Perkins, or Pau Gasol into Marc Gascol, or Lamar Odom into Anderson Varajao. These are our skill players who need to be mentally tough (FOCUSED) but will never be physically tough (BRUTES). Instead, we need to look to supplement our roster with a physically tough player or two. I don't know if DJ Mbenga or Josh Powell have what it takes.

Showtime of the 80's had skilled greyhounds on the loose. Also had Mr. Rambis (ironic that Bynum has lost some "toughness" since Kurt left for Minnesota).

Gretzky had McSorely.
Jordan had Oakly, then Rodman.
Kobe had Shaq.

Skill players, with a small dose of physically tough players, is what makes championship teams. I suggest we stop the chatter about trying to make our skilled players into physically tough players and consider the more obvious solutions. Go find a physical player who can support and blend in to the chemistry of the established core of this team.

Morrison, Powell and Sasha are removable parts. This is where our focus needs to be. Replace some overrated skill players with under-appreciated physical players.

For the record, I hate,,, absolutely hate the thought of giving up on DJ Mbenga. I personally think he is a 4 to 7 minute per half solution to so many of our energy/defensive woes.

Drew/Pau/LO definitely will improve in their FOCUS (mental toughness) as the season approaches the games that really matter. But let's appreciate the skill set they have, which sets them apart from the physically tough, but lessor skilled options.

Our focus should be on transforming a couple pieces of the roster rather than transforming a part of these players' games.

Mike

YELLOFEVER

I checked it out. Luke and Dfish are struggling with a related problem known as "Planted Stuck-to-the-flooritis". Many similar characteristics to plantar faciaitis, except that rest will not help.

Mike

Artest is suffering from plantar faciaitis in his right foot. The pain is not just unavoidable, but weakens ones ability to jump and run. It lowers ones verticle and slows ones lateral.
Posted by: LakerMike | January 23, 2010 at 09:53 AM

are you sure luke or dfish arent suffering from plantar faciaitis? maybe vitti should look into it.


Posted by: yellofever | January 23, 2010 at 11:50 AM

-

It is spelled plantar fasciitis.

It is spelled plantar fasciitis.

Posted by: The Snake | January 23, 2010 at 12:55 PM


I stand corrected!

excellent breakdown on dfish on forum blue and gold.. so even the numbers prove dfish is THE worst starter in the league

http://tinyurl.com/yc7dm8v

Thank God you're here policing spelling, Snake. Whew. That is a load off my mind.


Wes

BLOG CRUE
Y'all should stop making fun of plantar fasciitis because I have a bad case of gas right now.

Colorado loves our World Champion Lakers!

I checked it out. Luke and Dfish are struggling with a related problem known as "Planted Stuck-to-the-flooritis"
Posted by: LakerMike | January 23, 2010 at 12:26 PM

hahaha.. they may have plenty of heartitis but have very slow footitis.


Thank God you're here policing spelling, Snake. Whew. That is a load off my mind.
Posted by: wesjoenixon | January 23, 2010 at 01:09 PM

snake has a bad case of anal retentive spellingitis =)

Ron's just not bein' as Ron as he's been in his career.

Pau's out in places that he's not effective from when Andrew's on the floor.

Kobe does everything that isn't shooting from distance, left handed. As the game wears on, the hand gets worse but he still thinks he's Kobe.

Getting through the grind of February and March healthy is more important than wins. We'll have enough of those come April.

Thank God you're here policing spelling, Snake. Whew. That is a load off my mind.
Posted by: wesjoenixon | January 23, 2010 at 01:09 PM

snake has a bad case of anal retentive spellingitis =)

Posted by: yellofever | January 23, 2010 at 01:19 PM

--

I am the offishul spellign polees.

Unfortunately, I think we are witnessing the future in about three years with Kobe after he loses a step not because of injury but because of age. Will he still think that he is "kobe" of old and continue taking 25 shots at a low percentage like the last month? I could see that happening.

I just hope he realizes his deteriation at that point and begins utilizing his big men more who at that time will be much more effective (Bynum anyway).

I had a problem with Kobe jacking up all those shots. I know, I know - he's the greatest and I believe that too. But you can't be injured like he is and still think you're getting every shot. Quick ones, too. Glad Pau redeemed himself in that fourth quarter, too.

Let's keep ourselves in the W column and kill Toronto!

GO LAKERS!

So Ron has plantar fasciitis, bummer for sure. But why isnt he being rested, as thats the only real cure. I just dont get it. Who is responsible for these decisions? Surely Phil could demand it. Do we really want to go into the playoffs with a hurting Ron and a bad fingered Kobe? Really?

Great post about the Lakers just needing to add someone tough to compliment our finesse, but who is out there that we could realistically swing a deal for?

Why dont we track down the retired Dikembe Mutombo and bring him on as a coach for Bynum. He could probably even play some D for limited minutes and he would be a good practice player for Bynum to work with. He might even have a positive affect on the whole team from a defensive perspective.

In response to comments like "Kobe still thinks he's Kobe", and suggestions that he should pass more, shoot less...

Don't you understand that "Kobe thinking he's Kobe", with out without a broken finger/spine/cripping quadraplegy, is exactly what MAKES Kobe Kobe? Think of all of the greats... think of MJ's ridiculous speech late last year...

Part of what makes the greats so great is precisly the fact that no matter what condition they're in, they always think that their next shot is going to hit nothing but net.

It's both their greatest strength, and one of their great weaknesses.

Love it or hate it...
if you want Kobe to do his thing on the floor night in, night out... it's just something that you're going to have to live with. You can't praise him one night for pulling the team out of a defecit and hitting a game winner... then criticise him the next night for employing the exact same mindset in a loss. It's who he is as a player, as a competitor, as a person.

Live with it...
or start rooting for the Nets. It's a problem you won't face there, I guarantee it.

First of all, a salute to Pau, Jordy, and all the other NBA players who have stepped up for the relief effort in Haiti. When I see an "NBA Cares" promo, it usually rings hollow. At last, it means more than reading to kids for a photo op.

So, where are we? As a group, there's no question that the Lakers are the most talented team in the NBA, with a record to match. But on the floor, they mostly look like underachievers. Are we simply seeing mid-season "blahs," or something to be worried about? Historically, a Phil Jackson team is all about the second half of the season, leading up to the Playoffs.

I read the Forum Blue & Gold article (and comments) on our strength/weaknesses at point guard. I agree with several posters that +/- isn't everything. Farmar/Brown in the back court with Kobe at the 3 is to me our most exciting line-up. More often than not, it brings a spark to the game that the starting rotation simply can't achieve. Our starting unit to me always seems slow and sluggish.

But ever since Pau returned from his second hamstring injury, it has been the combined play of our "bigs" -- Andrew, Pau, and Artest that most concerns me. As a unit, this trio simply doesn't click. As inconsistent as Lamar can be, he -- like Jordy and UPS -- brings whatever the Lakers are lacking in a game, and changes the momentum.

We all know that Phil is a patient man, much more patient than most of us who post here. He prizes maturity more than youth. He prizes stability. His track record is beyond reproach. When we second guess him as armchair coaches, it is usually in great peril.

Still, there's an argument for shaking things up. At the moment, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Now that Walton's back, I would consider returning Bynum to the Bench Mob and restore Lamar to the starting unit. I'm ok with leaving D-Fish in the starting rotation, but bringing in Farmar earlier, so he gets in the flow of the offense already in progress. I would make Bynum's minutes conditional on his contribution to the Defense. Lastly, just as in football where there's a balance of running and passing, I would demand more post play and points in the paint and fewer PUJITs.

Making better use of the players we have makes more sense than trading for other players, any of whom would bring their own liabilities. We could easily go from a whole less than the sum of its parts to a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. If the mid-season "blahs" don't disappear, a shakeup in the rotation might be just what the doctor ordered. Go Lakers!


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