Caught in the Web: Lakers have plenty to feel good about in 96-81 victory over Utah Jazz
Talk about ending something on a good note.
The Lakers may be without guard Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle) and center Andrew Bynum (sore right hip), but the team, at least for now, has been able to absorb their absences. The latest effort came Wednesday in the Lakers 96-81 victory over the Utah Jazz, capping a three-game winning streak that has come without two key starters, ending the Jazz's (32-19) nine-game winning streak and securing arguably their best road win all season. To think, last week the focus centered on the Lakers' (41-13) so-so two-week trip and sluggish performances against Charlotte (close win) and Denver (embarrassing loss). And let's not forget that whole "does-Kobe-pass-the-ball-enough versus does-Pau-get-enough-touches debate.
No one on the Lakers is questioning Bryant's value to the team during his absence, and why would they? Bynum's case, however, is a tad different. With Lamar Odom posting solid double-double figures in the last three games, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson acknowledged his coaching staff is encouraging him to start Odom over Bynum, although Jackson told the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding, "I'm not ready to do that."
That's a topic for another day. For now, the Lakers head into the All-Star break taking comfort in the fact that their identity isn't in shatters without Bryant. The Lakers have Pau Gasol, who has offered a different leadership style under Bryant's absence and became only the sixth player in NBA history to record game highs in points (21), rebounds (19), assists (eight) and blocks (five) Monday in the team's win over San Antonio. And they had a solid supporting cast around Gasol, a luxury that wasn't always afforded to Bryant this season.
More Lakers links (after the jump):
-- Bynum declined an invitation to play for the national team because of concerns his participation would slow his recuperation from a litany of nagging injuries (knee, hip). It's something Coach Phil Jackson actually thought was a "good decision."
-- Lakers.com reporter Mike Trudell has an insightful Q&A with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. Among the highlights: Kupchak doesn't anticipate any major trades, but is willing to make "tweaks" as he called it. He likes Artest's play. And he was reluctant to compare Bryant and Jerry West.
-- Among his top-five trades that should happen, ESPN's Chad Ford (insider subscription required) seems to be in agreement with Lakers fans that the team should find a way to get Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. Ford suggests the Lakers ship reserves Jordan Farmar, Adam Morrison and Josh Powell to make the deal happen.
-- There doesn't seem to be a day that goes by without reports surfacing that Hinrich is involved in trade talks, including Thursday. Hinrich told the Chicago Sun-Times that if it were up to him, he would remain on the Bulls.
-- With Lakers guard Derek Fisher beating Bryant to the race for 1,000 career games, Fisher says he definitely plans on giving Mamba a hard time about it.
--Everything you want to know from Bryant about trading cards, TV shows and more importantly whether the Lakers can win a championship this season. Slam Magazine's Lang Whitaker has the Q&A.
Tweet of the Day: "Guy at security checkpoint just asked Jordan Farmar: "Are you news media?" Farmar informed him quickly that he is a player" -- mcten (ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin)
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Jazz guard Ronnie Price passes the ball out of the key while being defended by Lamar Odom, right, and Josh Powell during the Lakers' 96-81 victory Wednesday in Utah. Credit: Steve C. Wilson / Associated Press