Lakers healthy enough, prepare for playoffs against Thunder
The Lakers reconvened Friday for a practice session in preparation for Sunday's Western Conference first-round playoff opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center feeling better about their health but still wondering how they are going to play after a so-so finish to the regular season.
Andrew Bynum was back practicing, which was a good sign since he hasn't played in a game since March 19 because of a strained left Achilles' tendon.
Bynum said he felt "pain-free" in a practice in which he went full court during a scrimmage and said "yeah, no doubt" about him playing Sunday against the Thunder.
"We're very pleased, I should say that," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said about Bynum after practice Friday. "He's certainly not at a space I'm sure where he feels totally like he's back, but we're pleased that he was able to run and play and look like he's able to participate."
Kobe Bryant, who missed the last two regular-season games with right finger soreness, right knee swelling and soreness in his left ankle, practiced hard Friday and deemed himself ready for Sunday's game.
"My legs feel better," Bryant said. "The ankle thing was still kind of lingering a little bit, so that feels a lot better. Rest never hurts."
Jordan Farmar, who suffered a strained left hamstring in the next-to-last regular-season game, practiced Friday and said he will play Sunday.
Sasha Vujacic didn't practice because of a sprained left ankle. He's not expected to play Sunday.
The only new injury was to backup center DJ Mbenga, who suffered a concussion from an elbow to the head during practice.
Other than that, the Lakers are pretty whole.
Jackson joked about the $35,000 fine he was given by the NBA for criticizing officials.
Jackson said Oklahoma City All-Star forward Kevin Durant goes to the free-throw line a lot, saying that the "referees are treating him like a superstar."
"That was a gift to the NBA charity," Jackson said, laughing. "The NBA Cares. They really care a lot about ... I've got to get out of here before I start something."
And with that, Jackson got up and left the room.
It was the second time in 10 days that Jackson had been fined $35,000 by the NBA for criticizing officials.
Durant responded to Jackson by saying he felt he was "disrespected."
"I really don't know what he was upset about," Jackson said. "It really wasn't that upsetting. He shot the most free throws in the league. He made the most free throws in the league. He shot the most shots in the league. He made the most shots in the league. I voted for him on the All-Star team. He made the All-Star team. We know he's a great player. Congratulations."
Jackson laughed after his comments.
But what he didn't find funny is how his team finished the regular season.
The Lakers lost seven of their last 11 regular-season games.
That's not the kind of momentum Jackson wanted his team to have going into the playoffs.
"This team still has some issues, and it's still developed," Jackson said. "I told them the school is still out on them that way."
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum shoots over the defense of Timberwolves center Al Jefferson during the game in which he injured his left Achilles' tendon. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images