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5 things to take away from Lakers' 102-95 victory over Denver Nuggets

568418641. Kobe Bryant looks a lot better: It's not just because Bryant's shooting clip against Denver was much better. In 24 minutes, he scored 18 points on five-of-13 shooting (38%) and went eight of 11 from the free-throw line after going four of 28 (14.3%) in the first three exhibition games. Jackson and Bryant never used Bryant's shooting mark as a barometer of progress as he rehabbed from a surgically repaired right knee. What mattered was how fluid and active he looked in the game and eventually getting to that point where he had more lift on his shot. Bryant made a huge step forward in that department against Denver, appearing more  aggressive and mobile than he had since training camp started.

"I feel silly talking about shooting percentages in a damn preseason game," said Bryant, who wore a padded sleeve on his right knee after not wearing one Wednesday against the Kings. "I felt a lot better. I haven't played since Game 7" of the 2010 NBA Finals.

After hitting his first shot of the night on a fade-away jumper to give the Lakers an 11-7 lead with 7:03 left in the first quarter, Bryant several times looked comfortable enough to play aggressively. He'd said he wanted strength and to get his game legs, and that appeared to be happening. After Lakers guard Derek Fisher missed a three-pointer, Lakers forward Matt Barnes tipped the ball out to Bryant up top. He then drove the lane, performed an up-and-under and was fouled by Denver point guard Chauncey Billups, a three-point sequence that gave the Lakers a 14-11 lead with 6:14 remaining in the first quarter.

In other sequences, Bryant saved the ball from going out of bounds, threw a cross-court pass to Lamar Odom and directed a screen-and-roll with Pau Gasol in which he spun through two defenders. He missed the layup on the latter play, but that didn't matter. The Black Mamba, who also had eight rebounds and five assists, just looked better.

"It was just a matter of time and a chance to get stronger and get a rhythm," Jackson said of Bryant, whom he plans to play from 20 to 22 minutes Sunday at Staples Center against the Jazz. But the coach didn't have any definite plans for Bryant's minutes after that. "It was a very slow game with an awful lot of free throws when he was out there on the floor. So there wasn't a lot of continuous running or pounding."

568418782. The Lakers had impressive team chemistry: The Lakers made sure not to make too much of it, considering it's the preseason. But for the second consecutive game, everyone seemed focused on ensuring teamwork and good ball movement. The Lakers had five players in double figures, including Bryant (18), Lamar Odom (14 points on seven-of-10 shooting, six rebounds and seven assists), Devin Ebanks (14 points on five-of-eight shooting), Pau Gasol (12 points on six-of-nine shooting) and Shannon Brown (11 points on four-of-nine shooting). They recorded 29 assists on 38 field goals. And everyone  genuinely seemed to want to manufacture and wait for the right play to develop.

"They're starting to get a feel for playing together, and they're remembering some of the things they know how to do," said Jackson, though he lamented the team's 22 turnovers. "That's nice to see. I think they're making progress as a team."

There were several examples of that progress.

Bryant found Artest on a beautiful backdoor. Gasol converted on an easy lay-in after Fisher weaved on the far side through a lane of traffic. When Bryant flashed to the perimeter, Fisher faked a pass toward him and then connected with Gasol for another easy bucket. Lakers guard Steve Blake darted an alley-oop toward Odom. He also cut across the lane on one play, received an entry pass from Ebanks and then one-timed to Gasol for a jumper across the charity stripe.

"It's one preseason game, but it's something that's a good sign," Gasol said. "We want to continue to work along that line."

Other examples: An Odom entry pass to Bryant led to a vintage turnaround jumper over Billups. A Bryant down-screen for Odom threw off the Nuggets defense and allowed him to sink a corner jumper. When Artest received a bullet pass from Bryant and met a double team, Artest curled the ball around to Odom for the lay-in. Bryant's lob to Artest resulted in another easy bucket for Odom, who made a layup as he was falling to the ground.

"The strength of our team is our time together, our chemistry and our ability to read each other and just make plays," Odom said. "That's what we want to do -- move the ball and do all the small things that make us better."

Artest's nine-point effort on three-of-eight shooting with five rebounds and five assists indicated to Jackson that Artest "sees the game a lot better," although Jackson added, "It's not natural for him." Nonetheless, there were a few more instances when Artest appeared to be showing good habits.

A Fisher steal led to an Odom fast-break where he found Artest on the far corner. Instead of taking the three-pointer, Artest found Gasol inside. Later on, Fisher nailed a wide-open three-pointer after Artest threw a pass around the perimeter.

"I think the talent is there," Artest said. "Everybody can play, and everybody is unselfish."

3. Ebanks turns a corner: Perhaps it's a good thing Ebanks doesn't listen to what Jackson says to the media. Thus, he wasn't aware Jackson had lauded him for most of the preseason regarding his work ethic and defense, while adding that he could improve his footwork and his understanding of the  offense. He apparently wasn't aware Jackson equated rookies to "lower than whale ..." in terms of their maturity level on and off the court. And he wasn't aware Jackson planned to play Ebanks at shooting guard because Sasha Vujacic's concussion kept him out at least through this weekend.

"I just need to keep working," Ebanks said. "Just don't think about it. Go out there and play the way I know how to play. I've been playing all my life."

It turns out the approach worked, as he scored 14 points on five-of-eight shooting in 24 minutes, a performance Jackson said showed Ebanks was "making progress." He actually only played at small forward, as fouls from Odom (four) and Barnes (three) prompted Jackson to play Artest some at power forward. But Ebanks was a quick study, something Vujacic should remember, even if this is just the preseason. Vujacic's role is minimum at best considering he's played behind both Bryant and Brown, and his injury certainly came at an inopportune time.

"We're going to try to get him used to playing that position," Jackson said before the game. "Not only does it give a total scope of what we do, but it gives him an option to play another position on the floor in case we need it."

The Lakers will have a better understanding how Ebanks plays at shooting guard, possibly as early as Sunday against Utah, but for now, the Lakers have nothing but positive things to say about his quick acclimation and work ethic.

"Devin's doing a great job," Bryant said. "He's playing within himself. He's making all the right plays. He's getting all the hustle points, and he's making timely jumpers, and defensively he's active."

568418804. The Lakers' depth is an issue: The Lakers already knew they'd have to field different combinations considering Bryant's limitations, Andrew Bynum's absence as he recovers from surgery to his right knee and Luke Walton's absence. But the Lakers' play against Denver further exposed them. With Odom picking up fouls (four), as well as Barnes (three), Theo Ratliff (three) and Derrick Caracter (three), Jackson inserted Artest mostly at power forward and Ebanks strictly at small forward.

It was a depleted lineup, but it wasn't that  noticeable considering Denver's Carmelo Anthony sat out, for some rest, as did Kenyon Martin (surgery on his left knee patella tendon; out indefinitely), Chris Anderson (recovering from surgery on his right knee patella tendon; out indefinitely) and Al Harrington (suffered a partial tear of the left plantar fascia against Portland Oct. 8).

"Right now, I don't feel like we're very deep at all," Jackson said. "Neither Drew Naymick nor Derrick Caracter have the experience to feel like we're deep enough in that department. Hopefully we'll be OK."

5. The Lakers' defensive rotations remain an issue: Numerous times this preseason, Jackson has stopped practice because of defensive lapses. He's devoted most of the sessions to defense, feeling the team's more in tune with running the triangle than with defensive rotations.

That's been the primary reason why the Lakers' bench has blown a double-digit fourth-quarter lead for the second consecutive game. What started out as a 85-68 fourth-quarter Lakers lead quickly dwindled to a 94-91 advantage with 5:08 remaining in the game. Against Sacramento on Wednesday, the Lakers yielded 36 fourth-quarter points.

Unlike last year, the bench doesn't show many selfish tendencies. But they're having trouble defending the perimeter and locking down on transition baskets.

"They had plenty of opportunities to close that gap," Jackson said of Denver.

Stat of the Night: 28 - Number of assists the Lakers recorded. Surely a sign of good teamwork and ball movement.

Quote of the Night: "Kobe is on top of the universe. Out of all the players on Pluto and Jupiter, Kobe's on top of that. He's on another level." -- Lakers forward Ron Artest

-- Mark Medina

twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photos, from top: Kobe Bryant blows past Denver's Gary Forbes on a drive to the basket in the second quarter Saturday night at Staples Center. Derek Fisher has his drive cut off by Nuggets big men Gary Forbes and Nene in the first quarter. Derrick Caracter battles Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo and center Eric Boateng for a rebound in the fourth quarter. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times

 
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LEWSTRS present and accounted for...CHECKIN IN for Roll Call...

Lakers Dynasty - The Next Generation...

#17 Coming Up!!!

LEWSTRS present and accounted for...CHECKIN IN for Roll Call...Posted by: LEWSTRS | October 17, 2010 at 08:55 AM
*
Carry On Sir! Lol!

The Miami heat have Princess Jimmy, DWade and Chris Bosh. The Freakin LA Lakers have a rapidly healing Kobe Bryant. I PITY THE HEAT!!!

@BLITZ…”Go ahead and swear all we want in real life. It's really fleeting to get steam off. That being said here in a public blog that is more civil than other blogs we should show we are civil when debating not be using profanities as much to disregard a player we hate and degenerating ourselves to be as bad as other posters in other blogs.”
~
Well said, Blitz. I agree 100% on this subject. Courtesy, civility, and respect are part about what makes this the best sports blog in the world. The best smack usually does not involve sophomoric references to bodily parts or functions. We’re better than that. We use our intelligence and wit and treat the blog and the game with the respect that they deserve.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TOM

Before we head out, I just want to add some more things.

Mamba24, you are the glue that joins all the fragments through ur roll call and out freakin' standing boost.

MM, you are the tireless blogger who would write threads intermittently for every opportunity although I would like to read stories of little people like Ronnie Lester, Gary Vitti, John Black, Bill Bertka, Bill Sharman, the Asst. Coaches...they don't attract debates but represent nostalgia and work behind the scenes about the Lakers. All in all, you are doing a terrific job

Kblitz, Kobe888MVP, Cyber CosmiX, LT, hobbitmage - love your posts and knowledge of the game, however your constant shearing with one another is similar to earthquake faults going in different directions. I'm looking for positive utilization of those excess energies in unison. Perhaps, it's too late to run for office next week but u could have made a better life for the disillusioned masses.

The rest of us are all in between...we blog to past time and time passes unnoticed as the blog moves on.

RE-POST

Lew, this was to you:

While I know this was just a pre-season scrimmage (which I'm "watching" right now), it appears that Artest feels much more comfortable in the offense now that he has a year of it under his belt. There is no question that he appears to be lighter on his feet as well. Maybe that plantar fasciitis that he dealt with last season has completely subsided. Look for his scoring average to increase to about 15 ppg this season. Of course, this can only help the Lakers and Kobe. There is every reason to believe that this will be a special team this season with an improved Artest, a driven Lamar, the always famished Kobe going for three-peat #2 and ring #6, a rested Pau Gasol at his playing peak, Andrew Bynum who will come back with something to prove, a deep squad with great new additions and Phil Jackson's last stand with his motivation being three-peat #4 punctuated by a season to remember! He has said before that his 1991 Bulls team was the best team he ever coached. Wouldn't it be nice if he could say that his first championship team and his last championship team were the two best teams he ever coached?

LT

Respectfully, I did not use any profanities, nor did I direct what I did call Michael Jordan at any blogger in here. If I was inappropriate, MM would have deleted my posts. This is a matter of KB Blitz spinning something I said into something it wasn't again, pretending he was offended and trying to make me look like I am immoral or something. His habit of condescending on others (see CyberCosmiX under "MM discusses Lakers" at 12:47 AM) and cherry picking sentences out of context and spinning them are much worse than me calling arrogant Michael Jordan a non-expletive. Did he really have to get all wigged out over absolutely nothing? Go figya. You know I respect the blog. Please don't fall for that BS. Pardon my French. :)

MVP888 -

Great synopsis...and yes...it would be nice bragging rights for PJ...and let's hope this team will be one he remembers when he reflects back at his incredible coaching career...

Lakers Dynasty - The Next Generation...

#17 Coming Up!!!

Edwin - Thanks for the praise. It really means a lot. I'll think about trying to work those kind of guys in during the season

MM

@KOBEMVP888, you listed excellent reasons for why this will be a special team and season to remember but, as LEWSTRS reminds us, the most important reason is "#17 Coming Up" which will tie us with The Celtics!!!! Just nit picking, great Post my brother!

Do you think Phil is, once gain, sending subtle messages to Bynum or the FO? Stating that he doesn't believe they are a very deep team with Drew out. While I see his point, he is also ignoring the fact that he has a deep bench at every other position. Is Phil being Phil, or is he looking for another big until Bynum returns?
Has Bynum changed his timeline to return? How is he progressing?

Edwin Gueco my mentor, how are you this beautiful Lakers Sunday? Thank you for the kind words, we all contribute what we can sir. I aint got much, humor and Roll Calls, but if they contribute to a better Lakers Nation then I'll keep doing it. You sir make a more valuable contribution in being the voice of reason and sanity in holding this Nation together, along with giving us valuable lesson in history and life as a bonus. Kudos to you Edwin Gueco!!!

THE OFFICIAL LUKE WALTON CONTRACT COUNTDOWN BEGINS:


Considering the length of Luke's 3 year contract and the Lakers retaining the services of one Kobe Bryant for that length of time..........ensuring the Lakers play until Mid-June for the next 3 years......We have approximated to the day and hour how much longer we will have to lumber through the "dark era" of Luke Walton days.....the long night sweats of wondering when Phil will sacrifice another legitimate Laker star for this guy......countless hours of racking our brain over wondering "Did Luke do any basketball related work over the summer"?..........Constantly asking ourselves "How the $@%@ is Luke still on this team"?...........................Yes! Bloggers......together with the help of some of NASA's top mathmaticians and scientist we have come up with a number that Luke Walton will not be able to escape......not this time......THE LUKE WALTON CONTRACT COUNTDOWN CLOCK.....will enable all fans for the next 3 years to have a glimmer of hope and a private chuckle whether the Lakers win or lose each day in the blogosphere.........Remember this is an approximation, but we think we've narrowed this thing down.......and here goes

972d 11h 00m


This is on an Eastern Time scale......I figure our Laker fans in New York will want to celebrate first!

Good team chemistry at this point in the preseason is VERY encouraging. What if both rookie forwards develop quicker than expected (great game Ebanks) resulting in a shortage of frontline minutes when Bynum finally comes back?

Can we interest anyone in an often injured young seven foot center with a humungus contract? All offers considered!

Just a preseason game, but closer to real basketball than anything we've seen so far. The Lakers are starting to come together. My impressions so far:

Kobe Bryant - Just starting to look fluid. Not explosive at all yet, but on his way. No worries here. Just needs to get and stay healthy. The Lakers won with a limited Kobe last year, probably can't this year.

Pau/Fish - Just playing into shape. No major change here. Expect about the same as last year. Which is enough. Hopefully a little better first 82 games from Fish.

Artest - Looks more comfortable, more confident and a little less gimpy than last year. Shooting the ball well, making cuts and passes he didn't last year. Should be an upgrade over Ron last year.

Lamar - Has the advantage of being in game shape, but also looks more confident and enthusiastic. His summer with Team USA may result in a little more out of Lamar this year.

Barnes - Brings so much energy to the floor. Not a lockdown man-on-man guy like Artest, but a tough defender and good team defender. Finding his way on offense. Will do some spectacular things and some stupid things on both ends that will draw attention, but it will be the grind-it-out play in between that will make a difference.

Ebanks - The real deal. Fluid, smart, plays hard. Rebounds. Doesn't look like a second-round rook in pre-season. Mature. Will take minutes from Sasha and Shannon as the season progresses. Potential to become a great perimeter defender with his athleiecism and length.

Ratliff - A big upgrade over Mbenga, who was loveable but didn't know how to play. Theo will defend, rebound, be in the right place. Knows how to play. A real asset, especially when Bynum is back and he the 3rd string center. Brings genuine depth - he can play serious minutes in big games.

Blake - Should provide maturity, intelligence and leadership, things that, for all his skill and energy, Jordan Farmar lacked. Pretty tall with long arms, a good playmaker and shooter, willing defender. With Blake and (eventually) LO the second unit will have two solid playmakers to run the offense.

Shannon - Seems to have improved his shooting in the offseason, which could come in real handy. Otherwise about the same combination of exctiting athletecism and sometimes shaky BBall IQ. Will probably be 24's main backup, but his time at the 3 spot may be limited by Barnes and Ebanks and Blake will take all the minutes at the 1.

Caracter - Love his size and energy, especially on the boards. Needs to up skill level a lot. More upside than Powell, and much more willing to do the dirty work, but less ready to jump in and take crucial minutes today. The opposite of Powell, who was skilled but not a lunch pail guy.

Bynum - Has had very little impact on games in the preseason.

Sasha - Will lose minutes to Blake, Barnes and Ebanks. And Shannon, who has become a better shooter. With all the upgrades, Sasha will have to step it up to earn minutes. His advantage is that Phil knows him, which sometimes counts for a lot. He will get "situational" minutes.

Luke - God bless him. Didn't inherit his dad's size or quickness, but did get some of his fragile genes. Healthy, Luke can still still bring his high BBall IG to bear and play a role for Phil, but healthy is a big problem for him.

Overall - a lot of upgrades, and potential for a better Artest and heathier Kobe. Good chemistry, and a lot of guys who will understand their roles and work hard. Big question mark is Bynum - can he come back, stay back, and give the Lakers that big presence they will need against the better teams. Without Drew the Lakers are pretty tall, but not real big.

He's BAACCKKK!!!! Kobe's looking better, our team is shaping up with every game, and you have to love those rooks. Personally I hope Luke stays out for awhile and let this team develop chemistry. A lot of people don't like Barnes, but I thoght he really hustled and made some great plays. Watch for our bench squad to really pick up the pace. Shannon didn't look hesitant and what can you say about Ron...:) Love his attitude and his Kobe worship. We'll see how thay do against the Jazz tonite.
Hi to you Mamba24.. way to get the day started and LEWSTRS.... On the 26th we need a caravan leading us to the Staples Center...

@NewMexicoLL, Good morning to you. Yes Kobe's back and all is well in Laker Nation. Yeah barnes as well as most of the bench Mob including the rookies are looking good. I pity the rest of the NBA when we get fully healthy and adjusted. Now keep your fingers crossed for the Vikes. I guess it all depends on who wants it the most and how much Bretts mentally in the game.

@888… My apologies. I wasn’t specifically commenting on what you said or to be honest on Blitz’s judgment that what you said was profane either. Personally, I don’t think Horse’s Ass was necessarily that bad but I also didn’t think it was necessary or did anything to inure respect and civility.
~
Here’s my take on obscenity and profanity. It’s the intent that decides for me if something is obscene or profane. It’s the difference between saying MF as a curse when something happens and using the words in a way that infers some sort of incestuous act. But, hey, that’s just my take on it.
~
I was just taking the opportunity to compliment Blitz for a statement that I thought was worth reposting. As many times as Blitz and I have gotten into it, I respect that he has never become obscene or profane and has always spoken up when others, even his sometime allies, have responded thusly.
~
Like you, I like and respect Blitz but we both know he doesn’t speak the same language or think the same way that we do, to be honest about it. But having stood and fought alone against multiple antagonists many times myself, I did feel Blitz was feeling a little beleaguered and outnumbered..
~
Don’t get me wrong, Kenny. You are the LAST person (well, probably got to throw CCX in there, too) with whom I would want to get into a debate. Thank God we agree on practically everything Lakers. But you and Mike are truly formidable foes and we haven’t even finished the preseason….
~
:-)
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TOM

Tom Daniels - always with the succinct and complete summaries and insights. I agree, I agree, I agree. Always a pleasure to read your stuff.

I agree with Phil on the team defense, but some of that is being out-of-shape and thinking too much about the offense.

I thought Blake would be the most influential add of the off-season, but Barnes may actually have more game-changing performances as the season and (knock on wood) playoffs/finals unfold. Glad we got both (and Theo's just a good solid player - we saw what I think what he really does last night).

One key thing I took away from last night's game is the crystalization of this idea that signings of Blake, Barnes and Ratliff transcend mere upgrades in talent. The more intangible upgrade is that these three guys desperately want something their core teammates already have, and that's a ring. Steve, Matt & Theo will help to bolster this team's focus and intent this coming season in ways that Farmar, Powell and Mbenga couldn't possibly have. I like our dearly departed Lakers role players, but I have a feeling I'm going to like the resolve of this new crop of veteran role players a lot more!

Jefe101 - I also think the newcomers feel like they've come to a system and a group of players that are focused on one thing: winning. I think that's gotta feel amazing to guys like that who are all hard-workers, been around the league and probably have been on more than a few teams that were going nowhere. Now they're on a team that knows how to win, and it shows.

Gotta be like a Dickensian orphan who's suddenly adopted by a caring, super-rich family. How cool is that?

Good Afternoon (in the midwest) Lakers Blog Fam,

Mamba24 OUT FREAKIN STANDING Roll call my brother!

Kobe's gettin healthy
Rookies buy in
New additions looking like they belong
LO rackin up assists
Team defense gettin better and better
All is right in the land of Lakes

@Fan of the Mamba, Yes I think you covered all the points sir. Thank you and a Good Lakers afternoon to you my brother.

Go Lakers!


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