Lakers spend their All-Star weekend in various fashion
In only a span of 72 hours, Kobe Bryant can't believe how he fit all the NBA All-Star activities in such a compacted schedule.
First came the obligatory: practices and media appearances. Then came the fun: Bryant became the first athlete to have his hands and feet imprinted at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre; Nike released "The Black Mamba" short film, directed by Robert Rodriguez, which has been hyped for weeks in anticipation of Bryant's new Nike sneaker, the Zoom Kobe VI; and he capped Saturday night with a party at Boulevard 3, with an extensive guest list that included Lenoardo DiCaprio, Eminem, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, Jimmy Kimmel, Nia Long and Tyrese. Lastly came the competition: Bryant tied with Bob Pettit for a fourth All-Star MVP, dropping 37 points on 14 of 26 shooting and 14 rebounds and embraced being the elder statesmen of sorts on an All-Star squad that featured Blake Griffin's dunking, Kevin Durant's scoring and Russell Westbrook's speed
"It was a long weekend," Bryant said. "But it went by pretty fast when it’s all said and done."
Now it's back to business as the Lakers prepared for Tuesday's game at Staples Center against the Atlanta Hawks with a 2 1/2-hour practice Monday, a rarity for a veteran team fixated on maintaining health and energy. It's necessary to look at what exactly this All-Star break serves for them. Before the break, the Lakers capped off a three-game losing streak with a loss to the league's worst team in Cleveland. Even though there's plenty of concern and areas to correct, the Lakers simply felt the need to get away from each other, feeling the time apart would help rejuvenate the team's focus.
"We hope they benefit from it," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "Its’ good for them to get away from the game a little bit."
And the Lakers did in various fashion. Bryant and Pau Gasol simply played basketball with other All-Stars and received satisfaction from it for different reasons. As much as Bryant has embraced an elder statesman's role, he insists that by no means does he feel threatened with his standing as the league's top player. "I don’t give a .... It doesn’t matter to me," said Bryant, who sat out of Monday's practice. "You can’t beat me in June. All the other stuff, it doesn’t matter." Gasol, meanwhile, continued a stat line that's been pretty common during the month of February, posting 17 points on eight-of-13 shooting and seven rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. "I feel better," he said. "I probably would’ve felt rustier if I didn’t exercise yesterday a little bit. You got a little bit of a run in and a little bit of fun. It was a positive experience."
Then there were others who avoided basketball altogether. Jackson said he couldn't recall an instance where he watched the NBA All-Star game other than when he was the coach in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2009. He wasn't planning to change his habits anytime soon, arguing, "I'm not a big fan of the game. I don't think it contributes to basketball." That apparently didn't apply to the NBA Slam Dunk contest, perhaps intrigued by all the hype surrounding Griffin, who ultimately won the contest by jumping over a 2011 Kia Optima and catching a lob from Clippers guard Baron Davis from the sunroof. Jackson appeared in no mood to compliment Griffin, but eager to throw a dig at Davis: “I really liked Baron, like a chipmunk sitting there." In between resting and avoiding film, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss managed to drag Jackson out to Grauman's ceremony for Bryant.
Were Ron Artest's All-Star festivities as exciting, he's sure not eager to share it. Perhaps aware that he's come under scrutiny for tweeting about the release of his mixtape shortly after the Lakers' loss to Cleveland, Artest claimed ignorance on his All-Star activities. One of those activities at least included promoting his shoe, Ball'N, Friday afternoon at ESPN Zone. Lakers center Andrew Bynum said he just hung out downtown. And forward Lamar Odom threw a party at Club Nokia and avoided watching the All-Star game for unspecified reasons, though an All-Star snub surely comes to mind.
What this all means for the Lakers moving forward proves uncertain. But it's the team's hope that the mental break from the game will prove beneficial.
"Notoriously, this game is a bad game," Jackson said, referring to the first game after the All-Star break. "It’s not a good game for teams. They have trouble getting back on the court . . . [regaining] that rhythm. But we’ll see how we do."
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