Lakers injury update: Phil Jackson pronounces Andrew Bynum 'OK'; Matt Barnes says he plans to play; Ron Artest practices
The area the Lakers always deemed the most significant in their drive to three-peat this season involves health. So, on that front, the Lakers made significant progress during Saturday's practice in preparation for their first-round series beginning Sunday against New Orleans.
"I was a little bit concerned when we did some outright running," Jackson said of Bynum, who didn't speak with reporters after practice. "But he was all right."
After missing the last two games and abstaining from any practice since Tuesday because of a sore right knee, Lakers forward Matt Barnes practiced at the beginning of the session and said he planned to play in Game 1, even though the team has listed him as questionable.
"I got swelling and the fluid being gone," said Barnes, who had his knee drained Thursday. "I can bend my knee now. Before I couldn't bend my knee. I got all of that out."
And Lakers forward Ron Artest, who didn't speak with reporters afterward, practiced after hyperextending his knee in the team's season finale against Sacramento. Besides the absence of Steve Blake because of chicken pox, the Lakers enter the playoffs as healthy as can be, including Kobe Bryant, who said his 33.9 minutes per game through 82 games has helped him feel sharp for the postseason.
But as far as the Lakers' intensity? Not so much.
"We had a little lack of focus and were not quite as tuned in as we normally could be," Jackson said. "Some of it was a matter of the different schedule we had. Still, I'd like to see more focus."
There are plenty of factors that could weaken the Lakers' intensity. They've gone 4-3 in Sunday afternoon games this season. They swept the regular-season series against New Orleans in four games. And the team has an overwhelming size advantage with two 7-footers in Bynum and Pau Gasol and versatile 6-foot-10 forward Lamar Odom against a lineup that includes a hard-working Carl Landry and an undersized Emeka Okafur but will be missing David West.
Bryant characterized practice differently, but it could very well speak to how he wants his teammates to address the postseason.
"We don't need to draw on anything else because this is the time of year that gets us excited," Bryant said. "This is what we've been waiting for."
-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org