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Five things to watch in Lakers-Suns matchup

Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (17-12) host the Phoenix Suns (12-18) on Friday evening at Staples Center:

1. Look for Kobe Bryant to try to have a big game. He still stews over those first-round exits in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs. Well, duh. But Bryant admitted that that plays into his mentality about why he goes on a scoring rampage against Phoenix. He did the same thing in the Lakers' 99-83 victory Jan. 10, when he scored 48 points despite feeling the early pain in the torn ligament in his right wrist. Derek Fisher has observed that Bryant loves to do this particularly against Grant Hill because he's considered a top defender and entered the league shortly before him.

This strategy may or may not be a good thing. Bryant's numbers have drastically dropped from January to February in points per game (31.2, 24.5) and shooting percentage (45.5%, 37.1%) even though the minutes have remained similar (39.2, 39.1). After going five-of-18 from the field in the Lakers' 84-76 win Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks, Bryant maintained he'd find various ways to receive better looks so he's not always meeting double or triple teams. Bryant didn't speak to reporters after Thursday's practice, so we'll have to wait to get our answers about how he'll adjust against Phoenix.

 2. The Lakers have will have their hands full with Steve Nash. If Father Time hasn't already proved to be enough of an adversary, it's possible Derek Fisher could face some limitations against Phoenix. Though it's unlikely his 524 consecutive-game streak will be threatened, Fisher left Thursday's practice because of sinusitis. Meanwhile, Nash has maintained his efficiency despite turning 38 this year. He's taken on more of a scoring load this season without Amare Stoudemire. Nash leads the NBA with 10.7 assists per year. And, yeah, it's only been a week since the Lakers saw New York's Jeremy Lin and Toronto's Jose Calderon torch them in the backcourt.

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Laker of the day: Don Ford

Fabforum With Mark Medina unchained from his computer and on vacation this week, we will rummage through our All Things Lakers database to remind you of a Laker from the past. (Don't worry, we will also bring you any breaking Lakers/NBA lockout news as it happens too). Today's Laker: Don Ford. The following is from our All Things Lakers bio on him:

Although Don Ford put up solid numbers during his 4½ seasons with the Lakers, perhaps his most notable contribution to the organization was an indirect one that took place as a result of his departure from the team.

After being selected by the Lakers in the sixth round of the 1975 draft, Ford had his best NBA season as a rookie, with 9.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He was traded with a 1980 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Butch Lee and a 1982 first-round pick, which the Lakers used to draft James Worthy as the top pick overall.

With the exception of his nine-year professional career, which included two seasons in Italy, Ford has spent much of his life in his hometown of Santa Barbara.

He played at Santa Barbara High and was an academic All-American at UC Santa Barbara. He has been a real estate agent in Santa Barbara for more than 20 years and is the color commentator on radio broadcasts of UC Santa Barbara men’s and women’s basketball games.

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--Chuck Schilken
Photo: Don Ford. Credit: Associated Press.

 

Laker of the day: Jamaal Wilkes

Jamaal_wilkes With Mark Medina unchained from his computer and on vacation this week, we will rummage through our All Things Lakers database to remind you of a Laker from the past. (Don't worry, we will also bring you any breaking Lakers/NBA lockout news as it happens too). Today's Laker: Jamaal Wilkes. The following is from our All Things Lakers bio on him.

It was Wilkes’ blessing and bane that he played alongside, and was often overshadowed, by some of the game’s greatest players. For instance, very few people remember that Wilkes scored 37 points in the clinching game of the 1980 Finals for the Lakers; what they remember is Magic Johnson's scoring 42 points while playing all five positions.

Wilkes was a member of the great UCLA teams that won 88 consecutive games and two national championships, but Bill Walton got most of the attention.

During the 1974-75 season with the Golden State Warriors, Wilkes averaged 14 points and eight rebounds and was named rookie of the year, winning his first NBA championship playing with yet another great, Rick Barry.

It was with the Lakers that Wilkes had his greatest success, winning three NBA titles while displaying the cool consistency that earned him the nickname "Silk." An outstanding shooter, Wilkes was so consistent from the outside that Chick Hearn dubbed his jump shot the “20-foot layup."

Wilkes played 12 professional seasons, averaging 18 points during the regular season and 16 during 113 playoff games. Given his body of work -- two national championships, four NBA titles, rookie of the year, three All-Star game appearances, twice named to the all-defensive team -- there are many who feel that Wilkes is the best player not in the Hall of Fame.

Still, Wilkes was the recipient of probably the greatest honor any player could receive when John Wooden, asked to describe his ideal player, said: "I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that?"

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— Steve Lowery

Photo: Jamaal Wilkes. Credit: Associated Press.
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