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Laker Girls tryouts survive Carmageddon

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Fearful of the havoc Carmageddon would have on the 405 Freeway and the traffic on adjacent sidestreets, one Laker Girls prospect set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to ensure she'd have enough time for breakfast, curling her hair, applying makeup and more importantly, arriving at the tryouts at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo on time at 9 a.m. Another nervous candidate set two alarm clocks at 6:45 a.m., while another set three, including a wake-up call from her mom.

Clearly, pleas from city officials weren't going to dampen the tryouts. Laker Girls director Lisa Estrada estimated that at least 400 attended tryouts, a dip from the 500 that usually attend each year. Still, with ongoing concerns with how much traffic congestion would take place during Carmageddon and the lingering stigma of the Lakers' early playoff exit, Estrada initially thought only about 300 would show up.

And then there's the whole possibility that there may be an NBA lockout-shortened season, or no season at all. Though much of the focus has centered on what a new collective bargaining agreement would mean to the front office and players union, many prospects joked that a new deal will happen simply because fans will want to see the Laker Girls dance. 

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Carmageddon coincides with Laker Girls tryouts

Plenty to take away from Laker Girls auditions

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo:Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, center, and Councilman Tom LaBonge, to his right, join construction officials and members of the media as they wave at the first motorists to travel on the southbound 405 Freeway under the Mulholland Drive bridge after half of it was demolished. The feared "Carmageddon" scenario was avoided in Los Angeles and a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway was reopened ahead of schedule. Credit: Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times/July 16, 2011)

Carmageddon coincides with Laker Girls tryouts

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In the wake of "Carmageddon" during the 405 Freeway shutdown this weekend, law enforcement officials are urging everyone to stay off the roads. But sometimes there are important things to attend to, such as Laker Girls tryouts.

Usually these auditions involve young women fretting about whether they nailed the dance routine and have the looks to wear the glittery purple-and-gold costumes. But with tryouts taking place Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo, Laker Girl prospects will surely be tested on whether they can navigate the treacherous L.A. traffic without pulling the hair they just spent hours on highlighting, spraying and straightening. 

"Hopefully, people will pay attention," said Laker Girls director Lisa Estrada, who said the tryout date was scheduled between January and February and couldn't be changed. "Obviously it's in the media so everyone knows about it, even in other states. Hopefully people will know. If not, I end up with whatever I end up."

In a way, it could make Estrada's job a little easier. She plans to make three to five cuts after various dance combinations and is open to holding follow-up dance callbacks and job interviews next week so she can assemble a 20 to 22 member team. While she said no Laker Girls prospects have expressed concern about the NBA lockout that could wipe out or at least shrink next season, Estrada sensed that some members of last year's team didn't fully understand the commitment being a Laker Girl requires in attending games and making numerous public appearances and only makes exceptions to absences for classes or other jobs.

With the Laker Girls planning to make at least 100 appearances this summer and becoming the team's ambassador during an uncertain work stoppage, what better way than to have Carmageddon help with the weeding-out process? 

"I don't really know. I don't have a comment on that," said Estrada, considering the Lakers have posted on their website guidelines detailing alternate routes on how to navigate around Carmageddon. "If people made preparations to get here for July 16 and knew this was coming up, then hopefully they will get there on time. That's what I'm hoping."

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Plenty to take away from Laker Girls auditions

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Laker Girls tryouts will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo during Carmageddon. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / Oct. 26, 2010

Laker Girl profile: Katie views becoming a Laker Girl the 'pinnacle' of a dancing career

KatieThis is the first post of a weekly series that helps you get to know the Laker Girls (who, by the way, officially go by one name only).

Laker Girl name: Katie.

Hometown: Diamond Bar.

Area of residence: Diamond Bar.

College/high school: Cal State Los Angeles.

Number of seasons as a Laker Girl: Four.

What prompted you to want to become a Laker Girl? I grew up as a young dancer and sports fan, and always considered the Laker Girls to be the pinnacle of one’s career. I have always had a passion for dance and hoped to achieve my childhood dream of becoming a professional NBA dancer -- a Laker Girl.

What do you think stood out to the judging panel, about you, regarding your most recent audition? Being that this was my fourth year auditioning and possibly returning to the 2010-2011 squad, I felt that I needed to step up my game! I really tried to shine, not to mention prove my love and passion for this position. I believe that the judges were able to see how deeply I wanted to return -- I felt I had high energy throughout the process. Also, I tried to be precise in all my movements while performing the various routines.

What do you think makes a good Laker Girl? In my eyes, a good Laker Girl is someone who loves to dance, has a passion for serving our community, always has a smile on her face and a positive word to share.

What is your dance experience? I started dancing when I was 5 years old and instantly fell in love with it! I continued my education in dance while attending a performing arts high school for two years, concentrating in classical ballet. I then became employed by Mickey Mouse himself, dancing in various parades at the Disneyland Resort.

Favorite dance routine as a Laker Girl? My favorite routine from this year is called All Night. It is sung by Michael Jackson and is high-energy, fun and upbeat.

Favorite uniform? This particular uniform is a two-piece, halter top with a skirt. It is all purple with white and rhinestone accents. We call this uniform the “Purple Mesh” uniform.

Favorite Lakers player? Derek Fisher.

Favorite Laker Girl memory so far? I am a lucky girl! I was not only a part of the 2008-2009 championship, but I was lucky enough to be at Game 7 for the 2009-2010 championship win against Boston! There was no greater feeling than being on the court and a part of the celebration while knowing that the Lakers were back-to-back champions!

What do you like most about being involved, as a Laker Girl, at local charity/community events? I think it is vital that we show our support in the community. I love that we get to meet the Lakers fans face-to-face at these various events. At times, going out in the community feels like anything but normal “work.” I enjoy myself thoroughly and the company that surrounds me when I am doing so!

What would you say is your beauty secret? Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!!! I always take my makeup off before going to bed and put moisturizer on my face and hands to keep my skin hydrated.

What diet/workout tips do you have? Diet and exercise is a vital part of healthy living. The best advice I can give is to stay consistent. I try to include protein and some type of vegetable in every meal while limiting my sugar intake. As for workouts, I try and hit the gym three or four  times a week. In my workouts I incorporate isometrics, strength training with my own body weight and some type of cardio. The pain is worth the gain (or loss).

What are your hobbies? I LOVE the outdoors! Hiking, camping, fishing and backpacking are all things I love to do in my spare time because it allows me to admire the surrounding beauty (while getting in some time for exercise). Because I fulfilled my hopes of becoming a Laker Girl, my next goal is to climb Mt. Whitney!

Career aspirations? I have various career aspirations but the one I hold closest to my heart would be nursing. I have a real passion for serving others. I hope to one day either become a labor and delivery nurse, or an oncology nurse. There is no better feeling than knowing you are doing something to better someone else’s life and make a difference in our world.

-- Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Caught in the Web: Kobe Bryant continues rehab process

Kobe shooting--The Times' Mike Bresnahan explains why Miami's offseason spurred Kobe Bryant to ensure that his surgically repaired right knee is fully healthy.

--Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer has follow-up details on how Laker Girl Ashley is doing.

--Sportsradiointerviews.com's Chris Fedor asks Boston forward Paul Pierce to share how much the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Lakers still haunts him.

--NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper reports that Ron Artest will sell his championship ring Dec. 25 in an online raffle, and that Artest is interviewing ghostwriters for an autobiography. Howard-Cooper also previews the Lakers' season.

--Fox Sports shares a refrain that Lakers fans have frustratingly heard for a while now: Andrew Bynum would be a top-10 center if he were healthy.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky highlights Derrick Caracter's acclimation to the team.

--The Riverside Press-Enterprise's David Lassen details more of Bryant's shooting struggles.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin thought plenty was going on during Lakers practice Thursday.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford documents Shannon Brown's offseason efforts to improve his shooting.

--AOL Fanhouse's Chris Tomasson details how Dallas is gunning for the Lakers.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell has full details on Thursday's practice.

--Silver Screen and Roll's wondahbap sizes up Coach Phil Jackson.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano argues that it's premature to say Bryant is on the decline.

-Lakers of Fire's Garrett Wilson checks out the Boston Celtics.

--Lakers Nation's Michael Goldsholl explains how forward Lamar Odom has responded to his critics.

--Sactown Royalty's Ziller blames forward Matt Barnes for the Laker Girl accident.

Tweet of the Day: "The Twitterverse is rolling on the topic Ron Artest's autobiohraphy after picking a ghostwriter...." -- SHowardCooper (NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper)

Reader Comment of the Day: "I love the comments by Ron Artest. It puts something in LeBron's mind. Nobody has ever challenged LeBron like that. It's going to be interesting to see how he responds to it on Christmas" -- Rocky

-- Mark Medina 
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Kobe Bryant warms up before Wednesday's exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

5 things to take away from Lakers' 98-95 pre-season victory over Sacramento Kings

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1. Kobe Bryant doesn't shoot well, but still shows improvement: This will forever be the most important thing to monitor until the pre-season games end. And what did we learn? Well, Bryant's seven-point performance on two in 10 shooting in 19 minutes confirmed Phil Jackson's assessment this week that Bryant's not game ready, but that doesn't mean Bryant didn't make progress. He appeared to have more movement and made an effort to contribute to make up for his poor shooting numbers.

Nonetheless, it's good Jackson just about kept to his pledge that he'd play Bryant between 16 and 18 minutes and that the Black Mamba didn't force himself to play more. With 8:50 left in the fourth quarter, he already had his knees iced and called it a night. Bryant, who didn't wear a sleeve on his right knee, continued to lack the necessary lift and bounce to look back in form and it's probably going to take all of pre-season for it to come back.

As is often the case, Bryant forced several shots. But there were also good things to like from Bryant's effort considering he found other ways to contribute. His four rebounds and two assists aren't eye popping. But some of the plays that led to those numbers revealed a determination in wanting to make a difference.

When Pau Gasol missed a 14 footer from the far side in the first quarter, Bryant raced into the lane, cut around Kings guard Antoine Wright and weaved through Sacramento forward Jason Thompson to save the ball from going out of bounds and grabbing the rebound. Bryant threw the ball up top to Gasol, who cut into the lane. Gasol moved the ball up to Lamar Odom, who quickly passed to Derek Fisher on the near-side. In mid air, Fisher hit Ron Artest for an open corner three-pointer, cutting the early gap to 10-8. Early in the third quarter, Bryant snuck into the lane and tipped in Artest's missed layup. Two minutes later, Bryant grabbed a defensive rebound, led the break and appeared as if he was going to drive through the lane. In mid air, he fired a bullet toward the far corner to Artest, whose three-pointer gave the Lakers a 56-53 lead with 5:52 left in the third quarter.

This isn't something I'd be raving about in normal circumstances. If Bryant's lift and shot doesn't improve, no one's going to laud him for playing a utility role. In this case that it's a pre-season game, however, Bryant's play against Sacramento shows he's making progress.

Continue reading »

Highlighting the best from the 1,000-comment post

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It had served as nothing more than a throwaway line. But it quickly became a rallying cry for the L.A. Times Lakers blog readers. With there being very little Laker news and the fact I wanted to enjoy a Saturday at the beach, I suggested to everyone to try to shoot for 500 comments in that day's only post. When I returned the next day, I saw everyone carry that pledge ... and then some.

At that point, there were around 600 comments on the thread, and I thought at first maybe I had just been out in the sun too long. But no it wasn't a mirage and it wasn't about to stop anytime soon. After then raising the ante to 800, this legendary post eventually reached 1,130 comments, which might spark a petition on my behalf to see if it this qualifies for any sort of Guinness World Record. Hey, then we'll be spoken within the same breath as Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown for shattering a record for most free throws made in a minute. To make it easier to store this legendary post for future use, I made a new category called "1,000 comment post," which is included in the categories below. That category will include the original post as well as this one that highlights all the best comments so you can treasure it for years to come. It could also serve as an easy reference tool for when the good people with the Guinness World Records verify our claim. Now we just need a volunteer to get in touch with them.

Without further ado, below the jump are the best comments from that memorable post.

Continue reading »

Caught in the Web: Catching up with Lakers' stories

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-- The Times' Lisa Dillman takes a look at the Lakers' schedule.

-- The Times' Patrick McGreevy reports that various lawmakers received Lakers playoff tickets from a stadium developer.

-- NBA.com's Steve Aschburner argues Kobe Bryant is the favorite to win the 2011-12 regular season MVP award.

-- NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper reports that the Lakers don't plan to shed costs next season.

-- Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin isn't surprised Buss isn't cutting player's salaries.

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky focuses in depth on Adam Morrison's NBA career. The Kamenetzky brothers also have a podcast on Shannon Brown's re-signing and the Lakers' entire off-season movement.

-- The Orange County Register's Jeff Miller isn't surprised one bit that the Lakers are playing the Heat on Christmas Day.

-- Fox Sports West's Matt Smith argues the Shaq-Kobe rivalry still exists.

-- Lakers.com's Mike Trudell talks to Lakers shooting coach Chuck Person. Trudell also has an extensive photo gallery of the Laker Girls tryouts.

-- Silver Screen and Roll's C.A. Clark has a report card on Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Meanwhile, Silver Screen and Roll's wondahbap has a report card on Lakers forward Ron Artest.

-- Forum Blue and Gold's Jeff Skibiski misses Nick Van Exel.

-- Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano shares his take on Browns' re-signing.

Tweet of the Day: "Another crazy nite in DC, time 2 get serious wit bball now. 2 wrkouts 2day" -- DevinEbanks3 (Lakers forward Devin Ebanks)

Reader Comment of the Day: "It's great having a place to stop and get a Laker fix, even when nothing at all is going on." -- Mamba24

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant enjoys himself at the championship parade. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Plenty to take away from Laker Girls auditions

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Just when he thought he had the whole weekend to himself, Peter Gibbons ran into Bill Lumberg to hear the dreadful news.

"I'm going to need you to come in tomorrow at about 9 o'clock," Lumberg told Gibbons in "Office Space." So much for the whole idea that if Gibbons ducked out early on Friday afternoon, he wouldn't have to worry about going to work on Saturday at the dreaded place called Initech. Had Gibbons been asked to work on a Saturday morning to cover the Laker Girls auditions, however, he probably would have jumped up and down and canceled his date with the Chotskies waitress (Jennifer Aniston). Or maybe I'm thinking just how I would've reacted.

Beyond enjoying the Laker Girls' company, there are several things I took away from the audition: I have no idea how to judge dancing. Laker Girls really seemed split on their favorite Laker, including Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown, meaning that the Lakers' re-signing Brown will bolster the bench and improve Laker Girl morale. And I may have just planted the seeds of a rivalry between the Laker Girls and the Heat dancers.

(Kudos to business reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles for shooting and editing the video.)

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: A group of hopefuls practice a dance routine during the Laker Girls auditions. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

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