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Category: Opinion

NBA lockout: The sides aren't talking, but the pundits are

There are no negotiating sessions currently scheduled between NBA Commissioner David Stern and locked-out players

*Kobe Bryant will participate in United Way's Homewalk Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m.  at Exposition Park. 

--The Times' T.J. Simers says he believes the NBA season will start in time for Christmas Day games.

--True Hoop's Henry Abbott looks at a deal both sides in the NBA labor dispute could have accepted. 

--NBA.com's Steve Aschburner reports that there are no negotiating sessions currently scheduled. 

--CBS Sports' Ken Berger argues that the NBA legal fight could end in disaster. 

--The New York Times' Howard Beck outlines the labor dispute. 

--The Associated Press' Brian Mahoney reports that the NBA owners held a conference call Thursday not in response to the players union's litigation, but to get an update on the status of the negotiations.

--ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard reports that the call lasted only 20 minutes.

--Sports Law Blog's Marc Edelman breaks down the players' antitrust lawsuits. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky, along with Ramona Shelburne, discuss how the players' antitrust lawsuits will affect the NBA lockout.

--The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence says he believes that NBA stars won't go overseas. 

--Fox Sports South's Vincent Thomas says he believes that fans will quickly return to the NBA as soon as the lockout ends. 

Tweet of the Day: "For now, owners will review lawsuits, wait for players to miss checks on Dec. 1, sources say. They're still doubting resolve of players. One thing seems certain: Stern, owners want to meet with Hunter to negotiate, not anti-trust lawyers. Appears league will wait for call." -- WojYahooNBA (Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski)

-- Mark Medina

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

Photo: NBA Commissioner David Stern during an Oct. 10  news conference in New York. Credit: David Karp / Associated Press

What a Lakers contract with fans might look like

Photo: Jerry West. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press As a way to assuage fan concerns about the state of the franchise, new Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber took a few concrete steps to show they're serious about winning.

First, much to the frustration of Lakers fans, the Warriors hired Jerry West in what will be an advisory role in the Warriors' management group. As West made clear to reporters, he wants to strike a balance -- not taking complete control of front-office decisions, but not being just a figurehead either. Second, the Warriors hired agent Bob Myers as the general-manager-in-waiting and have gone through an extensive search to replace Coach Keith Smart, including looking at Lakers assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Chuck Person as possibilities. And third, Golden State drafted a contract of promises for season-ticket holders, including a guarantee that the Warriors would make the 2012 playoffs, field at least one player in the 2012 NBA All-Star game, win at least 25 home games and offer a risk-free renewal with a 5%-interest-guarantee option for the 2011-2012 season. 

The Lakers aren't exactly in the same state of rebuilding as the team in the Bay Area, but they've also been going through a coaching search, possibly naming Mike Brown as Phil Jackson's successor. There are also certainly plenty of reasons the Lakers don't feel good about their 2010-2011 performance. Consider Jerry Buss' statement in an interview Tuesday with Michael Eaves and Bonnie-Jill Laflin on Sirius XM satellite radio about the Lakers' 122-86 Game 4 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals: "It was hard to come to a conclusion that any team could ever beat the Lakers. It was very disappointing and humiliating. But when you get slapped around like that, there’s a lot of resolve and teams come back fighting to get back on top."

Clearly, it wouldn't hurt if the Lakers wrote their own contract for next season. Sure, the Lakers aren't quite in the same disarray as the Warriors, who are trying to become a contending playoff team. But there are a few things that could be written in stone to ease the minds of not just season-ticket holders but all Lakers fans. Below the jump are a few of them -- some realistic, some wacky.

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Las Vegas oddsmaker disagrees with public sentiment that Miami Heat will beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals

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There's good news and there's some bad news regarding the Lakers' chances to three-peat.

Let's just start with the bad news, just so you can then feel inspired about the good news that lies ahead. Here's the bad news: Jay Rood, race and sports book director at MGM Mirage, told me Tuesday morning that the general public still favors the Miami Heat to beat the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Finals. The good news: Rood doesn't personally agree with that sentiment, and he remarks that the odds will likely change for better or for worse once the actual regular season begins Tuesday night, including a TNT doubleheader featuring the Heat against the Celtics (5 p.m. PDT) and the Lakers against the Rockets (7:30 p.m.)

The Heat this offseason were favored in Vegas to win the championship. Has that stayed the same?

Rood: It's definitely cooled off. They're still the favorite on the board. I believe we've got them at 7-to-5 right now, which is easily the shortest price of anyone entering the season in my recent memory. Usually at the beginning of the season, the shortest price that you'd find on the board in the NBA would be in the neighborhood of 3-to-1 Lakers maybe a year or two ago. Seven-to-5 is where the Heat are at right now. Lakers are 2-to-1, which is a ridiculous second choice. It is what it is. It's the power brokers of the NBA at this point, and it's pretty much prove us wrong that these two teams don't end up in the Finals. That price there indicates that if they do get into the Finals, that the Heat would be the favorite over the Lakers at this point, not forgoing how the season unrolls in front of us.

How does Miami have the edge over the Lakers at this point?

Rood: In my mind, they don't. But I don't book to what I think. I book to what the people bet. Early in the year when all of this was going down, if you had the Heat higher than 2-to-1, you were going to take money left and right. Pretty good-size money too. There were a lot of people showing up betting four- or five-figure amounts that the Heat would win. It just kept coming in, so we had to find the market price and keep lowering it so it slows down to where you can live with the liability.

What do you draw from this strong public sentiment toward Miami, considering it's rare for a two-time defending champion not to be the favorite?

Rood: It's an extremely rare position the Lakers are in right now. It's a spot where you can't get caught off guard because it would be easy to let the Lakers drift up to an area that's not in line with their capabilities with repeating once again. What you take away probably is what the commissioner [David Stern] said the other day. There probably needs to be maybe four less teams in the league and make it more exciting with higher-quality teams. Right now, the only two teams that anybody wants to know the odds on are the Lakers and the Heat, and occasionally the Thunder. At this point, they're dominating the board. I'm not drawing bets anywhere else. The only ones I drew bets to is when LeBron [James] was deciding where he was going to go to and people were making speculation bets in the market. They were betting New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Miami; they were all trying to cover the board in where he would end up. The day or two prior to the decision, it became pretty apparent that there was a strong opinion he was going to go the Heat because that was the team more people focused on.

But you had said the sentiment toward the Heat was stronger this summer compared with now. What's the reason for that?

Rood: It's cooled off a little bit from my perspective of wagering just because the price has gotten shorter on them. If we had Lakers at 2-to-1 and the Heat at 5-to-1, which is probably where I'd think personally it should fall, we would still be taking quite a bit of money with the Heat at that price. My opinion may change on that in the next week -- if they come out and really, really show they've got a team that is going to play well together and is going to get the job done. There's teams you talk about all offseason and how great they're going to be, what they're going to do and where they're going to end up. The Cowboys are a perfect example of that. Nobody knows, but that's why they play the game. It's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. This is the nature of how it works. It goes through a cycle. It'll ramp up here again if they come out of the gate and go 12-0; everybody will start getting fever pitch about it again, and they'll see 7-to-5 on the board and think that's great value. And we might start taking more wagers on them again. If that's the case, I'd more than welcome it.

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

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

Photo: A portion of the Las Vegas skyline. Credit: Brian Jones / Associated Press

Lakers Roundtable: L.A. Times reporters discuss Lakers' struggles, team meeting and Western Conference race

We bring you the second edition of Lakers roundtable, where The Times' Mike Bresnahan, Broderick Turner and I discuss the Lakers' latest struggles, the team meeting, the tightening Western Conference race and why my knockout championship at a basketball camp in sixth grade parallels the Lakers' current situation. Brez, BT and I bring you this coverage, despite numerous obstacles, including custodians closing up the Staples Center media work room, obstructive objects thrown by colleagues and eating nearly expired potato chips with dip.

--Mark Medina

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

Photo Credits: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times, Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times, Melissa Moseley/Columbia Pictures, John Raoux/Associated Press, Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel, Sam Sharpe/US Presswire, Nell Redmond/Associated Press, Davis Turner/EPA, Lori Shepler/Associated Press, Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Hector Gabino/McClatchy-Tribune, Rhona Wise/EPA, Michael Dwyer/Associated Press, Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times, Matthew Emmons/US Presswire, John F. Rhodes/Dallas Morning News, Steve C Wilson/Associated Press, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Fashion expert shares insight on NBA All-Star uniforms and Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant All-Star uniform

The majority of fans in the Lakers blog quickly shared that as soon as the All-Star starters were announced nearly a month ago, they liked the uniforms the players will adorn Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. I had to agree with that assessment, though I quickly knew I had to take my knee-jerk reaction with a grain of salt.

Sure, I know how to color coordinate ties with dress shirts, do laundry and iron clothing, but that doesn't really give me much credibility beyond the comforting fact that I won't look ridiculously awkward in a social setting. (Or at least I think. Hopefully I won't get a memo soon that I've been fooling myself.)

Luckily, Kevin Jones, the fashion historian and museum collector curator at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, was willing to share his expertise. 

And though Lakers guard Kobe Bryant won't play in the game because of a sprained left ankle, at least forward Pau Gasol can take comfort knowing that he'll be playing Sunday -- and with style.

On how Bryant (pictured) looks in the uniform:

"He looked great. Nothing like a bright red jersey and a bright smile. That's always going to be photogenic. Seeing Bryant on the court, when I saw him in the red jersey, I thought, 'Oh my gosh,' He's like a big sleek sports car. He's gunning his motors and you look at his biceps. He's totally the epitome of what a mega sports person is. There's everything about him that is brilliant. Yet, you're looking at him and you know it's him too. It's not just somebody that's been groomed and styled. You've got to be able to perform. That's what I see. He's like a muscle car literally in bright red zooming down the highway. It's like a race track. He's got the numbers on the side of his car, too, right on his chest. He is a powerful machine and everything about him is 100%." 

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Lakers-Raptors matchup evokes memories of Kobe Bryant's career-high 81-point performance

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Surely, the Lakers have much more pressing concerns. Though they have won four of their last five contests entering today's game against the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers (33-10) have issues to correct, including improving their offensive drop-off in road games this season, providing a consistent supporting cast and sharpening Kobe Bryant's shooting percentage.

That's why the inevitable story line -- Bryant facing the Raptors four years after dropping a career-high 81 points on them in a 122-104 victory -- may seem inappropriate. Coming into Friday's game against the Knicks, there were some who also wondered whether Bryant would nearly replicate the Madison Square Garden record of 61 points he set last season.

Though he and Pau Gasol led a fourth-quarter charge en route to a 115-105 Lakers victory Friday over the New York Knicks, Mamba's 27 points on eight-for-24 shooting won't exactly go down in MSG lore. Instead, the performance just continues a recent story line that has been all too repetitive. After aggravating the avulsion fracture to his right index finger on Jan. 5 against the Houston Rockets, Bryant shot 31% over the following three games, missed the fourth quarter because of back spasms against San Antonio, returned the next night in a limited fashion against Dallas (though he hit the game-winner), and then appeared in full form Jan. 15 against the Clippers when he shot 10 for 20 and scored 30 points. 

But the finger still appears to bother Bryant, who has shot 32% in the last three games. He at least involved teammates on Friday with six assists, proving that a distributor role is probably more valuable to the team than giving him rest. Besides, Mamba doesn't plan to sit out, saying rest won't significantly heal the finger anyway.

Given the recent history with Toronto, will Bryant at least pursue his excellence against the Raptors? He may not drop 81, especially considering his finger, but he has averaged 31.4 points in his last six visits at Toronto. Then again, though the Raptors (22-22) have lost two of their last three games, they have won eight of their last nine home games, including four consecutive victories at Air Canada Centre against Western Conference teams.

If nothing else, the timing of the Lakers-Raptors matchup at least provides an excuse to watch Bryant's 81-point performance again. Viewing his baskets in succession reminds me of Pop-a-Shot, a game teammates and fans would probably not want Bryant to play, fractured finger and all. 

--Mark Medina

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

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson takes dig at Clippers owner Donald Sterling

After Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was asked if he believes in curses -- presumably in reference to the latest Clippers news that Blake Griffin will have season-ending knee surgery -- Jackson answered that he actually believes in karma.

He then followed with a shot at Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald Sterling, who had settled in November a $2.75-million housing discrimination lawsuit.

--Mark Medina

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

Kobe Bryant's back injury exacerbates problems in 105-85 loss to San Antonio Spurs

Throughout the game tonight, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was either in the locker room getting treatment for back spasms or on the court trying to fight through his injury.

This time, Bryant's injury was too much to overcome and he missed the entire fourth quarter in what became a 105-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Though Bryant told reporters he's "pretty sure" he'll play in Wednesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, the exact nature of his back injury isn't exactly definitive.

Unfortunately for the Lakers (28-9), who have lost four in a row on the road, and three out of four overall, there is much uncertainty beyond the seriousness of Bryant's injury.

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For those with a fever...

...that can only be cured not by cowbell but Tim Donaghy stories, here you go:

  • Watch the 60 Minutes interview here. ESPN sits down with Donaghy here.
  • Read excerpts from the book here.
  • Two must reads from Kevin Arnovitz and Henry Abbott at TrueHoop here and here.

For the record, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't believe the NBA actively uses its referees to manipulate the outcome of games. I don't find Donaghy terribly credible, but think some of what he's saying has some degree of plausibility, which is why his story is so compelling to people who want to believe the league and its officials are crooked. The notion that personal biases, positive and negative, can influence an official's performance- not that it should be condoned- seems in line with human nature, and not particularly different that what can happen in other sports (David Stern would be wise to acknowledge this at some level). I just have trouble accepting that manipulation- true intent to choose winners and losers- was/is systemic, and that it was driven by the NBA itself.

All that said, the NBA needs to do a far better job in creating some level of transparency in how it deals with referees. The culture of conspiracy theories doesn't do the sport any favors.

BK

Lakers Poll: 19 games in, is LA a better team than last year's edition?

19 games into the 2009-10 season, the Lakers are a robust 16-3. Life is good. All is well. 19 games into the 2008-09 season, the Lakers were 17-2. Life was good. All was well. And when all was said and done, the organization got to throw a big ol' parade. The general consensus coming into this season was that the league had improved around the Lakers, closing the gap between the champs and other viable contenders. While it hasn't quite worked that way in the Western Conference- Portland has struggled to find a rhythm, the Spurs are yet to get healthy- the Eastern Conference's Big Three of Orlando, Cleveland and Boston all seem to be moving along just fine, a few minor/early hiccups notwithstanding. That come June the Lakers will need to be a better team to repeat is certainly a reasonable supposition.

So are they on their way? Is this Lakers team ahead of last season's championship squad?

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