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The Lakers discuss their New Year's resolutions [Video]

No, the Lakers don't have typical New Year's resolutions. They don't need to work out more, eat healthier and get a better job.

But they too are looking forward to a fresh start and in an interview with The Times, they discussed what they hope the New Year will bring.

Josh McRoberts wants world peace (not his teammate), Metta World Peace wants to have fun, Kobe Bryant wants to be healthy, Jason Kapono wants his fans to send him books instead of candy and Matt Barnes is looking forward to moving on from a year that he said was both personally and professionally challenging.

Mark Medina, who runs The Times' Lakers blog, has some other suggestions -- so he talked with his colleague Melissa Rohlin in a video interview below about what the Lakers should be desiring.

--Melissa Rohlin

Metta World Peace's one-handed dunk defies the odds

In an instant, Lakers forward Metta World Peace made the 18,997 at Staples Center go from anxious to jubilant.

With his outside shooting far from reliable, fans gasped as he remained open with the ball behind the three-point line. But then he drove past Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors and threw down a one-handed dunk, sending teammates and fans alike to their feet. After making perhaps his biggest shot since his three-pointer in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, the name World Peace has a better ring to it.

But don't expect him to do this frequently.

"That took all my energy," he said after scoring 14 points on five-of-nine shooting, 11 rebounds and four assists in the Lakers' 96-71 victory Tuesday over the Jazz. "I won't be doing that again."

Even if he tried, he probably couldn't. Whether committing a turnover, tripping over himself or firing an ill-advised shot, the player formerly known as Ron Artest often has taken Laker fans on an emotional rollercoaster. Any fast break with him involved usually has ended badly. He memorably couldn't even reach the rim on a fast-break in the Lakers' Game 4 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.

"I remember a lot of fast breaks," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said, "where he got good looks and it didn't quite finish that way."

But Tuesday's dunk wasn't a first.

In the Lakers' 112-104 victory over the Clippers on March 26, World Peace drove baseline past Chris Kaman for a reverse dunk in the second quarter and also had a one-hander on a fast break. Three days earlier in the Lakers' 139-137 triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers forward stole the ball from Suns guard Steve Nash in the third overtime, drove for a fast break and finished with a one-handed dunk that gave the Lakers a 135-132 lead with 1:53 remaining -- then flexed and kissed his biceps afterward.

Reminding him of those plays hardly convinced World Peace he'd be dunking regularly.

"A few times," World Peace conceded. "Once every now and then. That hurt."

RELATED:

Things to take away from Lakers' 96-71 victory over Utah Jazz

Can Metta World Peace build off recent performance?

Metta World Peace struggles with bench role

-- Mark Medina

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

Mike Brown expects no limitations for Pau Gasol, Josh McRoberts

Pau Gasol

Though the Lakers' Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts are dealing with injuries, Coach Mike Brown said he expects his starting forwards to experience "no limitations" Tuesday against the Utah Jazz.

Gasol played with protective padding on his right shoulder during the Lakers' 100-91 loss Monday to the Sacramento Kings, after suffering a sprain while fighting through a screen on Sunday against Chicago.

McRoberts has a sprained left big toe, the result, he said, of normal wear and tear through two regular-season games. But he said he also suffered a sprained left shoulder Monday when he took the brunt of an offensive foul by Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes has bursitis in his left hip, but is still listed on the active roster.

As for their respective injuries, both McRoberts and Gasol indicated in the locker room before the game that their injuries would not prevent them from playing. 

Brown holds that same optimism regarding the Lakers despite their first 0-2 start since the 2002-03 season.

"I'm sure there is panic out there," Brown said. "My oldest son is panicked himself. He's always panicked when we lose. I'm not. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't know. But I feel good about my team and the process we're going right through right now." 

That's because Brown said he remains satisfied with the team's offense despite its heavy number of turnovers. He also expects the breakdowns on defending the pick-and-roll to subside fairly soon. Then , of course, there's the return of Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who's serving a four-game suspension after throwing a forearm at Dallas guard J.J. Barea in the 2011 playoffs. 

RELATED:

Things to watch in Lakers-Jazz game

Can Metta World Peace build off recent performance?

Lakers lack championship roster

--Mark Medina

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

Photo credit: Harry How / Getty Images / December 19, 2011 

Things to watch in Lakers-Kings game

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Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers play at Sacramento on the second day of a three-game stretch.

1. How will Kobe Bryant's wrist hold up? I hope to keep the Kobe wrist-watch analysis in perspective, so it doesn't sound redundant. Believe me, asking Bryant how his wrist is feeling becomes as annoying to him as the reporter asking it. But it's going to be inevitable, at least for the next couple of games. As Bryant showed Christmas Day with a 28-point performance on 11-of-23 shooting, his stroke is largely unaffected -- at least to the point that he only needs to wear athletic tape around the wrist, instead of a protective device. However, his eight turnovers can be at least partly attributed to his wrist problem. The lower that number drops, the more it will indicate that Bryant is making better adjustments on his handle. 

2. The Lakers need a pick-me-up. The Lakers definitely need this back-to-back to immediately rectify blowing an 11-point lead in the final minutes of the Christmas opener. In that game, they showed that hard work alone won't be enough to beat elite opponents, and certainly won't wipe out ridiculous mistakes. The game against Sacramento gives them an opportunity to correct those and errors and feel better after collecting a win.

Continue reading »

Lakers vow to keep intensity during shortened season

The Lakers begin their 66-game schedule with a grueling stretch of three games in three consecutive nights. After their 88-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday at Staples Center, the Lakers took a 9 p.m. flight to Sacramento for their game Monday at Arco Arena. But don't count on Lakers Coach Mike Brown to adjust minutes, or instruct his players to dial back their intensity.

"The tough part for me is I've never been good at looking ahead," Brown said.

Only a few players, such as Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, can recall what it was like playing in the 50-game season during the 1998-99 campaign. But don't count on them for perspective. Fisher recalls more the team's semifinals loss to the San Antonio Spurs than falling to fatigue. Bryant had different issues than worrying about his basketball mileage and health.

"I really don't even remember much [of that] because I was like 19," Kobe Bryant said. "I don't even know if I was tired or not."

Continue reading »

Lakers-Bulls: How the final plays failed

You can fault the Lakers' learning curve concerning Mike Brown's new system, wonder how Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts can miss a combined four free throws, or lament the drop in the team's talent level.

Regardless, the Lakers wouldn't have suffered an 88-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day had they not executed miserably in their last two possessions. Here's how it went down.

Play: Kobe Bryant's failed pass to Gasol

What happened: Once he received an inbounds pass from Metta World Peace, Bryant met a double-team at midcourt from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Instead of holding on to the ball and possibly drawing a foul, Bryant looked to pass. Steve Blake was covered at the timeline. World Peace stood idle on the corner with little separation from Luol Deng. Derek Fisher appeared open at the top of the key, while Gasol appeared open near the left block. As soon as Bryant passed the ball, however, Deng fronted Gasol and stole the ball. The Lakers led 87-86 with 17.6 seconds remaining.

Continue reading »

Things to take away from Lakers' 88-87 loss to Chicago Bulls

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1. The Lakers blew the game in the final two minutes. The Lakers 88-87 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bulls points to the horrible execution in the final minute. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts both missed two fre throws. Kobe Bryant was wrongfully called for a personal foul on Luol Deng. Bryant committed a costly turnover. Derrick Rose then blew past both Derek Fisher and Gasol for a running-hook shot that gave the Bulls a 88-87 lead with 4.8 seconds remaining. Bryant could'n't provide any heroics, as his game-winning shot was blocked by Deng as time expired.

2. The Lakers can't handle the ball. Despite his relentless optimism about his team, Lakers Coach Mike Brown acknowledged being uncertain about whether the Lakers can reduce the 21.5 turnovers they averaged in two preseason games. They cut it to 16 turnovers, but it was a few too many, particularly in the final minutes.

3. The Lakers' early season success hinges on effort. This game hardly looked pretty, but it was winnable. This shows that the Lakers will have to simply outwork teams while still mastering Brown's system. The Lakers have the talent to do that, but they often lacked a grinding mentality in previous seasons. 

4. Bryant maintained aggressiveness despite wrist injury. He didn't follow Fisher's prediction that he'd open the game by shooting a 22-footer to prove his right wrist is healthy. Despite not wearing any device to protect the torn lunotriquetral ligament, Bryant maintained his aggressiveness and showed that it wouldn't affect his play or shot.

Bryant finished with 28 points on 11-of-23 shooting shooting in 35 minutes, attacking the basket as he would in any other game. He drove in for a reverse layup past Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer and Noah. He ran high pick-and-roll sets with Pau Gasol. He looked comfortable shooting pull-up jumpers. He even stole a pass with his right hand and connected with Derek Fisher on a fast break. 

It's obvious that Bryant's wrist injury at least partly contributed to his eight turnovers. He often committed those when he ran isolation sets that required a lot of dribbling. Bryant can mitigate that by limiting shots through spot-ups and off-the-ball movement. Still, it was a good showing considering the circumstances Bryant faced. That's why it's fitting Bryant puncuated the night by making a fall-away jumper that gave the Lakers an 87-81 lead with 54.6 seconds remaining.

5. The Lakers' defense appeared in flashes. The Lakers rotated their frontcourt so effectively to ensure Rose stayed out of the paint that he remained scoreless in the first quarter. But that effort didn't hold up as Rose finished with 22 points on eight-of-12 shooting. The Lakers appeared to communicate frequently on closeouts, but Chicago still went seven of 15 from three-point range. The Lakers showed effort defensively. They executed well at times in limiting Rose's drives, Chicago's inside presence and its outside shooting. But it wasn't always consistent.

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Andrew Bynum will be there for one more game, Lakers: Merry Christmas

Andrew Bynum has had his five-game suspension reduced to four. What more could the Lakers wish for at the holidays? Well, plenty.

They failed to acquire Chris Paul. They had planned to trade Lamar Odom -- but not to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and an $8.9-million trade exemption. And now Kobe Bryant has torn a ligament in his right wrist.

Still, Bynum’s reduced suspension is a bit of good news entering a 2011-12 season filled with uncertainty. Bynum appearing in one extra game will help significantly.

Just look at the difference between the first and second preseason games against the Clippers to see why.

In the first game, the Lakers’ offense appeared completely lost on running pick-and-roll sets and cutting to the right side of the floor. They still had issues in the second game, but the Lakers overcame the aforementioned problems enough for Bynum to increase his points (from 15 to 26) and his shooting percentage (from five of 11 to 11 of 15).

Now Bynum will appear in back-to-back games, starting New Year’s Even against the Nuggets, then flying over to Denver for a New Year’s Day matchup. He has said he still needs work on his conditioning, and this should help.

Continue reading »

Andrew Bynum not surprised about reduced suspension

Andrew BynumThis hardly ranks as Andrew Bynum's favorite Christmas gift.

Nothing will ever replace the Hot Wheels cars he received as a young kid. But Bynum receiving a reduced suspension from five games to four because of the NBA's shortened schedule serves as a nice stocking stuffer. Bynum, who received the initial suspension in May after delivering a forearm at guard Jose Barea in a playoff game against Dallas, sounded hardly surprised about the decision. He still considered the suspension "tough."

"The only reason it was reduced was because the season itself is shorter," Bynum said, referring to the NBA's 66-game schedule, a 19.5% reduction from a typical 82-game season. "It makes sense, mathematically."

As for the Lakers, they all responded in their own way. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant let out a nonchalant "yippee" when asked about the news. Lakers Coach Mike Brown jokingly pumped his fist in delight and enthusiastically shouted, "Way to go NBA!" And Lakers guard Derek Fisher made it clear his role as the National Basketball Players Assn. president played no role in ensuring Bynum a reduced suspension.

"Just like for the NBA, there can be sometimes conflicts of interest," Fisher said in a subtle dig toward the league nixing the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets from trading Chris Paul to the Lakers. "Individual situations, I have to be very careful about getting mixed up in those things."

Bynum will return to the Lakers' lineup Dec. 31 against the Denver Nuggets instead of a New Year's Day appearance at Denver's Pepsi Center. But that doesn't exactly wipe out some of the challenges the Lakers face. Bynum can't be present at any of the Lakers' four games and will make up for lost time by running on the treadmill and receiving extra coaching from assistant Darvin Ham. Forward Pau Gasol will also slide in at center, while Josh McRoberts will assume the power forward spot. 

"I'm happy to have Andrew next to me for as many games as possible," Gasol said. "We're a very dangerous couple in there. I'm looking forward to playing with him. But obviously we won't have him the first four games. We'll have to manage and fight through whatever we're facing."

RELATED:

Andrew Bynum's suspension reduced to four games

Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum have larger responsibilities

Magic Johnson says Kobe, Gasol, Bynum need to step up

--Mark Medina

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

Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum leads with his forearm and elbow as he meets Mavericks point guard Jose Barea at the rim on a driving layup in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 8, 2011

Pau Gasol and Jason Kapono talk about Santa Claus [Video]

After the failed Chris Paul deal, the Lamar Odom trade, and in light of Kobe Bryant's recent wrist injury, Lakers fans are undoubtedly in need of some Christmas cheer.

So in an interview Wednesday, Pau Gasol and Jason Kapono talked about the Holidays with The Times.

When asked whether Gasol used to believe in Santa Claus, he said, "Of Course."

Why did he stop?

"Because I found some gifts in my parents' wardrobe closet, so obviously that made me wonder," Gasol said.

Kapono still believes in Santa, well, the  secret kind. If it were up to him, the team would continue their previous tradition of doing "Secret Santas," a gift exchange in which the players would buy a present for a teammate whom they randomly selected.

"I was hoping for Kobe [Bryant] to buy me, like, a helicopter to fly to the games...or maybe Pau to give me some Spanish wine or something special from Spain," Kapono said. "But I think I'm going to have to settle for a Costco card or something."

Kapono joshingly theorized that the team wasn't doing "Secret Santas" this season because Gasol and Bryant were hit hard by the money they lost during the lockout.

"I think because we started late, and the lockout cost us 20% of our salaries, budgets are a little tight this year," Kapono said.

Joked Gasol: "That's one way to look at it."

RELATED:

Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum have larger responsibilities

Magic Johnson says Kobe, Gasol, Bynum need to step up

Pau Gasol says nothing to Chris Paul

--Melissa Rohlin

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