Lakers Now

Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

Category: Practice Notes

On Ron Artest, Daniel Plainview, and the consumption of milkshakes

Sunday afternoon, Ron Artest became the latest celeb to get himself a creation at Millions of Milkshakes in West Hollywood. "It's blueberry, peach, pineapple, and protein. Soy milk, with a non-dairy ice cream. It's pretty healthy, and if somebody wants to drink it, it should be pretty light on the stomach and give you some energy," he said Monday at practice. "I wanted to get something that kind of symbolizes what I'm about. How I like to work out, and something a little more on the healthier side."

Technically, it's more a smoothie than milkshake, but still it sounds delicious. I mention this first because now when I go taste the Artest shake I can quite legitimately call it a business expense, and also because it allows me to embed the following in a way that while a little self-indulgent (sue me) is also reasonably appropriate:

This morning, I posted comments from Lakers assistant Brian Shaw about how, like a great defensive back in football can cut off half the field, the presence of individual defenders on the basketball court can discourage opponents from running certain sets or swinging the ball in a particular direction. Artest says he's familiar with this sort of thing, having for a long time made lockdown, game plan-altering defense his proverbial milkshake. "I was probably one of the best defenders probably for the last decade or so," he said, "I definitely have to be one of those types. (I experienced that) almost every night. Almost every night I played, with coaches and players. Sometimes players won't even pass guys the ball." 

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Time to break out the bubble wrap?

You know medical issues are on the front burner when even the coach is wearing a brace, as Phil Jackson was on his right knee Wednesday afternoon in El Segundo. Turns out it's to help relieve a little pressure on the leg, not some zen-like bonding exercise with Andrew Bynum. "Mine's not quite the sameBubble wrap level his is," Jackson said with a smile. Besides, to keep up with Drew's latest malady, PJ might need support a little higher up on the body. During Tuesday's preseason win over the Warriors in Ontario, Bynum took some contact on his right shoulder, painful enough to keep him out of practice today. Fortunately, it doesn't seem serious. Right now, the expectation is he'll suit up Thursday in Anaheim.

"My training staff doesn't anticipate anything that would prevent him from playing, but we'll see what it looks like tomorrow," Jackson said. 

As for the rest of the walking wounded, Lamar Odom was fine after his return to the court last night, and both Pau Gasol and Luke Walton practiced. Jackson says assuming they don't develop any complications from today's run they'll be available tomorrow. Good thing, too, since the absence of so many frontline players has screwed with LA's preseason defense. "Without Pau in there and Luke and Lamar, it's been harder for other guys to really understand the rotations. Last night I thought we started out pretty good, but then we got a little bit sloppy and carried away with the joy of being up ten or twelve points, and that contributed to some easy baskets by Golden State," Jackson said.

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Ron Artest: Half man. Half dog. Half brick.

Such was the visual created by Ron Artest after being asked if, as the only ring-less member of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, he felt more like "the chased" or "the chaser."  After a brief delve into "chicken and egg" philosophy ("If you're chasing somebody who's chasing something, then I don't know what you're gonna chase."), Artest then equated the scenario to a visual guaranteed to make me laugh.

"It's like two dogs with a tail, right?  They got the tail.  As much as they're chasing my tail, I'm chasing their Catdog003 tail.  It's kinda crazy.  I'm not chasing my tail.  There's a tail in front of me.  I'm chasing their tail. "

I get what Ron's saying, but if I may take the liberty of tweaking his analogy a bit... he may feel like a dog while pursuing his first championship, but he wouldn't be really be chasing the tail of another "dog" (i.e., the league's other 29 teams), because they're also currently without hardware, too. In reality, Ron's a dog chasing a trophy. A trophy with a tail (and theoretically legs, since it's leading Ron Ron on a circular chase)?  Sure.  Perhaps even the offspring of a dog and trophy who love each other and don't care who judges them, a back story I imagine is similar to the lovable cartoon character Catdog.  I'm no expert in genetics (or animation), so I can't really say for certain.  But in any event, it's a trophy with a tail pinned on it like a donkey, and Artest won't rest until the quest is completed.

From there, Artest's new physicality took an even more interesting turn, as he explained what lies ahead for the opposition attempting to stand in the way of Canine Ron uniting with a caudaled O'Brien.  "As much as people are coming after us, they've got somebody that's going to be coming very hard.  Even if the Lakers Thingiconic2 are complacent or whatever, which I doubt it.  I know it's not true.  But even if they were, I'm not.  So, they're gonna continue to run into brick walls and everything.  They're gonna continue into brick walls.  So they might as well give up.  Don't even play (the season).  Just give up."

Granted, Ron said that while smiling and us media types were riffing along, so I would treat the "just give up" sentiment as more "tongue in cheek" than "bulletin board." But it did add another layer to the X-Man-ish mutant Artest was transforming into before our very eyes. Not just man and dog, folks, but man, dog and brick. I'm picturing a creature similar to "The Thing," but with a little bit of Rottweiler in the mix.  And probably a number shaved into the back of his head at some point.  And fingers able to handle a very active Twitter account. 

By the way, if you're thinking that I'm thinking "photoshop contest with tailed trophies and dog/brick Artest," then you and I are simpatico, friend-o. If you got the time, we've got the email. [email protected] As I think has been well established, we live for this sort of wacky nonsense.

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There's still nothing to see here

Unless, of course, you happened to be a Lakers season ticket holder, since an estimated 200-250 Staples faithful were able to kick it in a specially added set of bleachers and enjoy today's practice. Quite the treat, enthusiastically received by those folks shelling out bookoo bucks.  While Phil Jackson specifically Shannon Brown, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Adam Morrison as the standout performers- roster hopeful Thomas Kelati also enjoyed a few nice moments during the late section the media was allowed to watch- the ex-Bobcats teamed up to deliver the consensus Big Kahuna highlight.  Ammo emerged from a scrum with a steal, then hit a streaking Brown with a home run toss. SB put the ball on the floor for a dribble or two, then threw down a semi-windmill dunk off an explosively quick hop. Predictably, a plethora of "ooh's" and "ahh's" commenced.

Mr. YouTube has quite the knack for crowd pleasing, which ironically reflects PJ's displeasure for these open practices. Not that he disapproved of Shannon's jam, but these league-requested peeks behind the curtain, because of the entertainment value sought, tend to result in practices centering less around drills and fundamentals and more around putting on a show. That understandable desire to give STH's their "money's worth," so to speak, changes the roster's collective energy in a way that doesn't float Jackson's boat. I asked PJ if he saw any positive aspects whatsoever to the shift in vibe.

"Absolutely not."

Seriously, Phil, we're never going to communicate if you keep beating around the bush.

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There's nothing to see here. Seriously.

If it's possible to measure a team's quality by the quiet of its training camp, the Lakers may not lose a LO Layup game this year. Roughly two weeks in, we're very nearly entering tumbleweed territory. There aren't any significant position battles to monitor, no growth of a doe-eyed number one pick to measure, no KG/T-Mac Injury Watch! to document. This is great stuff for fans- drama/conflict/injuries/uncertainty are bad things- less so for the media.

That the Lakers seem unconcerned about our plight seems a little selfish, but what can you do?

Today was another bad day for those hoping for controversy. One of the big early narratives has centered around Lamar Odom and the potential distractions of his big pre-camp wedding, given the tabloid interest in the whole affair. To this point, though, it's been a non-issue. Odom's fitness coming in was, particularly by his standards, high, thanks to a summer of core work and boxing. Nor has any celebrity hubbub affected the team. "He's been just fine," Phil Jackson said after practice Monday afternoon in El Segundo. "Absolutely nothing (in terms of distractions). He's been upbeat and very productive in practices."

No question, Odom's wedding raised some eyebrows for all sorts of reasons, some more valid than others. Talking to the media today, whether intentionally or not, Odom gave a reminder that in all things context matters, and it can be very personal.

"I've been through a lot worse than getting married, you know? Even though some of it was whirlwind, things happen fast. In my life, they've always happened," he said. "Ever since I was 12, then 16. Having my grandmother then not having my grandmother. Then children, and going through things. (Note: This is a reference both to his living children and his infant son who died in 2006) Who knows? You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. As a man, stepping into manhood, I just try to be prepared for everything that comes my way. I think I was able to do that this summer, just to prepare myself."

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Andrew Bynum, playing time, and the fourth quarter

With details on Saturday's scrimmage fairly vague (everything seemed to go well in a spirited day's work), Andrew Bynum dunks against the Wizards the bigger, or at least more interesting, topic of conversation Monday afternoon in El Segundo was Andrew Bynum. Just as it was heading into last season, a healthy and productive Bynum could be the most profound point of improvement for this year's team, I think than the addition of Ron Artest. That the Lakers won it all last season without Bynum contributing fully then drives home the idea of just how good they can be.

It also emphasizes the incredible amount of talent, particularly frontcourt talent, the Lakers have at their disposal. For most teams, the notion that Bynum wouldn't play deep in the fourth quarter would be absurd. Most teams, though, don't have Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom at their disposal. Still, Bynum made it clear he wants some crunch time burn. "I expect to be out there at the end of the game. I expect to earn that. I expect to be able to block shots and put the ball into the basket at the end of games," he said. 

Kudos for the ambition, and the understanding it needs to be earned. But even if he plays well, Bynum is still more likely to experience more final buzzers as an observer rather than a participant, Phil Jackson said:

"I think (getting late game PT is) not the important thing for this team right now.. There are times when I think his defense is going to come into play, where it's going to be important to have that aspect, and rebounding aspect, on the floor. But to sacrifice a Pau or Lamar in that stead does change up really the strength of our team."

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Jordan Farmar on DeNiro, Streep and Day-Lewis: "They're all clowns who can't carry my thespian jock strap."

At least, that's how I interpreted the following comment from Jordan Farmar about his appearance on tonight's episode of NUMB3RS:

"I talked to the producer and he said it turned out really good."

I'll let you people decide if I'm reading too heavily between the lines.

What can't be disputed, however, is that Farmar really enjoyed his second appearance on the program. Dude got the A-list treatment, complete with a dog-friendly trailer. He also got a SAG card, which he hopes to parlay into more screen roles down the road. But the Bruin doesn't plan on just playing himself for the rest of his theoretical career. He'd takes classes and really attempt to perfect his craft. Taking the lead of former Laker Rick Fox, if you will.

I also tried to prompt a good-natured jab from Jordan about his one-time co-star Pau Gasol, but alas, the bait went untouched. 

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"If I can turn and knock you out with my right hand, I've got to be able to make a layup, you know what I'm saying?"

I realize the season is only a day old, but we've got an early clubhouse leader for Quote of the Year, courtesy of Lamar Odom.

After Wednesday morning's practice in El Segundo, Odom riffed with the media about his offseason training program, which included a couple months of boxing work, complete with an animated, gum-popping, bob-and-weave of a demonstration. "When you look at those guys, they look like they're in pretty good shape. The ones that take it seriously. You have to be strong from your ankles to your neck, you know? To take a punch? Then I was thinking about the whole muscle memory thing. Right now, if I can turn and- boom!- knock you out with my right hand, I've got to be able to make a layup, you know what I'm saying?"

I think I do.

The same principle applies to grabbing boards. "Just training my body. Training the right side of my body."

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So close, yet... actually, they're just so close

The Lakers really do love the home fans.  Truly.  Wouldn't trade 'em for the world.  So please don't be offended when I tell you that if the purple and gold get their way, Staples won't host another game until next season.  Up 3-1 against the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals with Game 5 set for Sunday night, the Lakers made it clear at practice Saturday afternoon they'd just as soon close things out.  First, they understand the risk in letting the Magic hang around.  Orlando is, after all, a good team that has shown themselves capable of beating the Lakers.  Second, the Lakers want their freakin' title.  Now.  Two days without a game has offered a lot of time to daydream, even while they work to stick to their season long mantra of not getting too high or low in any given moment.

TV isn't necessarily helping. 

"Just watching that Pittsburgh Game 7 last night against Detroit.  Watching them bring out the red carpet and bring that trophy out," Luke Walton said today after practice, "Right there kind of made it that much more real of how close we are to doing that.  Everyone's excited and trying to keep calm, still.  But we'll be ready Sunday night."

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Practice notes: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Fisher contests Mikael Pietrus in Game 3 of the NBA Finals The Lakers came to practice Wednesday with a healthy respect for the quality of Orlando's play in Game 3- though likely not for the confetti-from-the-rafters crew at Amway Arena, whose quick trigger finger caused a ridiculous cleanup delay with a totally meaningless .2 seconds left in the fourth- but with an understanding that they were hardly run off the court by the Magic.  There just aren't any absolutes when two high quality teams face off in a series.  Even Orlando's Finals record 62.5% mark from the floor wasn't an iron clad guarantee of defeat.  To wit:

When a team does shoots over 60% as a team- not just the Magic, but any team- does that make them nearly impossible to beat, when it's going that well?

Derek Fisher:  No, because it was possible last night. 

Touche.  Fish noted that while the Lakers obviously weren't happy with how they defended, they wouldn't fall into the trap of pointing to one specific thing and saying "That's why we lost."  The beauty of LA's versatility as a team is they don't have one recipe for winning (or losing), nor are they locked into one style.  They can score with teams, and defend with them as well.  Each game has its own personality, and what was true 48 hours earlier may not apply when the next game starts. 

"Every time you that you think that you can predict what's going to happen just based on these numbers or percentages and stats, it never goes that way," Fisher said.  "Things don't always happen according to plan, or the way you think they should."

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