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Category: Sasha Vujacic

Assigning 'Jersey Shore' nicknames to the Lakers

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The "Jersey Shore" season finale airs Thursday night, but I'm not watching it. I already have a built-in excuse not to, given that the Lakers play Golden State in a 7 p.m. exhibition game in San Diego. But I'd also like to abstain from watching MTV's hit reality TV show so I can salvage any shred of dignity and intelligence I have left, which, as I'm sure many of you will point out, isn't much. Still, I'll admit I've caught enough episodes to know that the show features ridiculous names, such as The Situation and J-Wowww.

Many members of the cast appeared at a Lakers game last season, acting like they owned the joint and forgetting that there are plenty of celebrities on hand every night at Staples Center. Should the "Jersey Shore" crowd return for another game, here's how I imagine they would address the Lakers players (as predicted by a "Jersey Shore" name generator).

Ron Artest: R-Muscle

Matt Barnes: The Blowout

Steve Blake: The Hands Team

Shannon Brown: The Operation

Kobe Bryant: The Condition

Andrew Bynum: The Tricep

Derrick Caracter: The Body

Devin Ebanks: The Impact

Derek Fisher: Hard Hat

Pau Gasol: The Tan-talizer

Lamar Odom: L-Train

Theo Ratliff: Juice Box

Luke Walton: The Backup

Sasha Vujacic: The Prince of Paramus

-- Mark Medina (M-Gel)
Twitter.com/latmedina

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

Photo: "Jersey Shore" cast members. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Lakers guard Shannon Brown determined to find an opportunity

53291378The Lakers were running the fast break Sunday against the Utah Jazz, and it appeared two scenarios could play out. Shannon Brown could cap the play with another highlight-reel dunk. Or it could end with an ill-advised shot, poor pass or costly turnover. But neither happened.

Brown pulled up on the right block, looked for Lamar Odom in the near corner and found no defender on him. Instead of forcing a pass to Odom or driving through a lane of traffic, Brown took advantage of the open space, settled for a jumper on the right block, and the ball crisply went into the hoop.

After Monday's practice, Brown was recounting that play in the Lakers' 99-94 preseason loss Sunday to the Jazz. He said it's possible, given the same situation, he would have made the same decisions last season. But plays like this one have been happening more often this preseason for Brown.

Four Lakers have averaged double figures this preseason. Since Lamar Odom has assumed a starter's role while Andrew Bynum rehabilitates from a surgically repaired right knee, Brown's 10.8-points-per-game average on 46.5% shooting in 22.4 minutes mark the highest output from a reserve.

Brown has shown promise this preseason in overcoming inconsistent shooting, handling and defense, but how much will that matter when Oct. 26 rolls around and the Lakers host Houston in their season opener?

"I don't see any bench player besides Lamar playing more than 20 minutes per game," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "It's too hard to take those kind of minutes from the starters."

Jackson later backtracked and said it was conceivable Lakers backup guard Steve Blake would surpass 20 minutes in light of Jackson's plan to hold starting guard Derek Fisher to under 30 minutes per game, Blake's passing skills as a point guard and his already strong grasp of the triangle offense. Still, Jackson's message looks pretty clear. Yet, Brown appears genuinely upbeat about the 2010-11 season, and it's not just because he and R&B singer Monica recently got engaged. ("I'm happy," he said. "She's a great girl. Everything is great.")

That's because he has a pragmatic view on how to mark his niche.  "Just take advantage of any opportunity I'm given," said Brown, who signed a two-year, $4.6-million deal after averaging last season a career-high 8.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game and earning a trip to the NBA All-Star dunk contest. "Just go out there and work hard and continue to get better every day. That's about it. There really isn't any much more to it."

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5 things to take away from Lakers' 102-95 victory over Denver Nuggets

568418641. Kobe Bryant looks a lot better: It's not just because Bryant's shooting clip against Denver was much better. In 24 minutes, he scored 18 points on five-of-13 shooting (38%) and went eight of 11 from the free-throw line after going four of 28 (14.3%) in the first three exhibition games. Jackson and Bryant never used Bryant's shooting mark as a barometer of progress as he rehabbed from a surgically repaired right knee. What mattered was how fluid and active he looked in the game and eventually getting to that point where he had more lift on his shot. Bryant made a huge step forward in that department against Denver, appearing more  aggressive and mobile than he had since training camp started.

"I feel silly talking about shooting percentages in a damn preseason game," said Bryant, who wore a padded sleeve on his right knee after not wearing one Wednesday against the Kings. "I felt a lot better. I haven't played since Game 7" of the 2010 NBA Finals.

After hitting his first shot of the night on a fade-away jumper to give the Lakers an 11-7 lead with 7:03 left in the first quarter, Bryant several times looked comfortable enough to play aggressively. He'd said he wanted strength and to get his game legs, and that appeared to be happening. After Lakers guard Derek Fisher missed a three-pointer, Lakers forward Matt Barnes tipped the ball out to Bryant up top. He then drove the lane, performed an up-and-under and was fouled by Denver point guard Chauncey Billups, a three-point sequence that gave the Lakers a 14-11 lead with 6:14 remaining in the first quarter.

In other sequences, Bryant saved the ball from going out of bounds, threw a cross-court pass to Lamar Odom and directed a screen-and-roll with Pau Gasol in which he spun through two defenders. He missed the layup on the latter play, but that didn't matter. The Black Mamba, who also had eight rebounds and five assists, just looked better.

"It was just a matter of time and a chance to get stronger and get a rhythm," Jackson said of Bryant, whom he plans to play from 20 to 22 minutes Sunday at Staples Center against the Jazz. But the coach didn't have any definite plans for Bryant's minutes after that. "It was a very slow game with an awful lot of free throws when he was out there on the floor. So there wasn't a lot of continuous running or pounding."

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NBA 2K11: How a Michael Jordan Lakers team would fare with Boston, Miami; 95-96 Bulls superior to current Lakers

Lakers forward Ron Artest says he can't wait to buy NBA 2K11 because it features his rap single "Champion." Lakers forward Kobe Bryant says in an ad he can't wait to buy the newly released video game so he can add Michael Jordan to his team. And I couldn't wait to play it either so I could see how such a scenario would turn out.

NBA players, Bryant among them, like the video game because of its realistic game play and graphics.

You may be left scratching your heads about how on earth I maneuvered a trade involving Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic for Jordan from the '95-'96 Bulls team. It's like this: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak somehow acquired Pau Gasol and a second-round pick from Memphis in 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie and two first-round picks. So don't consider this far-fetched, even if the Lakers prove unsuccessful in getting Vujacic off the books before this season's trading deadline and the move puts the team way over the luxury-tax threshold.

With M.J. and the Black Mamba side by side, I pitted the Lakers against the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, the two Eastern Conference teams I thought had the best shot in meeting the Lakers in this season's NBA Finals. The results: The Lakers beat Boston rather handily, 103-85, but lost to Miami 105-99.

I also matched up the current Lakers team with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that still holds the regular-season record for most wins (72), a feat this year's Lakers team, Heat team or any team won't surpass anytime soon. And the Bulls proved their dominance in that one, with M.J. dropping 56 points in a 114-106 victory over the Lakers.

Clearly things didn't turn out the way Bryant would've imagined in the ad below.

Below the jump, watch the highlights for yourself.

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Caught in the Web: Lakers ready to fly to Europe

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--The Times' Mike Bresnahan presents some travel tips from Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding shares his observations from Wednesday's practice.

--SI.com's Nick Jhabvala wonders whether it was worth it for Andrew Bynum to go to the World Cup.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky catches up with Lakers forward Derrick Caracter.

--Fox Sports' Kalani Simpson argues that the NBA has story lines other than those featuring the Lakers and Heat.

--Fox Sports West's Matt Smith believes that the Lakers will be fine without Bynum.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford highlights the possibility that Kobe Bryant will be limited on the European trip.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell has a full practice report and an interview with former Laker James Worthy.

--Silver Screen and Roll's wondahbap sizes up how Sasha Vujacic will do this season.

--Lakers of Fire's Garrett Wilson looks at whether the Phoenix Suns could be a threat to the Lakers.

Tweet of the Day: "I HAVE TO MANY FREAKIN CLOTHES!!!! lol 4get this i will pack last min like i usually do, 4 sum reason wen i do that its goes faster.GYM FLOW" -- DevinEbanks3 (Lakers forward Devin Ebanks)

Reader Comment of the Day: "One of my favorite rookie stories was when the Lakers were at LAX and heading out on a roadtrip when they decided to have Sun Yue go to In-N-Out to go pick up some burgers ... if memory serves, he ended up missing the flight!" -- Jefe101

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedin

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

Photo: Lamar Odom gets ready for a video shoot during media day on Saturday at the Toyota Sports Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Caught in the Web: Detailing how the Lakers are shaping up in training camp

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--The Times' Broderick Turner explains how Lakers forward Lamar Odom is the team's handy man.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding has the details on the Lakers' trip to London and Barcelona.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky sticks up for Andrew Bynum.

--NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper argues that Bynum should have undergone surgery earlier.

--Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby takes a look at Sasha Vujacic's denim line.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin explains how Vujacic has looked good in training camp thus far.

--The Orange County Register's Jeff Miller looks at how Derrick Caracter is fitting in with the Lakers.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford sizes up how Vujacic will fit in the rotation.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell explains why Phil Jackson would like to have longer practices.

--Silver Screen and Roll's Gil Meriken breaks down Theo Ratliff's game.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano argues that the Lakers will be able to absorb Bynum's absence.

--Lakers of Fire's Garrett Wilson explains what Ratliff could provide in Bynum's absence.

Tweet of the Day: "S.Blake and D.Ebanks dived to the floor to wrestle for a loose ball today. Two hungry players looking for 1st ring, helping team get 3rd" -- mcten (ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin)

Reader Comment of the Day: "You always need a Sasha in your team, when things are not going right, an opposing player is dominating the game, here comes Sasha. He will change the dynamics of the evening with his irritating body contact on your face, it's sort of annoyance and when he is called foul, he will give an innocent face: "what me?.'" -- Edwin Gueco

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

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

Photo: Kobe Bryant flips a basketball behind his back as he is videotaped during Lakers media day at the Toyota Sports Center on Saturday. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

Poll results show Laker fans feel strongly confident about a three-peat

54398053-1Our economy is in disarray. There's uncertainty over the Afghan war. And political tensions remain high. There are plenty of things for people to be upset about these days, and the polls certainly show it. But the polls here at the L.A. Times Lakers blog reveal upbeat attitudes about one thing, anyway: the Lakers' chances for a three-peat.

The Lakers are coming off a second consecutive championship, making the off-season more relaxing, the free-agency process known as "The Decision" more laughable and causing the urge to start up the season to spike. Not to worry, though, folks. Training camp starts Saturday, meaning you can stop rewinding Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, playing out imaginary Lakers games in your dreams and searching miles and miles for any morsel of Lakers news.

Magic Johnson once said to the L.A. Times' Chris Erskine, referring to the Lakers after they won their 16th championship: "It's the only thing the people can trust. They trust the Lakers."

So what kind of trust do you have in the Lakers for the 2010-11 NBA season?  Poll results show that 96.15% of you believe the Lakers will three-peat, so you may as well start planning for another parade. The reasons vary. I listed multiple factors that seemed to work in the Lakers' favor, including talent, experience, off-season acquisitions, Phil Jackson and the seemingly inferior competition. Instead of singling out one variable that will push the Lakers over the edge, 63.49% of you said all of the above -- all these qualities make the Lakers tough to beat.

For those who want a seat at the NBA Finals, well, start thinking about booking flights to South Beach or Boston. Most of you are ready to fly 3,000 miles to Chowder City, with 57.52% predicting the Celtics will rematch the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Finals. It'd be a compelling series for sure, what with Shaquille O'Neal up against Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest duking it out again with Paul Pierce and the Lakers hoping to close the series gap to 17-12. But then there's the 36.91% of you who think the Lakers will be taking their talents to South Beach and proving which team is really super.

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Preseason question of the day: Will the Lakers manage to rest their starters enough this season for the playoffs?

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Whenever I hear the tired argument that Phil Jackson has won 11 championship rings simply because he's coached some of the league's best players, I offer a litany of responses.

Jackson knows how to manage egos: he properly assesses which players need their space, which players need positive reinforcement and which players respond well to criticism. Jackson knows how to keep his team relaxed: he properly assesses when to keep an even keel, when to express anger and when to maintain his sense of humor. And most importantly, Jackson knows how to get his team looking its best once the postseason begins: He properly assesses how to pace the team through the regular-season grind, when to dial the intensity down and when to raise the level up.

Surprisingly enough, the Lakers actually entered the 2010 postseason looking far from their best. Kobe Bryant (sprained right knee), Andrew Bynum (strained left Achilles tendon) and Sasha Vujacic (sprained left ankle) entered the postseason with significant injuries. The team had limped into the playoffs with a 4-7 mark in the last 11 regular season games. And because of the bench's inconsistency, it was unclear whether the Lakers would really have the depth to absorb injuries during the postseason.

Fortunately for the Lakers, everything turned out all right. They won the 2010 championship and the Lakers proved healthy enough to slog through June. It can't be stressed enough how instrumental the weeklong rest between the West semifinals (Utah) and the West finals (Phoenix) became in the Lakers' title run. After getting his knee drained following Game 5 of the first-round series against Oklahoma City, Bryant sat out practices entirely for the rest of the postseason. So  did Bynum, who had torn cartilage in his right knee and eventually drained his knee twice during the playoffs. And everyone else on the roster at least enjoyed catching their breath and recovering from the numerous dings they absorbed throughout the season.

It's a good thing they rested then because the Lakers didn't have the same luxury during the regular season. Although the team overcame that challenge, it's something they would much rather avoid doing. That's without a doubt one of the biggest preseason questions: how much rest will the Lakers starters receive during the regular season so they're at their full strength  during the playoffs?

 

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Numerology readings on the Lakers

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Forget about wondering how the Lakers will turn out this season. Forget predictions on how each player will perform. And forget about scouring websites, television shows, magazines and newspapers so that you know every single morsel about every single Laker.

OK, I was just kidding about the last part. I still want you to visit the L.A. Times Lakers blog so I have company and so the bosses are happy. But because there's plenty of time for me to seriously dive into what's in store for the 2010-11 season, I thought it'd be good to mix it up a bit. I hoped to talk to a numerologist so he or she can share readings on the Lakers, but that's apparently something that doesn't come for free. Since it's policy from The Times and pretty much any reputable outlet not to pay for interviews, I figured I'd do the next best thing. Find a website that gives free numerology readings, proving that all the pre-season speculation is really just a waste of time - except of course when it comes from The L.A. Times Lakers blog. 

Here's how it works. Enter the name of any Laker along with their birthdate, and the website will provide a comprehensive analysis of that person broken up into several categories, including inner or soul's urge, personality, quiescent self, destiny or ultimate goal, life's path, this year's path, next year's path and last year's path. Below the jump include the entire Lakers roster and Coach Phil Jackson followed by a description of a specific category. I chose each category based on how accurate the reading was on that particular person.

You can really extend this exercise in multiple directions. You can enter former Laker players, hated opponents or even yourself to see what's in store. For those that take these readings seriously, take detailed notes. For those who don't, just enjoy it for the laughs.

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The Lakers' second unit and the big question about offense

Blake_250 Everyone who follows the NBA understands how important the second unit is to not only winning games but winning championships. The moves the Lakers made in the offseason certainly filled their needs -- a proven point guard in Steve Blake to team with high-flying guard Shannon Brown, providing a formidable long-range shooter and an athletic slasher. The departed Jordan Farmar was a fine second-unit point guard, but I think Lakers fans will be pleased with Blake's efficiency, and I expect Brown to continue to improve.

Newly acquired Matt Barnes will team in the front court with Lamar Odom, giving the Lakers two athletic and versatile performers. Barnes scores in a variety of ways, mainly via cuts to the basket and going to the offensive glass. He's not a bad spot-up shooter either. Odom is always a key cog and tends to perform better when he's moved into the starting lineup for an injured player, but he must be the second unit's leader and provide scoring punch for the Lakers to see success.

Barnes_200Those four will have to shoulder the burden because the other reserves will come from a pool of two rookie draft picks -- small forward Devin Ebanks and power forward Derrick Caracter -- and three veterans who return with big question marks: inconsistent guard Sasha Vujacic, recently oft-injured forward Luke Walton and center Theo Ratliff, a 37-year-old who is a defensive stopper and little else.

I don't think Walton is going to return to form in the near future. And Vujacic, for all his frenetic energy, has lost his shooting touch when it counts. Rookies? Who was the last rookie you remember Coach Phil Jackson relying on to pile up points? Caracter might get some opportunities because through injuries and foul trouble he could get some decent minutes.

It's really going to be about Blake, Odom, Barnes and Brown -- or what I now deem the BOBB effect. As they ebb and flow, so will churn the Lakers' fortunes. They'll get major minutes, and they'll need to produce. If they don't, look for a 15th man to be signed and some players to be moved, because you can't ask the starting five to score 90% of your points

--Dan Loumena

Photos: Steve Blake (top) is familiar with Staples Center, having spent part of last season with the Clippers, while Matt Barnes (bottom) is a former UCLA star. Credits: David Zalubowski and Nick Ut / Associated Press

 

 

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