Lakers Coach Phil Jackson missed his second consecutive exibition game with the flu and for the second game in a row assistant Brian Shaw took over head coaching duties of the team in a game against the Golden State Warriors in Ontario tonight.
Kobe Bryant, who missed Thursday night's game against the Warriors in San Diego to rest the right knee he had surgery on this summer, was expected to start for the Lakers.
Lamar Odom, who is in the best playing shape of any Laker in training camp, will not play against the Warriors because of a swollen left thumb, a swollen nose and a tight back.
Theo Ratliff will not play because of a swollen left knee.
Shaw was the coach in charge again because he scouts the Warriors during the regular season.
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat out Thursday night's game against the Warriors at the Sports Arena in San Diego. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel / US Presswire
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).
The 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."
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.
The Lakers are officially underway. They're finally playing basketball, providing glimpses of how the roster might shape up and giving the fans of the L.A. Times' Lakers blog something to keep them from going insane (or so I hope).
But this is one game. As much as I detailed five things to take away from the Lakers' 111-92 loss Monday to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it's one exhibition game. I don't want to say my post was a waste of time to read and write, but you have to take it for what it is. The Lakers have seven remaining pre-season games and the ring ceremony/opening night isn't until Oct. 26 against Houston.
That leaves time for The Times' Mike Bresnahan and myself to dive into a few questions after the jump.
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
The Lakers would have preferred not to be in this position, especially this soon. But they structured their roster so the team would be ready in case it happened.
With Lakers center Andrew Bynum expected to miss the entire preseason -- and in Phil Jackson's estimation the first two to three weeks of the regular season because of rehabilitation efforts after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this off-season -- the next two months should feature a lot of shuffling in the roster.
Afforded an entire off-season of rest, Pau Gasol will see more time on the floor. Lamar Odom, fresh off a stint with Team USA's FIBA World Championship run, in which he played center, could see time at the 3, 4 and 5 spots. And this could also give the Lakers an opportunity to see how more of a perimeter-oriented lineup would look when the size advantage doesn't prove to be a necessity.
But more than likely, Bynum's absence will lead to increased court time for rookie Derrick Caracter and 37-year-old veteran Theo Ratliff. Each of them enter this scenario in different circumstances.
"I just have to mentally focus in," said Caracter, whom the Lakers drafted out of Texas El Paso with their 58th pick. "Mentally, I have to do the same thing that got me here and do the same thing now and even more. Focus in on learning the triangle and the different options out of it, and stepping in and being confident."
"There's no pressure," said Ratliff, a 15-year veteran who signed with the Lakers this off-season for a one-year, $1.35-million contract. "I'm going to go out there and do the things I've been doing my whole career, play defense and make sure I stay in the offense."
There's nothing like starting your morning with some Andrew Bynum news.
Keep refreshing the comments threads because the news isn't good for the Lakers. To which you reply in frustration: "Of course it isn't good. News involving Andrew Bynum's health is never good."
NBA.com's David Aldridge reports that Bynum will not play in any preseason games and hasn't been cleared for any basketball activities after having arthroscopic surgery this summer on his right knee. Aldridge says Bynum will travel with the team and that the Lakers hope he will be cleared to do some preseason work.
I've blogged about Bynum's extensive history of injuries, pondered whether he might stay healthy this season and analyzed what he could provide even if he were still limited. Everyone in this corner of the blogosphere has commented and debated this topic ad nauseam, and it looks like that's just going to continue.
So how will Bynum's health issues affect the Lakers during training camp? Pau Gasol will get more run, meaning it's good he rested well this off-season. Lamar Odom could volunteer to play some center after manning the position with Team USA. Theo Ratliff and Derrick Caracter will have more time to see how they fit in the system. And, maybe, just maybe, Russell Hicks cracks the Lakers roster.
Update: 10:17 a.m.:
Lakers spokesman John Black said the team doesn't expect Bynum will play during the pre-season, although he added it's possible he may play toward the end of it. The Lakers have preseason games against Minnesota (Oct. 4 in London), Barcelona (Oct. 7 in Barcelona), Sacramento (Oct. 13), Denver (Oct. 16) an to be determined game (Oct. 17), Utah (Oct. 19 in Anaheim), Golden State (Oct. 21 in San Diego) and Golden State (Oct. 22 in Ontario).
"He's not ready for the beginning of training camp," he said. "We'll update him as camp moves on. We're hopeful by the start of the season that he'll be ready."
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.
On paper, it appears the Lakers are even better than last season.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak took a bold step in ensuring a well-stocked roster after a second consecutive title and while Miami made big moves in assembling the so-called super team. Aside from retaining Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown, the Lakers also picked up Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff and drafted essential steals in Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. And the Lakers' losses were minimal, with backup guard Jordan Farmar going to New Jersey, Josh Powell signing with Atlanta and Adam Morrison and D.J. Mbenga still looking for a team.
The Lakers not only have the tools to three-peat, they also have enough experience to stave off any threat coming from Miami, Boston, etc. But one of the fascinating things about sports is that how things look on paper doesn't always translate to what happens in the game. One of the biggest questions entering this season is how quickly Blake, Barnes and Ratliff will fit in. I personally think these three players will ultimately bolster their bench and be partly instrumental toward a third title, but I'm not exactly sure how long the transition period will last.
Below the jump is what needs to happen for the Lakers to fully benefit from each free-agent acquisition.