From Silver Screen and Roll: So, it’s been a long road since the onset of this season, and along that road much has occurred. Injuries, shooting slumps, hot streaks, team-wide lethargy. A plethora of things have happened. So, now, while we’re bored off our asses waiting to get back to basketball – I’m thankful for the rest to our players, but this break is mind-racking, and it is pathetic that simply due to TV contracts, a series where one contestant advanced well after we did starts before our series – it seems as good a time as any to look back at the members of this Los Angeles Laker squad and take a look at their progression (or regression) throughout the season. It shall certainly be an intriguing exercise to examine how individuals have performed in comparison to preseason expectations.
From Land O’ Lakers: Steve Nash is capable of putting the game on a string if allowed. Beyond the need for a solid team defensive scheme, one more strategy teams employ for controlling Nash is to make him work on the other side of the floor. It’s no secret the two time MVP isn’t a lockdown defender. Saturday at practice, Derek Fisher was asked if he would look to be aggressive offensively against Nash. Yes, Fish said, it’s important to put pressure on him, but he and teammates can’t get so wrapped up in running Phoenix’s PG they start making poor choices. That would take the Lakers out of their offense, and likely serve to fuel the Suns.
Practice Report from Land O’ Lakers (with video): After a week of waiting, players seem to be running out of answers to questions we’re running out of ways to ask. The rest has been welcome, no question. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum got one more day each of much needed rest, for example. But at this point I’m fairly sure everyone just wants the games to start. I know I do.
From NBA Fanhouse: When Rudy Tomjanovich goes golfing now, all of his senses are in working order. He sees the lush fairways and greens, smells the grass, feels the sun, hears the peace and quiet that wasn’t on his course so many years ago. “I was so into the job that I rarely saw the other part of life, and I had some revelations that were shocking — like the fact that the weather in Houston was nice in the winter,” said Tomjanovich, whose 13-year coaching career with Houston and the Lakers ended in 2005.
From NBA Fanhouse: One day this summer, Derek Fisher might need to stop by Kinko’s and make all those decisions. What type of font does he want on his resumé? What tint of paper? Or maybe not. The Los Angeles Lakers point guard will be a free agent this summer. But he wants to stay where he is, and not have to send out any resumés. Talking to Fisher, you get the idea the chances are a lot higher he’ll be back if the Lakers win a second straight NBA crown.
From The No Look Pass: It was 2007. The Phoenix Suns eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round for the second year in a row. In the summer, Kobe Bryant infamously demanded a trade. The trade never happened. The Lakers are now appearing in their third consecutive Western Conference Finals. And guess who’s going against them? The last West team to eliminate them from the postseason: the same Suns. These two teams are completely different now. The Lakers are the top dogs in the NBA while the Suns have a different cast of characters now save for Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, and Leandro Barbosa. This promises to be one hell of a series.
From Basket Blog: With L.A.’s health being among the few malleable things from practice-to-practice in a six-day span without games, Phil Jackson was asked by a reporter after Sunday’s session how his team was coming along from that standpoint. “We’re good,” he said. “We’re as good as can be.” Most notably, Jackson’s statement didn’t exclude Andrew Bynum, who did not participate on Sunday but suffered no setbacks from his run in Saturday’s practice.
From the OC Register: Phil Jackson has now won more playoff games with Kobe Bryant than with Michael Jordan. Jarring to hear, hard to believe … and inspiring to understand. That’s how much redemption we can find with people – even people who drive us crazy (as Kobe drove Phil) or people we think don’t give a crap about us (as Phil left Kobe thinking). Even on the sunny Southern California pier of paradise, thick icicles hung from their relationship. So Bryant and Jackson predictably parted ways in 2004, so sick of each other that neither cared enough even to bother breaking off the icicles to backstab.
From the OC Register: It’s easy to forget how young he is, partly because we’re always looking up to him – literally – and partly because his four-year contract pays him the same amount we’d earn only after working 725 years! Sorry, we’re probably not going to last that long, although these NBA playoffs just might. But then Andrew Bynum starts talking, and we’re reminded that, back in a different era, he’d only be nearing the end of his rookie season.
From the Los Angeles Times: Phoenix Suns series has plenty of intrigue, even for an NBA scout who is home for the summer with his family after a laborious season of games and travel. Game 1 of the Western Conference finals is Monday night at Staples Center, and this West scout said he’ll watch every game. “I would watch this series because it’s a matchup of two different styles,” the scout said. “It’s the three-point shooting and pace of play by the Suns and size and length of the Lakers.” The Suns are a fun team to watch play, perhaps even the most entertaining one.
From the Los Angeles Times: Finally, there will be a game. The Lakers haven’t played since completing a sweep of Utah a week ago, but the circumstances are more considerable, the results more weighty when they begin the Western Conference finals Monday against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. They’re four victories away from a 31st appearance in the NBA Finals, but they’ll get there only if Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum shake off knee injuries that have basically kept them off the practice court the last week.
From the Los Angeles Times: The Lakers huddled up at the end of practice Sunday with Coach Phil Jackson detailing the final game plan for the team’s upcoming Western Conference finals series against the Phoenix Suns. Lakers forward Lamar Odom described the contents of Jackson’s discussion as “nothing different than he usually says,” with forward Pau Gasol adding the conversation entailed a “little bit of both” strategy as well as how to mentally prepare for the Game 1 showdown on Monday. “We have a report and we talk about making sure you understand that,” Jackson said. “But the reality is reaction. It’s about getting yourself ready to react and play. You can do all the strategizing you want to do. If you can’t make the appropriate reactions, then you’re going to have trouble. We hope they feel that impulse tomorrow.”
From the Arizona Republic: During the seven-day break, Steve Nash went to the park. A 3-year old boy approached him with great curiosity. He wanted to know why a grown man was wearing a bandage on his face. Nash told the child that he bumped into someone’s elbow. “He said, ‘What’s his name?’ ” Nash said. “I said, ‘Tim.’ And then he ran away.” The reaction tickled Nash. Such indifference will be hard to find going forward.
From the Arizona Republic: Suns coach Alvin Gentry said the long layoff between the end of his club’s second-round sweep of the San Antonio Spurs and the start of the Western Conference finals against the Lakers might be a “blessing in disguise” for the Suns. Question is, are the Lakers benefiting from an equally well-disguised blessing?
From the New York Times: If eight days off before the start of the Western Conference finals on Monday seemed interminable, then leave it to the Lakers, who if they are not always able to provide drama never fail to deliver a story line. So, moments after Los Angeles had polished off undersize and undermanned Utah in four games, Kobe Bryant sneered when asked if he was looking forward to the next morsel on his team’s plate — the Phoenix Suns, another undersize if not undermanned team the Lakers feast on. “What do you think?” Bryant hissed. “You already know the answer.”
From ESPN.com: After a six-day layoff, the Lakers are finally set to start their series with the Suns. Coach Phil Jackson said that squaring off against some unfamiliar faces would be a welcome sight after the intense amount of intrasquad scrimmages caused things to “get a little bit feisty” during the time in between series. “We had some decompression,” Jackson said. “We have to build the pressure up again to meet the expectations of an opponent that’s geared up and ready to go.”
From Yahoo! Sports: Kobe Bryant has barely touched a basketball in a week, giving his gimpy ankle and arthritic finger time to heal. That purplish, jagged gouge over Steve Nash’s right eye also should be one week less ghastly by tipoff time in the Western Conference finals. Although both stars play a beautiful game, Bryant and Nash realize postseason basketball is rarely pretty, and they wouldn’t expect to escape the postseason without a few ugly souvenirs of the playoff grind. After both teams got a week off to rest and recalibrate, the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to reach their third straight NBA finals when they take on the Phoenix Suns, starting in Game 1 on Monday night.
From TIME: After the Los Angeles City Council passed legislation banning the city from doing any further business with the state of Arizona because of its new law targeting illegal immigration, some Los Angelinos are hoping that the Los Angeles Lakers will get behind the cause. In a bit of serendipitous timing, the Lakers are about to face an Arizona team, the Phoenix Suns, in the NBA Western Conference Finals, starting Monday. Obviously, it would be absurd to expect the Lakers to boycott their series with the Suns. But as the representatives of an area with the largest Hispanic population in the country, could the Lakers take some kind of stance, symbolic or otherwise, against a law that the NBA Players Association has already called “disturbing?” Especially after the government of the city it represents has passed a bold measure? “The Lakers are critical to continuing the momentum,” says Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico when he was four years old.