After two losses in two games this pre-season, I’m not panicked nor concerned. The Lakers are playing with a still recovering Kobe Bryant (the number 60% has been thrown around when referencing where he’s at physically and that looks about right give or take 5%), without Andrew Bynum, with 5 new players that are hopeful contributors in some capacity next year, and had their first two games on another continent 11 hours ahead of LA time. Essentially, when the regular season starts these will not be the conditions the Lakers are playing under. So why should these results be something that we put weight into? They’re not. As Brian Kamentzky stated at Land O’ Lakers – “The Lakers drop two in Europe: what does it mean? Not much.” On to the morning links…
*From Dave McMenamin at Land O’ Lakers: “There are going to be times when they have players hurt and they are playing in front of a crowd that wants to see nothing more than their yellow jersey-wearing team pulverized to a mustard-like state. So, maybe it will be “Mustard’s Last Stand,” this year. Some of us will remember the result of the Lakers’ 92-88 loss to FC Barcelona. Pau Gasol will. Pete Mickael will. The Barcelona coach, Xavier Pascual, certainly will. But ultimately, it was just a preseason loss. It won’t affect the Lakers in the standings when Oct. 26 rolls around and they are jostling with Miami for the No. 1 record in the league. And, for a preseason game, it was of the more memorable variety, but for me, being there, there were plenty of other things worth remembering instead of knowing that Ricky Rubio went 0-for-5 and Gasol went 1-for-8 in the second half.”
*From Mike Trudell at Basketblog at Lakers.com: “Prior to a festive preseason matchup between the Lakers and F.C. Barcelona at the Palau St. Jordi on Thursday evening, Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bartomeu tried to put the event in perspective while at a press conference seated alongside NBA Commissioner David Stern. “The score doesn’t matter,”Bartomeu said. “Games like this exist so we can please the fans.” “Pleased” is certainly a fair way to describe a joyous group of basketball-crazy Catalans, particularly since their team ended up gutting out a 92-88 victory over the Lakers. The Euroleague champions battled an L.A. team that intermittently played well and poorly, before ultimately preserving a small lead late in the fourth quarter. A voracious group of fans displayed full support for F.C. Barcelona throughout, but also showered native son Pau Gasol with genuine love.
*From Mike Bresnahan at the LA Times: “The Lakers went 0-for-Europe after a miserable shooting night in a 92-88 exhibition loss Thursday to FC Barcelona. Kobe Bryant played almost 25 minutes but didn’t look sharp, making two of 15 shots and scoring 15 points, almost all of them at the free-throw line. The minutes Bryant played conveyed an incrementally improving right knee, but his usual efficiency wasn’t there yet.”
*From ESPN.com:Juan Carlos Navarro scored 25 points to help Barcelona beat the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers 92-88 in an exhibition on Thursday. Spanish center Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 24 points but had only one field goal in the second half. His homecoming was spoiled by the Euroleague champion in a game that lived up to the billing of an informal intercontinental showdown. “You always want to win, but it was an emotional game,” Gasol said. “The fans enjoyed it, and the atmosphere was spectacular. We lost, but when your friends win you have to be happy for them.” The Lakers blew a 12-point advantage in the second half and were outplayed down the stretch after the game was tied at 72 midway through the fourth quarter.
*From Anna Gonda, The Lakers Nation: The Lakers wore their home gold jerseys, and the rules of the game were referred to as “hybrid” for its combination of NBA and FIBA rules and regulations, but there was no mistaking who the home team was. At the Palau Sant Jordi arena in Barcelona, Spain, the defending NBA Champions were faced with a formidable opponent in FC Barcelona, but as fortune would have it, on their side was one of the city’s most beloved natives – Pau Gasol. From winning the opening tip to a late-game baseline drive into a reverse dunk, Gasol did not disappoint the arena that was surely filled with his family and friends, not to mention a hoard of loyal fans. Gasol was his usual productive self, collecting 25 points and 10 rebounds. It took him 21 attempts and 11 free throws to get there, but both teams suffered through periodic offensive droughts, neither reaching even 40% of their field goals. Gasol got going early in the game, but the opposing team was ready to swarm their fellow Spaniard with their own big men and starting center, Fran Vazquez got the bulk of the assignment. Gasol, however, still managed a double-double.
*From Gil Meriken at Silver Screen and Roll: “And now it’s Ron’s second season with the Lakers, and I can only see him improving upon last season, especially during the regular season (his playoffs were pretty good, so there’s less room to improve there). Sure, he’ll be a year older, and a fraction of a second slower on defense, but he’s still got those great hands, and that solid frame that makes him seem indestructible. With the knowledge that he is a champion and having the burden of proving himself lifted off of his shoulders, he’s going to find a nice rhythm within the offense. He’s going to feel a part of the Laker family now, instead of an adopted member, and with that level of comfort, we are going to see real consistency from him on offense, and a growing knowledge of where to be and when to shoot, and when to pass, and when to drive. Sure, he’s still going to have those moments where he dribbles aimlessly, and takes shots where we’ll be asking ourselves “What kind of shot was that?”, but they’re going to be fewer and less costly. On defense, he’s going to continue to be a nightmare for the other team’s guards and forwards.”
*From Jorge Sierra, HoopsHype: You talked the other day about how more Americans should be allowed to play in Eruope. Would you consider playing there down the road? Ron Artest: After I’m done with my basketball career, I want to box and I wanna play football –probably tight end position. I’ve been training for three years for boxing. Probably after this contract, I’ll probably do football first and then boxing. I’m definitely serious about those two things I wanna do. I wish I could do it now. Which place would be the most appealing for you to play basketball? Ron Artest: Maybe not right away but as the development starts to get better, as you get more Paus and Dirk Nowitzkis, Rubios, and the talent stuff gets better and the coaches get better in Europe, then they should release let American players play, because is harder for a lot of Americans to get jobs overseas to play basketball. You get a guy from Europe or Asia, that takes a job from an American person. To make it even, they should let the American players play. And somebody from Europe shouldn’t be able to play in China, and somebody from China shouldn’t be able to play in Europe. If you get kids growing up wanting to play the game of basketball, and then there’s no jobs available… Why even tell them to play basketball? you might as well tell them to be a teacher
*Yesterday after the Lakers’ loss to FC Barcelona, Phil proceded with some of his typical tweaking by essentially saying that Barca could not compete in the NBA over an 82 game schedule. Over at Pro Basketball Talk (loving the new look of the site, btw) Kurt has the story and gives us this insight as well: “Barcelona plays with motion that maybe only Utah matches in the NBA. And they have some talented guys — Juan Carlos Navarro looked pretty good, much better than the heralded Ricky Rubio who was 0-5 from the field and had just three assists in 18 minutes. But they feel like a collection of good NBA role players. Over the course of the season you need your stars to win games in the NBA. Come the playoffs those guys who can lift their game matter more. Barcelona would not embarrass itself in the NBA, but it would be a team fighting for the eighth seed at best. So it can hang, to answer our headline question. But if there were a true World Championships series, the NBA would win. Handily.”