Archives For October 2010

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Lakers closed out their preseason in style, winning 105-102 against the Warriors.  In a game where Monta Ellis looked like Allen Iverson circa 2001 and where the Lakers trailed for nearly the entire night, I must say this was one of the more satisfying preseason games that I can remember.  Because even though overtime was needed and the Lakers starters again struggled to find their rhythm (especially Kobe), the team found a way to win in the closing minutes and nothing, even in the preseason, beats a comeback win.

A few notes on the last game of the preseason…

*I really can’t say enough about Shannon Brown.  I don’t want to put too much stock into preseason performances, but he’s looked very good and seems ready to take on a consistent role as a bench scorer while Kobe isn’t 100%.  WOW is making shots, playing much more under control, and is finding sweet spots in the offense where he’s able to set his feet and shoot in rhythm.  One shot in particular that Shannon looks very good taking is the 20 foot jumper from the extended wing when receiving a handoff from the big man at the high post.  On Thursday night he made this shot consistently and throughout the preseason this has been a shot that he’s taken with no hesitation and with good results.  Again, we’ll see if this carries over into the games that count, but I’m feeling very good about Brown.

*I said that Kobe may not be 100% (and likely won’t be for a couple more weeks at least) but down the stretch of this game he made some big plays to help cut the deficit and ultimately take the lead.  Kobe still struggled with his jumper and took way too many three pointers (9 attempts from deep, making only 2) but he showed good movement around the court and was able to get some good looks from the post and by attacking off a live dribble.  He also did a good job of setting up his mates (7 assists) and I’m hoping that’s a trend that continues into the start of the season if he’s struggling with his jumper.

*The guys that really impressed me were the rookies.  Ebanks and Caracter showed that they can contribute and that can be relied upon to play to their strengths if given minutes.  Ebanks played well on D and attacked the basket when he got the ball in the transition or had clean driving lanes in the half court.  He also did a good job on the glass (4 rebounds total, 2 offensive).  And after missing two games with back spasms, Caracter got in the game tonight and reminded us all of his polish around the hoop and his ability to finish inside.  On one play in particular, Caracter made the catch inside, turned over his left shoulder, and made a short, high arching bank that showed good awareness.  With Bynum out, Caracter may see some extra burn to start the year and he looks like he can help in short bursts.

*Blake was another guy that impressed me.  Sure he missed all his shots (0-5) on the night.  But he’s a floor general and that’s something the Lakers haven’t had since Van Exel donned a Lakers jersey.  No disrespect meant to Fisher (who does a great job of organizing the Lakers sets and ensuring that the offense gets executed), but Blake is a PG in every sense of the word.  He has good instincts on when players are breaking open and how to manipulate the defense to ensure that he can deliver the ball to his mates.  He has excellent timing with his passes and always seems to put the ball in a position where the catch is easy and where he leads players into their shots.  Not to denigrate Farmar (who I think is going to be very good in Jersey), but Blake is everything the Lakers hoped that Farmar could be as the PG for the 2nd unit and I think it’s going to show in the results achieved by that group.

*The Lakers missed LO’s rebounding, defense, and outlet passing tonight.  Odom is just one of those guys that is so much easier to appreciate when he’s not around, if that makes sense.  It’s been easy to start to take Lamar for granted with how well he’s been playing this preseason, but with him sitting out tonight it was easy to see the difference in the Lakers on the glass and in how they transitioned from defense to offense.

In the end, I would have been happy to escape with good health.  So to get a win (and in exciting fashion to boot) was the cherry on my Sunday.  But, I won’t let this feeling linger too long because the real games begin on Tuesday.  So, while I enjoyed tonight, my focus is now on the regular season and what the Lakers will need to do to get things done when the contests truly matter.  We’ll have our season preview up in the next few days.  Until then, we wait, but not for too much longer…

For the second time in a week, the Lakers will play consecutive games against the same team in back to back nights.  This time, they close their preseason schedule with a game against the Warriors.  And since we just did this last night and the Lakers won the game with relative ease, I’m going to keep this short with only one point to truly stress about tonight’s game.  Please, oh please let this game end cleanly and without injury or any other issue for either team.  Last night Steph Curry went down with a minor ankle sprain and the Lakers are already dealing with their fair share of injury issues.  The real season starts on Tuesday and if everyone can escape unscathed, this game will be a success regardless of what the scoreboard says.

But, I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about the game at least briefly.  So, tonight Kobe Bryant will not only suit up, but he’ll play as well.  I’m interested in seeing how many minutes he plays and how serious he takes the game, but the fans of Ontario should be happy that #24 in the home gold will suit up.  On the other side of the floor, Steph Curry (he of the aforementioned rolled ankle) will likely not be in the lineup.  He’s listed as day to day and, considering what’s at stake tonight (read: nothing) I doubt the young man suits up. 

As for the rest of the Lakers, I hope to see more extended run for the bench guys.  In the last two games they’ve played well and I’d like to see that continue tonight.  I’m especially interested in whether or not Derrick Caracter gets into the game as he’s been on the shelf with back spasms the last few contests.  If there’s one guy that could use some court action, it’s him so hopefully he gets in the game.  With the Warriors, well…I really like their jerseys.  And get Steph Curry healthy soon.

So enjoy the game tonight but rather than wish for a win, wish for good health.  For both teams.  There have been a fair amount of injuries this preseason and with a sure to be epic regular season approaching, no one enjoys seeing guys hurt or team’s chances being thrown off buy injuries.  Our wait is almost over.  Tuesday can’t get here soon enough.

Where you can watch: 7pm start time locally on KCAL and nationally on ESPN.  Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

26 Jul 1992:  Guard Earvin 'Magic' Johnson of the United States moves the ball during a game against Angola at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport

Why a throwback Magic photo from the Dream Team? Do I really need a reason?

Some goodies floating around on the (current and former) Lakers of late so let’s get right into it…

*Mark Medina has 5 take aways from last night’s game vs. the Warriors including thoughts on Shaw as a head man and Shannon showing that he is, in fact, a better player coming into this season.

*The K-Brothers over at Land O’ Lakers have been pumping out some great work for a long time (as you all know).  Earlier this week, they had a very insightful post on Lamar Odom’s presence in the post that is well worth your time.

*With Magic Johnson selling his stake in the Lakers, there have been questions about whether or not he’s out to buy another NBA team.  While those rumors may never be put to rest entirely, Magic said this weekthat he’s “a Laker until the end” to reassure folks that he’s not looking to buy the Pistons (or any other NBA team).  However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the NFL on his mind.

*Welcome to the club, Sasha and Shannon.  Good luck to you both, NBA marriage can be rough.

*One debate that will never die is Jordan vs. Kobe.  Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race and rarely get involved in trying to prove or dispel other people’s thoughts on how the two players compare.  If you want my abbreviated take, Kobe has been the premier perimeter player of his generation.  Where other players could claim to be the better player in any given year, Kobe has outlasted them all and done so with on court brilliance and lots of winning.  The same is easily said of Jordan, though MJ was statistically more dominant.  Comparing Kobe to Jordan or Magic or any other all time great isn’t what I like to do because it doesn’t matter.  In 50 years, fans of the game and historians of this league will remember his name as one of the best.  Isn’t that all that matters?  But, if you’d like to read more on this debate, check out the conversation at Hoop Speak on the matter.  And for old time’s sake, re-read Reed’s epic post for FB&G where he touches on Kobe, Jordan, Lebron, and more in his classic Deconstructing Kobe.

*No link for this (yet), but I’m still very interested in starting a FB&G fantasy hoops league.  If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and give your suggestions about format, number of teams, and other ideas you think are relevant.

Lakers/Warriors Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  October 21, 2010
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

Over the past few days, I’ve questioned when this Lakers team was actually going to play like the season starts next week.  It turns out, Thursday night was that night as the Lakers pulled away from the Warriors in the 2nd half to win going away 120-99.  It was a strong showing all around as every Laker that saw action either played very well or had more redeeming moments than forgettable ones.  And while it would have been good to have Kobe actually see some game action and join the fun, it was actually very nice to see the rest of the team play focussed ball without #24 and indicate that they are, indeed, ready for the games to count.

Since there were so many positive things to take place in this game, rather than list them all, here are a few things that stood out to me and a couple of other random thoughts from this game:

*The Lakers bench is going to win this team some games this year. In the past two contests they’ve played excellent ball and against the Warriors it was a group that rotated Blake, Barnes, Artest, Odom, Gasol, and Ratliff that really blew this game open at the end of the 3rd and start of the 4th quarter.  This combo of guys played good defense, rebounded the ball, and played strong offense in both transition and the half court.  Led by Steve Blake’s fantastic shooting (8-10 from the floor) and strong decision making (7 assists, 1 turnover) the bench exploited every crack in the Warriors’ schemes and turned a close game into a blowout.  When Barnes checked in for Odom with 3:39 left in the 3rd, the Lakers led by one.  After Shannon hit a shot at the buzzer to end the period, they led by 10.  Blake, Odom, Shannon, Ratliff, and Barnes pushed the lead to 16 with 8 and half minutes left in the game and the rout was officially on.  Over the past two seasons the Lakers bench had a stronger reputation (built on the exploits of the 2008 group) than was likely deserved.  Only in the the most recent championship run where Phil routinely played 7 or 8 players did the national pundits finally catch on to the fact that the Lakers weren’t “one of the deepest teams in the league” as they’d claimed for nearly 2 seasons.  This year, after Bynum returns and Odom likely moves back to the bench, the Lakers reserves will once again earn that praise.  I certainly don’t want to over react to a couple of good games.  But tonight showed what this group is capable of and if they can make some shots they’ll be very tough to beat because their defense will be much improved over last year and their offense will be much more controlled.

*Lamar Odom didn’t shoot that well tonight as he only hit 5 of his 16 shots from the field.  However, even on a poor shooting night he ended up with 16 points and was his usual self on the glass collecting 12 rebounds (4 offensive).  It’s been a stellar pre-season for Odom and if he’s able to even be 80% as consistent as he’s shown during LA’s exhibition games the Lakers are going to be very, very difficult to beat in any scenario.

*Theo Ratliff makes a difference on defense.  Tonight he played 22 minutes and didn’t score a single point and I couldn’t care less because of all the little things he does on D.  When guarding lighter framed players in the post (like Biedrins or Wright) he does a good job of pushing them off their sweet spots and making their shots uncomfortable.  When helping on penetration, he times his block attempts in a way that forces low percentage floaters or awkward flip shots.  When players do earn good position against him he uses excellent timing to disrupt point blank shots to cause misses.  Sure, he’s going to give up some offensive rebounds (just like Mbenga did) because he challenges a lot of shots and allows the man he’s guarding to slip in and grab some rebounds.  But he’s also going to block a fair amount  of shots (he had 2 tonight) and force misses that would normally be makes.  By no means to I think Theo is a world beater.  And I’m in no way clamoring for him to play more than a handful of minutes a night (if at all) when Bynum is back healthy.  But, it’s been a while since the Lakers have had a very good shot blocker (and not just a guy that blocks shots – there is a difference).  Theo is a shot blocker.

*Even though he only played 11 minutes and was the only Laker with a negative plus/minus (-7) on the night, I was good to see Luke Walton back playing.  Bill’s son had 5 points, 2 assists, and a rebound in his limited run but looked comfortable in the offense (as is to be expected) but more importantly moved well and looked healthy.

*On the Warriors side, it will be interesting to see how this team develops.  Monta Ellis got in early foul trouble and never found his rhythm so tonight is not an accurate assessment of how he’ll play during the season.  And while Steph Curry had some moments, he was not efficient and ended up with a tweaked ankle by the time the game was over.  But overall, the one thing that stood out to me is that the Warriors lacked some of the quality depth that really could have helped this team.  Yes, David Lee is a good player and I think he’s a guy that will play hard and put up good numbers.  But by trading three quality players for him the Dubs dumped a fair amount of depth that possessed a variety of skills for a single player that, while talented, will not do everything that the players given up for him could do.  Plus by trading Anthony Morrow and losing Corey Maggette and Anthony Tolliver, the W’s also lost capable scoring and only have Gadzurich and Charlie Bell (who did not play) to show for those losses.  Essentially, the Warriors lost some guys that can contribute and didn’t really replace them with guys that could fill all those roles.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Dorell Wright and Jeremy Lin.  But, they’re not as good as some of the guys that were on this team last year (a team decimated by injuries, by the way) and it shows.  Now, they will have to do more with less and I’m not sure if they’ll be able to.  Not with an injured lottery pick and Lou Amundson now injured with dislocated finger on his strong hand.  Looks like it will be tough sledding for the Warriors again this season.  And while that’s par for the course for this franchise, they are a team that I’d like to see be successful.  As I mentioned in the game preview, I think their fans deserve it.

Feb 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol (16) at the Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Warriors 104-94. Photo via Newscom

The Lakers continue their Southern California tour as they face off against the Warriors tonight in sunny San Diego.  At least I assume it’s sunny.  Isn’t it always?  Anyways, the Lakers look to erase their two game losing streak against a division foe that, for better or worse, is a team in transition.

The Warriors have always been a team that I’ve enjoyed watching.  I like their players, their fans are great (which makes for a great arena experience), and they were always a bit wacky due to the presence of Don Nelson on their bench.  But now, some of those things have changed.  While the fans are still great, they’ve traded away some of their better role players that I enjoyed watching (Turiaf and Azubuike) and a promising young player (Anthony Randolph) for former Knickerbocker David Lee.  And, in even bigger news, they’ve also dumped Nellie in favor of longtime assistant Keith Smart.  This is a team that is in the midst of change and that means that the pre-season probably means a bit more to them than to a team like the Lakers.

When looking at the Warriors, they’ve got a nice mix of young talent and established players that know how to play in this league.  David Lee, while not a great defender, is a double-double machine that has worked hard to expand his offensive game while keeping his tenacity on the backboards.  Monta Ellis, while somewhat inefficient, is a fantastic scoring threat that thrives in the open court and creating off the dribble in the half court.  Then there’s prized 2nd year player Steph Curry.  Curry blew up last season (finishing 2nd in the ROY race), showing an all around offensive game that many questioned he actually had.  He was better off the dribble than expected and showed the savvy and playmaking ability of a true PG that wasn’t always evident while he was at Davidson.  That rookie performance carried him into the Summer where he played on Team USA and won gold at the World Championships with Lamar Odom.  Though Curry didn’t play that much in a stacked U.S. back court, playing for that team was surely a valuable learning experience.

Other players to watch on this Warriors team are 4th year forward Brandon Wright who is coming off a lost season where he missed the entire year due to injury.  Wright’s progress as a rebounder and shot blocker will be a major factor in whatever success the W’s have this year as those are traits that Golden State gave up when trading Turiaf.  Also key for the W’s will be Center, Andris Biedrins.  Last season saw the Latvian big man suffer lapses of confidence and consistent trips to both the training room and Nellie’s doghouse for under performing.  If he can have a bounce back year and Wright can stay injury free, the Dubs suddenly have a long, lean, and athletic front court that will crash the boards and work off the variety of wings that Coach Smart will be able to deploy.

As for the Lakers, they must try to find some of the rhythm that’s been absent lately.  Too much one on one play and shoddy execution has meant low shooting percentages and sub par offensive production.  It’s been multiple games since both the 1st and 2nd units have played well in the same contest.  Tonight, if the Lakers want to take the next step towards preparing for opening night, they need to clean up their offense and get back to the fundamentals of the Triangle.  Pass, cut, screen, and shoot when open.  If they do those things, we’ll be talking about a victory later on tonight.  If they don’t, we’ll still be talking about the same things that we have been since Sunday’s loss to the Jazz.

Defensively, the Lakers have been making strides and with Ebanks and Barnes playing a fair number of minutes in recent games, I’ve been happier with the effort shown on that end of the floor.  Against a speedy Warriors team that will look to push the pace, transition defense will be key.  So look for the Lakers to sprint back to the paint and then match up with the wings and big men as they trail the play, looking for open jumpers or delayed P&R’s with either Ellis or Curry.  If the Lakers can successfully contain these running chances, they’ll only need to focus on P&R’s with Curry/Ellis and one of either Lee/Biedrins as the offensive set to slow down.

Where you can watch:  7pm start time on KCAL.  Listen live at ESPN Radio 710am.

Hoping does not make it so.

You see, I was hoping that after the Lakers struggled to score (save for a Kobe explosion and Pau being Pau) on Sunday, that the Lakers would come out in Tuesday’s game with more focus and a dedication to executing the Triangle.  I was hoping that shots would start to fall and that both the Lakers starters and reserves would start to show some cohesion in running their sets and putting the ball in the hole.  I was hoping that making the extra pass and a post oriented offense would return after being absent since the win over Denver on Saturday.  Really, I was hoping for a win.  But, again, hoping doesn’t make it so as was proven by the 82-74 defeat by the hands of the Jazz.

But none of those things really happened.  At all.  After the game Phil Jackson said that the Jazz out worked the Lakers.  I would agree.  The Lakers just weren’t that interested in this game.  It could have been the thunderstorms that kept the gym from being full and my broadcast of the game from being uninterrupted by severe weather warnings.  Or maybe the team is just ready for the regular season to start already and is tired of playing games that don’t count (after all, reporters courtside kept mentioning players checking monitors for updates on the baseball playoffs).  Or maybe still the persevering travel that the team has faced this entire pre-season (Europe, Vegas, Anaheim – though those last two destinations aren’t that far from LA).

Or maybe it’s just the lack of practice time that this team has had together.  Remember, one of the reasons Phil Jackson wasn’t that excited about the Lakers going to Europe was that it was going to interfere with the team’s preparation.  A team that was integrating 5 new players would need that extra court time; the extra drilling of offensive and defensive principles in order to get ready.  This team hasn’t had that.  And while that was somewhat masked a bit earlier in the pre-season by guys making the extra pass and the simple basketball play, the lack of cohesion has really shown these past couple of games.  Because while individual players are looking good – despite poor shooting nights, I think Kobe and Pau have progressed to the point of being nearly all the way back, plus LO, Shannon, and Ron have all had above average pre-season’s thus far – the units as a whole have not yet jelled and don’t yet have that rhythm and chemistry that will be needed.

All that said, I’m still not that concerned.  There are positive take aways from every game and it’s not like the season will be won or lost based off performances in early/mid-October.  Taking this to the next level, it’s not like the Lakers came out firing on all cylinders last season (I recall a bit of a struggle on opening night against the Clips and some underwhelming performances throughout the beginning part of the year) and if my memory serves the 2010 campaign seemed to turn out just fine.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here are a few thoughts on last night’s game:

*It was very nice to see Blake and Barnes have bounce back games after not playing that well on Sunday.  Both newcomers looked comfortable on offense as they hit their open shots and were the feisty competitors that the Lakers hoped to get when they inked them as free agents.  Blake in particular got into a scuffle (for lack of a better word) with Francisco Elson that really seemed to light a spark with both Blake and the rest of the Lakers.  After disposing of Steve with a forearm to the chest in the pursuit of a loose rebound, Elson then received a knock to the upper back/head area as retaliation from Blake as what looked like retribution for the initial physical play.  Blake and Elson then exchanged words and slight shoves as they were simultaneously separated and T’d up by the refs.  Nice to see Blake stick up for himself, but based off Kobe’s comments during the summer, that’s to be expected.

*Speaking of technicals, the Lakers were whistled for three last night – one each by Blake, Kobe, and Barnes.  Both Kobe and Barnes’ T’s were for the “respecting the game” clause that is being strictly enforced by the referees while I mentioned that I’m on board with the league attempting to cut down on the complaining, I must say that those were tough calls to see happen live.  Not saying they weren’t deserved (based off the rules, they were), just saying that in the moment of a bang/bang play (like the one involving Barnes) it’s going to be difficult to not express disapproval with a call.  If this is the standard that players are going to be held to throughout the season, the number of T’s called is going to skyrocket as it will take time to the players to adjust.

*Kobe’s shot was back to being off target and at this point I’m not sure what to make of it.  He took some ill advised shots last night (his attempts at step through finger rolls in crowded areas aren’t what I’d call high percentage looks) but even the shots that were open weren’t falling for #24.  As Matt R. mentioned in the comments:

I’m really thinking that Kobe could use the rest of this next week off. His legs still aren’t there. I liked that he took Bell to the post a few times and he looked pretty good backing down the smaller, weaker player, but he still lacks lift and he was visibly frustrated by his shot.

There could be some merit to what Matt’s proposing in that Kobe needs to be ready for opening night on Tuesday, not necessarily a pre-season game against the Warriors on Thursday.  However, I also think that what’s best for Kobe is to get some more game action in so he can test his legs under real game conditions.  Three games in 4 days also could have contributed to what we saw from Kobe last night.

*More Matt R. from the stands:

Ratliff’s awareness on defense (for the most part) as well as his positioning and communication on the floor really impressed me. Offensively as well. As everyone has pointed out, he’s a good player in limited minutes and when you watch the game live and you can let your focus drift to people that aren’t near the ball, it’s very obvious how involved he is when he’s on the floor.

I think it may be time for Phil to try a Ratliff/Pau front court for limited minutes in the upcoming games.  I think Pau could really benefit from being paired with a Center and the Lakers defense at the rim would also benefit from having two legitimate shot blockers clogging the paint.

In the end, we’re still in the preseason and as I’ve mentioned the starting group didn’t seem that tuned into the action for long stretches.  But, the time to start playing better is quickly approaching and while hoping doesn’t make it so, I do hope the Lakers start to show a bit more before opening night.


Neil Paine (with an assist from some guy named Darius), Basketball-Reference:  With the additions of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, the Lakers have filled their two biggest holes from last season (floor general for the 2nd unit and a back up SF) and combined them with a group that is still hungry for titles. And while there are the yearly concerns of an injured Bynum, the potential decline of Kobe, and whether or not the Lakers’ shooting will make defenses pay for crowding the paint, those concerns really are minor. Because at this point, the Lakers still have the length, versatility, depth, coaching, and moxie to play any style against any type of opponent.

From Fresh off their trips to Europe and Las Vegas, the Los Angeles Lakers wasted no time in doing what they do best: giving back to the community! This time, the Lakers partnered with the American Heart Association’s “Teaching Garden” program to create a model garden for students at Figueroa Street Elementary School in South LA. This event was a Lakers Team Up project, designed to encourage Los Angeles residents of all ages to volunteer in their community and engage in service projects and also tipped-off the 2010 NBA Cares Week of Service. Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter, Trey Johnson and Drew Naymick, and the Laker Girls all participated in a school assembly designed to teach the Figueroa Street Elementary students the value of good eating habits and the importance of physical activity. The Laker Girls got things started by teaching everyone a special dance that got all the students up and moving.

From Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post: LeBron James sneezed Monday. It wasn’t one of those intense air punctures that could wake a hibernating bear, but more of a kazoolike achoo. He received a “God bless you” three times and a “gesundheit” once. Sources close to James said the sneeze was because of allergies. Yes, America’s appetite for all things Miami Heat is insatiable. LeBron James! Dwyane Wade! Chris Bosh! How can they lose? Everything these guys do seems to be news, and the NBA season hasn’t even started. ESPN assigned its own reporting team to cover each and every sneeze from Heatville. And Las Vegas odds say the Heat, not the Lakers, is favored to win the NBA title. “People talk about what’s hot at the moment,” Nuggets all-star forward Carmelo Anthony said. “Miami is hot at the moment.” How soon folks forget that four months ago the Lakers won their second consecutive championship.

From Jeff Miller, OC Register: The Lakers have the superior size, but the Heat has the more formidable inside game. Not inside as in down low, but inside as in low down. Here’s the skinny you need to know on the fattened-up Heat: This is a team that will operate all season with the most primal, most potent of motivation. And the drive has nothing to do with proving the LeBron James critics wrong. No, what really will be pushing the Heat – and should be of most concern to the Lakers – is the collective desire of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to prove themselves right. The difference in semantics is minor; the difference in meaning is not.

From John P. Martin, The Philadelphia Inquirer: For years, Philadelphia has struggled with its feelings about native son Kobe Bryant. Awed by his skills, fans here have also disowned him, even booed him. For sporting a Dodgers hat at a Phillies playoff game. For vowing to “cut their hearts out” when his Los Angeles Lakers beat the 76ers for the NBA crown in 2001. For acting like the superstar celebrity he is. Over at Lower Merion High School, they know another Kobe. The alumnus who visits regularly, who chats with students and athletes, and who quietly donates his time and money. On Monday, the Lower Merion School District cheered that superstar by agreeing to name Lower Merion High’s new gymnasium after arguably its most famous graduate. The decision follows Bryant’s latest donation – $411,000, the largest gift in district history.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Steve Blake mixed it up earlier this calendar year in his pre-Lakers days with big men such as Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut, so you know he’ll stand up for himself even when he doesn’t stand as tall. Blake’s reputation for feistiness was evident Tuesday night with an altercation in the second quarter with Utah Jazz 7-footer Francisco Elson. Blake smiled about it after the Lakers’ 82-74 exhibition loss Tuesday night at Honda Center, saying: “For some reason I always get into it with the big guys. … It gets me going.” Blake was fortunate he didn’t draw a technical or flagrant foul for initiating the extracurricular activity with a blow to Elson from behind. There was no whistle before that when Elson was giving it to Blake on a defensive switch as Blake tried to hold him off the offensive glass. “I liked it,” Kobe Bryant said afterward. “It was good.”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: The bench looked promising: Jackson could point to that as the only positive aspect, with Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake cracking double digits. Two plays epitomized Lamar Odom’s court awareness that resulted in nine assists, thanks to quality play in the post. As Odom drove the break, he saw Barnes on the wing and fed him a pass for the easy layup. On the next play, when Odom met a double team from Jeremy Evans and Gordon Hayward, Odom kicked the ball out to Brown for the open jumper. There were some nice plays from the starters, including Gasol’s behind-the-back pass to Barnes, Bryant’s connection to Gasol as he cut through the lane and Artest of all people directing Barnes and Brown with the triangle. But those were all isolated sequences.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Lamar Odom in the paint — Among the reasons Odom was less effective last season than he was during the ’08-’09 campaign was a fairly steep increase in the number of perimeter shots, and a corresponding drop in attempts from around the rim. During the offseason, we spent a lot of time speculating as to how Odom’s time with Team USA at the World Championships could impact his leadership skills, but may have missed the larger picture. He spent the entire tournament playing the five, planting him in the paint with regularity. Tonight, we saw how effective he can be in the offense from down there. In the first quarter, Odom assisted on three buckets, two of which came off passes out of double-teams down low. Later, he’d drive the lane from the perimeter, drawing the D and creating another open jumper. The common denominator: Odom was near, or moving toward, the basket. The more time he spends in or heading into the paint this season, the better. Overall, he finished with nine assists and nine rebounds, showing how he can make an impact even if only scoring two points.

Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant throws against Barcelona during their NBA Europe Live basketball game at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona October 7, 2010. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)                                                                                                                 
Kobe hopes to continue his hot shooting from Sunday tonight against the Jazz.

Tonight, the Lakers look for revenge as they play the Jazz for the second time in 3 days.  After losing in the “championship” of the Lakers Shootout, the Lakers will try to play better (especially on defense) and get the win they sought on Sunday.  And since we just did this on Sunday, I’m going to keep this preview short and sweet.

The one difference we’ll see is that tonight, it’s been confirmed (right from the horse’s mouth) that Deron Williams will suit up.  After missing Sunday’s contest with a strained calf, Williams is anxious to get on the floor but it remains to be seen how much Jerry Sloan uses his all-star point man.  However many minutes he plays though, Williams is a difference maker on the floor and the Lakers will be up for an even bigger challenge with him in the lineup.  There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Williams’ game so I won’t gush about him here.  Just understand that there are few guards more complete than Williams (at least on offense) and with his ability to score inside and outside plus his size/speed/strength combination he’s a tough cover for any Laker. 

But that doesn’t mean the Lakers won’t try to shut down Williams with a variety of looks.  Fisher (who, historically, has done a decent job on Williams) will likely start out covering him but we’re also sure to see some of Artest and maybe even Barnes take a turn as well.  Which ever Laker does defend him needs to know that his deadliest weapon is his ability to change directions quickly with a devastating cross over that sets up his forays into the lane or his step back jumper.  So, even though Williams is a capable outside shooter, the best approach is to lay off him some and make him earn his buckets from 18 feet and out.

As for slowing the other Jazz, one key will be better containing penetration and having more awareness of all the off-ball screens and cuts that Utah employs.  Kirilenko and Gordon Hayward consistently freed themselves effectively using screens and cutting off the back side so the Lakers will have to be more aware of these actions and defend them without fouling.  And speaking of Hayward, I’m interested in seeing if he carries over his strong game into this one.  He was beyond excellent on Sunday and I want to see if that’s something we can expect from the rookie.  The other key will be marking Al Jefferson in the post and not falling for his myriad of feints and ball fakes.  Several times over-anxious Laker big men left their feet when Big Al went into his move and several times he made them look silly by easily scoring on up and under moves or drawing fouls.

On offense, the Lakers need to continue to run their sets, make the extra pass, and be confident and decisive when the ball arrives.  The Lakers are looking better on offense, but with several new players getting accustomed to the Triangle and their teammates, you can see the slight hesitation come over when deciding whether to let the ball fly or to move the ball along.  Blake and Barnes were especially caught up in over-thinking and it showed in their results (0-7 and 1-4 from the field respectively).  As I mentioned after the last game I cut these guys some slack because they’ve already proven to be better than what they showed in that one game (not to mention everyone has a bad game now and again),  but I’ll be watching to see if their making quick decisions and/or if they’re hesitating at all.

I’d also like to see the Lakers take better care of the ball.  For three straight games now the Lakers have had 18 or more turnovers and while those high totals can be explained away by a variety of reasons, it’s still too high a number.  Opening night is exactly one week away and there’s no time better than the present to start playing a more focused and crisp brand of ball.

Where you can watch:  7pm start time at the Honda Center in Anaheim on KCAL.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.