From Zach Harper, Hardwood Paroxysm: The one constant in nearly every zombie movie is the one tough guy that has to get left behind. Maybe he broke his leg and is slowing the group down. Maybe he’s been bitten and wants one final standoff before he un-dies. But the movies always leave one guy with enough ammunition to (re)kill some zombies before putting the last bullet in his own head to avoid being eaten alive by his soon-to-be brethren. This always seems to be the way to go too. Kill as many as you can before taking your own life. Die on your terms so that you don’t succumb to being a zombie and wandering the Earth looking for a brain soufflé to snack on. And this is where we find Kobe Bryant right now, isn’t it? He’s had a ridiculously successful career. Regardless of who you think was responsible for the first three championship rings of his career, he’s now in the Top 10 in all-time scoring and he’s a five-time champion. By the time his career is over, he’s going to have arguably the most impressive résumé in NBA history.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: The newest round of returns in (still semi-) early voting for February’s All-Star Game at Staples show Kobe Bryant leading the way with over 1.4 million votes, about 200K ahead of Orlando’s Dwight Howard for the overall top spot in what is, quite literally, a popularity contest. But as it was after the second batch of figures were released, Carmelo Anthony remains, now by about 40,000 votes, ahead of Pau Gasol for the second spot among Western Conference forwards (Kevin Durant leads the pack with just shy of a million votes). Only the top two vote getters gain automatic entry into the big extravaganza, meaning should current trends hold Pau would need to be added to the squad after polls close. A month ago, this sort of thing would have seemed academic: If Gasol didn’t get a single vote (not even from Marc!), his performance made him a shoe-in. In 15 November games, Gasol averaged 20.3 points while shooting over 54 percent, plus 12.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and two blocks. Then December rolled around, and those figures dropped to 16.3 points and 9.5 rebounds, while Gasol’s shooting percentage dropped below 50 percent. He has only six double-doubles in his last 18 games after racking up 15 in his first 18.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: The NBA released the latest results of fan balloting for the All-Star Game today. Aside from the disheartening news that Derek Fisher appears not to be making a darkhorse run at a starting slot in the West backcourt – come on, people, who else could give you seven points a game on sub-40% shooting? – what jumps out is that Pau Gasol is now third among Western Conference forwards. His vote total stands at about 703K, way behind category leader Kevin Durant and approximately 40K behind Carmelo Anthony. If this pecking order holds up, Pau’s All-Star candidacy will fall to the mercies of the coaches, who vote for backups, and perhaps David Stern, who appoints injury replacements. Is there any chance that Pau doesn’t make the cut?
From Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The soft blue eyes well up, the commanding voice chokes to a halt in mid-sentence, and the head turns down and away from the conversation. Bill Walton is nearly in tears. “I don’t want you to write this story. This is …” Walton stops and takes nine seconds to gather himself in silence. The Hall of Fame center was nearly ruined by back problems, tortured by searing pain to the point he said he contemplated ending his life. Now his son has back problems. He continues to play for the Lakers. Bill Walton encouraged Luke Walton to retire in the summer rather than risk a similar future of agony. Luke Walton refused. This is … so hard. “No parent wants to see their child suffer and how that changes your life. Basketball is a glorious celebration of life, of health, of everything that’s good, and there is no better example of that than what Shaq is going through right now with the Boston Celtics and how much the Celtics will mean to Shaq now and for rest of his life, and how much fun it’s going to be on that last long run.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: To alleviate what amounts to about a six-month regular season, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson likes to break up the schedule into one-week spans. It makes the season seem shorter. It helps the coaching staff and players organize their preparation. And it provides another carrot of motivation, however small it may be, for a veteran and championship team that finds little excitement in the regular season. In a weeklong stretch that Jackson describes as “a lot of games,” the Lakers’ (25-11) immediate stops include two playoff-bound opponents in New Orleans (21-15) on Friday and New York (20-14) on Sunday at Staples Center, a back-to-back pair of sub-.500 teams in Cleveland (8-27) and Golden State (14-21) on Tuesday and Wednesday and another home contest Friday against New Jersey (10-25), the only intrigue in that game centering on Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar playing against their former team.
From Lamar Odom, LA Times: The late-night flight and the ensuing pain in his left shoulder became so overwhelming that Lakers forward Lamar Odom says he didn’t go to sleep until between 4:30-5:00 Thursday morning. He then arrived to practice at 11 a.m. to receive treatment and ice for what the team described as a sore left shoulder. It won’t be enough to keep him out of the lineup Friday when the Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center. But Coach Phil Jackson said the injury is a “residual effect from last night’s fall” in which Odom hit the deck and favored his left elbow during the Lakers’ 99-95 victory Wednesday over the Phoenix Suns. With Odom describing his shoulder as “stiff” and “painful,” Jackson said the injury is “a problematic kind of thing that’s going to be affecting him for a while” and may affect his shot.
From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: Derek Fisher will be honored as the 2010 Sportsman of the Year at the sixth annual L.A. Sports Awards on Feb. 24 at the Beverly Hilton, it was announced Thursday. Fisher was selected for his leadership in helping to guide the Lakers to their second consecutive NBA championship and for his off-court work with charities, including the Lakers Youth Foundation. Prime Ticket will tape the ceremony and show it the next night