From Holly MacKenzie, The Basketball Jones: On Friday afternoon, my stomach sank as I saw the flurry of tweets fill up my Tweetdeck timeline: “Kobe playing through pain.” “Bryant reveals knee pain, lack of cartilage” “Why Kobe isn’t practicing” I am 25 years old. I have to stop and think about basketball before Kobe and then basketball with Kobe because it all blurs together for me. I was 11 when he was drafted and while I loved watching basketball before that, it was definitely Kobe’s Lakers that took over my life and influenced my future career aspirations. After 15 years, an MVP, two Finals MVPs, five NBA championships, 12 All-Star appearances, 81 points, the 12 three-pointers against Seattle, all of the improbable comebacks, the 40-point games, the 50-point games and the game-winners, it’s clear my sixth grade eyes chose a winner. But now, my grown-up eyes are reluctant to acknowledge that the NBA will be Kobe-less sooner rather than later. We won’t have another 15 years. We won’t have another 10.
From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: If you take a glance around Lakers Nation today, Andrew Bynum is undoubtedly the story. That tends to happen when you are the player of the game in a 20 point beatdown of a fellow playoff team (even if that team does play in the East). It’s quite likely to happen when you out-play an MVP candidate on both ends of the floor. And it certainly happens when the strong performance occurs in 10 less minutes of game time than possible, on account of getting thrown out of a game with two quick technical fouls. The most positive and negative factors from last night’s game all involve the same guy, with the positive out-weighing the negative by quite a bit, so big Drew is the focus of a lot of analytical work today.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Practice sessions for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson go beyond implementing X’s and O’s, such as installing a new defensive scheme that emphasizes closing out on shooters. Practice sessions for Jackson go beyond deciding how much rest he should grant his veteran players, such as Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as he monitors his surgically repaired right knee. And practice sessions for Jackson go beyond preparing for the next opponent, such as the Lakers’ (27-11) game Tuesday at Staples Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29). It entails constant discussion about playing through officiating and includes knowing the roles, recognizing how a game is going to be called on a particular night and how to adjust to those situations. Of course, the backdrop to this discussion entails minimizing the demonstrative and overt reactions NBA referees have scrutinized more this season, a problem that’s plagued the Lakers as they’ve compiled 15 technicals in the last 10 games.
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: An embarrassing dip into history nudged the Lakers into action. The franchise was fuming last month after thorny losses to Miami and Milwaukee, a two-game spell that became the first time since 1959 the Lakers lost consecutive home games by 16 or more points. It was time for a change, a heightened attitude toward defense, after Milwaukee’s Earl Boykins punctured them for 22 points Dec. 21 and the Miami Heat took turns pummeling them on Christmas Day. The Lakers had won two championships under a defensive scheme installed by former assistant coach Kurt Rambis, but there was a growing need for more accountability among their perimeter defenders.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: His Lakers teammates in their purple and gold practice gear, Kobe Bryant wore his own casual gear for his individual strength work. Bryant was back Monday to resting his right knee instead of taking part in team practice, as he has for a week and a half to help the team increase its intensity and cohesion. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said “it’s time for him to be back” to individual strength training and avoid extra “wearing, tearing on the court.” “It’s not an issue,” Jackson said. “He has to work with what sustains the effort he can put on the court (in games).” Bryant, who wore a No. 7 Michael Vick Eagles jersey Sunday, was still supporting his eliminated Philadelphia football team Monday. Bryant wore a black T-shirt with the Eagles’ logo and “HEART” on it.
From ESPN Stats LLC: When the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers last met nearly one year ago, each team had 32 wins. They have a combined 35 this time, with the Lakers accounting for all but eight of them. In a matchup that has lost significant luster, surging Los Angeles opens a potentially easy portion of its schedule Tuesday night when it hosts a Cavaliers team hoping to avoid losing for the 21st time in 22 games. The Lakers (27-11) were swept by Cleveland in last season’s two-game series and have lost seven of the last nine meetings, but things will likely be considerably different this time with LeBron James in Miami. Without James, who had 37 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 93-87 victory in the last meeting between these teams Jan. 21, Cleveland (8-29) has the NBA’s worst record.