From Broderick Turner, LA Times: The Lakers’ four-game winning streak since the All-Star game seems attributable to their stifling defense, which has held opposing teams to 90.8 points a game in that stretch.?? Or maybe not — at least in the eyes of Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. He sees it more as a result of an effective offense by his team.??” I think it’s the pace of the game that we’re trying to establish,” Jackson said. “We’re not forcing the activity right now. When Matt [Barnes] comes back, we’ll probably pick the speed up in the game a little bit. But right now, we’re playing at . . . pretty much our [moderate] pace.”
From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes, who underwent surgery Jan. 11 to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, says he is fit to play and the decision on his return is now in the hands of the team. Barnes, who is on his first road trip with the Lakers since suffering his injury on Jan. 7, went through warm-ups before the game and said he was ready to play and hoped to return to the lineup next week. “Progress is very good and now it’s really up to [coach] Phil [Jackson]. I’ve been practicing and rehabbing well,” Barnes said. “I feel good but I don’t want to cause any controversy. I want to be here for the long haul and when I’m back I want to make sure I stay back. When they’re ready to have me back out there I’ll be ready.”
From Patrick Hruby, ESPNLA: Go back in time. Way back. To the city’s 1954 basketball championship for black high schools. Held just two months before Brown vs. Board of Education marked the beginning of the end for American apartheid, the tournament semifinals pitted Baylor’s Spingarn High against Mays’ Armstrong Tech. Playing on its home floor, Spingarn entered the game undefeated. Nigh invincible. After all, Baylor averaged 37.5 points per game. He wasn’t just a future NBA All-Star; he was a leaping, soaring, sweet-shooting scorer ahead of his time, the evolutionary forefather of Michael Jordan and Dr. J. Expecting a coronation, no one in the packed gym gave Armstrong a chance — until Mays held Baylor to 18 points in a 50-47 Armstrong Tech victory. The impressive part? As the result of a childhood gun accident, Mays has only one arm. The really impressive part? Basketball wasn’t even his best sport.
From Mike Trudell, Lakers.com: Before the days of great Lakers Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in Los Angeles were the days of George Mikan, Jim Pollard and Vern Mikkelsen of the Minneapolis Lakers, who spearheaded the run of the first five Lakers championships. Sid Hartman, the man who brought that team to Minneapolis in the first place and subsequently made all personnel and many business decisions, joined us on Lakers.com to look back at the first days of the franchise in advance of the current Lakers squad’s Tuesday evening matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hartman, who detailed the events of the late 1940′s and 50′s in his book ‘Sid!: The Sports Legends, the Inside Scoops and the Close Personal Friends, continues to write sports columns for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Nearly 92 years old, Hartman has been covering sports in Minnesota for 64 years.
From Billy Witz, Fox Sports: It’s usually a slippery slope trying to read too much into the mood of the Lakers and their What-Me-Worry countenance. But it was hard Monday on a cool, crisp and crystal clear day not to see that their four-game winning streak since the All-Star break had left them in a state of blissful assuredness, where this time the two-time defending champions really believe they are headed in the right direction. It was there to see in the post-practice slam dunk contest/yuk fest that not only involved rookies like Devin Ebanks, but also veterans like Lamar Odom and Steve Blake, the latter of whom actually did get the ball just over the lip of the rim.
From Kent Youngblood, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Timberwolves rookie Wes Johnson’s newfound confidence will get a test Tuesday night at Target Center against the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. But it won’t be their first go-round. Johnson met Bryant during last spring’s playoffs, when the former Syracuse star was in Los Angeles for a predraft workout. The two players share an agent, Rob Pelinka, who helped put Johnson in touch with Bryant. The two swapped phone numbers, and when Johnson decided to train last summer in L.A., the two worked out a couple of times before Bryant had offseason surgery. It started one day when Bryant phoned Johnson with instructions to meet him. Johnson got there at 8 a.m. and Bryant already had finished lifting weights. The two went out on the court, where Bryant gave Johnson some pointers on the triangle offense.