It’s an active weekend for Lakers basketball. They host the Sacramento Kings tonight and welcome dastardly Dwyane Wade and the Heat on Sunday. The past few days has seen Kobe playing masked bandit with 31 points against the T-Wolves, the always constant trade chatter, and plenty of opinions about the front office, especially regarding one Jim Buss. Below are some article excerpts for your reading pleasure, to go along with this morning’s new Rumor Mill feature, and the upcoming game preview. Enjoy the weekend, everybody!
Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Land O’Lakers: Kobe Bryant did what he could following Wednesday’s win over Minnesota to diffuse any talk about bad blood between himself and Miami’s Duane Wade – at this point, do I need to explain what I’m referring to? — ahead of Sunday’s game. Clearly his words of moderation never reached Matt Barnes. The Lakers forward said last night he saw the foul Wade put on Kobe in the All-Star Game as part of a pattern in which opposing teams are allowed to push the Lakers around without fear of consequences, in part because “me and (Metta World Peace) act like we’re going to do stuff, and get flagrant fouls called on us. Hopefully they’ll let us play. If they’re going to let the league play physical, they need to start letting our team play physical.” Barnes, who said he views Metta as the team’s true enforcer (not unreasonably) and himself as the enforcer’s “sidekick” later reiterated his point. “If they’re gonna let our star players continue to get beat up,” he said, referencing not just the Wade foul but the one delivered by Brendan Haywood to Pau Gasol, Feb. 22 in Dallas, “we’re going to have to step up.”
Dave McMenamin, ESPN Go: When the Lakers last played the Kings back on Dec. 26 in just L.A.’s second game of the season, Sacramento started the Lakers’ season-long road woes with a 100-91 win. The game? Not that memorable aside from the four-time All-Star Pau Gasol getting tangled up with the second-year player DeMarcus Cousins, incensing the Kings’ center enough to cause him to ball his hand into a fist and cock back his arm as if he was going to punch Gasol. Fortunately, the punch went unrealized as Cousins calmed down and Cousins (12 points and 11 rebounds) ended up finishing the game with comparable numbers to Gasol (15 points and nine rebounds) in eight fewer minutes of playing time. The question is, will Cousins’ tremendous talent go unrealized too? In Cousins’ short amount of time in the league so far, he’s already been removed from the team plane following a fight with teammate Donte Greene and demanded a trade, a poorly handled situation which ultimately cost Kings coach Paul Westphal his job. The Lakers play the Kings again Friday, this time at Staples Center and Gasol isn’t holding a grudge against Cousins for their near skirmish the first time they played this season. “You want all guys to succeed,” Gasol said. “You want all talented guys to reach their potential, because I think they’re given an opportunity in life, a special opportunity, and they should value it and take advantage of it. Absolutely, I want any kid in the league who comes up to do well and have a successful career.”
Mark Medina, L.A. Times, Lakers Now: Andrew Bynum has some good news to share about his health. “My knee feels really, really good right now,” he said after posting 13 points and 13 rebounds in the Lakers 104-85 victory over the MinnesotaTimberwolves on Wednesday. Bynum said he felt discomfort in his surgically repaired right knee after it was hit by Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant during last week’s loss to the Thunder. That prompted Bynum to “ice the heck out” of his knee to minimize swelling before undergoing a lubricating injection Friday. And he played only six minutes during the All-Star game to help rest the knee. Lakers Coach Mike Brown called Bynum’s seventh consecutive double-double Wednesday a productive night, “The injection really helped,” Bynum said. “There’s no swelling.” That allowed Bynum to appear quicker than usual against the Timberwolves. In the second quarter, he spun around Minnesota center Darko Milicic for a two-handed dunk along the baseline. On the next possession, he threw down a dunk on a lob from Steve Blake. Bynum reported no pain after participating in most of Tuesday’s practice, sitting out a full-court scrimmage. His knee has remained sound all season; the precautionary measures of the last few days apparently are helping to ensure that.
Mark Heisler, Sheridan Hoops: Lakers fans were already recoiling in horror when Jim Buss began taking an active role in 2005, which someone (OK, me) compared to Jed Clampett turning over the Beverly Hillbillies to his cousin, Jethro (whereupon Jerry was heard calling his son “Jethro”). That spring, Jim Buss was part of the delegation that scouted Bynum, a little-known prep center. He was invited along by Kupchak, who knew he’d need help convincing Jerry Buss to draft a high school kid. In a long history of slick moves with West in charge for so much of it, that pick was one of the slickest in the team’s history. Of course, Lakers officials like to remind you, “We’re a mom and pop store,” meaning Jerry Buss doesn’t have billions like Paul Allen, or even Donald T. Sterling. On the other hand, the Lakers do have that $3 billion, 20-year TV deal kicking in next season, which will add many hundreds of millions of dollars to their account. Nevertheless, coming off a mere $20 million profit last season – down from the usual $40-50 million – it was pure Jerry Buss to tighten up and – when Odom moped in – giving them an excuse to dump his $8.9 million salary. Until then, the Lakers had two tradable players, Odom and either Gasol or Bynum. Now they have one. Jim Buss, who played the leading role in Mike Brown’s hiring, has been additionally criticized for axing Odom. But it looks like it was really a financial call, and Jerry Buss makes those. First-year coach Mike Brown now has a problem as more players besides Metta World Peace question the offense, or lack thereof. Yes, Brown is in over his head, but Phil Jackson would have been, too. If Jackson wouldn’t have junked the triangle, exposing their point guards who were fine in it, you may remember that he was there last spring when their issues surfaced Laker fans live in hope someone will rise to the occasion, as someone always has. Even if it’s been a while.
On the subject of Jim Buss (and buddy Chaz), there’s a piece in Ball Don’t Lie by Kelly Dwyer, incorporating another article by Lakers scribe Roland Lazenby from Hoopshype. I’m not doing the copy/paste here, as the material is best read in its entirety, rather than in excerpt form. The links are provided above – read ‘em and weep.
– Dave Murphy