From Mark Bresnahan, LA Times: The Lakers are clearly favored to win the Western Conference thanks to Oklahoma City’s stunning trade of guard James Harden. Just don’t tell them. “Let’s not fall into that stupidity from our end,” Pau Gasol said. As if expectations of the Lakers couldn’t get any larger, they just did. Oklahoma City broke up the core that went to the NBA Finals last season, concluding that its small-market budget couldn’t afford another large contract in addition to ones given to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in recent years. So the Thunder sent Harden to Houston for oft-injured shooting guard Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb and three future draft picks. Durant assessed Saturday’s trade with a one-word post on his Twitter account: “Wow.” Dwight Howard was slightly more analytical a day later. “He was a valuable piece in Oklahoma and I think they’re going to miss him a lot,” the Lakers center said.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The question posed to Mike Brown is to describe Dwight Howard’s first weeks of practice, how the latest in the long line of great Lakers centers looks, whether the mighty expectations might actually be met. The words come to exist like popping corn inside Brown’s head, slowly but soon rapid-fire — because there are just so many descriptions the Lakers’ coach feels compelled to share in his answer. When you’re up close and you see,” Brown answers, “his power, his size, his strength, his agility, his quickness, his explosiveness, his skill set on a daily basis, it just amazes you that somebody can be that big and strong and do the things that he can do — athletically and physically.” Brown reaches for another word — “special” — to boil it all down. And that’s the one to explain why the Lakers pursued Howard for more than a year in a trade from Orlando before finally landing him in August, the latest monumental change of both earth and sky in Lakerland.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: With the 2012-13 NBA season just a day away, the Los Angeles Lakers still do not know if Kobe Bryant will be in the opening night lineup. Bryant did not participate in practice Monday, marking the seventh straight day he was sidelined with a strained and bruised right foot that he hurt during the preseason while tripping over a Sacramento Kings player’s foot. Bryant will be a game-time decision Tuesday when the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks. Bryant underwent an MRI late last week that merely confirmed a strain and contusion of Bryant’s foot, Lakers spokesman John Black said. Two Lakers sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne Monday night that Bryant has made “progress” in the last few days, but there is still uncertainty over whether he will be able to play Tuesday night. Bryant posted on his Facebook page Monday night that he was “getting stronger” and added, “I will know more after shoot around tomorrow am. It’s still painful to raise up on my toes but, it’s strong. The decision to be made is whether the injury can heal while playing on it or if it will make it worse.”
From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: With the regular season opener against Dallas a little more than 24 hours away, it’s in that spirit I make the following 12 predictions about the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Which will be proven correct? Correct adjacent? Wrong, whether mildly or absurdly? We’ll know in six to eight months, give or take.
From Serena Winters, Lakers Nation: At practice Monday, Mike Brown announced that Kobe’s play on opening night will be a game time decision. With Kobe out a seventh consecutive day (foot), Dwight Howard still not 100 percent in terms of endurance, and Jordan Hill sitting out another day at practice, the Lakers will be looking to their bench more than ever. Unfortunately, it sounds like the bench still has a lot of work to do, and only about 20 hours until their first regular season game against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday evening.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen & Roll: What we hope is a triumphant new area in Lakerdom kicks off Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, and to get ready for this matchup I’ve been trading Q’s and A’s with Kirk Henderson of our excellent sister site Mavs Moneyball. My responses to Kirk’s inquiries will be up on Tuesday over there. In the meantime you can read Kirk’s game preview here, and below are his responses to a few questions of mine about the state of the Dallas franchise.