From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: We love Earl Clark. Not because he’s a superstar in the NBA dropping 30 points a night without effort, not because he’s slamming down monstrous alley-oops and posterizing opponents on a quarterly basis, but because he’s an energy player who can do a little bit of everything. On a roster that severely lacks athleticism, depth, playmakers, and perimeter defenders Clark does a great job checking these boxes off while showing his versatility. His emergence came under less than ideal circumstances as Jordan Hill’s injury left him shelved for the remainder of the season, and Pau Gasol has been dealing with a concussion. So, the opportunity is here for Earl Clark to devour: a delicious entrée freshly out of the oven on a purple and gold platter. As he digs into his plate the Lakers have benefited from feeding the “throw-in” from the Dwight Howard trade, and with each passing game, it becomes clear that his place in the Lakers’ rotation is no longer a “break in case of emergency” but “don’t break this because it’s working”.
From Arash Markazi, ESPN LA: Miami Heat forward LeBron James recently said the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had to go through the same level of scrutiny he and the Heat did two seasons ago. On Wednesday, Kobe Bryant responded as only he can. ”What does it matter?” Bryant said. “What does he want, a cookie for that?” The Lakers will play the Heat on Thursday with both teams looking for a win rather than bragging rights about dealing with expectations and adversity. In 2010-2011 when James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, the Heat started the season 9-8 before finishing 58-24 and losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. This season, the Lakers with Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are 17-21. Various injuries to Howard, Nash and Gasol have prevented the Lakers’ core from playing together at the same time much this season. Howard said he understood where James was coming from with his comments, considering the widespread backlash James received after announcing his decision to take his “talents to South Beach” during a nationally televised special.
From Janis Carr, OC Register: Dwight Howard can be serious when he wants. He can turn off his mega-watt smile at any time, any place. On the court or off. He simply prefers to smile. Yet there are some who seem bothered by Howard’s upbeat style, especially on the court. Former Lakers great Robert Horry said in a radio interview Tuesday that Howard needs to tone down his silliness, get meaner, forget about his teammates and ditch the headband.”You want a guy to be more focused,” Horry said, pointing to LeBron James’ no-nonsense demeanor in last season’s playoffs. “That’s the kind of guy you want, someone who’s focused, not fun-loving.”At first, Howard bristled and refused to get drawn into a war of words with Horry, but went on to say that he is going to continue to be himself.”It’s made me successful the last nine years,” Howard said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m not going to stop smiling. This is what I do for a living.
From Melissa Rohlin, LA Times: Dwight Howard emerged from the showers resembling The Hulk, his already broad shoulders exaggerated by a large ice pack. His recent play has been similarly oversized. In Howard’s last three games, he has averaged 22.3 points on 29-for-36 shooting, making a remarkable 80.6% of his shots from the field. Oh, and he has grabbed 18.7 rebounds a game.”My legs are coming back a little bit, I’m in a little bit better shape and they’re finding me in the right spots,” Howard said. “I just got to continue to play with energy and effort and, like I said, believe that we can turn this thing around.” The Lakers have strung together two consecutive wins behind Howard’s impressive play, most recently a 104-88 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday at Staples Center. Howard finished with 31 points on 14-for-18 shooting and 16 rebounds. While sitting by his locker after the game, Kobe Bryant said that he’s “extremely” impressed by Howard’s recent play, adding that the two superstars are finally learning how to play more effectively together.
From Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Kobe Bryant taps me on the shoulder. “We doing this?” he asks. “Let’s go.” He’s loose and confident, which essentially makes it a normal day in Bryant’s world. Despite the unexpected wayward direction the Lakers season has taken, Bryant is ebullient during our exclusive, rare sit-down interview. He’s quick with a smirk or a joke and quite chummy. His exuberance suggests the Lakers are in the thick of a championship hunt. Today, his 17 years of accomplishment and five championship rings weigh more than a flimsy 17-21 record. In Kobe Bryant’s universe, the sky is not falling. Actually, it’s still very much the limit. On this recent January morning, he bounces from refreshingly candid to slightly guarded to inquisitive to surprisingly funny. But he quickly settles into a comfort zone, even slipping off his low-cut lavender Kobe 8s while absentmindedly fiddling with the three bracelets around his right ankle as he remembers how bewildered his 19-year-old self could once be. He’s both appreciative of a lengthy career and the finite amount of time left to secure another ring. He’s grown weary of the broken record responses about his vastly underachieving Lakers. But today he reflects on his early years, contemplates hypothetical situations and offers details of his daily life. This is Kobe Bryant, pretty much, unchained.