From Mark Heisler, Lakers Nation: They went down to the crossroads, fell down on their knees, and who came by? Ho, ho, ho…He was huge, he was round but no, he wasn’t Fat Albert, even if there was enough of a resemblance for Dallas owner Mark Cuban to put him on their scoreboard screen with the Lakers in town. Not that Shaquille O’Neal, whose sense of humor was one of his best attributes, minded. He was laughing as much as anyone. Yes, it was Shaq. The Lakers’ big fond memory, returning to the Staples Center he helped build in the flesh, all 350 pounds of it, to have his No. 34 jersey retired and remind everyone of better times.
From Brett Polakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: When the Lakers retired the jersey of Shaquille O’Neal in a halftime ceremony on Tuesday, something appeared to be off with the replica that was unveiled on the wall of the Staples Center, hanging alongside the rest of the retired numbers of the all-time great Lakers. O’Neal’s name and number were incorrectly emblazoned on the front of the jersey, as first noticed publicly by well-respected investigative journalist Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones. The equally intrepid Dan Devine of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie took it a step further, and confirmed Kerby’s observation as being fact with Lakers spokesman, John Black. Since then, the Lakers have said that the team expects to have the replacement jersey in place before tip-off Friday night at Staples when the Lakers will host the Memphis Grizzlies, according to Mark Medina of theLos Angeles Daily News.
From Ben Bolch, LA Times: A slightly less heralded Laker nudged his way into the spotlight Tuesday night alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. His name is Earl Clark, and his fame in NBA circles is burgeoning. “You saw the game,” veteran Dallas guard Vince Carter said after Clark helped the Lakers emerge with a 101-81 victory over the Mavericks at Staples Center. “He did everything. He was as big as their stars.” Clark had 17 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high five blocks, the forward reappearing in a big way after a string of mostly forgettable performances since his midseason breakthrough. It was the most rebounds he had collected in more than a month. It was the most points he had scored in nearly two months.
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Dwight Howard’s defense has vastly improved since the All-Star break. The once plodding along big man is spry again, looking much like the defensive player of the year he once was. While the Los Angeles Lakers battle for a spot in the playoffs, there’s still a season beyond 2012-2013 to worry about, and Howard has made it clear that there’s every reason to believe he can continue his path to being a healthy All-World defender once again. He’s running the floor in transition, he’s destroying pick and rolls, he’s covering a ton of ground. When the Lakers played the Sacramento Kings it was most noticeable as he moved like a lunatic covering as much ground as we’ve seen any Lakers defender in the last few years.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant will always be associated with the number 81, and with good reason. But here are two more digits tied to Bryant that are just as eye-popping: 79. As in 79 seconds, the total amount of time Bryant has sat in the Los Angeles Lakers’ last two games — both wins — coming just shy of going the distance and playing the maximum 96 minutes. Bryant scoring in the 80s as a 27-year-old was one thing. But to play two entire games in a row as a 34-year-old nursing a bum left ankle that exacerbated a bone spur in his left foot? And then to not only play that much time, but to average 21 points, 12.5 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot? Well, that’s another thing altogether.