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Some things never change; there’s still that annoying cowbell at Arco Arena, Kobe’s all-around brilliance, Derek Fisher’s clutch shooting and the Lakers reigning supreme over the Kings. The House that Mitch built continued its early season steamrolling of the league tonight, this time knocking off Sacramento 112-100 to improve to 5-0. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the game…

* His knee is 100%. Or so he says. If you’re the rest of the NBA, you better hope Kobe is telling the truth, because if this is #24 at only 80 or 90%, it’s going to be darn near impossible to knock off L.A. this season. Bryant decided before the game that it was time to turn the Kings’ franchise into his personal playground, pretty much shooting, passing and rebounding at will while Sacramento’s defenders remained mostly helpless for the 36 minutes he was on the floor. The results: 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for Bryant’s 17th career triple double and first since Jan. 21, 2009. Other than a down stretch in the first half of the fourth quarter, Kobe absolutely dominated this game in every which way.

* Admit it; you breathed a sizable sigh of relief when Odom quickly returned after wincing in pain for several minutes during a key stretch the third quarter — apparently the result of re-injuring his thumb. That is how much a consistent Lamar means to this still short-handed Lakers squad right now. Odom is in full beast mode through five games, playing at a level he has historically reserved more for big game atmospheres. Once again, he had the full arsenal on display, tallying 18 points to go along with eight boards.

* The young Kings remind me a little bit of the Thunder in that they’re a talented, hard-working bunch who have shown a lot of potential in a short period of time. With Tyreke Evans at the helm and some promising players like DeMarcus Cousins, they are starting to build a foundation for what could be a very solid team in maybe two years. Even after going down big in the second half, they refused to concede to a clearly superior Lakers team, fighting all the way back to within seven in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. They actually out-hustled the Lakers on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 49-43, including a 12-7 edge in offensive boards. L.A. quickly reminded the Kings, though, that one of the most important attributes to a winning team is poise. It doesn’t hurt to have Derek Fisher on your side either, who did his best impersonation of his fourth quarter performance during Game 3 of last year’s Finals against Boston.

* L.A. closed out quarters and halves just as championship teams are expected to — decisively. Just when you thought Sacramento was about to embark on a game-changing run, there Odom, Fisher and Co. were, quickly erecting brick walls to counteract the Kings’ offense. It was a balanced attack, too, as perhaps for the first time this season, the bench (only 5-19 shooting tonight) wasn’t a key story in deciding the outcome of the game, while all five starters scoring in double figures.

* Guard penetration remains a problem spot for the Lakers. Evans, who was plagued by foul trouble for much of the night, still managed to charge his way down the lane for 21 points, with Francisco Garcia following closely behind with 17 off the bench. You have to think Bynum’s return will rectify this some, but L.A. will eventually find themselves on the other side of victory if they continue to let the Evans’ of the league bobsled their way uncontested through the heart of their defense.

* All things considered, the Lakers mostly aced their first back-to-back test of the season. The requisite energy was there, even if it led at times to a bit of a track meet with the Kings. Letting the Kings and the Arco crowd back into the game is a no no, but the talent disparity between the two teams made up for the L.A.’s defensive lapses in the fourth quarter. It worked tonight and will probably work against a struggling team like the Raptors this Friday, too. Portland on Sunday is another story, though.

* Lastly, congrats to Kobe for breaking the Lakers franchise record for regular-season minutes played tonight, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s previous record of 37,492. Another game, another amazing career feat for Bryant.

Lakers at Suns Game Preview

Jeff Skibiski —  October 29, 2010

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The 1-0 Lakers head to the Valley of the Sun tonight to face a drastically different Phoenix squad than the one that took them to six games in last year’s Western Conference Finals (shout out to Ron Artest…that Game 5 winner is still fresh in my mind). That old stalwart with the long hair and perfectly arched three point shot is still around, but the pieces–new and old–surrounding him after Amar’e Stoudemire’s offseason departure remain somewhat of a mystery at this point. That said, here are a few things to look for in tonight’s road opener:

* The Lakers new-and-improved point guard tandem of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake gets its first test of the young season against an elite point guard (apologies to Aaron Brooks) in the aforementioned Steve Nash. Unlike past seasons, though, when Nash had the luxury of dumping the ball down to Stoudemire, his role has been more of a scoring point guard through the Suns’ first two games. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the pesty guard’s 26 points in Phoenix’s season opening loss to Portland and 18 points in the Suns’ win against Utah last night—both of which either led or tied for the team lead in scoring—is a rather rare feat for Nash, who only accomplished that once in consecutive games during the 2009-2010 season. As Steve goes, so too go the Suns, which makes stopping him priority number one for the Lakers.

* Though Stoudemire has never been known as a prominent rebounder or defender, he still filled the lane in a way that no current Suns player is capable of emulating on a consistent basis. Robin Lopez proved in last year’s playoffs that he has the potential to become a force down low and the offseason band-aid pick-up of Hakim Warrick will undoubtedly help some, but at the end of the day, the Lakers—Bynum or no Bynum—should be able to fully take advantage of the size disparity between the two teams. Pau pulled down a gritty 11 boards in the home opener against Houston and I’d look for him to meet or exceed that number tonight. Despite his efforts, the Lakers found themselves in an unfamiliar position against the Rockets, who badly outrebounded them 53-44. Against a larger Yao Ming-led Houston team, it makes a little more sense; a similar effort against Phoenix would be inexcusable, though.

* The Lakers have won each of their last five road openers, but these types of early season games against a hungry team like the Suns, whose crowd will no doubt be ready to take some vengeance out on the forum blue and gold, are always dangerous. As we all witnessed in the Conference Finals last season, Phoenix’s stellar outside shooting and athleticism were able to mitigate some of the Lakers’ largest strengths. Moreover, the zone defense employed by Alvin Gentry really caught the Lakers off guard and if it weren’t for Artest’s put-back in Game 5, who knows what direction the series could have turned.

* Overall, the Suns roster reminds me a bit of a Thanksgiving dinner without the stuffing and cranberry sauce. Sure, they have some talented pieces—especially with their surplus of small forward types (Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu, Jared Dudley and even Josh Childress, though he’s listed as as a two)—but their roster appears unbalanced and incomplete by today’s NBA standards. Against a team like the Lakers, who can throw any combo of Artest, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Kobe on you, one of Phoenix’s most important advantages is taken away. If you’re Phoenix, where is the stuffing needed to fill the lane against the physical rosters of the league’s elite teams?

* The Lakers will have had three days off by tipoff time, which for most teams might be considered a little counterproductive at this time of the year. The Lakers aren’t in that category, though, with several players—most notably, one Kobe Bryant—still recovering from injuries. With Tuesday night’s emotional ring ceremony and last minute victory behind them, tonight’s game should be a good gauge for where this team’s mental state resides early on in this 2010-11 season. Ideally, it would be great to see the Lakers take a focused, business-like approach to tonight’s game, keeping their feet on the pedal and extending their early season momentum.

WHERE YOU CAN WATCH: ESPN and KCAL at 7:30 p.m. PST or 710 AM ESPN Radio.

Around the World (Wide Web)

Jeff Skibiski —  October 28, 2010

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From Mike Bresnahan, L.A. Times: It’s only one game into the season, and the Lakers have an easy schedule until late December, but Bryant’s progress will continue to be monitored until he shows signs of regaining the burst and lift he possessed before his right knee started hurting toward the end of last season. He said he was fine after playing 37 minutes against Houston. “I felt good,” said Bryant, who had seven assists.

From J.A. Adande, Give me The Blake Show over The Lake Show. With Blake Griffin finally on the court the Clippers are the most interesting team in Los Angeles right now. Not the best, not the one with the most potential, just the most intriguing during the interminable regular season. The Lakers’ story will be told in the spring. Kobe Bryant already sounds bored by the tedious process. If you saw a graphic equalizer for his media interviews over the past week it would look like this: —————-. The Clippers, thanks to Griffin, figure to be a nightly discovery throughout the winter. And if the coming months are anything like his coming out party Wednesday night, you’d better get ready to pop every last kernel of Terrell Owens’ popcorn.

From Mark Medina, L.A. Times: Ron Artest’s website apparently drew so many visitors looking to buy raffle tickets for his 2010 championship ring that it crashed. “We understand we’ve nearly crashed,” CNN host Larry King said to Artest, who appeared Wednesday on King’s show. “So we’re going to give you an alternate site. You can go to That’s So we’ve crashed your site. … We have destroyed your site. The site is exploding.”

From Andy Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: Blake told Brian and me during our Media Day show he wasn’t pulling a Ron Artest and placing the blame over a failure to Three-peat on his shoulders. As he noted, championships are won and lost by teams, not individuals. That doesn’t mean, however, there was not relief in immediately demonstrating his worth to a demanding fan base right off the bat. “It’s just nice to start off and show people you belong. I’m happy to be here and I want to contribute,” acknowledged the Maryland University product.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: As history tells us, revolutions hardly every occur peacefully, and this one is no different. There may not be any bloodshed, but there are plenty of battles being waged over the usefulness of advanced stats. One such battle has come to the fore, perhaps almost by accident: the question of whether the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat will win the NBA championship. Miami is the paper tiger (it is as yet unknown whether they are also a real tiger), a team made up of such overwhelming statistical parts that their power cannot be ignored by the statistically inclined. Statistical models aren’t as fond of the Lakers.They view the Lakers as a good team, to be sure, but they focus on certain things about the Lakers (their age, their somewhat underwhelming point differential last year) as evidence that they might not be championship-quality this season. But, the Lakers have two straight championships backing up their case, and a team chock full of all the qualities that stats non-believers will point to as not showing up in a box score.

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Through three exhibition games, it’s mostly been all quiet on the western front for the Lakers. Sure, there’s the whole issue of offensive/defensive continuity, Bynum’s wavering injury status, Kobe’s continuing rehab, the integration of five new players and the expected post-championship malaise. Wednesday night’s promising 98-95 win against the Kings showed that the forum blue and gold are back to business, though. They’ll get another nice tune-up tonight against a team in the Denver Nuggets, whom, when healthy and focused, are still considered a threat for the number two seed in the Western Conference. Here are five things to look for tonight in the Lakers return to the site where they won their sixteenth title nearly four months ago to the day.

1) The Melodrama continues in Denver, but Anthony remains the most valuable part of a competitive Nuggets team for the time being. The small forward has stuck to his guns through three preseason games so far, refusing to publicly state that he’d like a trade—instead channeling his energy onto the basketball court. He’s averaging over 24 points so far in the pre-season, including a near triple-double against the Clippers on Thursday with 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. For the slimmed down Ron Artest and newcomer Matt Barnes, tonight’s matchup against Melo represents their first real test against an elite small forward and our first look at what just how potent the defensive duo could be at limiting the Anthony’s, Durant’s and James’ of the league.

2) Will this be the game where Kobe’s production finally matches what appears to be his increasingly improved mobility? Even after his poor 2-10 shooting night against Sacramento, Bryant looked like he actually had his legs under him for the first time this preseason. Coach Jackson says he’ll likely play #24 for about half of the game tonight, which should give us an extended look at exactly where the 2010 Finals MVP stands with 10 games left ’til the season opener. Again, at this early juncture of the season, it’s still more about quality over quantity for Kobe…not that anyone would mind a 20+ point performance on good shooting numbers just to give us a glimpse of what we have to look forward to once the Mamba is back to 100%.

3) According to Jackson, he plans to play the starters heavy minutes tonight against Denver, before giving the bench more burn in tomorrow’s Shootout finale. The starting unit played well in the first eight minutes against the Kings on Wednesday, quickly building a 23-17 before Matt Barnes checked in at about the four minute marker of the first quarter. More than building an early lead, though, they actually began to look like the fivesome who who was largely responsible for winning back-to-back titles. Can they maintain that same rhythm in consecutive games and against a superior Nuggets team?

4) Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen and Al Harrington are all out tonight, leaving a gaping hole in the Nuggets front court that Odom and Gasol should be able to exploit. Jackson singled out his favorite whipping boy, Pau, even after what looked like a successful 18 point, 12 rebound effort against the Kings. Regardless of whether he turned a deaf ear to Phil’s insinuations that he was “still on vacation,” look for Gasol to assert himself early and often tonight.

5) Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo started in the backcourt for the Nuggets on Thursday against the Clips, with the latter notching an impressive 27 points and nine rebounds. Small, athletic guards like Lawson and Afflalo have been met with little duress from Lakers defenders in recent years, but that’s precisely why they brought in a proven defender like Steve Blake to hopefully fill some of that void. L.A. will be without Vujacic tonight, so the onus on stopping the Nuggets guards may also fall onto Barnes’ and even Devin Ebanks’ shoulders.

WHERE YOU CAN WATCH: 7:30 p.m. local time on FS West, NBATV and ESPN Radio 710 am.

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Phil was rocking designer sandals with socks tonight and I still can’t watch a game in Vegas without thinking of Kobe’s prophetic dunk in a pre-season game there over a decade ago. More importantly, though, the Lakers are finally starting to resemble the team that has won consecutive titles, defeating Sacramento 98-95 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close. A few observations…

* After a sloppy two games in Europe, the coaching staff stressed effort and continuity in the practices leading up to tonight’s game. The Lakers’ response: energy and activity right out of the gates. Aside from a few lapses to close quarters, L.A. consistently played with active hands on defense, chipping balls away from Kings players underneath the hoop and patrolling the passing lanes for eight steals on the night, resulting in a total of 18 turnovers for Sacto. Lamar Odom, in particular, was in mid-season form, as pointed out by Stu Lantz, grabbing two steals to go with seven points, nine rebounds and six assists. It was yet another classic example of Odom affecting the game without necessarily filling up the stat sheet, though, as he regularly controlled the flow of the game on both ends of the floor during the first half.

* In stretches, the Lakers arguably played with more fluidity on offense than they did in their first two pre-season games combined. Twenty-six assists on 36 field goals (44% shooting) is a vast improvement over their previous game against Barcelona when L.A. only managed 14 assists on 29 made field goals. Steve Blake only scored three points in 22 minutes of play, but dealt out five assists on zero turnovers, while continuing to show exceptional triangle aptitude for it only being his third game with the forum blue and gold. Matt Barnes also looked much more comfortable out there against the soft Kings defense, showing his full arsenal of moves during a brief stretch in the second quarter when he made an outstanding catch-and-twist move for a bucket and an even better pass to Caracter underneath the hoop. Even though I felt like the Lakers over-passed a bit early on in the first half, I liked the way that all 13 players who stepped foot on the court tonight made a conscious effort to get everyone involved.

* The Lakers didn’t play consistent defense for all 48 minutes, but they certainly showed in spurts why they have all the makings of being a stellar defensive team this year. As Darius pointed out in his pre-game preview, L.A. had been lazy with their rotations and closeouts through two games. After trailing by a point at halftime and losing the rebounding battle by three, Jackson and the coaching staff stressed increased focus on D and his team answered in the third quarter, holding the Kings to only 12 points. By the end of the game, the Lakers evened them up on rebounds—beating them 17-14 on offensive boards—led by Pau’s 12. L.A.’s increased activity didn’t go unnoticed by the officials, though, as they allowed Sacramento to shoot 43 free throws, compared to only 30 for the home team. That may fly during the pre-season, but come Oct. 26, they’ll need to refine that aspect of their game.

* Ron Artest was dropping bombs all night, connecting on 4-5 from beyond the arc (7-11 overall) on his way to tying Gasol for the team lead with 18 points. More encouraging, though, was the fact that #15 looked entirely comfortable doing so, smoothly moving through the Lakers’ half court sets, often finding himself in the perfect position to nail a wide-open J. While his learning curve in the triangle seemingly lasted all of last season, the strong offensive awareness displayed tonight by Ron bodes well for 2010-11. You really get the sense that Artest took his clutch performances in the final two rounds of last year’s playoffs to heart; no longer is he the lost puppy looking for the Lakers to take him in. L.A. is his home now and he’s ready to go to work for the Lakers.

* Shannon Brown got a bit ball hungry when he first entered the game, but once he started allowing the offense to come to him more in the second half, he provided exactly the type of spark the Lakers are looking for him to create off the bench this season. His 17 points, including an explosive dunk attempt in the second half that nearly brought the house down, helped the Lakers during a 16-4 run in the middle of the third and another 12-1 run to end the quarter. His four turnovers are something he’ll need to watch out for, though.

* Tyreke Evans wasn’t his usual self, whether a product of Fisher, Blake and Sashas’ pesky defense or just the result of a poor shooting night (4-14). Rookie DeMarcus Cousins shook off a shaky first half to become a difference maker in the second, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, at times showing flashes of why the Kings are so hopeful about his future in the NBA. Carl Landry, undersized as he may at power forward, is quickly moving up the list of players who just always seem to find a way to play well against the Lakers. The former Rocket had his way for most of the night, scoring a game-high 23 points, while nabbing eight boards.

* There was a Devin Ebanks sighting in the desert tonight and if he keeps playing with a high level of activity on the floor, he might just weasel his way into an extra minute or two of burn during the regular season. Ebanks didn’t just look like Trevor Ariza’s doppelgänger tonight, but acted like the former forward too, scoring 10 points on 4-9 shooting, while at times setting the tone for his unit with excellent energy around the hoop.

* The starting line-up played almost the first eight minutes of the game before Barnes checked in for Lamar, giving the Lakers a brief look at their potential three-headed defensive monster in Matt, Kobe and Ron. Can’t wait to hopefully see more of this as match-ups allow and the season progresses. Speaking of Kobe—whose 19 minutes were pretty consistent with Coach Jackson’s pre-game expectations—#24 finally looked like he had his legs under him a bit, even if his 2-10 shooting and seven points say otherwise. He showed decent elevation on his shots and was involved in the Lakers’ team-centric attack early on in the first quarter. He’s not the Kobe of old yet, but he’s slowly, but surely getting there, as are the defending champs. Next up are Melo—for now—and the Nuggets this Saturday. Excited to see some small steps taken tonight? Chime in below.

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It’s October 11, somehow still 90 degrees in L.A. and we’re almost two weeks away from banner night. While LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Co. continue to set fire to the league’s media landscape, there’s another story that is quietly dominating the NBA this fall, one sprained ankle and tender hammy at a time. The ever-present injury bug has reached full-scale epidemic levels during the 2010 pre-season with nearly every team—including several Lakers rivals—experiencing its wrath in one way, shape or form. If you look down the Lakers own bench since training camp opened, you’re likely to be greeted by no less than Kobe, Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton. Bumps, bruises, tears and aches are minor problems for some teams and full-scale crises for others. Let’s check in with some of the competition to see who’s still standing.

Miami’s Big Three took its first hit last week when Dwyane Wade strained his right hamstring in the Heat’s exhibition opener against the Pistons. No one’s hitting the panic button in South Beach, but as anyone who has ever hurt their hamstring can attest, it has the potential to linger if not given due diligence.

The Celtics responded to news that budding center Kendrick Perkins would be out for at least half of the season by signing Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal to help fill their void down low. So far, the injury-plagued younger of the two O’Neal’s has suffered a case of the butterflies and a more concerning pulled hamstring injury of his own that kept him out of the Celtics’ first two exhibition games. He made his debut last night and played five minutes, but Doc Rivers warned that Boston would continue to carefully monitor the injury.

Clutch City has been more like Crutch City the past few years and the 2010 pre-season has done nothing so far to rid Houston of its new name. First, there was the announcement that Yao Ming—so vital to Houston securing a top seed in the Western Conference—would be limited to a maximum of 24 minutes per game and likely wouldn’t play at all on some back-to-backers. Now, his insurance policy, Brad Miller, is nursing an injury of his own, as he’s day-to-day with a sprained left ankle.

Spurs newcomer Tiago Splitter received a rude welcome to the NBA, suffering a strained calf that has kept him out of San Antonio’s pre-season action thus far. Doctors say they’ll reevaluate the forward-center in 7-10 days, but this isn’t exactly the type of start San Antonio was hoping for from a player who is widely viewed as a huge factor in keeping the Spurs’ championship window open for at least another season.

Portland’s injury woes from the past few seasons have shown no signs of letting up with Greg Oden again out indefinitely and potential replacement Jeff Pendergraph announcing this week that he’ll miss the entire 2010-11 season with a torn ACL. This recent bout of injuries does little to instill much confidence in a team, who when healthy, is expected to potentially compete against the Lakers for the West crown.

The Nuggets—whose front court was already reeling from the absence of Kenyon Martin to start the season—lost his replacement, Al Harrington, for at least two weeks with a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot.

Leading contenders for the Central Division title—Chicago and Milwaukee—have both taken their tumbles this pre-season, led by Carlos Boozer’s freak hand injury and news that Andrew Bogut’s surgically-repaired hand, wrist and elbow is likely to continue to cause him discomfort all season long.

While it won’t heal Kobe or Bynums’ knees or cure Luke of his back pain, it’s at least somewhat reassuring to know that most of the Lakers’ leading competition for the Western Conference and eventually, the NBA title, are to some degree, dealing with injuries of their own heading into the 2010-11 season. We all witnessed what one major injury to a key player (Kevin Garnett) did to Boston’s title hopes in 2009, so here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for all of the league’s wearied and wobbled.

Lakers in London Town

Jeff Skibiski —  October 2, 2010

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The Lakers (…including the Laker girls…) are approximately 24 hours into their eight-day Euro trip and jet lag should be setting in anytime now. Before they take on the T-Wolves in London on Monday, they’ll get a chance to fulfill one of Kobe’s lifelong dreams by attending a Premier League soccer match between English rivals Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. The Lakers are used to playing in hostile environments such as Boston and Oklahoma City, but for those who haven’t had a chance to visit Stamford Bridge in-person, think Arco Arena during the Kings heyday.

“When I was a kid growing up in Italy, my dream was—I used to go to Serie A (Italian league) games all the time, but I wanted to go watch a Premier game,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ finished practice Saturday. “And my mom would never let me go. I wanted to go watch Liverpool and stuff like that, and she was like ‘No, you’re not going.’ So now to finally have an opportunity some 20 years later to go watch a Premier game is incredible.”

European fans, who recently made Bryant’s jersey the top-selling jersey in Europe, feel the same way about the chance to see Kobe and the back-to-back champs—one reason why Andrew Kamenetzky from ESPN’s Land O’ Lakers says L.A. is the perfect team to represent the NBA on an international tour.

That this jaunt isn’t being treated like a vacation on somebody else’s dime is readily apparent. Yes, Odom expressed some interest in sightseeing and shopping (“Maybe getting my wife [Khloe Kardashian] some shoes”), and a Chelsea-Arsenal soccer match is among a few fun items on the itinerary. But the vibe upon undertaking this journey was uniformly business.

The L.A. Times’ Mike Bresnahan talks about the Lakers’ mindset heading into next season when nine of their 14 players are over the age of 30.

A handful of kilometers from the Lakers’ game in London will be a deeper, more symbolic occurrence, Big Ben continuing to chime every hour on the hour, a 151-year veteran that never tires, never disappoints and never needs knee surgery. Can this year’s Lakers withstand their own test of time, carving out another wedge of NBA lore despite nine of their 14 players being 30 or older?

Mike Trudell from is embedded with the team for the duration of their trip and is posting daily video clips from the team’s flight, practices and more.

You can get your first look at Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Theo Ratliff and the rest of the 2010-2011 Lakers against Minnesota at 7 p.m. (delayed) on KCAL/9 this Monday. KCAL/9 will also air the game this Thursday against Spanish heavyweight FC Barcelona at 7 p.m. Cheers!

Ticket Alert for Tomorrow

Jeff Skibiski —  October 1, 2010

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Reminder: there’s no sleeping in tomorrow for Lakers fans hoping to snatch up a few of the 1,000 or so tickets available for next season’s games during the Ticketmaster general on-sale, beginning at 10 a.m. Savvier ticket buyers already had their first go-around at trying to nab tickets to see Miami on Christmas Day (good luck on that one…) this afternoon as part of the Lakers e-newsletter pre-sale.

There’s been a few changes to the ticket process this year (unfortunately, eliminating that annoying word puzzle on Ticketmaster isn’t one of them)—some games cheaper, some games more expensive.

What are your must-see in-person games? Maybe a little closure to Game 7 on ring night vs. Houston, Oct. 26? How about L.A.’s first go-around with the new-look Bulls on Nov. 23? If you aren’t secretly hoping Santa brings you a little forum blue and gold-wrapped package containing a pair of prized tickets to see LeBron, Wade and Bosh on Christmas Day, you aren’t breathing. Or, maybe you fancy a rematch with Boston—no doubt in full Grinch mode—when they head back to the site of their epic Finals loss on Jan. 30?