Well, we know who the Lakers will have in the first round of the playoffs. The Portland Trailblazers, even without Brandon Roy, were able to take care of the Oklahoma City Thunder, creating a Lakers/Thunder first round match up. Much has been said about the Lakers struggles down the stretch, but since the Thunder dismantled the Lakers at the end of March, the Thunder have only played .500 basketball. Kevin Durant looks as if he’s going to take home his first, of what promises to be many, scoring titles in only his third year in the league since it doesn’t look like LeBron will be participating in any basketball until Cleveland’s first playoff game.
From Land O’ Lakers: Earlier, I dropped a few nuggets from Andrew Bynum’s meeting with the media Monday in El Segundo regarding his balky left Achilles tendon. Below is the entirety of the exchange. It was good to see Bynum in gym clothes having built up a sweat. As most of you know, I try to avoid making projections about returns from injury, particularly when it comes to Bynum, preferring instead to see evidence of recovery.
From Land O’ Lakers: Earlier, I passed along the news Kobe Bryant will sit out the final two games of the regular season, the official reason being an “avulsion fracture of the right index finger.” Unofficially, he could use said finger to point to all the other body parts bothering him throughout the year. Bryant has fought ankle, knee, groin, elbow, and back trouble, plus flu (stomach/normal) and other maladies we probably don’t know about. He just sat out two games thanks to the knee, and is (over an admittedly small sample size) shooting 30 percent in three April games.
From the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: Shortly after proclaiming to reporters Sunday he would play the Lakers’ final two regular-season games, guard Kobe Bryant sent a text message at 8 p.m. to Lakers Coach Phil Jackson that suggested otherwise. Said Jackson: “It said he probably shouldn’t play the last two games with the way he felt.” That means the next time Bryant suits up will be Game 1 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, an absence a team spokesman said was because of Bryant’s four-month-old fractured right index finger.
Practice Report from Lakers.com (With Video): The most significant news out of Monday afternoon’s practice was (as it often is) on the injury front. We learned that Kobe Bryant will not play in L.A.’s final two regular season games – on Tuesday against Sacramento and Wednesday against the Clippers – in part to rest the avulsion fracture in his right index finger. Furthermore, Andrew Bynum said that he is feeling no pain in the left Achilles that’s kept him out of L.A.’s last 11 games. Due in part to those two injuries, Phil Jackson downplayed the team’s struggles of late, including three losses in four games.
From Momma There Goes That Man: Sometimes, I wish Pau Gasol would get the credit he deserves. Undervalued. Unfairly labeled. Unjustifiably criticized. Undeniably one of the 10 best players in the NBA. Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that, if the bottom of the four statements were true, then the three statements above it should not be true. However, all four of them are true. He’s undervalued by the Lakers fan base, unfairly labeled as soft by pundits who never spent a possession on the low block and he’s unjustifiably criticized by anyone who expects him to do even more than what he already does.
From Silver Screen and Roll: The identity of the Lakers’ first-round opponent has been revealed. With their loss tonight to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Oklahoma City Thunder fall to the eighth seed in the West and are rewarded with a weekend visit to Los Angeles. Prepare yourself for a great many Durant vs. Kobe stories over the next several days. The Lakers and Thunder have played four times this season, with the Lakers thrice prevailing. In their most recent meeting, on March 26, OKC did sick and unnatural things to L.A., winning 91 to 75. The Thunder led by 33 at the end of the third quarter of that game. The schedule of the teams’ upcoming playoff series has not yet been announced, though I suspect Game One will be on Sunday afternoon.
From the OC Register: Andrew Bynum emerged from the trainer’s room at the Lakers facility Monday, sweat dripping off his forehead. He had just finished 20 hard minutes on anti-gravity treadmill, the first time he has attempted a treadmill since pulling up lame March 19 with a strained left Achilles’ tendon. Bynum, who has missed 11 games and will not play in the final two, is looking to beef up his conditioning so that he can return to the Lakers’ lineup for the first game of the playoffs, expected to be Sunday.
From the LA Daily News: Full disclosure, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories in general. Oswald killed Kennedy. Alone. Ruby killed Oswald. Alone. That’s what I believe. You can’t change my mind. Now, about Sunday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. … I have no evidence for what I’m about to suggest. Just tossing a theory out there for you gentle readers to chew on. It starts with a question. Do you think the Lakers dumped the game in order to avoid the Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs? If you’re the Lakers, wouldn’t you rather face the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder than the Blazers or the San Antonio Spurs? Beating Portland Sunday would have all but ensured a Lakers-Blazers matchup.
From SLAM Online: The Lakers/Thunder first round Playoff series became a reality last night in Portland, but the strange ending to their game against the Blazers on Sunday, the Daily News wonders if that’s what L.A. wanted all along: “If you’re the Lakers, wouldn’t you rather face the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder than the Blazers or the San Antonio Spurs? Beating Portland Sunday would have all but ensured a Lakers-Blazers matchup. Let’s review. Kobe Bryant shanks two free throws. Derek Fisher bricks one of two. Bryant makes 81 percent and Fisher 85 percent. So that’s plenty weird, right?
From Off The Dribble: The Warriors’ 116-107 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night gave Coach Don Nelson victory No. 1,333, the most for an N.B.A. coach. He passed Lenny Wilkens, who won 1,332 games over 32 seasons.So does that victory mean that Nelson is the greatest coach in N.B.A. history, or the best coach in the league now? Even the most ardent Nelson supporter would be hard pressed to make either argument.
From Lakers Nation: The world we live in always presents us with choices. There are individual rivalries that present different sides which we all stand on, and will be quick to tell everyone why one particular side is much better than the other. The examples are endless, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, and of course Kobe vs. LeBron. However, the rivalries extend far beyond the reaches of reality and stretch into the world of imagination. Perhaps the most popular of these fictional rivalries is the constant debate regarding Batman and Superman.
From Sporting News: Their best player is nursing a bevy of injuries, their 22-year-old center has missed the last 11 games and the team has dropped six of nine. Still, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers aren’t concerned their recent stumble will impact them come playoff time. With Kobe Bryant out for the last two regular-season games and Andrew Bynum also likely sidelined, the Lakers close out the home portion of their schedule Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak at Staples Center in two years.
From the OC Register Lakers Blog: On paper, this should be an easy victory for the Lakers. The Kings, eliminated from playoff contention a while ago, have lost 11 of their past 13 games and won only 25 total games. But the Lakers have become unpredictable, losing to the most unlikely of opponents. The Lakers will be looking for a measure of momentum in their final two games and victories against the Kings and Clippers on Wednesday could help them. Kobe Bryant (finger) and Andrew Bynum (Achilles tendon) are out for the Lakers, while the Kings are without Spencer Hawes (knee) and Dominic McGuire (plantar fasciitis).