Sorry for the lack of variety in this morning’s links. I was barely able to squeeze these in my busy morning (blah, meetings). If you guys have any links you particularly liked, go ahead and share them in the comments. Thanks.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The beginning of the game will quickly reveal whether the Lakers are genuine in correcting their mistakes. The main theme revolving around Thursday’s practice showed a seriousness and maturity that will bode well for a team currently riding a four-game losing streak. Though I’ve deeply respected how the Lakers maintain a level head during adverse moments, their ability to say the right things doesn’t always equate to doing the right things. The Lakers will answer whether they’re serious about fixing their poor habits, based on how strong they open the game. Some good signs will entail whether the Lakers take a conscious effort to move the ball, ensure strong communication on both sides of the ball and showing the effort on hustle plays. A sharp start will automatically lead to a win. A go-through-the-motions approach might result in a victory, but it’s more likely some of the Lakers’ issues will remain the same.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The exercise seemed tedious. But that was the point. Each time Lakers Coach Phil Jackson replayed the last six minutes of the first half of the Lakers’ 109-99 loss Wednesday to the Houston Rockets during Thursday’s practice, the various sequences showcased several areas the Lakers need to correct. Protecting a lead: After the reserves largely helped the Lakers build a 12-point advantage with 3:23 remaining, the Lakers’ starters allowed Houston to end the first half with an 11-4 run. Shot selection: The Lakers went only two of eight from the field during the Rockets’ rally, thanks to forced outside shots and poor drives to the lane. Questionable defense: The Lakers allowed the Rockets to close the gap thanks to inadequate efforts in covering the perimeter, filling the lane on help defense and rotating when Houston worked its offense.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Sporting News ranked Lakers guard Kobe Bryant first on its list of the top 50 NBA players, a revelation that’s not necessarily eye-opening but interesting because the results are based on the a panel of 76 current and former players, coaches and general managers. “Every year, we look for ways that he has lost a step and you look for ways that younger guys like LeBron or Kevin Durant have caught up to him — and maybe in the middle of January, you can find some of those,” a Western Conference scout told The Sporting News.
From Broderick Turner, LA Times: The hope, Pau Gasol said after practice Thursday, is that with rest and treatment on his strained left hamstring he’ll be able to play Friday night against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. Gasol will test his injury Friday at the team’s shootaround and then make a decision on whether to play or sit out. “We’re short-handed already,” Gasol said. “So I just try to be out there as much as I can and do as much as I can without obviously wanting anything to happen that would put you out. I’ve got to toughen up right now…” Gasol first felt his injury bother him in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s game in Memphis. During Wednesday night’s game in Houston, Gasol said he “couldn’t run, couldn’t sprint” like he wanted to.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: For those concerned the Lakers are mired in a four-game skid as the result of complacent indifference, fear not. There were no signs of panic at Thursday’s practice, but the “serious” was thick enough to cut with a knife. For example, Phil Jackson is often a loquacious sort during media meet n’ greets, with responses running the verbal gamut from detailed to introspective to smart aleck. Sometimes in the course of one answer. This afternoon, however, was a different story. After a workout running nearly an hour beyond the approximated time estimated before reporters were allowed inside the gym, Jackson largely was in “just the facts, ma’am” mode for the scribes and camera men. Information was provided in clipped fashion and he actually ended the session as a reporter was in mid-question.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: For the first time since April of 2007, the Lakers own a four game losing streak, a run of poor play none of Phil Jackson’s 11 title teams have ever seen. Ultimately, that factoid may not mean much, but it’s still a little unsettling, given the sample size of P.J.’s championship squads. For an explanation, fans can point to a fading defense, too many minutes for Pau Gasol, offensive imbalance, and shooting woes for a once-white-hot three point squad, just to name a few. But on a more elemental level, the explanation may be a little more simple: The Lakers have two stars, and both are playing poorly. Gasol’s struggles are well documented and much discussed, and meanwhile Kobe Bryant hasn’t shot the ball well at all over the last two weeks. To break it down:
From Andrew Unterberger for The Basketball Jones: Walking up to Staples for the second time, it quickly became clear that as nice as the place was during the day, it was really meant to be seen at night — the whole thing was lit beautifully, making it shine like the beacon of sports glitz and glamor that it really was. And even moreso, it was meant to be seen with this kind of crowd — whereas at the Clippers game, I was able to walk right in like I was checking into a hotel, there were lines out of every corner for the Lakers, closer to a sort of gala event. Maybe it was just the circumstances at the event, but it certainly seemed like there was a different caliber of fan in attendance, too — at the very least, there were a lot of good-looking girls in Kobe Bryant jerseys. (You’ll get there soon enough, Blake Griffin.)