From Land O’ Lakers: [Lamar Odom] continues to demand a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. Despite moving to the bench nine games ago with the return of Andrew Bynum to the starting lineup, Odom continues to play at an extremely high level. His numbers, substantial as a starter, have barely moved as a reserve. Over the first 31 games, Odom averaged 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while shooting over 57 percent from the floor in just under 36 minutes a night. Off the bench- 15.6 points, 9.2 boards, 2.7 dimes, on over 55 percent from the floor, all in a hair over 28. Remember that slot on your elementary school report card, “Uses time wisely?” High marks for that. And everything else.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Friday’s contest against the New Jersey Nets features the return of two former Lakers, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, a wrinkle that could add some emotion to an otherwise (theoretically) lopsided contest. Farmar already competed against the Lakers in Newark, but this will be his first time doing battle in Staples Center, and he’ll receive a ring to boot. (Another pregame presentation, like when D.J. Mbenga got his ring before the game against the Hornets.) Throw in Farmar’s “hometown” factor and the atmosphere could be pretty charged for the point guard. If Jordan’s emotions are at a “nine” on a scale of 1-10, Sasha could very well clock in around “274.” This will be his first time playing against the only other team’s he’s known since entering the league in 2004. Sasha truly loved being a Laker and even though his dwindling PT made his trade to Jersey a welcome event, that doesn’t change the feelings he’ll likely always have towards this franchise. Plus, as I always note, players often want to blow up their old squads. And at the risk of stating the absurdly obvious, Sasha has a tendency to be tightly wound.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Over at Hoops World, Alex Kennedy has an article today about the Lakers’ succession planning in the event that Phil Jackson decides to retire after this season. Obvs, we’re a long way from having to worry about this, but Kennedy is a respected NBA reporter who unlike me doesn’t shamelessly troll for page views, so his report on this topic is worth reading. Although much of the ground he covers won’t surprise anyone who followed Phil’s decision-making process last summer, there are some interesting morsels to chew on.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Lakers forward Matt Barnes entered his first surgery free of anxiety and filled with desire to finish the operation as soon as possible. He centered his talk on his expected eight-week rehabilitation surrounding the lateral meniscus on his right knee with little reflection and more with an eye on the future. And he’s making up for his physical limitation by devoting more time to studying the triangle offense. Barnes displayed the same determined characteristics after practice Thursday that’s made him so valuable to the Lakers, averaging 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes off the bench through aggressive and efficient play. So it’s no doubt the Lakers will miss his presence after he landed off-balance while pursuing a rebound in the Lakers’ 101-97 victory last week against New Orleans, a game Barnes argued proved the team “turned a corner” during their current six-game winning streak entering Friday’s game against the New Jersey Nets. But the same reason the Lakers miss him is the same reason why rehabilitation should prove successful. He’s simply making the best of circumstances.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Lakers backup center Theo Ratliff participated in conditioning drills Thursday with the rest of the team’s reserves, and is expected to return to full practice after the Lakers’ two-game trip against Dallas (Jan. 19) and Denver (Jan 21). The Lakers are expected to have a day off from practice when they return Jan. 22 to Los Angeles, so Ratliff’s first full practice since having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Nov. 17 could be as early as Jan. 23. “It’s good to be able to get out on the floor, run and sprint again,” said Ratliff, who described Thursday’s session as the most intense since spending the past three weeks working on individual strength training, conditioning and on-court exercises. “It’s always a blessing anytime I’m able to step out there.”
From Alex Kennedy, Hoops World: With eleven championships, the best playoff winning percentage of all-time and the most wins in franchise history, Phil Jackson’s shoes will be very tough to fill following this season. But with that said, there are few jobs in professional sports more attractive than head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, especially with the current state of the team. With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, and Steve Blake each locked up for at least two more seasons after this year, the team’s veteran core will be intact and likely contending for yet another championship despite being under new management. Inheriting a roster this talented is every coach’s dream, and there will be many candidates interested in the position once it becomes available this summer. While the Lakers are focused on this season, the team has started planning for life after Jackson so that they’re prepared come this offseason.