The McTen: The Road to Vick-tory in Philly
December, 18, 2010
By Dave McMenamin
Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers 93-81 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday ...
With just about two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Eagles quarterback Mike Vick entered the Wells Fargo Center, causing what can only be described as a delayed wave as Philly fans broke into a standing ovation section by section as the scrambling passer made his way from one corner of the arena to his courtside seats.
"You would have thought the president walked in or something," said Lakers reserve Matt Barnes.
An "MVP! MVP!" chant followed from the Philly faithful and then the sellout crowd of 20, 366 were singing the Eagles fight song.
As the crowd crooned, "Fly! Eagles fly! On the road to victory ...," the Lakers did just that, turning a six point deficit late in the third quarter into a double-digit rout by the midway point of the fourth.
"We just couldn’t seem to find it in the first three quarters," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "I think it was when they played the Eagles fight song. I think that’s the thing that did it ... They were on a little bit of a run and I think that slowed that down a little, actually."
Vick wouldn't have even been there had it not been for Barnes. The former high school football star hooked up a couple of his gridiron pals.
"I gave Mike and [Eagles wide receiver] DeSean [Jackson] tickets," Barnes said. "I know DeSean back from Cali and Mike’s people hit me up. It’s good to have those guys here supporting us. I take care of people like that, so hopefully they can do me a favor in the [NFL] playoffs or the Super Bowl if we have some time."
The Lakers are football fans just like the rest of America and Vick has been a popular subject to talk about all season, be it from the Eagles fan Kobe Bryant, Giants fan Lamar Odom or Cowboys fan Derek Fisher.
Odom, talking about the upcoming Giants-Eagles matchup before the Lakers game even started was chatting in the locker room about how he's been a fan of Vick for years, being a fellow lefty.
"That goes to show you how much the fans appreciate Michael Vick and I’m pretty sure wherever he goes, whether it’s Philly or other places, people acknowledge him because people I think understand his story," Odom said. "I think a lot of people are ready to forgive him for what he’s done and appreciate his work. I think we all realize how good he is and how much he means to the world of sports entertainment."
After the game Barnes beckoned for Odom from the hallway as he was waiting with DeSean Jackson. "I know he's about to start some [stuff]," Odom said as he went to face some trash talk for his Giants fandom.
Bryant, the Philly native, relished in Vick's appearance.
"This whole place went bananas and I was one of them," Bryant said. "Everybody knows I’m a Yankees fan and I get a lot of [crap] for that here, but I love my Eagles so I was excited just like everybody else."
But he wasn't satisfied with that.
"They pay so much attention to Pau [Gasol] that you can take a dribble or somehow make a play," Odom said. "The bigs are thinking Pau and I got really good looks ... I probably should have shot 16-of-18."
Odom's 28 points were exactly as much as Gasol (19) and Bryant (nine) combined, yet those two have 15 All-Star game appearances between them while Odom has zero.
"[I think about it] a little bit as the years go by," said the 31-year-old forward in his 12th NBA season. "It’s something I would like to accomplish. I feel like I can play at that level. I feel like I’m probably the only guy who doesn’t get mentioned as an All-Star but gets mentioned as one of the league’s best players. It’s something I would like to at least go for, why not? If I fail I can I went for it. I think it’s time in my career to set that goal and try to attain it. I think I owe it to myself. I don’t want to be done with the game and look back and think about not at least trying to go get it."
The first round of All-Star ballot returns were just released and Odom ranked seventh among West forwards with 134,594 votes.
"He’s an All-Star, whether they recognize him for it or not, he’s one of the best players in the game," Barnes said. "On an off night for Kobe, we have complete confidence that Lamar can carry this team."
He repeatedly got to the bucket by making hard cuts from the weak side across the lane to free himself up.
"I know if I cut and the defense sees me, I’m probably going to draw two guys and that’s going to leave someone on the backside open," Barnes said. "So, whether I cut to score or cut period, I think that’s going to make the defense move."
The backup forward said he's still learning the counters and secondary options of the triangle offense, but sometimes all you need are instincts to succeed.
"We don’t have things set in stone, we play basketball," Jackson said. "The idea is always take direct line in basketball which means if you’re open to go to the basket, you do that. Matt’s very efficient at doing that. There’s sometimes we ask him why he didn’t space it out, but you can see why he does it. His cuts are rewarded and he does a good job of it."
But, just three games back from right knee surgery, his development continues slowly. He had three points and four rebounds in 13 minutes Friday.
"He said he felt better tonight than he did in Indiana," Jackson said. "He said he felt like he was involved in the game and he had some things going. He had a couple offensive opportunities that looked pretty obvious that he would make them but he just didn’t have a feel for it. But, I thought he helped us, he gave us the right break."
"I try not to get on Pau," Jackson said sarcastically. "He’s not good when you challenge him like that so I never say anything bad about him or chastise him at all. He responds on his own, he’s got a real good temperament."
Gasol was sarcastic as well.
"I don’t think he said anything during the timeout," Gasol said of Jackson.
"I had a great time with [Duke assistant coach] Chris [Collins] over in Beijing on the USA team," Bryant said. "It’s funny to think we were just both a bunch of snotty-nosed kids running around in the locker room as well as Mike Bibby and Tamika Catchings. I don’t know what the hell they were drinking on that team, but those are some pretty good athletes."
"I turned to my trainer sometime in the third quarter and I said, ‘Do you think we’re going to win it?’ And he said, ‘We should, but I don’t understand this game.’ And he’s seen a lot of games as a trainer. He’s been around for 20-some years." -- Lakers head coach Phil Jackson on Gary Vitti's assessment of what was a strange game.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.