Los Angeles Lakers: Chicago Bulls

Thibs: Boozer good fit with Lakers

July, 18, 2014
7/18/14
5:39
PM PT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes Carlos Boozer will be a good fit for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

Boozer was claimed off waivers by the Lakers on Thursday. The final year of Boozer's deal was amnestied by the Bulls on Tuesday.

"When you look at four years and you win 200 games, he did a terrific job for us," Thibodeau said Friday. "Carlos has had a great career, he did his job here, and we wish him nothing but the best. I think the Lakers, I think that will be a good fit for him. But he did a great job for us."

Boozer averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last season for the Bulls.

Why the Lakers cooled on Tom Thibodeau

June, 12, 2014
6/12/14
6:09
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was one of the first names to trickle out as a potential candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers to hire when Mike D’Antoni resigned almost six weeks ago.

ESPNLosAngeles.com had reported the Lakers planned to reach out to the Bulls for permission to interview the 2010-11 coach of the year.

Now, the Lakers have cooled on the idea of trying to get Thibodeau. And that request to the Bulls never happened.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
AP Photo/John BazemoreThe Lakers originally were high on pursuing Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but their interest has since waned.
What gives?

Well, for starters, the Lakers are all but sure that Chicago will require that L.A. trades its No. 7 pick in the first round, if not more assets, to allow Thibodeau out of his contract that runs through the 2016-17 season.

With only three players under contract for next season and the draft considered to be loaded, the Lakers deem that too steep a price to pay.

Getting a good, young player on a relatively affordable rookie deal could end up doing wonders to fielding a competitive team, while maintaining the bulk of the Lakers’ cap space to pursue a veteran or two on the free-agent market in the coming summers.

Beyond that, even if the Lakers were willing to go down that road and part with a pick for Thibodeau, the only way they could get Thibodeau to bite at the idea of abandoning a team that has the reigning defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah and a bright young star, albeit an injury-prone one, in Derrick Rose, for an uncertain situation in L.A. would be to hand him a lavish contract.

And why would the Lakers want to be paying their coach $8 million to $10 million a year when privately they know they might not be a playoff team, let alone a championship contender next season?

The Lakers may already have done their homework and realized that if even if it has been well documented that Thibodeau and the Bulls’ brass don’t always see eye to eye, he isn’t necessarily looking to leave Chicago. The last thing the Lakers’ front office would want to do, considering how unpopular they are with the fan base in L.A. these days, would be to formally go after Thibodeau only to have their interest be rebuffed.

The Lakers aren’t the only team to be linked to Thibodeau this offseason, either. Grantland’s Bill Simmons reported the Memphis Grizzlies had visions of trading for Thibodeau, hoping to lure the coach with a .657 winning percentage in his four seasons on the Bulls’ sidelines to the Memphis gig by offering him additional power as team president.

Memphis ended up going in a different direction, of course, extending coach Dave Joerger’s contract after he went 50-32 in his first season with the team.

The Lakers, though, are still on the hunt to settle their coaching situation.

Kobe hopes to speak with Rose

January, 20, 2014
1/20/14
7:32
PM PT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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CHICAGO -- Kobe Bryant is hoping to speak with Derrick Rose on Monday night as both former MVPs make their way back from knee injuries. The Los Angeles Lakers star made that clear before Monday's game against the Chicago Bulls.

"I haven't had a chance to talk [to him]," Bryant said of Rose. "I don't know if he's going to be here tonight or not. If he is I'm sure I'll catch up with him at some point. But there's really nothing much you can do about it. It is what it is. It's unfortunate, but you have two options: One is to lay down and not do anything about it and the second is to get up and get to work. I think the second one is more appealing to him for sure."

Aside from the two players' shared pain of dealing with injuries, Bryant's other tie to the Bulls is that he worked out with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau back when he was in high school in the Philadelphia area and Thibodeau was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers. He isn't sure how much Thibodeau has changed over the years.

"I don't know if he's changed much," Bryant said. "I haven't been in a locker room with or been on the practice floor to see him. I can only remember what he was like when he was working me out and I was at the practices and stuff like that. He was really, really intense. I don't know if he's scaled back much at all."

For Thibodeau, the respect for Bryant is still evident each time he speaks about their shared past.

"Just his drive, the way he studied the game," Thibodeau said of his time with a young Bryant. "You could see the talent. It was a high school guy playing -- he'd play with the college players then he'd play with the pros. He was in the gym all day. I think because of his dad having been a pro, he was exposed to the pro game from a very early age. But his will and determination to be great and never satisfied, he had that in him from the beginning.

"Even now you still see the way he approaches things. He's gone through the early years in his career and wasn't satisfied. And then the middle and now he's getting towards the end, and just great will to win. Very intelligent, very driven, and those type of guys, they're always going to be great. I'm sure this is a challenge for him to overcome, but everything he's faced he's always had the ability to get past it."

Bryant still cherishes the time he spent with Thibodeau as he was growing up.

"Just wanting to get better," Bryant said. "I had a good time. It was fun. He put me through way more defensive drills than he did offensive drills. It was fun, though."

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 90, Bulls 81

March, 10, 2013
3/10/13
3:30
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The downside of the Los Angeles Lakers putting together those two inspiring comeback wins in the past two games is that they played so poorly at the start that they needed to pull the rabbit out of a hat.

The less-exciting, yet much more efficient approach is to take care of business from the start and not need to rely on any late-game heroics.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni called it a "ditch."

"We can't get in there," D'Antoni said before the Lakers played the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. "That's not good. We got to be able to cure that."

L.A. had the antidote for a day at least: defense.

Led by Dwight Howard (not too many Lakers sentences have started that way this season, huh?), the Lakers completely stifled Chicago's offense.

Now, the Bulls were without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson of course, but the way the Lakers were protecting their turf Sunday, you could have put Jordan and Pippen back in a Chicago uniform and L.A. still would have given itself a chance.

The Lakers kept the Bulls to just 37.1 percent shooting overall, 25 percent on 3-pointers and just 81 points total -- the least points they've given up to an opponent since Golden State scored 77 back in November.

How it happened: Even though the Lakers weren't exactly sharp themselves to start the game (0-for-8 on 3-pointers in the first quarter), they held the Bulls to 6-for-18 shooting in the opening period to take a four-point lead. With balanced scoring (six players in double digits) and tough defense, L.A. was able to push that lead to as many as 18 in the third. Then the tables were turned a bit as the Lakers found themselves as the team protecting a late lead, rather than being the ones trying to dig out of a late deficit. Chicago cut the margin to just eight points with a little more than eight minutes remaining, but the Lakers were able to keep it back over 10 for pretty much the rest of the way until Marco Belinelli hit a meaningless 3-pointer in the final minute.

What it means: Get this: the Lakers are two games over .500 for the first time this season. They've now won 16 of their past 22 games (.727) -- a significant stretch spanning more than a quarter of the season. With the win, the Lakers are now a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 18 games left to play.

Hits: Bryant followed up his 40-point, 12-assist games with a solid 19 and nine along with seven rebounds.

Howard had 16 points, 21 rebounds, four blocks and a steal.

L.A.'s bench outscored Chicago's subs 16-10.

Misses: The Lakers shot just 5-for-26 (19.2 percent) on 3-pointers.

Howard shot an airball on a free throw in the first quarter and was 0-for-5 from the line overall.

Bryant and Metta World Peace got into a brief shouting match late in the first half after World Peace was called for an offensive foul while trying to set a screen for Bryant. Steve Nash intervened to settle both players down.

Stat of the game: Howard grabbed 21 rebounds, his fourth time this season grabbing 20 or more. The Lakers were just 1-2 the first three times he did it. Sunday also marked the 10th straight game that Howard had 12 or more rebounds.

What's next: The Lakers go back on the road for a three-game trip, continuing their brutal March where 10 out of their 14 games are away from Staples Center. The trip starts Tuesday against the Magic in Howard's return to Orlando. The Lakers follow that with the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday in Atlanta and then go to Indiana to play the Pacers on Friday.

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 95, Lakers 83

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
10:17
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Lakers played game No. 41 of their 82-game schedule in near identical fashion to the way they've played most of their games in the first half of this nightmare of a season: fall down early; scramble to get back in the game; get close but not close enough because team cohesion and energy aren't quite there; and lose the game.

Same script, different darn day.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before they played the Chicago Bulls on Monday that "good" teams in this league lose 26 games in a season, while "bad" teams only manage to win 26.

Well, in order for the 17-24 Lakers to become one of those "good" teams by way of D'Antoni's explanation, they have to go 39-2 over the second half of the year.

Good luck with that.

Here’s a look at the script from Chicago:

How it happened: The Lakers were able to erase an early 11-point deficit to tie the game at six heading into the fourth quarter. Then, it all fell apart. It was a one-possession game with a little more than four minutes remaining, then the Bulls had the lead back up to double digits in the blink of an eye as the Lakers' long-range shots clanked off the rim and Chicago's outside specialists were able to shoot freely against L.A. defenders who were slow to close out.

What it means: The first half of the season was a complete and utter disaster for this Lakers team. They are now 5-14 on the road, with a road-heavy second half of the schedule. It's tough to see them turning it around.

Hits: Steve Nash had 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, along with six assists. Pau Gasol made the most of his new bench role, putting up 15 points and 12 rebounds as a substitute. And Earl Clark continued his inspired play with 12 points and eight boards.

Misses: After Dwight Howard was ejected Sunday in Toronto, the prevailing thought coming into Monday’s contest with Chicago was the big man would respond with a monster effort versus the Bulls. So much for that theory. During a wildly inconsistent season, Howard added to his puzzling personal tale, accounting for just six points, nine rebounds and two blocks, to go along with his four turnovers and five fouls in 30 minutes.

Kobe Bryant shot 7-for-22 from the field to bring his three-game shooting slump to a deplorable 25-for-79 (31.6 percent) from the field.

Injuries have been a constant refrain for the Lakers this season. But the Bulls were playing without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. With Kirk Hinrich (22 points on 9-for-11 shooting, eight assists) and Jimmy Butler (10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 44 energy-infused minutes), the Bulls' offense didn't skip a beat.

Stat of the night: The Bulls shot 9-for-17 from the 3-point line, while the Lakers shot 3-for-17.

What's next: The Lakers have Tuesday off as they travel to Memphis after an 0-2 back-to-back against Toronto and Chicago. They'll close out their three-game road trip against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. It doesn't get any easier after that, with seven out of L.A.'s next 10 games after Memphis coming away from Staples Center.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Gasol gets his touches, and Kobe's happy

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
4:10
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
ESPNRadio.com: Lakers forward Pau Gasol discusses what the Lakers need to do in order to make a run at the playoffs now that they're finally healthy. Listen here Listen


CHICAGO -- Plenty of things went wrong for the Lakers as their road losing streak extended to five with a 108-103 defeat at the hands of a hapless Toronto Raptors team that was just 14-26 coming into the game.

Dwight Howard was ejected. Kobe Bryant shot just 10-for-32. The Lakers' defense allowed Toronto to shoot 54.8 percent from the field as a team.

But one thing that went in the right direction for a Lakers squad that seems to be regressing by the day was the play of Pau Gasol.

Gasol scored a season-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting, with 18 of those coming in the second half, when Howard was out of the game and Gasol became L.A.'s primary focus on the block.

"You saw a steady diet of Pau in the post tonight, which I’m very happy about -- I’m very, very happy about -- because we got a lot of easy things from him down there," Bryant said after the game. "So, we’ll start seeing that more often."

It was just the second 20-plus point game for Gasol this season; the first came in the opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 30. The 12-year veteran is averaging career lows in points per game (12.6) and shooting (43.2 percent) this year. To put it in perspective, the four-time All-Star has scored in single digits three times as many times as he's scored 20 or more this season.

Gasol said that his output wasn't just a product of him being parked in the paint, but came from the general thrust of him being involved in the offense more often.

"I don't think the second half we ran a lot of the offense through the post," Gasol said as he made his way out of the arena to the Lakers' team bus Sunday in Toronto. "It was more through, like, pick-and-rolls and me setting good screens and the point guard finding me -- Steve [Nash], Chris [Duhon] and I think Kobe also found me once or twice. That was more it. It wasn't a lot through the post.”

“Our system doesn't really put you in that position too often. It depends,” he said. “You start with a pick-and-roll, then you roll, then you might get to the post. But then, it will depend on the ball getting to the wing and then to hit you. It's different steps that you depend on in order for the ball to get there."

Gasol huddled with Metta World Peace in the locker room at length after the Toronto game to figure out a way to best put the pieces the Lakers have together.

"I think the only way we can get out of this situation, the path that we’ve been on, is by communicating and coming to an understanding of what needs to be done as a unit," Gasol said.

"We can’t do it on our own. Right now, there’s a few cracks in our game that we need to cover up. We need to make sure they disappear, they go away. The only way that can happen is if we talk about it as a unit, understand each other and figure it out."

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni acquiesced to Gasol's desire to start, and it paid off Sunday. We'll see if the coach can continue to cater the offense to the Spaniard, now that he's been given a reminder of how good Gasol can be.

"Get the Lakers right," D'Antoni said when asked after the Raptors loss what L.A. has to do moving forward. "We haven’t gotten it right. That’s going to have to be our focus. It doesn’t have anything to do with the other teams. It’s got a lot to do with us."

That will take a continued effort to try to mesh Gasol in with all the other pieces.

"I'm going to try to get myself there," Gasol said. "It's going to be a little more challenging when me and Dwight are on the court together, but I think it's worth it if we can figure it out. I think it will benefit everyone. That's hopefully the point that we'll reach sooner than later."

Can it happen starting tonight against Chicago?

"We'll see what happens," Gasol said. "Every game is a little different, right? I wish I had the answer and the certainty that things will happen a certain way, but I don't. We're searching."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Phil Jackson Q&A: Michael Jordan's flu game

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
8:38
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Even though it's been nearly 10 years since Michael Jordan played his last All-Star game in 2003, you couldn't watch this year's All-Star game in Orlando without getting a heavy dose of MJ nostalgia. The Lakers' Kobe Bryant had a lot to do with that, as he pushed his career All-Star scoring total to 271 points, passing Jordan for most points in All-Star game history (Jordan had 262 points in 14 selections; Bryant has played in 14 All-Star games as well).

Jordan was also recognized as one of the stars who was out-dueled by Magic Johnson in Orlando 20 years ago when Magic made his memorable one-game MVP return to the All-Star game after announcing his retirement because of HIV months before.

And if you watched the commercials, instead of flipping back and forth between the All-Star game and the Oscars, you would have noticed Jordan in a new ad for Gatorade featuring former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson reflecting on Jordan's "flu game" in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. (Click here to watch the commercial.)

ESPNLA.com was on the set of the commercial shoot at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State back in December and had a chance for a 1-on-1 chat with Jackson about his memories of Jordan's performance with the flu.



ESPNLA.com: When you think back on all the significant games you coached, where does Jordan’s “flu game” rank? On the set, you said something to the effect of, "We know he can score 40, we know he can get triple-doubles, but this stands out because it’s more than that."

Jackson: “Yeah, the big thing was we knew that coming back and playing in Salt Lake was going to be a difficult thing, as it always is in the playoffs. That team was talented and they were good at home. So, after winning two in Chicago, we said, ‘Let’s go out and make sure we win one game out there in Salt Lake.’ We didn’t want to come back [to Chicago] behind 3-2 in a series like that. We lost the second game [in Utah] at the end of the ballgame in a close game.

"Perhaps Michael was doing too much. I can’t remember what his totals were in that ballgame, but he made a spin at the top of the key and [John] Stockton stole the ball and it set up a win for them that we shoulda, coulda won.

(Editor’s note: Jordan finished with 22 points on 11-for-27 shooting in Game 4.)

"So, it was a really a hard defeat. I remember having really a sleepless night that night. I was meeting the owner the next day and I was just really fatigued about it. That mental fatigue that you have after a loss that you think you’re going to win and you don’t sleep very much at night thinking about it. Then, we had a little time to recover and it came down to this game, we ought to take this one home and then the disappointment of finding out on game day that the guy that’s the superstar on our team didn’t sleep, was sick, felt like crap, didn’t feel like he could eat, was nauseous and wasn’t going to go to shootaround. That’s happened before. Guys have felt like they couldn’t go to shootaround. It’s not like the end of the world. But this was a pivotal game and then when we saw him and we saw what he looked like …"

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Lakers Late Night: Lakers-Bulls

December, 25, 2011
12/25/11
6:30
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Today's show, which picks up after the camera accidentally fell off a stand, and before that a weird stretch where people could hear me, but not see me. But that back story aside, it theoretically provides some decent information. Plus, me in a suit, which is always visually pleasing. (#EyeCandy)

I'll be adding postgame videos as soon they're ready, but for the time being, enjoy this show!

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 88, Lakers 87

December, 25, 2011
12/25/11
5:32
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers have filled their fair share of Christmas stockings with grimy lumps of coal over the past few seasons, but Sunday's loss might have been the most painful. With their star nursing a significant injury and one member of their big three at home thanks to suspension, the Lakers put in a gritty, determined effort against the Chicago Bulls and the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose.

They looked awfully nice before things turned naughty at the end. Here are five takeaways. ...

1. The Lakers shot themselves in the foot, then shot themselves in the other foot, then grew two more feet and shot themselves in those, too.

This was a game the Lakers should have won. They had it won. They deserved to win it, playing without Andrew Bynum and putting on a generally brilliant defensive performance in the second half, including a third quarter in which they held Chicago to 5-of-24 from the floor and only 12 points. The Bulls scored only 32 points over the final 24 minutes, and finished the game at a hair over 40 percent shooting after going into the break at 58.5. The Lakers led by nine with four minutes to play, and six with 54 seconds remaining after Kobe Bryant hit a brilliant, spinning, driving jumper just off the left side of the lane.

But refusing to bow to victory, the Lakers also:
  • Missed four key free throws down the stretch (two from Pau Gasol, two from Josh McRoberts).
  • Saw Gasol commit a very bad and-one on Luol Deng inside, giving the Bulls an old fashioned 3-point play.
  • Suffered a bad foul from Kobe in the Bulls' backcourt, allowing Deng to shave two more points off L.A.'s lead without running any clock or having to take a shot.
  • Turned the ball over with a one-point lead, giving the Bulls a chance to win. (Kobe threw it away, but didn't get much help from his mates in the face of heavy pressure.)
  • Couldn't get a shot off in the final seconds, as Kobe dribbled into three Bulls, and saw his shot blocked.

These are mistakes that can't happen, particularly when two of the offending parties are the team's stars, and as a result what looked like a day of optimism turned sour. It also completely changed the complexion of a game otherwise showing a lot to like.

Such as ...

2. The Lakers have young players with poise.

On a Christmas Day game featured for a national audience, at small forward the Lakers gave a second-year player who averaged less than six minutes a game last season his first career start (Devin Ebanks), and used the 46th pick in last year's draft as Kobe Bryant's backup (Andrew Goudelock). This is some serious responsibility, and to their credit, neither did what many of you thought they were going to do, which is to flip out. Instead, they showed some serious poise, and made important contributions.

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Lakers-Bulls blog exchange with ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell

December, 25, 2011
12/25/11
12:59
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Christmas Day fast approaches, along with a regular-season opener against the Chicago Bulls. It's a challenging way for the Lakers to tip off the 2011-12 campaign, as the visitors offer a plethora of questions. How will the Lakers slow down reigning MVP Derrick Rose? Will Joakim Noah be able to annoy Pau Gasol out of rhythm? Can Devin Ebanks, in his first career start, hang with the multiskilled Luol Deng? Will Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes bottle up Kobe Bryant? Will Carlos Boozer actually play defense?

With so much wonder in the air, it felt like high time to hit up our buddy Nick Friedell from ESPN Chicago for some thoughts on the Bulls. And since Nick has incredible taste, he naturally wanted my insight on the Lakers. Blog exchange time! First, Nick supplies responses to my question about the Bulls, then the process is reversed.

Andy Kamenetzky: What steps does Rose need to take, on the court and mentally, for the Bulls to reach the Finals or beyond? Is he ready? And how much do you expect the new contract, playing as more of a marked man, etc., to affect him?
Nick Friedell: Rose is ready to lead the Bulls to a championship. He's learned from his mistakes against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals last season, and he badly wants to lead his hometown team to its seventh title. He spent a lot of time watching tape of what happened against Miami, and turned all the disappointment and frustration from that loss into fuel to work even harder in the summer.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Even with an MVP trophy to his name, Rose is ready to discover another level.



As far as the contract goes, I don't think it will affect him much at all. I don't completely believe him when he says he feels zero pressure because of the new deal, but I understand what he's saying in this sense -- nobody puts more pressure on himself to win than Rose. Nobody wants to win more than he does in Chicago. His pressure comes from within. I think he embraces the status that comes with being a "marked man" in the league.

AK: What does Richard Hamilton bring for this team, and how well do you see him fitting? How big an acquisition could he potentially be?
NF: It could be huge. Hamilton gives the Bulls a championship-caliber shooting guard, something they didn't have last season. After all, Keith Bogans started and played 15 to 20 minutes per game for the Bulls in 2010-11. Hamilton seems to have fit in with his new teammates quickly and undoubtedly will take some pressure off Rose. The issue, as it is for everybody, is whether at 33 (going on 34 in February) he can stay healthy and produce all season. If he can, and he plays solid defense, he could be the missing piece.



AK: Where are the Bulls most vulnerable as team, particularly against the Lakers? And "nowhere," by the way, is an acceptable answer.


Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
A betting man would wager money on "Flash" getting the better end of this sequence.


NF: It would be easy, especially without Andrew Bynum on the floor Sunday, to say nowhere. But the Bulls still have Boozer on the floor, and Boozer is still a bad defender. Thibodeau always says the Bulls play a team defense, and that's true to a certain extent, but Boozer is the weak link. The Lakers should look to exploit him at that end any way they can.

AK: Which matchup are you most curious to see Sunday?

NF: I want to see how Noah performs without Bynum down low. Will the Bulls try to feed him the ball even more because of that absence? How much time will Gasol get on him? What about Troy Murphy? Either way, that should give Boozer more freedom to operate as well. Noah needs to show some improvement in his offensive game, and this would be the perfect opportunity for him to do it.

AK: Who wins and why?

NF: The Bulls. Rose and Noah have been looking forward to this game all summer. They want to win this game on a national stage and show everyone they weren't a fluke last season. Plus, without Bynum, it's going to be tough for the Lakers to score.

And now, the Lakers-centric section ...

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Kobe sounds ready to play on Sunday: Practice report, videos

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
8:44
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As usual when it comes to Kobe Bryant and injuries, he was a man of few, barely audible, highly impatient words. But as Dave McMenamin reports, he was willing to utter the ones that mattered most.

"I should be fine," said Kobe when asked about his availability for the Christmas Day season opener against the Bulls.

Of course, "fine" isn't necessarily quite sunshine and lollipops. Kobe described his wrist as "swollen and painful," and I'm guessing that won't change by the time Sunday rolls around. The Mamba has a famously absurd tolerance for pain, but I have a hard time believing lacing 'em up on Sunday won't entail enduring an exceptional amount of discomfort.

There's also the question of the effects the injury will have on Bryant as a player. After all, right-handed players tend to use their right wrists a decent amount of time over the course of a basketball game. Plus, that wrist is connected to a hand with some jacked up fingers. Kobe's handle occasionally suffers due to those digits. With the wrist now a factor, it's fair to wonder how Bryant's shot, or ability to create for himself or others could suffer. Even as one of the best athletes I've ever seen playing through injuries, there are limits, especially as you get older.

Predictably, Bryant downplayed the issue.

"If you can play through the pain and you can catch a ball, pass a ball, you should be fine," he said.

For those concerned playing through the injury will stymie the healing process, that's a valid fear. Why? Because Kobe said so himself. However, this is just being viewed as a fact of life, rather than a sticking point to consider.

"It's not really going to heal," Bryant conceded. "I mean, it's gone. The ligament is gone. So there's nothing I can do about it. But I've dealt with so many hand injuries. It should be all right."

The ligament is "gone?" Wowza, that's dark. I'm not even disagreeing with him. I've just never heard an injury framed in such "dust in the wind" terms. Kobe always claims he's not very sentimental. Clearly, he's not kidding.

(Read full post)

The Triangle: 2012 Eastern Conference champs

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
2:00
PM PT
By The Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Having already predicted the 2012 Western Conference champs, it's only natural to focus right of the Mississippi. Along with 710 ESPN basketball analyst Dave Miller, we make our call as to which team will win the East in 2012, and whether the Lakers could take them in a theoretical Finals.

PodKast: Roland Lazenby on Tex Winter, the Hall of Fame, Phil, Kobe and more

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
10:22
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
On Friday, the Basketball Hall of Fame will induct its 2011 class. Among those honored will be Tex Winter, best known as the longtime assistant coach to Phil Jackson, and the architect of what became known as the triangle offense. In addition to shaping a system at the center of 11 championships for the Bulls and Lakers, Winter also enjoyed success as a head coach in the college ranks, most notably with Kansas State University. (Similar to coaches in the era of PJ's Bulls and Lakers, Winter had the unfortunate luck of running into Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas and the John Wooden dynasties.)

PODCAST
Andy talks with basketball historian Roland Lazenby about newly inducted Hall of Fame member Tex Winter, his relationship with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Dennis Rodman, and the current state of the Lakers.

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In the eyes of seemingly everyone -- save the HOF voters, of course -- a spot in Springfield has been a given for the former USC player. Nonetheless, Winter has endured a painfully long wait. Thankfully, the honor has arrived in time for Tex, in poor health, to enjoy the ceremony in person.

For more perspective on Winter's career, I spoke with basketball historian and author Roland Lazenby. A longtime friend of Winter's, Lazenby shared thoughts on Tex's innovative nature, his relationships with Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and fellow 2011 class member Dennis Rodman, plus his take on the current state of the Lakers.

The entire interview can be heard by clicking the box to the right, but here are some choice quotes:

On the roots of Tex's and Phil's relationship and why it flourished:

"It was a series of things. First of all, Phil's great mind. The fact that Tex is everybody's uncle. That he has a tremendous enthusiasm for the game. It's boundless. That may be his greatest gift. And then the third thing, they were brought together to coach the Bulls summer league team. Tex had first become alerted to Phil even before they coached that team when Phil came in as this guy who'd been an NBA player. He'd been in the CBA. Phil had to do the advanced scouting. Tex was blown away and this takes a lot, because Tex is really hard to impress. Phil would come back with these incredibly detailed scouting reports. They were immaculate.

"And then as Tex got to know him, they coached together, he began to see that Phil possessed this total recall. I mean, the guy could remember all kinds of things. It was just unbelievable. Tex told me that Phil had total recall virtually on every moment of his career. Playing and coaching.

"They had this symbiotic relationship. Their personalities are very different. Tex is this very willful, excitable person who is just so obsessed with his offense. And Phil was just this very bright guy who could process everything. Tex, having had years in college coaching, had this ability to jump in and confront players and say, 'No, you're not doing this right!' L.A. fans are very aware of Tex's clashes with Shaq because Tex wanted everything so precise and that just wasn't Shaq's nature. So they formed this relationship where Tex was the teacher. For years together, Tex was teaching Phil. Breaking down game film for him. Organizing his practices for him. Doing all these things. And then confronting the players when they needed to be corrected. He did a lot of that. More of that in the early years than in the later years, of course."

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
No, you da man, Tex.



On the sometimes complicated nature of the relationship:

"It grew more complicated once Phil got to Los Angeles. He really became a popular culture figure in Los Angeles and a lot of people worshiped him. And Phil changed a bit . . . I think Tex for a while was worried that Phil was trying to sort of mute the influence Tex had on him. I think Phil has been very generous in a lot of ways, but there's no question. It's not like it's all about Tex or it's all about Phil. It was just a perfect meeting of some very special minds and some very special people. This is just about all of them getting their due."

On Kobe Bryant's longstanding admiration for Winter:

"I was rebounding some free throws for Kobe. He was there with those Lakers teams with Del Harris. He was a lost and lonely puppy and he told me he'd always dreamed of having Tex Winter as his coach. Not Phil Jackson. Kobe told me Tex Winter. He knew that he was bound for greatness. As he told me, he didn't know how he was gonna get there, but he knew that having Tex as his Yoda, as Kobe likes to call him, was the key. He wanted Tex's phone number. Tex was an assistant coach for the Bulls.

Tex called Kobe and he said, 'You know, all of your concern about the lack of organization with the Lakers is dead on. Yes, everybody is giving you this grief and you're impulsive, you're a young guy. But you really do have to have a system of play to sort out this modern NBA environment where the defenses are so physical. The defenses clearly for a number of years got the upper hand in the NBA."

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In a matter I suspect the NBA wishes it wasn't dealing with for the second time in about six weeks, Chicago's Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 on Monday for directing an anti-gay slur toward a fan during Sunday night's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 last month for directing the same slur at referee Bennie Adams.

Contextually, there is a great deal of similarity between the incidents. Both outbursts came during emotionally charged moments, both were caught on camera. Neither player, I believe, used the word with deliberate intent to insult or disparage the gay community, but in a way that has insidiously worked itself into the vernacular. Noah and Bryant displayed ignorance and insensitivity, but I don't think either is a bigot. (For deeper insight into Noah's makeup, click here.) Both players owned their mistake and apologized, rightly recognizing use of the F-word is unacceptable in any context. They both were wrong and both deserved to be fined.

So why was Kobe's fine twice the amount of Noah's?

In a vacuum, I don't actually have a problem with the discrepancy. Kobe earned a shade under $25 million this season, while Noah makes little more than $3 million. Obviously both guys are very, very rich, but as a percentage of his salary, Noah's fine is actually far stiffer (1.6 percent for Noah versus .4 percent for Kobe). Had the explanation simply been "Kobe makes more, so we fined him more," it would make some sense. If deterrence is the goal of fines, the league could very well be better off determining them based on a percentage of salary rather than strict dollar amounts. X offense is worth Y portion of your yearly income. The difference in scale between Noah and Bryant could be justified because of the precedent already set. Kobe's fine wasn't simply a punishment for him but a warning to other players around the league. Noah saw what happened and should have learned.

Except that's not what the league said. According to league spokesman Tim Frank, the offenses were different. "Kobe's fine included discipline for verbal abuse of a game official," he said.

Basically, it's a bigger offense to hurl a slur at a ref than a fan.

Really? The same word aimed at a person in the stands, even one who according to the accounts of Noah's teammates probably should have been tossed out of the arena for loutish behavior? More acceptable than disparaging a ref? I know the league has a well-documented policy protecting officials from this sort of thing, but I'm willing to bet the handbook also includes stuff like "Don't shout epithets at fans."

While the league clearly came down hard on Bryant -- rightly so -- I don't believe David Stern and Co. did so out of some sort of vendetta. It was a strong reaction to a very public, very embarrassing incident with one of the league's signature players. I suspect as well that they didn't think it would come up again so fast, and also wonder whether someone somewhere decided fining Noah more than 3 percent of his salary for his actions was excessive. (Again, this is why fining guys a percentage of salary rather than a straight chunk of cash could make some sense.)

Of course, if any of that is true, and it very well might not be, the league didn't make a point of noting it. Instead, we're left with the fairly nonsensical idea hurling a deeply offensive slur at a referee is somehow worse than aiming it a paying customer.

The Triangle: On Western Conference foes, and point guard needs

May, 20, 2011
5/20/11
8:24
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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This week on the Triangle, Lakers beat writer Dave McMenamin stops in, as we kick around the following questions:
  • Setting aside all the questions of complacency and fatigue, are the teams remaining in the playoffs just flat out better than the Lakers at this point?
  • Fact or fiction: Point guard is the Lakers biggest need this offseason.
  • Whether at the point or somewhere else on the floor, how hard will it be to fill their needs?

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3