Los Angeles Lakers: Dj Mbenga

The McTen: Lakers Swarm Hornets

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
9:48
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers 101-97 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday ...

1

Before the game started, the always affable Lamar Odom spoke to a gaggle of reporters in the locker room, propping his left arm on a shelf in his locker to immobilize his sore left shoulder.

"I'll warm it up a little bit, put some Flexall on it," Odom said. "I'll pass the ball, rebound."

His passing led to two assists and his rebounding led to 13 boards. What Odom forgot to mention was he would be doing some scoring (17 points on 8-of-15 shooting) and playing some defense (two blocks).

On the night, he outscored the Hornets bench single-handedly, 17-15, and did it with his dominant left hand rendered somewhat ineffective because of the injury he was playing through. Yet, Odom scored seven of his points in the fourth quarter to help stave off a swarming New Orleans squad that chipped away the Lakers lead from 10 down to three.

"I think his shoulder is not that bad, but it's difficult still," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "He did what he normally does. He didn’t shy away from contact. He took the ball to the hoop and maybe took a couple easier shots than he normally would have instead of the turnaround jump hooks that he could have had in the lane."

Before the game, somewhat facetiously, Odom classified himself as being a "gladiator" for playing through the pain. After the game, Kobe Bryant had a different distinction for him.

"He’s a big problem for other teams matchup-wise," Bryant said. "They can’t match up with him. I’d be surprised, very surprised, if he wasn’t an All-Star this year."

The 12-year veteran, who has yet to be named an All-Star in his career, faces stiff competition for the February event. He is currently seventh in voting amongst Western Conference forwards, behind the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, teammate Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin and slightly ahead of another strong candidate in Kevin Love.

As consistent as Odom has been and as feel good of a story it would be for his first All-Star game appearance to come when L.A. was hosting it, he might have to be satisfied with his gladiator distinction for now.

2

One way to describe Bryant is "legend" after his 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting helped push him past Oscar Robertson for ninth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. You could also call him "thief" after he candidly admitted to stealing moves from the greats that came before him after the game.

"It’s a great honor," Bryant said. "Obviously, Oscar, I patterned so much of my game after his and Jerry [West] and Michael [Jordan] in particular -- those big guards -- so, it means a lot.

"Specifically, I took [Robertson’s] baseline jumper. He was known for putting his body on smaller guards and taking them down to the short porch on the baseline and raising over them. That’s something I took from him."

(Read full post)

Lakers 101, Hornets 97: Postgame videos

January, 8, 2011
1/08/11
1:46
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
"Do I look worried?"

This was Kobe Bryant's reaction when my 710 ESPN colleague John Ireland asked if we should be worried about his right knee, recently revealed to the New York Post as lacking in cartilage. As Bryant phrased it, "almost bone on bone."

Scary words, but judging by the Mamba's explanation, the Laker Nation should remember to breathe. The knee is no worse than it was last season -- when the Lakers won a title, he reminded us -- and Kobe listens to his body. The knee won't be pushed further than he can handle.

(By the way, I guarantee "Do I look worried?" will become an iconic phrase associated with Kobe's career. Even if fans don't buy what Kobe's selling, the delivery was boss. Very Bruce Willis.)

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Lakers vs. Hornets: What to watch

January, 7, 2011
1/07/11
12:44
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers recently made mincemeat of the Hornets down in the Big Easy. They're also showing signs of life after a malaise giving pause to players, coaches, fans and media alike. A victory this evening would represent a nice continuation of the trend on both counts. Here are a few things to keep an eye on after the ball is jumped.

Pau Gasol

Another day, another opportunity to spend wondering what the heck is up with El Spaniard?


Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Pau needs to duplicate a recent strong
showing against N'Awlins.



These are not the greatest of times for Pau Gasol, decidedly earthbound after a ferocious start. There have been spikes (most recently Tuesday against the Pistons), but by and large, the last month and change has largely yielded performances below standards. His splits are trending decidedly downward, with an admittedly small sampling in January seriously alarming. (His increased turnover rate in this same month is also a "yikes!") The decline has been notable enough for Brian to pose the legitimate question of whether Gasol, currently third among forwards in voting, actually deserves an All-Star nod.

(For the record, as of today, I would be cool with Gasol making the team as a center. He's spent enough time at the spot and the cupboard beyond Andrew Bynum -- who missed a lot of games -- and Nene for legit candidates is pretty bare. But without a very strong close to the month, Lamar Odom, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin should all make the cut before Pau, and dudes like Luis Scola, Paul Millsap and a hard-charging-of-late LaMarcus Aldridge could even nudge him.)

In the meantime, the speculation game runs rampant with Pau. Is there an undisclosed physical issue, which could explain his lack of aggressiveness attacking or protecting the rim or his typical effectiveness as a conduit for the offense? Is he still gassed from the extra minutes picking up in Andrew Bynum's absence? Is there a problem off the court, which could explain a wandering mind and an often floating presence through games?

Is he unhappy with his role or a lack of touches? Unhappy with Phil Jackson, since Kobe did mention Gasol by name when citing the need to understand how PJ coaches through the media. Unhappy with FX's decision not to renew Terriers? (Oh, wait. That's what I'm unhappy about.)

Or maybe it's just a case of good old fashioned poor play. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Lakers in Las Vegas: What to watch for

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
10:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers are back on American soil, meaning from this point forward -- starting Wednesday against Sacramento in Las Vegas -- their preseason games can again be about prepping for the ones that count, and less about cool photo ops in front of impressive foreign landmarks.

(Though if they'd like to snap a few more location-specific pics in Sin City, here are a few suggestions.)

It's still preseason, so final scores aren't really the point. With opening night two weeks away, the goal for the Lakers is rhythm, in whatever form they can find it. Phil Jackson has been disappointed not necessarily in the quality of his team's effort in practice, but the schedule with which the Lakers have been able to get on the floor, thanks to the European swing. Six games in the next 10 days won't necessarily help matters, either, since more games equal less practice time. If they're to hit the ground running come Oct. 26, the Lakers need to address a few things on the to-do list.

Here are a few things to watch Wednesday night:

Kobe's minutes

Monday, Jackson said he'd try to limit Kobe Bryant to about 16 minutes against Sacramento, and going forward through the preseason. While Bryant hasn't shot the ball well at all (2-18 through the first two games), nobody really cares about his field goal percentage two games into the preseason. It's about freedom and explosion. In the eight-ish minute stints he'll play Wednesday, is Kobe moving with confidence and purpose, or does he look like he's holding back? If he's holding back, is it because he understands discretion is the better part of valor, or because he has no choice?

Is he willing to try to take a defender off the dribble? How much separation can he create on his midrange turnaround jumper? This is the stuff that matters more than what happens once the ball leaves his hands.

New players, new decisions

Tuesday afternoon, I learned something about the triangle from Steve Blake sure to ease concerns about the difficulty in learning the offense. "They say all the time, you can't screw up. Someone might make the wrong cut, but it turns out to be the right cut because everyone else will fill in to where he was supposed to go," he said. "It's OK, because everyone can read off that guy."

If you're waiting for the caveat, here it comes: Players can read off their teammates only if everyone understands the language.

"Right," Blake smiled. "That's the challenge."

One that is magnified when the Lakers use any of their five new players in bulk, as has happened frequently through the first two preseason games, thanks to injuries and the normal practice of extending minutes for reserves during the exhibition season. Nobody expects even heady players like Blake -- let alone rookies like Derrick Caracter or Devin Ebanks -- to understand the offense like Kobe so soon in their triangle education. One way to measure fluency is in the speed with which players make decisions, whether on or off the ball. If a cartoon-like thought bubble forms over a player's head, that's not good.

(Read full post)

2011 roster breakdown: Theo Ratliff

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
11:17
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Theo Ratliff

Salary

$854,389

Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images
Look at Old Man Ratliff get up there!



Role For The Lakers In 2010-2011
It's not easy being a third string player on a championship team. You work very hard, but the payoff rarely arrives in tangible form. You're told to remain mentally ready, but the odds favor remaining physically stagnant. You don't have to like sparse playing time (nor should you, really), but you have to accept it.

From mid-2008 through 2010, D.J. Mbenga played this role at center for the Lakers. On the whole, he did an admirable job staying focused, working hard for little acclaim and performing well when called up upon. But over the course of last season, the job constraints began to wear on Mbenga, who felt he could be on the floor more often. During the Finals against Boston, Phil Jackson noted how Josh Powell (another third stringer) remained sharp during these long stints without PT, but Mbenga had allowed his mind to wander. Not so coincidentally, Adam Morrison was suddenly activated for a game in favor of D.J., despite Andrew Bynum's balky knee and Ammo's last bit of run coming in approximately 1997. A message was clearly sent. It may very well have been received, but during his exit interview, Mbenga reiterated his desire to get more run, making a split feel even more imminent.

It could be argued Mbenga has an inflated sense of skill. During the sporadic occasions of extended run, the returns were mixed and often increasingly diminished the longer he remained on the court. He also remains unsigned, and a landing spot is hard to predict. Nonetheless, D.J.'s desire to grow as a player is understandable and admirable. Unfortunately, it doesn't mesh with what is needed.

Enter Theo Ratliff, who strikes me as the best of both worlds in this setup.

(Read full post)

The 2010 NBA Draft and you, Lakers fan

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
10:01
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Do not expect Thursday's 2010 NBA Draft to cement a Threepeat.

Do not use words and expressions like "replace," "compensate for," or "fill a hole." Certainly don't use the "R" word (rotation).

These are not things picks 43 and 58 can do for a team searching for their third straight title. Even bad teams often have little space for second rounders. On good ones, they frequently don't make the roster or are stashed in Europe until further notice, sometimes never heard from again. There are the occasional DuJuan Blair types who make an impact on a playoff squad, or even a Wes Matthews, who wasn't even drafted. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Andrew D. Bernstien/NBAE/Getty Images
Mitch Kupchak says the Lakers will use their two second round picks this year, but will need to "get lucky" to find a player able to make an impact quickly.


This isn't the ranting of an NBA maverick. While he's not exactly prone to fits of exuberance, Mitch Kupchak didn't undersell things when asked Wednesday if the Lakers could fill any needs with either pick. “Probably not," he said. "We have 43, and we have 58, and history tells us it’s not likely that the 43rd player makes your team, and if he does [he’s not likely] to play a role next year. 58, those guys don’t typically don’t make your team, but we hope to get lucky.”

Unfortunately, due to long-standing rivalries, drafting a leprechaun is not an option, though Marcus Thornton, drafted 43rd last year by Miami and traded to New Orleans, shows good players can still be available around that point in the draft. Thornton averaged 14.5 points a night, shooting a respectable 45 percent from the floor and providing one of the only bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Hornets. Other potentially productive players taken in the general vicinity of pick 43 last year include Blair (San Antonio, 37), Sam Young (Memphis, 36), Jonas Jerebko (Detroit, 39), and Chase Budinger (44, Houston).

From a depth standpoint last year's draft was considered far superior to this year's, obviously a huge factor. 2008 offered some decent choices, but by second round of the '07 draft was something of a wasteland. It varies year-to-year, but pickings are generally slim by the time 43 rolls around.

But even if the Lakers don't hit the second round lottery, the '10 draft will be a change from last season's for the simple reason L.A.'s picks aren't automatically up for auction. Kupchak indicated the Lakers plan on, at the very least, using the 43rd pick for themselves. Last year, there was no room for a rookie who likely wouldn't contribute. This year, it's a possibility. By rule a team needs to field 13 players on the roster. The Lakers have only Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom under contract next season. Shannon Brown, who has a player option for next year, has repeatedly expressed interest in coming back, but still seems likely to opt out of his contract and give the market a look-see.

All things being equal, Brown's preference seems to be staying in L.A., but in the free agent process all things are rarely equal. It's certainly possible he could be offered something, whether in years or dollars, with which the Lakers can't/won't compete.

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D.J. Mbenga: Exit interview and video

June, 23, 2010
6/23/10
11:33
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
It's not unusual for the guys deeper in the rotation to deliver the most interesting exit interviews. Such was the case with D.J. Mbenga Tuesday morning, when the normal talk of summer plans and personal development was interrupted by some serious discussion of Mbenga's desire to make a difference in his home country of Congo.

Mbenga said he'd love to be president of that nation one day, and (as he's done before) spoke eloquently regarding the problems of Africa, and how hard it is to promote positive change. It's easy to forget how much some guys have going on in different parts of their lives. Mbenga's background is fascinating.

The clip opens with Mbenga poking fun at Lakers PR chief John Black, and gets more serious from there.



More from Mbenga below the jump...

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Five "non-zone" things to watch for in Game 4

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
2:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
After the Suns finally got on the board last Monday, much of the chatter centered around the Lakers' poor reaction to Phoenix going zone. Without question, the Lakers' response to the defense left something to be desired. But as Fleetwood Mac famously said, yesterday's gone, as is the element of surprise. The Lakers spent Tuesday's practice working against this scheme, so I'm expecting more readiness. With that in mind, here are five "non-zone" items worth watching in tonight's game:

1) Amare Stoudemire's 42 points were an eye-popping explosion. Amare tying his career playoff-high went above and beyond my expectations. Still, what truly caught my attention wasn't the slew of points, but the way they piled up. From the Suns' second possession onward, when Amare beat Pau Gasol off the dribble and earned a trip to the line courtesy of Andrew Bynum, a marked increase in aggressiveness was displayed.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Amare Stoudemire was determined
all game to go to the hole.


Despite reliability from mid-range, Stoudemire barely worked his jumper, popping just four shots from 15 feet or further. Instead, Stoudemire was largely fed on by the move by Steve Nash or simply attacked the rim. These strong moves seemed to catch the Lakers flat-footed (literally), as Bynum and Lamar Odom morphed into bench-bound whistle magnets and Gasol tuckered out picking up the slack. I can't imagine why STAT would abandon this approach, so the Laker bigs should anticipate Amare in motion. Be prepared to move your feet while defending and rotate purposefully while helping. Defend without fouling.

(On a similar note, no excuse for being caught off guard again by Robin Lopez's prominence as an offensive option. Fool me once, shame one you. Fool me twice... well, you know the drill. Beware The Fropez!)

(Read full post)

Drew's spills the (Boston baked) beans: Practice report and video

May, 22, 2010
5/22/10
7:10
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Brian and I have often affectionately spoken about Andrew Bynum's stream of consciousness existence, a mentality typically resulting in saying precisely what's on his mind with zero effort to hide jack. (For that matter, he's also the team Chatty Cathy, always reliable for divulging details from players-only meetings.) Well, today provided the umpteenth example. Check out the following three videos from practice.

First, you have Phil Jackson discussing what he and the coaching staff look for while watching the Eastern Conference Finals. Note the efforts to convince us nobody's looking ahead to Boston, their hated rival up 2-0 against the Magic at the time:

Jordan Farmar also expressed a lack of concern about who specifically comes out of the east. Again, the company line maintained:



Every member of the Laker family has similarly refused to take the "Are you thinking about Boston?" bait, even though you know damn well they're relishing a shot at payback against their 2008 nemesis. But thanks to an utter lack of filter, Drew said what everyone is thinking. Asked about the role against a bigger team in the Finals round --and while the inference is clear, both teams are bigger than Phoenix-- the kid immediately started talking about the potential rematch.

"Man, it's going to be amazing to play against those guys again. We're going to have a lot of fuel, a lot of ammo to go at those guys. They're definitely a great team, they got great veterans on their squad and we know that. So we're already getting prepared. The first step is closing out Game 3 and after that, we'll be focusing on Boston, looking at them play, watching how they're playing Orlando and just trying to pick up as much as we can."



And this, ladies and gentleman, is exactly why Brian and I love Andrew Bynum so much and exactly why the Lakers can't trade him for Chris Bosh. Does it make basketball sense? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's terrible for my job, and my needs trumps the Lakers' any day of the week.

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After a week of waiting, players seem to be running out of answers to questions we're running out of ways to ask. The rest has been welcome, no question. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum got one more day each of much needed rest, for example. But at this point I'm fairly sure everyone just wants the games to start.

I know I do.

Frankly, the most intriguing part of Sunday afternoon's run in El Segundo came watching the tail end of today's scrimmage. The second unit, comprised of Luke Walton, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell, Jordan Farmar, and D.J. Mbenga was assigned the task of simulating Phoenix's run-and-gun, quick-to-shoot style. This, of course, put Mbenga in the Channing Frye role. Now you might think because Mbenga has fewer three point attempts in his career (two) than Frye took in the first quarter of Phoenix's Game 4 win over San Antonio last week this would be an assignment ill-suited to the big man's skill set.

Not so.

Mbenga actually knocked down his fair share. "At some point, Brian Shaw said, "We're playing him in the wrong position. We should have him on the three-point line shooting three pointers," Phil Jackson laughed.


I said, "Well, maybe."


All season long, fans have clamored for the "Big Lineup" of Kobe, Pau, Artest, Bynum, and L.O. But maybe this is truly Jackson's ace in the hole? D.J. "The M'mad M'bomber" Mbenga?

As the saying goes, this I would pay to watch.

For more on today's practice, enjoy the moving pictures below....

I posted some video from yesterday's practice from Derek Fisher about the need to make Steve Nash work defensively. Here, Fish talks about the process of trying to contain him and what it looks like, and also the need for L.A. to hit the offensive glass when possible, in part because it slows down the Suns:



More Fish, on his improved play:



Lamar Odom, on the matchup, how the time off has helped, and more:



Pau Gasol, on enjoying deep playoff runs, Robin Lopez's role for the Suns and more:



More from Gasol, on the importance of transition defense against the Suns, and the Nash-Fisher matchup:



Phil Jackson, on Kobe not practicing, momentum and the Suns:



More from Jackson, on Magic Johnson's Game 6 to secure the 1980 championship, Bynum and more:

Confidence, crowd noise and transition D: Lakers practice report and video

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
11:07
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Two of my favorite quotes from the playoffs thus far:

"Who said our backs against the wall? It's a 2-2 series. What the hell is going on around here?"
-Kobe Bryant

"We have a game tomorrow night at 7:30 at Staples Center and that's a fact. Nothing changes. I'll be there. Kobe will be there. Pau (Gasol) will be there. All our guys. And we'll give it a go."
-Derek Fisher

Both were comments made in reference to the idea of the Lakers being on the ropes during this series against the Thunder, a series which has no doubt provided some difficulties for the defending champs.

As Kobe correctly noted, "backs against the wall" is a little dramatic to label a situation involving a team tied at two games apiece in a best of seven series, with two-thirds of the remaining games on their home court. Along those lines, I asked Fish if fans and media sometimes forget a title run is in fact supposed to be hard. Yes, (the royal) we do, but as the point guard noted, players can as well.

"I think we're all guilty if it. I'm definitely not pointing fingers outside of even our own locker room. I think sometimes we take for granted how difficult this is and what we're trying to do. Even to just win a championship is a difficult thing to do. To then come back and do it again, and have to do it in a way where all the other variables have changed. Different teams. Different personnel. Different time of year. Injuries. Different things that come into play each single season. To go out and think that you can just kind of replicate this process that you went through before, I think we just take it for granted."

"You have to try to remind yourself to keep it all in perspective. We've done a pretty good job of it. That's what we need to do now. Just stay focused on where we are now. Don't get frustrated with what should have happened. Or could have happened. Don't concern ourselves with what can happen later on."

Like Fisher said, the only thing set in stone is a game will be played tomorrow. If utilized correctly, it can become a part of setting in stone the Lakers' advancement to the Western Conference semi-finals.

(Read full post)

Spotlight on Josh Powell

April, 22, 2010
4/22/10
1:49
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
I just wanted to take a quick sec and make sure the Land O' Lakers readership is aware of a terrific piece about Josh Powell written by ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin. It's a very detailed

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Some players have a clear path to the league laid out for them. Others, like Josh Powell, have to will their way into the game.


look at Powell's difficult career path, which has featured a stint in Russia, little job security and non-stop effort despite typically sparse court time. Since landing with the Lakers, the deep reserve has emerged as a very unique "lead by example" presence for the team. And as McMenamin notes, he's also got the respect and friendship of Kobe Bryant going for him:
    When the Lakers had an air-it-out meeting earlier this season after starting a three-game road trip with losses to Miami and Charlotte, reporters entered the gym and Bryant was alone at one end, isolated from the rest of the team. Powell was the one Lakers player to go over and chat with the visibly frustrated Bryant and he was also one of the last two players, along with Fisher, to stay in the gym and discuss the state of the team while the rest of the players put their headphones on and filed out to the bus.

    "Josh's perspective is so different than a lot of us and I think that's very good for our team. A lot of his experiences personally and professionally have put him in a place where he doesn't fear challenges, adversity, tough situations," Fisher said.

    It's that perspective that gives Powell the confidence to offer constructive criticism of the team, without fear about losing playing time, something that is motivation for many bench players to keep quiet.

Brian and I have always praised the professionalism of guys like Powell and D.J. Mbenga, who consistently stay ready despite their number being infrequently called. Shannon Brown displayed this characteristic last season, which earned him an unexpected spot in the rotation. We both enjoy when players of their ass-busting ilk are somehow rewarded, whether through increased PT, a long-term contract (which Powell would certainly love) or through recognition of their often interesting personal stories.

This article does JP justice.

D.J. Mbenga, official ambassador to Ronlandia

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:39
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Minister of Follicularlity, as well.

Before Tuesday's game, the media horde stopped by D.J. Mbenga's locker to get the lowdown on his hair, a platinum blond job with C$ (Congo Cash) carved in purple across the back delivered courtesy of Ron Artest's barber. He was going old school in terms of nicknames, even while acknowledging with a smile "old school" doesn't really go all that old, since he's only been in purple and gold since January of '08.

Mbenga also knew it was a little out there, a little crazy, and perhaps questionable from a fashion standpoint. I poked some fun, reminding him hair is a precious commodity. It cannot always be counted on to grow back, particularly when disrespected.

"It's always going to grow back," he said.

"Trust me," I replied. "Not always." Catching my drift-I'm bald, for those not paying close attention to our little snapshot at right- Mbenga laughed, and pointed to the crown of his head. "I've got news for you, it's gone, too," he said, indicating a growing bald spot destined to one day make him a Congolese Manu Ginobili.

"Maybe this is the last time I'll do this."

Then Mbenga took a playful-yet-totally-accurate swipe at the completely unfortunate hair of Oklahoma City's Nenad Krstic, who has my vote for worst hair in the NBA.

But what started as a goofy conversation soon took an interesting turn when Mbenga spoke of how the crazy hair serves a larger purpose. In this case, with Artest.

"This team, we live for each other. This is something to keep it positive," he said. "For example, Ron, we know he's kind of a different person. We've got to go this way, (and) accept the way he does (things), and he'll feel comfortable. If he has to do it, and whatever we have to do for him to play better, we're going to support him. That's what it is. That's how we all understand and know each other. That's why we came out together (with the haircuts)."

Artest said Wednesday after practice in El Segundo he initially wasn't going to get the haircut he busted out for last night's game and the playoffs generally, worried about being too flamboyant with his new team as they started their playoff drive. But Mbenga's willingness to play wingman made him more comfortable.

I asked him if the team has accepted him, and Artest agreed. "Yeah, I think definitely they've accepted it. It's a little different, but, you know..."

I'm not entirely sure Artest was referencing acceptance of the haircut or his personality, but I'm not sure it matters (or if there's a difference). Either way, it's an interesting peek into team dynamics.

D.J. Mbenga has emergency eye surgery, out for Game 1

April, 17, 2010
4/17/10
10:46
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The last two practices have been brutal for D.J. Mbenga. Friday featured an elbow to the head and a trip to the neurologist for concussion tests. The results were fine and he returned to action Saturday afternoon in El Segundo only to get hit again, this time in the eye. The contact resulted in a retinal hole, and a team spokesman told ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin emergency laser surgery was performed.

Mbenga will be out a minimum of 72 hours and unavailable for Sunday's series opener against the Thunder. Just one more injury in what's become a comically snake-bitten season. Assuming Andrew Bynum is able to play a reasonable amount of minutes in his return to action, Mbenga probably wouldn't have played much, anyway. Still, purple and gold bodies are hitting the ground at an unnerving frequency.

Best wishes to D.J. on a speedy recovery.

Lakers 97, Wolves 88: One Moment

April, 9, 2010
4/09/10
8:45
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Fourth quarter. The game clock registers just three seconds remaining.

Then two.

Then one.

Another tick, and the Lakers take official ownership of the Western Conference for the third year running. The exact totem pole spot anticipated back in October when analysts went into Nostradamus mode. No surprises. A script faithfully honored, and through more than just the standings. Fittingly, this win was secured in a manner some might say is a microcosm of the season as a whole.

The Lakers got the job done, despite a failure to offer four dominating quarters of roundball. Or even a dominating half. The same inconsistency, lack of execution and waning focus painting this entire season was present again.

(Read full post)

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0