Los Angeles Lakers: Marc Gasol

Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 102, Lakers 90

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
8:54
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It only felt like the Los Angeles Lakers' season ended a long time ago. Sunday it finally did for the home crowd, anyway.

The team has two more meaningless games to play against Utah and San Antonio. But the curtain on the worst season since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles came down with a whimper Sunday night in a lethargic 102-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was the Lakers' final home game of the season and about the only bright spots on the night were the rousing national anthem performed by die-hard Lakers fan and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player Flea, and the sight of future lottery pick Joel Embiid sitting courtside across from the Lakers' bench. Both stayed until the bitter end of the game along with many Lakers fans, perhaps not quite ready to let this awful season go.

Those who stayed until the end gave two-time champion Pau Gasol a nice ovation late in the fourth quarter of what could’ve been his last appearance as a Laker. Gasol, who will be a free agent this summer, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with vertigo.

How it happened: The Lakers kept things close in the first half but gave up 34 points in the third quarter to fall irrevocably behind. Memphis had to win Sunday to keep its pole position over the Phoenix Suns in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and it played like it.

What it means: The Grizzlies head to Phoenix on Monday with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. The Lakers head out on the road to Utah and San Antonio to play out the string. Only the race with Boston, Utah and Sacramento for the fourth-worst record still matters for LA.

Hits: Nick Young and Jodie Meeks have been the Lakers' steadiest performers this season, and they were again in the last look many fans will give to this team. Young finished with 14 points off the bench while Meeks had 20. Wes Johnson (15 points, 15 rebounds) and Jordan Hill (10 points, 10 rebounds) each had a double-double.

Misses: Gasol was in attendance Sunday and will travel with the team on its final two-game road trip, but he could have already played his final game for the Lakers if he leaves as a free agent.

Stat of the game: The Grizzlies outrebound most teams they play with burly Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph controlling the paint, but even so, you don’t often see margins like they put up Sunday. Memphis outrebounded the Lakers 52-32.

Up next: The Lakers close the season out on the road against Utah on Monday night and San Antonio on Wednesday. The Grizzlies head to Phoenix Monday and Dallas on Wednesday to settle the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Lakers at Grizzlies: What to watch

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
11:24
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers haven't played many high-end opponents this young season, much less many outside the cozy confines of Staples Center. Tonight, they'll get a serious taste of both. The Memphis Grizzlies are playing as well as any team in the NBA. At 8-2, they boast the Western Conference's best winning percentage, along with its top point differential (+7.6). On both sides of the ball, the Griz are putting in quality work. If the Lakers want to redeem themselves for Wednesday's "Muppet Time" fiasco in Sacramento and keep alive the chance of a winning three-game roadie, they'll need to sharpen their efforts.

For more perspective on the Grizzlies, I sent some questions to Chip Crain, among the hosts of the True Hoop Network's 3 Shades of Blue blog. Below are his responses.

Andy Kamenetzky: Memphis is off to a seriously hot start. They were obviously very good last season as well, but what accounts for the seemingly upgraded play this year?

Chip Crain: The Grizzlies have developed the team chemistry missing from last season. Rudy Gay is more focused. Zach Randolph is healthy. And the bench is stronger despite the loss of O.J. Mayo. Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter and Marresse Speights all working together with a full training camp has allowed the team to build on the past two seasons. With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol both hitting their prime years, the team is suddenly deep and on the same page. The results speak for themselves.

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Lakers looking to continue 2nd round success

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
9:59
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Sacramento Kings figured they got their guard of the future on draft night last June when they traded away their No. 7 pick, Bismack Biyombo, in a three-team deal to acquire the sharp-shooting Jimmer Fredette, who was drafted No. 10 by Milwaukee.

It turns out the Kings’ most important decision of the night just might have occurred several hours later when they used the last pick in the draft on Isaiah Thomas at No. 60.

Fredette went on to average 7.6 points on 38.6 percent shooting, struggling to recapture the magic in his stroke that made him a national sensation at Brigham Young. The 5-9 Thomas, meanwhile, finished the season averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists while outshooting Fredette both from the field (44.8 percent) and from 3-point range (37.9 percent). Thomas ended up being named a two-time NBA Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference and finished seventh in Rookie of the Year balloting.

The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in the Kings’ boat this year, as their lone selection headed into Thursday’s draft is No. 60. It figures to be a deep draft because of a stockpile of talent that stayed in college an extra season this past year in part because of fear of a lockout wiping out the entire 2011-12 NBA season, but finding a success story like Thomas with the last pick in the second round is a long shot. A league executive told me that he expects every first round pick in the 2012 draft to become rotation players, but admitted the second round is still a crapshoot.

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PodKast: On this year's Lakers vs. last, Gasol's sacrifice, and more

May, 3, 2012
5/03/12
11:01
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers are up 2-0 on the Nuggets, and to celebrate we hit the studio for a podcast, and a lively one at that.

We started by asking whether the Lakers have changed expectations surrounding their postseason with the quality of their play, particularly Game 1. Maybe they should have slow-played this one a little?




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From there, we moved on to a topic inspired by comments left on this post about the pressure on Mike Brown to perform in his first postseason as head coach of the Lakers. As Kobe Bryant told me, for players to truly, fully buy into Brown as a coach will be difficult until they've gone through a playoffs with him. Meaning Brown is coaching not just for this spring, but to lay a foundation for the rest of his tenure in Los Angeles.

In it, I note some of the obstacles in Brown's way, including a roster that "isn't as well equipped to win a title as last year's" group.

Fair to say, there was a great deal of disagreement about that one. Certainly during much of the season, as the Lakers struggled with depth problems and members of the supporting cast struggled, it was true. But what about this team, right now? The one taking the floor for Games 1 and 2 against Denver? Most readers thought I got it wrong. Upon further review, I think they have a compelling argument. Andy and I kick it around the topic -- he agreed with you folks -- noting first the difference in mentality. This year's group is far more engaged, suffering from none of the burnout plaguing the 2010-2011 team. Pau Gasol is present, accounted for, and playing at a very high level.

Then there's the roster. Yes, Lamar Odom is gone, but his production has been absorbed to a large degree by Andrew Bynum and Gasol. Ramon Sessions is an upgrade over Derek Fisher. Metta World Peace (once he returns) is playing better now than he was last season. And, of course, Kobe Bryant isn't just healthier, but much healthier. Put it all together, and the Lakers are better this spring than last, or at the very least have the potential to be better. Certainly the first two games of against Denver support that idea.

How that factors into their title hopes -- they were a long way from a championship in '11 -- is a different debate, but it obviously it can't hurt. And, of course, a better team means even more pressure on Brown.

But it's a good reminder of how narratives in sports need constant re-examination.

Finally, with L.A.'s Big Three all playing well, we noted the sacrifices made by Gasol for the greater good. Bryant talked about it following Game 2. "Championship teams have always been built on players who can sacrifice for the betterment of the group. He's obviously sacrificed his touches, but his aggressiveness is not going down. If you look his assist numbers and his rebounding numbers, he's such a big factor for our team," he said.

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Lakers react to Clippers' comeback

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
5:09
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The opening weekend of the 2012 NBA playoffs featured two games with dramatic fourth quarter results that got the rest of league's attention.

On Saturday, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose tore the ACL in his left knee when he was still on the court in the fourth quarter even though the Bulls led the Philadelphia 76ers by 12 with just 1:22 remaining.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Clippers trailed by as many as 27 points in the second half and came back to beat the Memphis Grizzlies with a furious rally in the fourth quarter.

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year, was left to defend his decision to keep Rose and the rest of his starters in the game. Just a day later, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro continued to play his best players late in the game even though his team entered the fourth quarter down by 21 points.

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Lakers vs. Memphis: What to watch

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
8:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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L.A. is now in Day 11 of Ramonpalooza, the festival of appreciation aimed toward point guard Ramon Sessions following his acquisition from the Cavs on deadline day. (My Morning Jacket will be appearing shortly on the main stage.) It's easy to go overboard, but his presence really has represented a sea change for the Lakers.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The matchup between Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph will be key Sunday night.



Friday, we noted the ways in which Sessions has improved the team's offense, goosing efficiency with high-percentage shots either for himself or teammates, many coming in transition, plus an ability to get himself (and teammates) to the line. And this was before he made his debut as a starter, lighting up the Blazers for 20 points and 11 assists Friday night at Staples. The game was significant not only for his impressive numbers but how Sessions affected the action down the stretch. In a still competitive game, Sessions dominated the fourth quarter with eight points and six assists as the Lakers piled up 32 points, all while Kobe Bryant happily took only one shot in the final 12 minutes.

It's a brave new world, folks.

Sunday, the Lakers get another good test against the Memphis Grizzlies, the same team L.A. edged in double-OT not even two weeks ago at FedEx Forum. That night, the Lakers were carried by Andrew Bynum (37 points) and Bryant (34) but only had one other player in double figures (Pau Gasol, with 14). Meanwhile, the Grizzlies got a career night from Marreese Speights, one of six Grizzlies with 10 points or more. Normally, when teams meet twice in a small window, the first game can be instructive. Not here.

The Lakers played that night with Derek Fisher and without Sessions. Memphis was missing not only Zach Randolph, but also Rudy Gay. They've also added Gilbert Arenas as a free agent, giving him real minutes in his first two games. The cast on the floor Sunday will be very different on both sides.

With that in mind, here are three things to watch:

1. Z-Bo vs. Pau Gasol.

In five games since returning from a knee injury, Randolph has been solid: 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting nearly 47 percent in about 31 minutes a night. Pretty good, but not the walking double-double he was in a dominant 2010-11 season. At some point, Randolph will round into form. If it's Sunday, the Lakers (and specifically Pau Gasol) have one more tough cover. Friday against Portland, the Lakers, who rarely do this sort of thing, were forced to bring doubles against LaMarcus Aldridge in the first half before order was restored in the second. If the same thing happens Sunday, the Grizzlies -- not a good half-court team offensively -- might find some lanes opening up that would otherwise be closed. The more extra rotations the Lakers have to make, the more wing players such as Gay can attack or Marc Gasol, who needed 25 shots to get 20 points in Memphis, can get easy looks on putbacks and open feeds at the bucket.

2. Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen.

Allen is among the league's most active defenders, one of the few guys capable of making Kobe's life truly difficult. On the ball, he can be very hard to beat, but while the Lakers had periodic success with Bryant operating away from the ball at points this season, with Sessions on board they have the means to do it more effectively and more consistently. Closer to the rock, the potential for good 1/2 or 2/1 pick and rolls could give Allen and Mike Conley looks they haven't seen much against L.A. Bottom line, as Mike Brown and Bryant noted after Friday's win, with Sessions the Lakers have so many more ways to attack, making them much tougher to prepare for.

Still, despite some weakness (see below) the Grizzlies constitute a very solid test for the revamped offense. They'll be at full strength, making them the best defensive team the Lakers have seen since acquiring Sessions, more effective than a Dallas squad missing Shawn Marion. Moreover, no team in the NBA is better at forcing turnovers, and Synergy rates them as the league's second most productive team in transition, meaning mistakes on the offensive end won't go unpunished.

3. L.A. vs. expectations.

Memphis is a dangerous team, one nobody will want to see in the postseason -- unless perhaps the postseason started today. The Grizzlies have dropped five of six overall, including Saturday afternoon to a slumping Clippers squad, and four of five on the road, and are just 9-14 outside Memphis overall. Perhaps it's because they don't score much, averaging only 91.2 points on the road compared to 99.1 at home. Nor have they been very good against teams over .500, going just 10-17. All told, Memphis' talent says it's a game the Lakers could absolutely lose, while the numbers say they really should win.

Lakers Late Night Replay vs. Memphis

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
8:46
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Very big, very hard fought win for the Lakers tonight in Memphis. 116-111 in double OT.

On tonight's show, we review all the high points, including:
  • Massive games from Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum.
  • The importance of a big comeback on the road -- L.A. was down 17 in the third -- against a good team (even one missing two of its three best players in Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay).
  • The dynamic between Bynum and Pau Gasol. How much does the presence of one impact the other?
  • Dwight Howard's "roll the dice" comments tonight following Orlando's win over Miami. He now says he wants to stay in Orlando through the deadline. Does that impact L.A.'s plans heading into Thursday?
Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 116, Grizzlies 111 (2OT)

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
8:36
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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No Zach Randolph and no Rudy Gay? Ultimately, it was a bit too much of a problem for the Grizzlies, who hung very tough without two of their three best players, even forcing 10 bonus minutes of basketball to decide the contest. Lesser names like Tony Allen, Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter were clearly up to the task of filling those gaps. Plus, a gritty showing from a squad that made the playoffs without Gay last season, and has thrived all season without Z-Bo or Darrell Arthur shouldn't be shocking. But ultimately, the absence of a true go-to option grew increasingly evident against a Lakers squad at full strength. Luck can only be pushed for so long. And in the meantime, the Lakers eventually capitalized on these fortunate circumstances.

Here are four takeaways from the win.

1) The Lakers barely survived Pau Gasol waiting a long time before showing up at all.
From start to finish, the presences of Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant were felt in BBQ Country. Bynum was about as dominant as can be humanly expected. Only three misses in 18 tries from the field, plus seven makes in eight visits to the charity stripe. Thirty-seven points in all, and in a variety of ways Memphis found impossible to stop. Lobs sequences. A sequence where the ball moved from Kobe at the high post to Pau at mid-post to Drew at the rim proved particularly hard to stop. Spins toward to the bucket after backing down his defender. Drives off a face up. He was as unstoppable as one can be, a nice extension of his go-ahead bucket in the final seconds against Boston. For his part, The Mamba poured in another 34 points, the gaudiest figure of a very well-rounded stat line. Overtime was reached after he drilled a 3-pointer to force a 95-95 tie, then he set up Gasol on a running dunk for another two points. Kudos would be in order for the nearly 52 minutes of run alone.

The two also joined forces on a great hustle play when Bryant sprinted to track down an ORB off a missed corner three, then fed Drew on a cut for running dunk.

Gasol, however, lagged mightily in a game where his talents were needed. After three quarters, he had just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, two rebounds, three assists, and a pair of turnovers to match two blocks. Defensively, he didn't appear particularly engaged, whether matched against his brother Marc or Speights. His overall energy was low, which was disappointing as the Lakers were trying to shake their road woes. Some slack was picked up as bonus basketball began, but it was nearly a matter of too little, too late.

Granted, Gasol wasn't the only starter who didn't take over in Memphis. After a quick start that allowed him to reach the 10,000-point mark for his career (congrats!), Derek Fisher did very little, then found himself benched down the stretch in favor of Steve Blake. Metta World Peace clanged treys as if he were getting paid by the miss (technically speaking, I guess he is) and beyond a few hustle plays, the small forward was pretty much a non-factor. More was needed of them as well.

However, Pau is a different caliber of player, which creates much higher expectations. He didn't meet that bar, which left far too much in the hands of his fellow "Big 3" members.

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What to watch: Lakers at Memphis

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
7:40
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As John Hollinger noted Monday afternoon (Insider required), the Western Conference has gone a little squishy as teams for a variety of reasons have piled up losses. Denver, the Clippers, Dallas, Houston, Portland, and Utah have all suffered either significant bouts of mediocrity or full on slumps at points over the last few weeks, pulling the lower rungs of the playoff ladder a lot closer to .500 than typically seen in the W.C.

Even the Lakers, winners of seven in ten, lost to the Pistons and Wizards last week, and nearly dropped a game to a Kevin Love-less Timberwolves squad.

A quiet exception to this southward inertia has been the Memphis Grizzlies, who have gone 21-10 since a 3-6 start despite the fact star power forward Zach Randolph has played only four games thanks to a knee injury. (This after losing key frontcourt backup Darrell Arthur to an Achilles injury before the start of the season.) On any floor, tonight's matchup against Memphis would be a tough game for the Lakers. In what is sure to be a raucous FedEx Forum, where the Grizzlies are 15-5, it's an even bigger challenge, particularly given how the Lakers are so flippn' awful away from Staples.

To gain a little extra insight into Lionel Hollins' crew, we hit up Red Coleman of 3 Shades of Blue, a great resource for scratching your Grizzlies itch.

1. The Grizzlies aren't at all impressive offensively, but are very solid at the other end. What accounts for their success, and how do you think they'll approach the Lakers Tuesday?

Memphis has a commitment to playing defense that permeates everything they do. It's similar to the mindset that Tom Thibodeau has instilled in Chicago, really. Tony Allen is the spark plug for this, but everyone buys into it completely. That's why everyone is active and attentive on that end of the floor.

I think the Grizzlies will approach this game like they do any other -- stick your man, disrupt the passing lanes, and box out when the ball goes up. That's fundamental basketball, so there is no reason to expect them to change. They'll pay special attention to Kobe, of course, but it will still just be solid, team defense that is employed to try and hold him in check.

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Pau Gasol left off All-Star team

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
5:36
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kobe Bryant's consecutive All-Star Game streak reached a record-tying 14 last week when the Western Conference starters were announced, but another Laker saw his streak end.

Pau Gasol's more modest run of three straight mid-winter classics has come to an end.

It's not shocking news. Gasol's performance this season hasn't been nearly as bad as unhappy Lakers fans might lead you to believe -- 16.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and a PER of 20.58 is hardly awful-- and is actually comparable statistically to a few guys in the mix for a trip to Orlando, Fla. Still, he hasn't met the lofty standard to which he should be held, and certainly doesn't have the feel of an All-Star. Not locally, at least.

Looking at the list of reserves, Kevin Love, and LaMarcus Aldridge are without question more deserving. Based on this season's performance I'd definitely give Pau the nod over Dirk Nowitzki, but Utah's Paul Millsap, who like Gasol will be watching on television, deserves a bid over both. There's just no way to conclude Gasol's omission is a crime of basketball.

The news isn't all bad. La Familia Gasol will still be represented in Orlando, as lil' brother Marc was named as the squad's backup center, filling that last "big man" slot. If only one can go, I suspect seeing his brother earn his first berth excites Pau a lot more than getting to go again himself.

Brotherly love and the Lakers

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
9:14
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
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"I'm really proud of him. I'm sorry he didn't have a great shooting night, but the rest of the game, I think was incredible. He got 11 boards, seven assists, four steals, three blocks, no turnovers. I mean, that's as good as you can ask for any player in this league."

These comments came from Pau Gasol while discussing brother Marc's performance during Sunday's win over the Grizzlies, and what immediately caught my attention was how Pau rattled off those stats without looking at a sheet. The data was committed to memory, and presented with complete accuracy. Had Gasol immediate access to an advanced box score, which presents such fancy metrics like assist rate, true shooting percentage and points contributed, I wouldn't put it past him to know those numbers for Marc by heart as well.

Pau's never made any bones about the pride in his hermano's accomplishments, along with the mixed, difficult emotions accompanying competition against his younger brother.

But these feelings aren't necessarily limited to relationships in blood, nor people like Pau, as sensitive and introspective as any athlete I've ever covered. Take, for example, Kobe Bryant. It's not exactly a government secret the dude's competitiveness borders on blood thirst, and isn't quenched merely by collecting W's and jewelry. Kobe typically lives for the battle within the battle; the individual matchup. Bryant is often described as a fella who lives to pummel opposing wings, and it's an accurate description. Factor in how The Mamba routinely presents himself as unsentimental , and it stands to reason those lined up against him would be seen as raw meat to a lion, no questions asked.

Or perhaps not, based on his response when asked how much fun it'll be to have former teammate (and protege) Shannon Brown in the house on Tuesday against Phoenix.

"Not fun at all," said Bryant, shaking his head. "I don't like playing against my little brothers. I don't like it. I watched him develop. I watched him grow. Taught him a lot of things. Those are always tough games for me."

Does he expect to guard Brown?

"I really don't want to," reiterated Kobe. "It's like guarding my little brother. Him, Trevor [Ariza], all those guys. Those are tough games for me."

Family often finds a way to be wonderful and complicated at the same time.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 90, Grizzlies 82

January, 8, 2012
1/08/12
9:14
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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They say you don't get style points for a pretty win, which, by extension, means you don't lose points for an ugly win. And that's fortunate, because the Lakers otherwise might have ended the night with -2 on the scoreboard. The W was secured, but they didn't look so hot making it happen.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1) Kobe Bryant played an exceptionally well rounded, efficient game.

I was curious to see how Kobe's game might be affected by the presence of Tony Allen (among the best in the league at defending Kobe) and his wrist, which might leave him susceptible to the former Celt's relentless, hawking D. It took just over four minutes, however, for this issue to be rendered dead in the water. After getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar on a turnaround J from Kobe, Allen had to sit with his second foul. Right on cue, Bryant made both of his free throws, then set up Matt Barnes for a three-pointer, a clear announcement of this being a strong night in the making.


AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Kobe did a nice job balancing his scoring and play-making.


Whether setting up teammates to the tune of nine dimes or putting up 26 points on a clean 50 percent shooting, Kobe was aggressive, but also under control and worked extremely hard to involve his teammates. During the first quarter, he ran pick-and-pop to perfection to perfection with Troy Murphy, putting the stretch forward in perfect position for a long deuce. Later, he manufactured an alley-oop for Pau Gasol and set up Steve Blake for a corner three via a cross-court fastball tossed with enough heat and accuracy to make Mariano Rivera jealous.

And I specifically used the Yankees pitcher for the baseball parallel, because Bryant also went into "closer" mode, albeit not during the literal last minute. With 4:38 remaining and the Laker lead down to five, Kobe drilled back-to-back J's from 14 and nine feet, creating enough separation on a night where the fourth quarter turned muddy.

There was even a toe dipped into the fountain of youth. The Staples Center faithful was whipped into a frenzy after Bryant drove the baseline past Rudy Gay, then threw down a reverse jam with the authority of his days in a #8 jersey.

Good stuff.

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Lakers vs. Grizzlies: What to watch, with 3 Shades of Blue

January, 8, 2012
1/08/12
10:21
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers again sit one game above .500 as their roller-coaster season pushes forward. Save for the home victory over Denver, they've yet to beat a team universally viewed as good, and it's hard to say that Sunday's opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, qualifies as such. For many NBA scribes, including yours truly, this was the sexy pick for "dark horse contender." But myriad injuries -- most notably Zach Randolph's torn MCL -- have led to a 3-4 start.

Still, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr. and O.J. Mayo can all do damage; Tony Allen (a must-follow on Twitter) is capable of making Kobe Bryant work hard; and Lionel Hollins is a good coach. Plus, I don't think it's going out on a limb to say -- or at least hope -- the Lakers aren't firing on all cylinders at the moment.

For more perspective on the Griz, we called upon Chip Crain, who runs the TrueHoop Network's 3 Shades of Blue blog. Here are his thoughts on five questions about the Grizzlies.

Land O'Lakers: How drastically has Zach Randolph's injury affected the Grizzlies, whether in production, presence, etc.? For that matter, the frontcourt is pretty thin, with Darrell Arthur also hurt. How has this changed the way the Griz operate?

Joe Murphy/Getty Images
It's a nice ensemble, but Griz fans nonetheless don't like seeing Z-Bo in street clothes.



Chip Crain: Z-Bo’s injury hasn’t affected the Grizzlies any more than the Lakers' losing Kobe for at least six weeks would. It’s a huge loss to lose your All-Star player and dominant paint player. Throwing his injury on top of losing Arthur, a key bench player for the Grizzlies, has left a huge hole at a position that was an area of strength heading into the season.

So far, the Grizzlies have responded by moving Gay and Sam Young to power forward at times and playing a faster tempo. It has worked so far because Mike Conley, who sprained his ankle against OKC in the second game, returned, and the team was able to push the tempo without dramatically increasing turnovers. It is not a long-term solution, however. Neither is Marreese Speights, for whom the Grizzlies traded after learning of Randolph’s injury, but they had to have someone to put next to Gasol.

LO'L: Mike Conley made a pretty drastic leap forward last season after most people roundly mocked his contract. (He also had a habit of carving up the Lakers.) Has that evolution continued, and do you see him as a potential high-end PG in the making?

CC: As I said, Conley has been instrumental in keeping the Grizzlies' heads on tight and managing to win games (2-0 since Randolph’s injury was revealed). Conley is not a big-stat point guard. He’s not going to shoot a bunch of shots, nor does the Grizzlies' offense set up for huge assists, but he keeps everyone focused and on the same page. What Conley lacks in stats he more than makes up for in composure. It’s difficult to measure composure in a box score, but the team is plus-40 when he is on the court since his return.

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Pau vs. Marc - Part XI

January, 7, 2012
1/07/12
5:27
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Gasol BrothersJoe Murphy/Getty ImagesPau Gasol, left, of the Lakers, will match up with his younger Marc again on Sunday night.
Pau Gasol and his kid brother Marc Gasol have a unique relationship.

Pau plays for the Lakers, but it was Marc who the Lakers actually drafted with the No. 48 pick in 2007 before trading him to Memphis in February 2008 to acquire Pau.

The 31-year-old Pau will face off against the 26-year-old Marc for the 11th time in the brothers' careers Sunday when the Lakers host the Grizzlies.

"I’m not sure what’s the record," Pau said after practice Saturday. "I’m up, I think I’m up. I’m ahead on our matchups. We usually have better teams than they do. I’m still ahead and hopefully we’ll continue that this year. We want to continue to win and beat them because they got us, I think twice, last year if I don’t remember wrong."

Pau's memory was correct. The Grizzlies beat the Lakers on Nov. 30 of last season, 98-96 and again on Jan. 2 by a score of 104-85 but Pau holds a 7-3 series record against Marc.

Pau's numbers have been just as dominant as the Lakers' .700 winning percentage in the series. Pau is averaging 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 50.4 percent shooting against his little brother. Marc is averaging 10.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 42.4 percent shooting against his older bro.

When asked how much trash talk he and Marc exchanged, Pau responded: "Zero."

"We don’t really talk about it," Pau said. "We don’t talk about the game. We don’t talk during the game much. We’re just focused on trying to compete and trying to go at each other if we have the opportunity when we do."

So far this season, Marc has been playing as well for the 3-4 Grizzlies as Pau has been for the 5-4 Lakers, if not better. Marc is outpacing Pau in rebounds (10.3 to 8.7), steals (1.4 to 0.8) and blocks (2.3 to 1.9) per game, while Pau leads in points (17.1 to 14.0), assists (2.1 to 1.7) and shooting percentage (57.3 to 56.1).

Lakers coach Mike Brown has only seen the brotherly battle on tape so far and said he is looking forward to seeing it live.

"It’s an interesting matchup and they are similar types of players because they both are very, very skilled," Brown said. "Marc is a little bit, obviously, bigger than him but I’m happy to have Pau."

(Read full post)

Pau Gasol will practice with Barcelona

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
4:16
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With the start of the season in serious question, the lockout plans of many players are starting to crystallize. For Kobe Bryant, a trip to Italy with Virtus Bologna is still a very real possibility.

(And if he does, expect to see a lot of this on Italian TV.)

Should Bryant sign, he'll share a continent with Pau Gasol, who will (with little brother Marc) begin training this week with his former Spanish club, FC Barcelona. The Gasols will practice there until the lockout ends (as Pau says, he's "waiting for the evolution" of labor talks) and should the season get scrapped entirely, Pau has indicated signing with Barcelona would be a welcome option.

It would be tough to find a better spot to stay in shape. Barcelona is a perennial powerhouse in European basketball. As Pau explained via Twitter, "For me @FCBarcelona is the best team in Europe. @MarcGasol and I are here to contribute even more to a group which is already excellent."

Having just finished helping Spain to a Eurobasket title, his fitness level should be pretty high already, and the hope, obviously, is Gasol is only there long enough to shake some hands, reintroduce himself to old friends, and get a few days of run in. But if this thing drags on -- and today's cancellation of the preseason, leaving real games seriously threatened, certainly indicates it will-- Pau's contingency plan should keep him sharp.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5