Los Angeles Lakers: Rajon Rondo

Notebook: Kobe's cursing compliment

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
Forsberg By Chris Forsberg
BOSTON -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant knows what it's like to be a ring-wearing, injury-rehabbing player on a rebuilding team, so he knows what Rajon Rondo is enduring, both while returning to game action and navigating this murky transition process.

"It’s frustrating," said Bryant. "But from what I understand, he’s an a------ like me, so I think he’ll manage."

Apprised of Bryant's remarks, Rondo noted, "That’s a great compliment coming from Kobe. I feel the same way about him."

Bryant is traveling with the Lakers and had a front-row seat as some less familiar names unleashed a 3-point barrage that helped the Lakers spoil Rondo's 2013-14 debut as part of a 107-104 triumph Friday night at TD Garden.

Bryant, who is battling a knee fracture after working his way back from an Achilles tear, said it was nice to see Rondo getting back on the court.

"It’s never good to have one of the top players in the league go down," said Bryant. "We all know the excitement that he brings. Some of the numbers that he puts up are staggering numbers. It’s good to have him back on the floor."

Rondo finished with eight points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and a turnover during 19 minutes, 25 seconds of floor time in Friday's loss. He looked rusty early, battled his wind later and his night culminated with a missed 3-pointer with a chance to force overtime.

Bryant is well aware of the obstacles Rondo will face in getting acclimated.

"Rhythm is always the biggest adjustment, just getting your game legs back," said Bryant. "It’s one thing to train and to run and to do what you have to do, but when you step on that basketball court, to play at game speed is a little different."

Bryant will have his ailing left knee re-evaluated in February but said the Lakers' struggles won't dictate when he returns to action. He's making the most of his free time, dropping into classes at Boston College on Thursday evening after the Lakers arrived into town.

"It’s interesting, because, obviously, I’ve been doing a lot of international marketing the past 15 years," explained Bryant. "So to actually sit in a classroom and hear the terminology, the proper terminology, from the things that I’ve been doing, it’s pretty cool."

Some additional notes after the Lakers rallied late to top the Celtics:
  • RAISED ON CELTICS-LAKERS: Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he developed a passion for basketball watching the Boston-L.A. rivalry growing up in the 1980s. "As a kid, that’s my introduction to the NBA," said the 37-year-old Stevens. "It seemed like every Sunday, the Celtics and Lakers were on. I know they weren’t on that often, but it certainly felt that way. Obviously, growing up in the state of Indiana, the Celtics having that Indiana tie [in Larry Bird], and an amazing history between the two teams and obviously that’s continued well beyond the '80s. That’s one of my early memories of NBA basketball." Did he secretly root for Boston because of Bird? "No, I loved both. Here’s what I liked: It was hard-nosed, tough, together basketball. In that time of your life, you’re kinda looking and finding your passions. Nothing fed the passion like watching those teams play, and I’ve spoken about growing up in the state of Indiana and just basketball in general what it means. That just added the fuel, it was really fun to watch."

  • FROM A DISTANCE: The Lakers shot a scorching 60 percent beyond the 3-point arc, making 12 of 20 attempts from distance. Los Angeles connected on 7 of 9 attempts in the fourth quarter alone with a trio of triples helping erase a late eight-point deficit. Said Stevens: "The 3-point line killed us. That was the difference in the game. ... When you shoot 12-for-20 from 3, you’re going to win most of those times. [The Lakers] had guys, to their credit, that stepped up and really made big ones. We all know that Ryan Kelly coming in can shoot the basketball. That said, he’s 2-for-15 coming into the game from 3, so for him to come in and [score 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting] is really impressive. For Manny Harris to come straight from the D-League to knock that 3 in, that’s really impressive. Kendall Marshall, who, at one point in time, people would have said that shooting was the thing he needed to work on most, and he’s 4-of-5 from 3. You have to credit those guys for that. Because none of those guys probably have felt like NBA locks. They’ve really worked to put themselves in position to get here, and I respect that greatly. They made big plays against us tonight."

  • JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS: With 16.2 seconds remaining in a one-point game, Gerald Wallace forced a jump ball that gave Boston a chance to gain possession. On the initial jump, Wesley Johnson appeared to swat the ball out of bounds, but the replay was inconclusive (it's unclear whether Wallace's fingertips glanced the ball after Johnson made contact) and referees requested a second jump, which the Lakers won, forcing the Celtics to foul. Asked after the game about the jump ball, Stevens steered clear of talking his way into trouble, offering simply, "[The referees] didn’t tell me anything other than I saw both thumbs go up and I moved on to the next play." For his part, Wallace said of the first jump ball, "I didn't touch it."

  • NATIONAL EXPOSURE: With Rondo back in the lineup, the Celtics are gaining some national interest. NBA TV picked up Tuesday's game, when the Celtics visit the champion Miami Heat.

Chat transcript

June, 6, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
So many questions about the trade value of "Laker X" or the free agents potentially pursued this offseason. So little time.

Here's the link to the room.

The Forum: Lakers vs. Celtics, and Gasol on the block

March, 10, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
In the newest edition of The Forum, 710 ESPN's Beto Duran stops by and we talk about why Pau Gasol has become the member of the Big Three most likely to be traded, when a few months ago that role was filled by Andrew Bynum.

Plus, a look at Lakers vs. Celtics on Sunday, and what a point guard in the mold of Rajon Rondo would do for the Lakers.

Lakers vs. Celtics: What to watch with ESPN Boston

March, 10, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

While the Lakers have performed at least a little better on the court than their shamrocked enemies from the east, the basic narratives surrounding both teams are similar. Aging squads clinging like kittens on tree branches to championship relevance while all sorts of pre-deadline rumors swirl around their big stars, putting into serious question the future of their current ring bearing cores.

David Butler II/US Presswire
Andrew Bynum has been on a roll. Can he keep it up against a stiff Boston D?

Still, just as it was when the teams met this year in Boston, a Lakers/Celtics matchup brings the sort of intensity out of both teams reminding everyone why, even if both squads need a little polish to get back to the top, we still pay close attention when they're on the floor together. Certainly until the cast of characters changes significantly, at least.

To get a little more insight on where things stand with the C's, we caught up with our man Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, who was kind enough to step away from a family vacation (seriously!) to answer a few questions:

Q: The Celtics still get it done defensively (3rd in efficiency) but the offense has fallen off a cliff (25th), even relative to what's gone on with the Lakers. What accounts for their struggles?

Forsberg: As you'd expect from an aging team, the pace of play has dipped (even Rajon Rondo can't get these guys to run often) and Boston's pace has bogged down a full possession per game since its championship season. The bigger problems are that Boston (1) turns the ball over at an alarming rate, (2) doesn't rebound particularly well at either end of the floor, and (3) settles for an insane amount of jump shots (all signs of an aging team). The result? A Celtics squad that averaged 100.5 points per game in their title campaign is now averaging a mere 90.5 points per game this season. We see occasional bursts of life, particularly when Rondo fuels them, but if jump shots aren't falling, this team really struggles to put points on the board because they don't typically generate easy buckets.

Q: How real are the Rajon Rondo trade discussions? Can you explain the persistent chatter surrounding him? On an aging team, he seems like the one guy you'd want to build around.

Forsberg: The Rondo trade chatter was very real in the preseason when the team tried to pry Chris Paul from New Orleans. Even when we heard rumors about Rondo being offered to another team, it was always with the goal of obtaining the pieces necessary to land Paul, who was the only endgame for Danny Ainge. Ever since? I'm sure Ainge is listening, but the Celtics understand his value. He's not going anywhere without an elite cornerstone coming back to Boston and that's unlikely to happen at the deadline. Is he a stubborn kid? Sure, but what superstar doesn't have his flaws? When he's engaged, he's one of the best at his position.

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PodKast: Trade deadline, LA's hopes and the best MC's of all time

March, 8, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
With the trade deadline only about a week away, things are getting a little tense. There are still a litany of questions yet to be answered, and not much time to do it. So with that in mind, we welcomed ESPN Radio's Ryen Russillo to the show. It was a busy show, covering a lot of ground. It should also be noted we recorded before the road losses against Detroit and Washington. Obviously, those results would have otherwise been a topic of discussion.

The highlights:
  • What do the Lakers need at the deadline, and whether they should move Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum to get them filled.
  • How real is the push in Boston to trade Rajon Rondo? (7:00)
  • What real trade -- meaning something not totally one sided and absurd -- would you make including Bynum or Gasol? (13:15)
  • Even if they make moves filling in the middle of the roster, Russillo thinks the window on this group has closed. (19:00)
  • Does the fact the Lakers have become so money conscious show the new CBA is working as intended? (26:00)

Play Download

From there, we get into an extended conversation about the MC Bracket Russillo and Scott Van Pelt are running as part of the Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio -- 64 contestants in all, with the regions broken up into the Dirty South, West Coast, East Coast and 8 Mile. As hip hop isn't my strong suit, most of the deeper opinions are delivered by Russillo (who knows his stuff) and AK (who knows more than me -- hard to believe, but I'm actually less "street" than I look).

But we encourage everyone to click the links above and vote. Just vote responsibly.

Pau Gasol and the Trade Machine

February, 20, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Last week, in the wake of that day's rumor-du-jour (to Minnesota for Derrick Williams and stuff) Pau Gasol told me he'd like some sort of resolution to the ongoing swap gossip swirling around him. Following L.A.'s loss to the Suns on Sunday in Phoenix, Kobe Bryant laid into management, saying essentially the same thing. Trade him or don't, but make a decision quickly. Don't let Gasol, or the team, twist in the wind.

I suspect Kobe's comments won't do much beyond making Gasol's mental state an even bigger focus between now and the deadline.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Would you want to see these guys switch jerseys?

Pau is a tough guy to trade. On the one hand, even in a "down" year, Gasol is averaging 16.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks a game. Last night, he put up 17/12/6, and after people were concerned about circumstances sending his game downhill. He's very, very good, and has a skill set most teams covet. Far too good to give away for a box of saltines and 15 basketballs.

On the other hand, he's 31, carries a pricey contract and still has a little image rehab to do following the end of last season.

Still, if everyone wants a resolution and the Lakers, as Gasol believes, are simply waiting for the right offer, what could the deals look like? Below are a collection of Trade Machine-approved swaps, many reflecting some of the very rumors causing all this controversy in the first place.

(A couple of notes: First, for simplicity's sake, I stuck to two-team deals with at least some degree of viability. Second, I tried to keep each deal boiled down to the key figures. Again, a nod to simplicity, and the clarity of a deal's essential components. Experiment with them as you please to appease the gods of equity. Finally, inclusion of a scenario is not necessarily an endorsement.)

TRADE 1: Lakers trade Gasol to Houston for Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic.

It's the deal everyone made before, right, cutting those pesky league-owned killjoy Hornets out of the loop? No, not really. That swap worked well for L.A. because they got back Chris Paul in the process. Houston's package nets them a lesser replacement at power forward whose numbers this year are down, an explosive scorer in Martin who plays the same position as Kobe and a score-first prospect at the point who represents an improvement over what the Lakers have, because almost anyone does.

Maybe the Lakers can flip the components for something else, but unless you think the Lakers win by adding more depth -- I'm a believer that, generally speaking, in the NBA the team getting the best player wins the deal -- I don't think this improves them.

Adding Kyle Lowry changes the equation, but Houston isn't doing that.

TRADE 2: Gasol to Chicago for Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson

It would be interesting, because as worked up as the fan base can get over Gasol's perceived inadequacies few players have been more roundly mocked locally than Boozer, going back to his Utah days. Just about every criticism has been thrown his way, fairly or not. Offensively, the fit isn't bad. Boozer is skilled, and unlike Gasol doesn't pine for high-quality touches on the block, so he'd open things up for Andrew Bynum down low. On the other hand, except for rebounding, Boozer is an awful defender, and his short arms (for a 6-foot-9 guy) and earthbound game mean he alters very little inside (0.5 blocks per game). The Lakers would suffer defensively in the exchange. Plus, Boozer gets hurt all the time. Only three of his past seven seasons could be reasonably considered healthy, and he's owed a lot of money going forward.

The key would be Watson. Is he a starting-caliber PG who simply hasn't had the opportunity, or just a solid backup? I tend to believe the latter. For this trade to work, the Bulls would have to add sweetener. A package centered around Luol Deng might have appeal for the Lakers, but the metrics don't work as well for Chicago.

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Chat transcript!

February, 8, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
It was a lively day in the chat-o-sphere, as one would expect with an erratic road trip halfway in the books.

Among the talking points were potential trade targets (Rondo, Sessions, Howard, etc.), the role of Andrew Goudelock upon Steve Blake's return and Mike Brown's rotations. Plus, fare thee well, Derrick Caracter.

For those who couldn't attend, here's a link to the transcript.

Lakers 92, Celtics 86 -- At the buzzer

February, 10, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Maybe the Lakers should just stay on the road.

In the third game of their season-long seven-game road trip, the Lakers again scored a win, this time against an elite team, the type of victory that has eluded them all season. It wasn't a perfect measuring stick given Boston's health issues only exacerbated by foul trouble, but, if I might borrow wisdom from the wisest of late 1970's American summer camp cinema- Meatballs- "It just doesn't matter." The Lakers still went into the TD Banknorth Garden and owned the second half of a game they needed to win. That it doesn't "mean" anything in terms of determining a playoff favorite is irrelevant. Had the Lakers lost, the same would be true.

Thursday's game may not be great for determining the NBA's next champion, but it was excellent for providing a little perspective. All in all, it was a top-shelf performance, the type fans (and perhaps the Lakers themselves) have been looking for all season. Here's how it broke down...


1. Second-Half Defense. Even with a rally to end the second quarter, the Lakers still allowed Boston to shoot over 51 percent from the field in the first half. In the third quarter, though, with Ray Allen on the bench with foul trouble (followed later by Von Wafer), Nate Robinson in the locker room with injury, the Lakers did a great job in the halfcourt of clamping down on Boston's remaining scorers, forcing the Celtics into low-percentage looks, including a host of Rajon Rondo jumpers. Once Allen went to the bench at the 6:41 mark, the Lakers allowed only three field goals the rest of the quarter, all jumpers. The Celtics scored only 15 points overall, and combined with the best offensive quarter of the game for the Lakers made for quite a positive frame for the visitors.

Elsa/Getty Images
"Hey you, reading about this game on your computer. Now that me and my guys have beaten an elite team on the road, do you feel any better?"

2. Opening the Third Quarter. L.A. carried serious momentum into the half, cutting a 15-point deficit to eight over the last four minutes of the second quarter. Instead of allowing Boston to regain control coming out of the break, the Lakers continued their push. Derek Fisher drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut Boston's lead to five. Kobe Bryant came right back, probing against Allen before splitting a double team off the pick and roll -- it seemed Boston was preparing for Bryant to pass, given his first-half tendencies, and finishing at the rim, drawing the and-one in the process. In 38 seconds, the Lakers had six points. On their next trip, the Bryant again worked his way inside to score, followed by a Pau Gasol jumper at the 10:18 mark giving the Lakers a 55-53 lead.

From there, the Lakers continued establishing control over the game. But it was those first two minutes of the third swinging the balance of the game in their favor.

3. Kobe Bryant. A lingering criticism of the first matchup at Staples Center was Bryant's shot selection. Efficient as he was early, Kobe dominated touches and shots. As the Lakers struggled in the second half, Bryant took even firmer control of the offense, at one point hoisting on over 10 straight trips.

Tonight, Bryant was clearly determined to get his teammates touches. He spent most of the first half working through double teams, coming off the pick and roll, penetrating to draw the defense, and then kicking to the open man. He found Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the two-man game, hit shooters on the perimeter, and did a great job distributing the ball. The results weren't necessarily there -- the Lakers missed a lot of shots in the first half -- but the intention was. That he took three shots in the first half isn't really the point, but rather his determination not force shots and get Boston moving in transition.

Having set up the Celtics early, Kobe was able to exploit cracks in Boston's defense early in the third. Not surprisingly, he was more aggressive looking for his own shot over the final 24 minutes, and did so with good efficiency, hitting eight of 14 for 20 points. Once Allen was out of the game, Bryant made a point of attacking Wafer because he's Kobe Bryant, and Von Wafer was guarding him. He'd finish with 23.

4. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Together, they combined for 36 points on 14-for-23 from the floor, 19 rebounds, and two blocks. Gasol continued his run of aggressive play, taking shots when they were available, attacking Kevin Garnett in the paint, and posting a far more influential game than when Boston visited Staples. He even took a bite out of Lamar Odom's forehead in the third quarter, sending L.O. to the bench for medical attention. It was, presumably, unintentional, but who's to say Gasol hasn't evolved from Black Swan to Black Cannibal?

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Lakers vs. Celtics: What to watch, with ESPNBoston.com

January, 29, 2011
By The Kamenetzky Brothers

AP Photo/Getty Images
In '08, Boston celebrated at the expense of the Lakers. Last season, L.A. turned the tables. Is Sunday's game a precursor to a rubber match this June?

Earlier in the week, we took a look back at last June's epic Finals Game 7 with ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg, host of the Boston Celtics Report. (Really, it's just a fancy name for Celtics Blog. Typical Forsberg to try and come up with some sort of quasi-clever name for his site. We would NEVER do that sort of thing.)

That was then. Sunday's game at Staples, the first meeting since the Lakers clinched their second straight title, is now. So once again, we join forces with Forsberg, this time to preview the festivities.

First question goes to Chris...

How do you account for how well the Celtics have managed to play this season, despite a string of injuries and several players not getting any younger? Other than Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, there's been a fair amount of key guys in and out.

Forsberg: If Games 6 and 7 of the Finals taught Boston anything, it's that they couldn't get by on the depth they had. Yes, it's hard to complain when you have a starting lineup featuring three surefire Hall of Famers, one of the game's best young point guards, and a still-underrated defense-first center, yet Boston's bench was frighteningly inconsistent last season (producing a Shrek & Donkey moment one night, then completely disappearing the next).

So Boston beefed up in the offseason, adding Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, and Delonte West via free agency. Pay no mind to the fact they've missed roughly a season's worth of games between them, Boston has often been able to keep at least one O'Neal upright and, for those moments they're both in the shop, they brought over Turkish import Semih Erden, the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2008 draft who has exceeded all expectations while serving as a spot starter at times during his rookie campaign.

But more than anything, Boston's core five of Rajon Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis have carried this team. Davis is in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year, while playing starter-like minutes off the bench. Allen, Pierce, and Garnett (and Shaq, too) are flirting with posting career highs in field-goal percentage, and much of that can be traced to Rondo's distribution.

By avoiding big injuries to their biggest names (yes, Rondo and Garnett both missed sizable spans), Boston has been able to thrive. The whole "gotta get home-court advantage just in case we need it" is pushing them a bit, too, after how last season ended.

For you guys: The Lakers have 13 losses, but they seem to be coming in bunches. Anything to that? It seemed like Los Angeles also beefed up in the offseason, so any concern about not being the most dominant team in the West thus far?

Brian Kamenetzky: The clusters of losses were concerning in part because they were unprecedented in the Pau Gasol era. To see a three- and four-game losing streak -- particularly the set against Milwaukee, Miami, and San Antonio where they didn't just lose, but were totally obliterated -- was disturbing. Championship teams just don't do that sort of thing. (Literally. If memory serves, we got a stat in our inbox noting how one title winning team, the '77-'78 Washington Bullets, ever had a bad run like it, losing three straight by 15-plus. If the details are off, suffice to say it doesn't happen often.)

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Week in preview: January 24 - January 30

January, 24, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Two of the Lakers' three opponents are above .500, a trend which will continue throughout the rest of the regular season. With the schedule growing increasingly difficult, the Lakers will need to continue bringing the A-Game displayed against the Nuggets in Denver. This week is as good a time as any to build a steady foundation.
Game of the Week

Sunday vs. Celtics, 12:30 pm PT
With all due respect to a Christmas Day game against the Evil Super Team hyped as containing the fate of western civilization in it's balance, this is the biggest regular season game the Lakers will have played to date. Even more than contests against the Heat, the Thunder or the surging Spurs, a date with the Celtics, quite simply, is the one matters most, and beyond the juicy plot lines immediately jumping to mind:

Beyond the inherent rivalry, reborn after two decades of stagnation with two meetings in the last three finals . . .

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Kobe and the Lakers can never expect an easy contest against the Celtics.

Beyond Kendrick Perkins' bold claim the Celtics would have beaten the Lakers if he'd been healthy (which is certainly reasonable, if fairly shortsighted, considering how easily the same could be said about the Lakers in 2008 with Andrew Bynum available) . . .

Beyond the presence of a certain 7-1, 325 monster whose history with the Lakers (and Kobe Bryant) is equal parts glorious and antagonist . . .

Even beyond Von Wafer coming off the Celtics' bench with the goal of burning the team that drafted him . . .

All hype aside, this is the biggest game of the regular season for the Lakers for reasons more sobering than sexy. The Lakers haven't been playing like a team with rings on a consistent basis and the Celtics are again serious championship contenders.

Yes, the individual matchups intrigue: Kobe vs. the Celtics strong-side team defense. Rajon Rondo vs. whichever Laker(s) guard him. Pau Gasol and/or Lamar Odom vs. Kevin Garnett. Andrew Bynum and/or Gasol vs. Shaq. Ron Artest v. Paul Pierce. Ray Allen vs. his wildly erratic shooting against the Lakers last season. Shrek and Donkey vs. a Matt Barnes-less bench. And on down the line.

But at the end of the day, this game matters for the Lakers because a loss here, particularly a bad one, wouldn't shake the Lakers to their core, but could certainly provide a reality check about how much work lies ahead in order to keep the O'Brien in Los Angeles.

And if it didn't, that's an even bigger reason for concern.

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New K Bros PodKast: Game 7 preview

June, 17, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
You've read my reasons why the Lakers will take Game 7 and Chris Forsberg's reasons they won't. You're read my seven questions heading into Game 7. You've read Brian's thoughts on Game 7 psychology and "the Kobe" we'll see tonight. That's probably enough pregame analysis, right?

You're damn right it's not!

Thus, the newest K Brothers PodKast of this Lakers season. Our look at Game 6, plus what we're expecting in Game 7:

The Lakers romped in Game 6, setting up the ultimate game for fans. Lakers vs. Celtics, Game 7 for the NBA championship. Andy and Brian preview the action, and discuss what's at stake for Kobe Bryant.

Podcast Listen
-(2:40): Brian and I talk about the Laker D in Game 6, then differ on whether on not the Celtics played with less energy than the Lakers. But here's where we're absolutely on the same page: Game 7 will feature a Boston squad playing much better than last Tuesday.

-(6:35): What does the loss of Kendrick Perkins mean? The stats say a lot. No argument from either of us. Brian wondered whether Perk's absence will lead to Boston drastically altering their game plan as a surprise attack, like the Rockets in 2009 when Yao Ming's injury forced Houston to go small. I'm guessing no, since there's so little time to prepare to play without Perkins, much less learn a radically new scheme. We're expecting Boston to duplicate what they do to the best of their ability with the guys they have.

-(13:00): Praise for the Game 6 performances of Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. It's not often the Lakers get a quality showing from the entire backup backcourt. Do we expect a repeat in Game 7? Probably not, but the good news is the Lakers really need just one of them to play well. The other two simply need to avoid playing poorly.

-(18:10): Prediction time. At the risk of a jinx, we're thinking 16th title.

-(19:10): What does the Lakers winning tonight mean for Kobe Bryant's legacy? You could reasonably argue it's the most significant game of Kobe's career: Game 7. NBA Finals. Hated Celtics, just two years removed from beating him for a title. A lot of resume-building flavor in that mix. Unfortunately, I think people will use the game more as a defining moment to detract from Kobe's career if the Lakers lose, rather than an enhancing moment if they win. It's not entirely fair to Kobe, but it's nonetheless the reality I'm guessing would surface.

Seven Questions for Game 7

June, 16, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Game 7.

Just the sound of it sends chills down your spine.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
The big boys could be limited or shelved for Game 7.

There will obviously be plenty to analyze in the next two days, but I thought I'd present just the tip of the iceberg. Looking ahead to Thursday's madness, here are seven points to ponder while you await Game 7's tipoff:

1) How will ailing centers affect the outcome?

Andrew Bynum told reporters on Wednesday he is 'definitely' playing, but after once again limping off the floor only two minutes into the third quarter of Game 6, it's reasonable to question how effective he'll be. It's very possible Bynum has, after three rounds of playing on a knee requiring surgery, reached the end of the line. At the very least, he's running on fumes. In the meantime, Kendrick Perkins is out. As reported by ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, Perkins told reporters Wednesday he has tears in two ligaments in his right knee.

Drew hobbling around has been problematic for the Lakers, but the loss of Perkins could be a game-changer. Should Bynum somehow manage a quality outing, the Lakers will have a huge advantage in the paint. Even if he can't, life for Pau Gasol will be a whole lot more pleasant working against the likes of Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace without the physical punishment Perkins provides. Plus, the Lakers have had weeks -- not to mention last year's playoffs -- to get accustomed to mixed bag performances from Bynum. Boston will have fewer than 48 hours to adjust to Perkins' absence. It's tough accounting for a key cog on the fly.

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Game 6 Preview: The Questions & Answers

June, 15, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
(Monday afternoon, I sat in on 710 ESPN's LA Sports Live. We took a lot of calls, and between those, the tweets and e-mails we've received, and comments in our Land O'Lakers mailbag, a lot of commonalities have emerged. With that in mind, to get ready for tonight's insanely critical Game 6, I present a Conversation With John Q. Lakers Fan...)

Paul J. Richards/Getty Images
Lamar Odom has to be productive in Game 6, particularly with Andrew Bynum's ability to be effective in serious doubt.

So talk me down, man. This isn't over, is it?

Of course not.

Look, I won't lie to you: The task facing the Lakers isn't an easy one. Boston was the only team in the league with a better record on the road than at home during the regular season and the Celtics already have won twice at Staples Center this year. Boston is, as you may have noticed, an elite defensive team and the Lakers, as Kobe noted after Game 5, have regressed on that end of the floor since Game 1.

The Lakers could lose Game 6 (turning our regular Wednesday chat into an angry and vengeful place). They could win tonight and lose Game 7. Lakers fans have every reason to pop Xanax like Tic Tacs just to take the edge off. (Note: This approach is not endorsed by the Land O'Lakers Blog.)

But while the mountain is tall, it can be climbed. Six times in the 2-3-2 Finals format a road team has taken a 3-2 lead into the home team's building, and four times the road team has won the series. Twice the home team came back. It's a small sample size, but enough to show the home team can take two straight.

The Lakers' challenge is tough, but not unprecedented.

Whew! Good to know. I have tickets for Game 7, and want to be able to use them. How do they get there?

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Lakers 2, Celtics 2: Poll-a-palooza

June, 11, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
The NBA Finals now sits knotted at two games apiece. Each team has won in the other's house. Each team has bounced back from adversity.

We've seen explosive and dismal performances from star players. We've seen Big Baby drool his way to infamy. We've seen Andrew Bynum's health once again emerge an issue.

Referees have been taken to task. Kevin Garnett has been (briefly) put out to pasture. Paul Pierce has eaten crow after bold predictions turned immediately sour.

Even Khloe Kardashian is fair game for the wrath of Bostonians.

To say the least, chills, thrills and spills have been omnipresent throughout this exciting series between the Lakers and the Celtics. With four game's worth of dust now settled and two days to wait out before the Game 5 rubber match, we wanted to find out how the Laker Nation is feeling.

Below the jump is a series of polls. Vote early. Vote often. Make the system work for you. Whether Republican, Democrat or a Whig party hold out, this blog ensures your right to be represented.

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Game 4: Five statistics to watch

June, 10, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
On Tuesday night in Game 3, the Lakers came up huge early and again late, enough to grind out a critical 91-84 win. With it, they took a 2-1 advantage over the Celtics in the Finals heading into Thursday night's Game 4. Having already taken back home-court advantage, the Lakers would just as soon channel their inner vampire hunter and drive a stake through Boston's hearts by taking two straight on their floor and a 3-1 lead.

So what do you want -- what do you need -- to prepare for Game 4? Everybody loves stats. Everybody loves information. Which explains why ESPN Stats & Information is so popular. Here are five bits that S&I has compiled ahead of Game 4, with some Land O' Lakers commentary for each.

Stat 1: Pau Gasol was on the floor for 66 Lakers possessions in Game 3. For the 32 on which he had a touch -- not a shot, but a touch -- the Lakers shot 55.5 percent. For the 34 he didn't, they were 42.3 percent.

The meaning: It's instructive that these numbers came out of a game in which Gasol finished 5-of-11 from the floor, an inefficient shooting night by his standards and hardly prodigious production. It demonstrates both the value of moving the ball (Gasol can't touch it if nobody gives it to him) and specifically of moving it to Gasol, whose great court vision and decision-making put major pressure on a defense. Against the Celtics, who feast on isolation sets where they can load up on one player and one side of the floor, it's even more important.

When Gasol is used effectively in the flow of the offense, it allows Kobe Bryant to free himself away from the ball. Anything the Lakers can do to give Bryant opportunities to catch on the move benefits their offense.

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Kobe Bryant
27.5 4.0 1.4 35.4
ReboundsJ. Hill 9.7
AssistsJ. Lin 4.8
StealsN. Young 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.5