Saturday, October 2, 2010
Lakers' Theo Ratliff pushing Pau Gasol
By Dave McMenamin
LONDON -- Free agent signee and backup center Theo Ratliff isn't holding anything back when he goes up body to body with three-time All-Star Pau Gasol in practice.
Ratliff and Gasol were matched up against each other at various times during Saturday's scrimmage, with the 37-year-old Ratliff causing the 30-year-old Gasol to fall to the floor at one point while the two battled for positioning near the basket.
"I'm sure that's something that [the coaching staff] told him to do, because that's something that I'm going to get all year long," Gasol said. "It's part of the job that he does that during practice [to] get me right, get me ready for the games."
Ratliff said he received no such orders.
"That's how I play, he should know that," Ratliff said. "Tell him, 'No,' that wasn't the case. That's just the way I play, that's the way I have to play. I'm trying to keep him away from the basket. He's so long and so skilled, that if I let him get all of the position, he can just go down and turn and shoot over top of me. It's still a competitor thing, even when you're practicing."
Andrew Bynum continued to sit out of practice as he recovers from right knee surgery, but he has begun wrapping the knee in Kinesio tape to try to reduce the swelling. The black tape is applied in a web-like pattern and is popularly used by Japanese baseball players and beach volleyball players.
Matt Barnes and Luke Walton both practiced after suffering mild hamstring strains earlier in the week.
Walton sat out of Friday's practice in London because of the hamstring.
"Instead of risking it, I took [Friday] off," Walton said. "I just stretched, iced a bunch and then I felt good again today."
The good news for Walton is that he has yet to miss a practice because of his balky lower back, which limited him to just 29 games during the regular season last year.
"It feels great right now," Walton said. "I'm excited about it."
Derek Fisher remained loyal to the Los Angles Lakers in the offseason, re-signing with a three-year, $10.5 million extension to continue to play for the same team he started his career with, but he bailed on another long-time business relationship.
Fisher signed a deal with adidas this summer, ending his sponsorship with Nike. Fisher said he spent the first several seasons of his career with And1 before becoming a brand ambassador for Nike in 1999. Fisher's new sneakers are low tops, similar to the Nike model that Bryant wears, only they are made by adidas.
Speaking of Nike, Lakers center Andrew Bynum is in the midst of talks to return to the swoosh. Bynum began his career wearing Nike before switching to PEAK last season, the same company Ron Artest is endorsed by.
A U.S.-based Nike representative on hand in London said the company is hopeful it can settle a deal with Bynum, acknowledging it was disappointing to lose Fisher.
Kobe's Minnesota admirer
Portland head coach Nate McMillan said that Martell Webster had his "best game as a professional" last January when Webster defended Bryant and helped hold him to 14-for-37 shooting while chipping in 14 points and eight rebounds himself in a 107-98 win by the Trail Blazers.
Webster, who wears Bryant's signature sneaker as well as Bryant's former No. 8 on his uniform, could not hide his joy after the game, having beaten his idol.
Now with the Timberwolves after a draft-day trade, Webster made sure to get some face time with the Mamba when the practice floor exchanged hands between Los Angeles and Minnesota on Saturday.
"We talked about the triangle offense," Webster said. "I was asking him about different opportunities to score within the offense when you actually look to score in the paint. He was just telling me it's all about reads. It takes time to understand. So, when you go through practice, you see yourself in different scenarios where you can actually see yourself scoring, that's how you understand it. I never really thought about it like that, most people take practice for granted, but that's where you actually learn the triangle offense."
Webster was effusive in his praise of Bryant for taking the time.
"He's a legend," Webster said. "He's a playing legend right now. [Our] relationship right now, he's a teacher. He still plays the game, he understands the game and he's a teacher. I'm just trying to get as much knowledge as I can."
They Said It
"Still stealing money, huh?" -- Timberwolves assistant coach Bill Laimbeer said to Ratliff. The Lakers are the ninth team of the 16-year veteran's career. Ratliff played for Minnesota in the 2007-08 season.
This and That
Bryant and Gasol both said they would like to play for their countries in the 2012 Olympics in London, but neither player guaranteed their participation ... Lakers assistant Chuck Person was an assistant coach in Sacramento for two seasons under current Timberwolves assistant coach Reggie Theus ... Gasol said one thing about the trip so far has made him feel right at home -- sitting in a car for long periods of time. "Distances here are quite big," Gasol said. "I thought L.A. was bad, but here in London to go from one place to the other, it takes us 45 minutes to go to practice."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.