But first, a funny moment with Andrew Bynum after the game, addressing trade rumors involving him and Chris Bosh. I asked if it bothers him when his name gets bandied about, which led to a rather amusing exchange and phrasing.
This kind of deadpan flightiness is typical of why Bynum is often considered the Lakers' most unintentionally funny player. I love the idea of Drew being "the throw in." Basically, Toronto is trying to get Adam Morrison, and if Bynum must be taken on to match salaries, so be it. And on the odd chance Bynum happens to be in fact the big prize, "even better."
Well, as I noted in the postgame report, aesthetics didn't appear to be a part of either squad's game plan during this 95-77 Laker victory. Save a few folks (primarily Lakers), this was the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Kobe Bryant's lack of marksmanship was particularly striking. 1-14 at the half. 4-21 at the finish. A fractured index finger is clearly making life difficult, and experimentation with various splints hasn't landed the correct compromise between support and flexibility. Those dozen points didn't come without dogged effort, however, and there's no sign of Kobe's scaling back his focus while injured.
Is that indicative of Kobe's will? Without question. But it's also not hard to see the increased shot count of late (90 over his last three games, 33 canned) as a lack of trust in any teammate not named "Pau" or "Gasol." As J.A. Adande notes about Kobe, "nothing expresses love like making the ultimate sacrifice: passing up shots." It's also a sign of respect perhaps not as automatic for the rest of the roster, which could be why Kobe is demanding and coveting the ball more these days. As The L.A. Times' Mark Heisler notes, Phil Jackson won't tell Kobe to dial it back, instead stressing the importance of not bending to The Mamba's demands:
- Of course, without Gasol, Bryant just takes over personally, as on Friday, when he was bound and determined to end their Rose Garden losing streak and shot 14 for 37. That came on the heels of his 10-for-30 game in the loss to the Clippers. Before Sunday's game, Jackson said it was up to . . . Bryant's teammates? "I always tell the players they have to be strong-willed enough to turn him down when he demands the ball," said Jackson."And until they develop that, we're not going to bail them out. . . .
"That was one of the first comments I made to [Farmar] when he started in the Phoenix series three years ago when he was a rookie: 'You're going to have to turn him down sometimes and stand up to the abuse you're going to get or the verbal condemnation you might get from him. If he [Bryant] says, 'Why didn't you give me the ball?' you're going to have to have a good excuse or something doing to have to come out of it."
It had better be a really good excuse, too, like, "A vampire came out of the crowd and bit me in the neck just as I was about to throw it to you."
Thankfully, Gasol is hopeful his hamstring may respond well enough to a treadmill workout to practice today. In the meantime, a few Lakers did make a case for co-ownership of the rock. When he wasn't busy grabbing 17 boards, Lamar Odom set up teammates with nine assists. Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar respectively poured in 19 and 17 points off the bench. And it was a ginormous night for the man who would reportedly be Bosh. Bynum pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds to compliment 17 points, perhaps putting to bed any theoretical temptation to move the young center. (Granted, ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin and John Ireland agree with me that the odds of relocation were pretty low to begin with, but for argument's sake...)
Beyond Kobe's finger and Pau's hammy, there is still one more issue worth concern. Ron Artest needed a breather following a collision with Michael Redd, triggering bad thoughts about a concussion setback. Ron Ron said he's feeling fine (dude is never one to complain), but his game against the Bucks was clearly off and getting back into the swing of things has been a slow process.
More reaction from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Brew Hoop, the latter citing examples of Milwaukee's futility and good Laker defense:
- Adam Morrison (yeah, him) and Lamar Odom buried shot-clock beating 30-foot prayers from the right wing to blow the game open, and Shannon Brown (game-high 19 points on 12 shots) capped it off with a half-court heave to close the third. That gave the Lakers a 19-point lead heading into the fourth and acted as a preview for Brown's continued domination in the fourth. Brown shrugged off a Jennings foul to dunk on the break, then summed up the Bucks' season-long inability to finish by swatting both Ridnour and Jennings in one transition sequence.