Shannon Brown pleases President Obama, who wished him luck in the dunk contest.
Just a year into his presidency, Barack Obama has yet to fix everything wrong in our country. I don't think mine is a particularly partisan claim, or even particularly critical, as the man's plate has enough piled on it to leave Kobayashi with a full tummy. Still, the ability to bring about large-scale, permanent change remains somewhat unproven.
But give the Prez this much. Last Monday, he played host to a Lakers squad whose current road trip had featured a pair of losses against a contender and a pretender, and a win that didn't swing in the Lakers' favor until the fourth quarter. They've been so largely unimpressive, Steve Mason crashed our PodKast to tee off on how poorly they've played. A little time with Obama, however, and the purple and gold are suddenly inspired to kick off the cobwebs, as ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reports:
- Being in the president's presence not only helped cause (Kobe) Bryant (26 points, eight assists) to play at the title-taking level he's capable of, it infused the whole team with the life it had been lacking. "It reminded us what we were playing for," Bryant said. "It reminded us what's at stake. I'm sure it helped re-energize us a little bit."
Bryant's tank wasn't quite topped off with Obama's influence after Monday, so he made a return trip to the White House on Tuesday morning, spending "about 20 minutes" in the Oval office with the president, bringing along his wife Vanessa and their two daughters, Natalia and Giana. Following Bryant's lead, the Lakers shot 58.7 percent as a team, ran out to a 16-point lead at halftime and didn't let the lead dwindle to less than nine the rest of the way.Just about every Lakers player who starred on Monday credited the president in one way or another.
Perhaps the Lakers should consider putting Obama on the payroll as a consultant of sorts, because for the first time in a little while, the Lakers more or less "resembled themselves." Granted, the Washington Wizards are a fairly low hurdle to leap, but the point of a game like last night's isn't necessarily "proving yourself," but rather doing what you're supposed to do. Like inspire the following headline from the Washington Post's Michael Lee:
Or, as Bullets Forever put it in slightly more verbose, but still succinct terms:
- The Wizards really didn't do that much wrong tonight. The Lakers are just a much, much, much, much better team right now.
Lamar Odom was this aggressive from minute one.
Whether you're talking "on paper," a game of NBA 2K10, or the parameters of good old fashioned "real life," assuming neither team is afforded weaponry, Washington's crew is undoubtedly outmatched if the Lakers play reasonably well, much less at their best. As Brian noted during his postgame wrap, The Lakers demonstrated this truth to the letter. After a first quarter allowing Washington to remain competitive through turnovers (four in all, worth nine D.C. points), the follow up frame featured the Lakers (specifically Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown) firing on all cylinders and creating a 16 point gap. From there, the doors may not have been blown off the hinges, but the Lakers certainly played well enough to forge a 115-103 win while conserving energy for a back-to-back against the Pacers. The defense was sturdy enough, mistakes (first quarter aside) were minimal and Silver Screen and Roll enjoyed seeing a steady, efficient offense worked to near perfection:
- The offense was killer from beginning to end. Nearly every possession the Lakers looked like a team with a plan, whether it was setting up Pau Gasol on the blocks or swinging it around the arc for an open three. The Lakers took a lot of treys tonight, almost 30% of their FGAs, but they were in the flow of the offense, the expected products of thoughtful ball movement. There was very little that was crazy or forced.
And by the way, should Magic Johnson ever set up shop in the Oval Office, sounds like he might match Obama's credentials when it comes to getting a honored team on the right track. As the Times' Mike Bresnahan notes, Earvin had a few choice words for the defending champs as well:
- Johnson, who owns almost 5% of the Lakers, has seen what others have seen -- periods of dominance followed by valleys of ineffectiveness, perhaps even arrogance. After the Lakers met with President Obama on Monday, Johnson stood inside the Diplomatic Reception Room, surrounded by panoramic wallpaper scenes of Niagara Falls and Boston Harbor. Then he watched players from the NBA's highest-salaried team walk out to the South Lawn, where a surprisingly brilliant sun awaited them. "Hopefully this will jump-start them," he said. "The team was not playing up to their own standards, but I'm sure that Phil [Jackson] will get them going."
But still nothing really compares to meeting the nation's leader, as Jordan Farmar shared in a blog entry describing his trip to the White House and the clinic they held for 30 area kids in conjunction with the President's United We Serve initiative and City Year Washington, DC:
- After the clinic, we had to quickly clean up and rush over to the White House where the day got even better. President Obama was going to formally congratulate us on our 2009 NBA championship. It was my first time at the White House and I was amazed to be surrounded by such history. You can see how every president puts their personal touch on the place, like the Obamas’ swing set just outside the Oval Office. And as an animal lover, I just had to go play with the First Family’s dog Bo when I saw him near the Rose Garden.
In all, it was a huge honor to visit the White House and interact with the President. He comes across as a real down-to-earth, regular guy who knows basketball and loves the game like we do.
Unfortunately for Ron Artest, a short illness meant learning about Presidential inspiration second hand, as opposed to the face to face meeting that would have made him the envy of his kids. But on the plus side, his feets are healing up a bit.
OTHER LAKERS ITEMS
-With the two year anniversary of Pau Gasol's arrival closing in, The OC Register's Kevin Ding is reminded that El Spaniard is no "El O".
-Could Devin Brown's arrival in Chicago pave the way to Kirk Hinrich joining the Lakers? I'm guessing no, but hey, there's a month remaining for speculation.
-Unless you're willing to fleece yourself, don't bother calling David Kahn about Al Jefferson.
-Ray Allen's name is hot around trade season, and he doesn't mind.
-Will Houston make moves with the T-Mac chip?
-J.R.Smith says he'll exhibit better body language from now on. No word about posture.
-Tyson Chandler could be nearing a return.
-Seriously, people. DON'T EVER GIVE SOMEONE A NAUGHTY PHOTO OF YOURSELF.