Monday, January 31, 2005

a Sick Rudy and a Benched Kobe Won't Hold Us Back

Kobe Bryant took the seat on the bench left vacant by ailing Los Angeles Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

With Bryant cheerleading and supporting his teammates, Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins each scored 20 points and the Lakers beat the Bobcats 101-90 Sunday night to snap their first three-game losing streak of the season.

``Having Kobe over there was definitely a plus,'' forward Lamar Odom said. ``We needed to win, by any means. It was our longest losing streak of the year, so of course it felt good. Chris Mihm played really well tonight, and we needed a game like that from him. He was all over the boards, blocking shots -- he was everywhere.''

Mihm had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Tomjanovich was home with a stomach virus and assistant coach Frank Hamblen, the only holdover from former coach Phil Jackson's staff, guided the team. Hamblen's other experience as a head coach came in 1991-92 when he went 23-42 with Milwaukee when Del Harris was sidelined by stomach problems.

``I'm used to seeing Rudy jumping around and being vocal out there, so it was it was strange not seeing him,'' Mihm said. ``But Frank did a great job. He commanded a presence. He kept guys under control, made subs when he needed to and made sure we didn't panic out there.''

The Lakers are 4-4 since Bryant sprained his right ankle Jan. 13 in a victory over Cleveland. Bryant sat with his teammates for the first time since his injury because it was the first time he didn't need continuous therapy on the ankle.

Primoz Brezec had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Bobcats, who lost for the 17th time in 19 games and are 1-19 on the road. Rookie Emeka Okafor hurt his left ankle with 2:34 left and ended the game on the bench after scoring seven points and shooting 2-for-10.

``He got some open shots that didn't go down for him tonight, but I think it was a collective effort in terms of not making plays in certain situations,'' coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.

Kareem Rush, whose 21 points Saturday night against Toronto helped the Bobcats end a season-worst 10-game losing streak, scored 13 against the Lakers. It was his first game against his former team since being traded to Charlotte on Dec. 6.

I have nothing but great things to say about that organization,'' Rush said. ``I made a lot of friends here who I still talk to. I have only been gone two months, but it was fun.''

Rush, who received a warm reception from the crowd of 18,532 when he was introduced with the rest of Charlotte's starters, scored 10 points in the first quarter -- but didn't get another basket until his 3-pointer that trimmed the Lakers' lead to 63-56 with 4:38 left in the third.

``Kareem's a talented player. I know he's happy about being out there and getting a chance to show what he can do,'' Mihm said. ``I know he got some more playing time under Phil than Rudy, but that's kind of the way it goes in this league. Things happen, like injuries, then other guys step up and start playing well, and you can have your minutes taken away pretty quickly.''

Brevin Knight came off the bench for the first time in 30 games with the Bobcats and had eight points and five assists in 23 minutes, after missing the previous five games because of a sprained left ankle.

``He looked like a guy would look when he's been out for five games,'' Bickerstaff said.

The Bobcats, whose only previous visit to Staples Center resulted in a double-overtime loss to the Clippers, trailed the Lakers by as many as 18 early in the third quarter before closing to 65-58 with a 15-4 run capped by Knight's 14-footer with 3:35 left in the period.

``This team never surrenders,'' Bickerstaff said. ``We've been in all of our games, and this team deserves more respect. They've played well all year. Our record's not that good, but we're not a bad basketball team when it comes to competing.''

The Lakers restored their biggest margin of the game with a three-point play by Tierre Brown and an 8-footer by Brian Cook that gave them an 84-66 cushion with 9:54 to play. Charlotte responded with a 17-5 burst that included a 3-pointer and two free throws by Steve Smith -- his first points of the contest.

Okafor's free throw capped the rally and narrowed the gap to 89-83 with 3:54 left, but Atkins answered with a 16-footer and a pair of free throws that restored their double-digit lead with 3:25 left, and Butler finished it off with four points in the final 2:14.
Atkins stepped up again, when we needed it the most. There is no question that he will be playing a bigger role, even after Kobe's return. He has definatley proved his worthiness, but I fear that he will again go forgotten in the midst of Kobe's return. Lets hope that when Kobe does return it will help us, more than hurt us.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bad news from Kobe...

The Los Angeles Lakers apparently will have to wait a little longer for Kobe Bryant's return.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Bryant could miss 10 more games with a severely sprained right ankle.

Bryant originally suffered the injury in the first quarter of a January 13 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He underwent an MRI which confirmed a severe ankle sprain.

The Lakers have split six games in the absence of Bryant, who is second in the league in scoring, averaging 27.5 points to go with 6.7 assists per contest.

Bryant is second in All-Star voting among Western Conference guards. He could opt to skip the All-Star game if his ankle is not healed, but the league may expect him to play if he returns to the lineup before the February 20 contest in Denver.

Following a four-game homestand which starts with Friday's game against New Jersey, the Lakers have a five-game road trip, then one home contest before the All-Star break.

Los Angeles (22-18) is in seventh place in the Western Conference.

This and the rescent 3 losses without him comes with much disappointment. Lets hope Chucky Atkins can do his magic against the league newcomers, the Charlotte Bobcats today. Pick it up Lakers, we dont need Kobe to keep winning!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Kobe injured, Chucky Atkins steps in.

Chucky Atkins has been doing a pretty good Kobe Bryant imitation lately.

With Bryant sidelined by a sprained right ankle, Atkins scored 26 points and had 10 assists Friday night to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 105-101 victory over Golden State.

He's almost doubled his scoring and assists in the four games since Bryant went out, averaging 22.2 points and 7.8 assists to help the Lakers go 3-1.

``I don't have an explanation for it. I have constantly been in attack mode,'' said Atkins, who has been on four teams in six NBA seasons and is in his first year with Los Angeles.

``Every team I've been on, I have pretty much done the same things. I am just getting more minutes now.''

Atkins, who was 4-of-11 from 3-point range, has impressed Los Angeles coach Rudy Tomjanovich.``Chucky again was just tremendous,'' Tomjanovich said. ``He's just become a great, great penetrator and finisher to set up his outside game.

``His outside game has been fantastic.''

Atkins recently won over another ``fan.'' During the Lakers' 93-90 win over Minnesota, referee Ron Garretson told the Los Angeles guard that he knew he was good, but not that good. Atkins had 25 points and 11 assists that night.

``I didn't even know he was miked up (by ESPN),'' Atkins said. ``I got phone calls about it. It was funny. It's nice to have a general conversation with a ref without them screaming at you or you screaming at them.''

Two of Los Angeles' wins since Bryant was hurt have come against the Warriors, last in the Pacific Division and 3-17 on the road. The Lakers beat them 104-102 six days earlier in Oakland on Lamar Odom's driving layup with 1.3 seconds left.

This time, Los Angeles lost most of an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, with the Warriors closing to 101-99 on Jason Richardson's 3-pointer with 19 seconds left. But the Lakers put the game away on a free throw apiece by Atkins and Odom, and a pair by Caron Butler.

Odom added 25 points for the Lakers.Richardson scored 26 for the Warriors. Derek Fisher had 23 points against his former Los Angeles teammates.

``We are scoring enough to beat anybody, but defensively, we aren't making enough plays,'' Fisher said. ``We are letting people score too easily and too consistently, so that's where our focus has to be.''

Fisher got his eighth start of the season because Speedy Claxton was scratched because of a bruised right thigh. Clifford Robinson also sat out the game with stiffness in his lower back.

Golden State led 69-62 midway through the third quarter, but the Lakers rallied to an 81-77 lead and never trailed in the fourth.

Atkins scored nine points in the final 2:25 of the first half as the Lakers reeled off a 13-5 string to come back from a 46-39 deficit and take a 52-51 lead into halftime.
With Kobe out, Atkins really stepped in. It seems as if Kobe being out, is not affecting the rest of the team. It is not exactly known when he will be back in. But in our performces lately, I don't think it will matter. Keep up the good work Lakers!