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June 06, 2008

Game Report 1

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(Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kevin Garnett)

The Lakers' Second Half
The Lakers played well in the third quarter and actually had a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but then Boston’s defense and the poor Laker shot selection really took them out of the game. The Lakers shot 5-for-20 in the fourth quarter. You’re not going to win shooting 25 percent. Kobe missed a lot of shots and at times seemed as if he was pressing in the fourth quarter when Boston really focused its defense on him. The team just did not do it correctly in terms of taking the best shots. The Lakers offense is based on constant ball movement and on Thursday night it seemed as if the ball was constantly stuck in one location too often. They needed to move the ball better and the guys who were open needed to take their shots. It might have been a case of guys deferring to Kobe when they should have thought about shooting their shots when they were wide open.

Game 1 Turning Point: Paul Pierce Returns
I think when Paul Pierce got injured, came back and made those two three pointers, that really turned the tides. At that point, when he was out of the game, the Lakers were trying to get the lead. They were only a point or two behind and they missed four or five shots in a row. So he comes back on the court and hits those two three pointers and we missed a couple of shots. It was essentially a 10-point turnaround.

Pierce’s return to the game after injuring himself was a great playoff moment. Paul has a lot to be proud of. His dedication to winning that game was quite evident. He comes back on the court and shoots the lights out and puts all the pressure on the Lakers to perform well and it didn’t happen for them. It was a very important moment in that game and it really swung the momentum to the Boston team. They continued to make their shots and play good defense, which is why they won.

Sunday: Keys for Game 2
If the Lakers want to win Game 2 they have to figure out a way to keep Kevin Garnett in particular off the offensive boards. They were badly outrebounded 46-33 in Game 1. They’re going to have to do a better job on their defensive boards and stick with their offense. Phil has run through this problem at other times when the Lakers decide that it’s OK to shoot a lot of three-point shots. That has always spelled disaster for them and it is still the case. If they can stick to their game plan and hopefully make their shots when they have them, they have a good chance of winning the game. The Celtics didn’t beat them as badly as they did during the regular season. It was a close game until late into the fourth quarter. That is a good indication.

The Mood of the Lakers
They’re disappointed that they weren’t able to make the best of this opportunity, because it certainly was a missed opportunity. But they also know that they have as many as six more games to change that. I’m looking forward to them coming out and playing better.

photo credit: Getty Images/ NBA 

June 02, 2008

Celtics-Lakers, Past and Present

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Yes, I Was a Celtics Fan
When I was in high school, my coach Jack Donahue really understood that the Celtics were playing the game a special way, so he always used them as examples as to how to play the game. My high school was only 12 blocks from the old Madison Square Garden and the teams used to practice at my high school when they were in town. I guess because of that my coach could finagle tickets to go see games, especially the doubleheaders. So during my four years of high school I must have seen the Celtics play a good 20 times.

The Celtics Style of Play
The Celtics philosophy was to let the open man get the ball and he’s supposed to take the high percentage shot. They didn’t have anyone score a whole lot of points, but they had five or six guys in double figures shooting the ball very efficiently. Bill Russell played great defense around the basket and really limited any layups that you might get. The combination of tough defense and efficient offense makes for winning basketball. I was able to learn those lessons early. I think by my going to UCLA and John Wooden emphasizing the same fundamentals, it was very easy for me to make that transition.

Meeting the Great Bill Russell and Other Basketball Legends
I was in the ninth grade, November or December of 1961. I went to the gym and the Celtics were there practicing. My coach introduced me to Red Auerbach, who introduced me to Bill Russell. They told me to go shag balls for someone who was shooting free throws. That someone turned out to be a rookie named John Havlicek. Also, when I was playing grade school ball, we played an All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden and I got to meet and know some of the Knicks like Willie Naulls, who eventually got traded to the Celtics. Because of all those connections I was a Celtic fan and really appreciated the way that they played the game.

Bill Russell, the Role Model
I heard a lot about Bill Russell because of the success of the Celtics and then because Bill had had certain things to say about human rights for black Americans. He had some very profound things to say and I admired what he had to say and listened to what he had to say. It made a lot of sense. He was about being proud and achievement. He represented achievement on the basketball court. We’re still friends today. He hosted a clinic in October which I took part in. He set a great example for young athletes. Here he was, someone who graduated from college and did such a great job in his college career, and went on to do the same thing in the professional ranks.

'74 Finals, Bucks vs. Celtics
That was a hard fought series. Unfortunately for our team Oscar had a nagging injury which limited his effectiveness and the Celtics won in seven. I’m pretty sure the outcome would have been different had Oscar been healthy, but that’s not going to change anything.

'84 Finals, Lakers vs. Celtics
The things I remember most about that series was that we gave away Game 2 in Boston Garden when Gerald Henderson stole the ball and tied the game up which the Celtics won in overtime. That game ended up being the decisive game. Game 4 included the infamous clothesline of Kurt Rambis by Kevin McHale. I thought it was a pretty cheap shot. Kurt had no chance of falling safely and he’s lucky that he wasn’t seriously hurt. It was the type of thing that angered our team, and probably provided a distraction looking back. It seems like that was a turning point and it affected us.

Then in Game 5, both teams had to battle the overly hot conditions in the old Boston Garden. Was it something that was done on purpose? I guess you would have to talk to the people who run the ventilation system at the old Boston Garden, but both teams had to play on the same court. It’s not like they didn’t have to deal with it.

'85 NBA Finals – The Highlight of My Career
I guess you could say that Game 1 was a wake up call for us, me in particular, when we lost big to Boston (148-114). For me it just pointed out that I had taken the wrong approach to dealing with the whole length of the playoffs and I needed to be in better condition. We had a three day gap and I was able to use the time and get sharp again in terms of being in shape and ready to run the court. For the rest of the series I did very well. When you go out there and everything is on the line and you’re not prepared, that is embarrassing to you as a professional. I felt like I had let my team down. They rely on me to do my job on a certain level and then here I am when everything is on the line and let them down. So I just made them a promise that if we didn’t play well, it wasn’t going to be because I wasn’t ready to play. Luckily I was able to turn it around.

Having played the series in Milwaukee and then the series the year before that we had given away, it was very important that we played well and live up to our potential. I was very thrilled to be a catalyst in that. But it wasn’t just some kind of one man show. James Worthy and Earvin were extraordinary that series. We had a great team effort, guys coming off the bench, everything. Everybody really wanted it and worked hard to make us successful.

I think that was the highlight of my career just because of the significance of finally beating the Celtics for me personally and for the Laker franchise. That I was the key element in that winning the MVP, it really was a special time for me.

Game 4, 1987 Finals: Magic’s “junior, junior, junior” skyhook game
I worked with Earvin on his hook shot previous to that the whole season, maybe even longer than that. Earvin got to post up a lot of smaller guards and it was the perfect shot for him to use. So I worked with him to get his mechanics right. On that play it was pick and roll and once Earvin got loose, Robert Parish came off of me to block the lane and Earvin threw a hook shot over them. If the shot hadn’t gone in I was pretty sure I had the rebound. No one was boxing me out. I had a free run to the basket. But Earvin dropped it and the rest is history.

The Significance of Lakers-Celtics in the Finals in 2008
The historical success of both the Lakers and Celtics makes it an interesting series for anybody that has studied the game and knows about its history. It’s a little bit of added interest and it’s something that the fans seem to get into.

Keys for Game 1
Which team is able to establish its style? This is a different Laker team that the Celtics faced during the regular season since they did not have Pau Gasol in their two previous meetings and the Celtics were up and down. I don’t expect it to be too much different, though. Gasol’s presence will make a difference and if Kobe is able to continue doing what he’s been able to do, to involve everyone and make sure that our offense flows and everyone gets to touch the ball, the Lakers can be very effective.

The Importance of Experience
The team that has enjoyed success as a group, they more or less understand how to go to that place more so than teams that don’t win regularly. I think that more than anything else is the most important aspect of that.

Any Lakers-Celtics Grudges? Nah
A lot of years have passed since the classic Laker-Celtic Finals matchups of the ’80s and though we battled each other on the basketball court throughout the years, we’re all friendly now. It was an intense rivalry, but basketball is a brotherhood. I have great respect for them as professionals. They played hard and they played well. They were a credit to the game, so it’s nothing to bear grudges over.

 

Photo credit: (Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images) 

May 23, 2008

The Lakers Comeback

I thought the Spurs prepared very well for the game and it showed in their ability to inhibit the Lakers through the first three quarters and build a 20-point lead at one point. But the Lakers made some pretty good adjustments and were able to get back in the game for the last quarter based on their ability to find the open guy, the energy of the Lakers bench players, and the fact that the Spurs went cold and the Lakers increased their defensive pressure. I think the fact that the Spurs had played a tough game on Sunday also has to be accounted for as well.

The Role of Kobe Bryant
Kobe only had two points in the first half, but he was just trying to do what the Spurs were allowing him to do. When he had good shots he took them and if not he passed the ball. Even though he didn’t get a lot of good shots in the first half, though, he was able to set up his teammates with five assists. Then in the second half, he started to assert himself more. Kobe is a great finisher. He’s one guy that if you’re offense is having a problem, he can get shots no matter what kind of defense is being played. In the second half, that’s what he did, putting up 25 points.

Game 2 Adjustments for the Lakers
On Thursday at practice coach made a point of saying that they weren’t patient enough with their offense, which is why they didn’t shoot particularly well. The open shots that they had they passed up and the ones that they tried to get weren’t there. So for Game 2 they have to be more patient and understand where their opportunities are.

There was also talk coming into the series about the Lakers potential deficiency on the boards after having been outrebounded by Utah in the last round. However, I don’t think that San Antonio has demonstrated a great rebounding advantage. The Lakers should be able to hold their own when it comes to rebounding.

Game 2 Adjustments for the Spurs
The Spurs are going to have to figure out how to be more consistent on offense. When they needed baskets in the third quarter, they really had a hard time once the Lakers figured out what they were doing offensively. And of course they need a better game from Manu Ginobili.

A Great Laker comeback From My Day
The Lakers comeback on Wednesday night had me reflecting on a great comeback we had when I was a member of the Lakers. We were playing Seattle in the playoffs and were down 18 points at the half because we had shot the ball very poorly and Seattle had a great shooting first half. But Coach Riley seemed to think that we could come back and that’s just what happened.

Andrew Bynum’s Surgery
The last time that I spoke to Andrew he was thinking about getting more opinions on what to do about his knee. Seeing now that he had the surgery, I guess that was the best option presented to him. I’m sure the Lakers and the Laker fans will be glad to see him back at full strength next season.

The Greatness of Charlie Parker
Stepping away from basketball for a minute, I’ve been reading a book titled, “Chasing the Bird: Functional harmony in Charlie Parker’s bebop themes” by Juha Henriksson. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s great because it kind of talks about what he meant to the art form of jazz in his own personal speak. It’s pretty interesting stuff. As far as great jazz musicians go, “Bird” ranks at the very top. And if you want to enjoy a great listen of Bird’s, there was a disc that was just released of he and Dizzy Gillespie from June of 1945. It’s an incredible find and definitely worth your time if you love jazz.

May 14, 2008

Lakers-Jazz Analysis & Career Playoff Games Record

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Robert Horry and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

On the Lakers Game 4 Performance

They got themselves in a tough situation on the road and they got a little intimidated by the crowd and being away from home, just not wanting to be there and fight their way in an uphill battle. But that’s what it’s like when you’re on the road. It surprised me because they’ve played Utah pretty tough this season. In fact they were one of the few teams to beat Utah in Utah this year. I thought that would not be a factor. For example, if they shot their free throws like they shot them in the first half, they win the game. It was amazing how the crowd affected their performance across the board.

What the Lakers Need to Do to Win Game 5

I expect the Lakers to put their Game 4 performance behind them and come out and play hard and intelligently like they usually do. The goal is to try to win one here and set themselves up to, even if they can’t win in Game 6, make sure that they return to Los Angeles for Game 7 if it’s necessary.

Jordan Farmar’s Struggles

I think Jordan’s problem is he’s having a very difficult time defensively. Deron Williams is a very difficult assignment for him.Deron is stronger than Jordan and just as quick. He’s got serious upper body strength and he just blows by Jordan. It’s a real problem.

The Second Round Homecourt Advantage

The homecourt advantage is something that some people rely on. Teams that are able to focus and win on the road are dominant teams. Maybe it has something to do with the parity that the NBA has tried to foster.

Jerry Sloan, the Player

I got to see Jerry Sloan play against Oscar Robertson. We were in the same division with them when Jerry was with the Bulls. Just the physical battle that he had with Oscar, those were classics. Jerry was a hard nosed guy and he saw Oscar as a challenge. Every time he had an opportunity he went out there and gave Oscar his best.

It was something worth watching. Oscar had success against everybody. No one could stop him. But Oscar would acknowledge that Jerry was one of the people who never ever said die. Jerry is that kind of guy. He brings it all on the court. I have a lot of respect for Jerry.

The Difference in Coaching Styles of Sloan and Phil Jackson

They are totally opposite, as opposite as they are in personality. Jerry is just a hard nosed guy who understands the fundamentals of the game and teaches his team how to win. It doesn’t strike me that he is into a whole lot of X’s and O’s. His offense is pretty simple and it’s all about his team executing the offense. Phil’s X’s and O’s strategy is a little bit more involved. I have never seen Jerry coach on a daily basis so it’s hard for me to assess how he does it, but I think Phil’s approach is more involved and has a lot of strategy. He spends a lot of time working on the triangle. Phil feels that if they run the offense efficiently and with everybody doing what they should be doing, it sets them up to play good defense and give them an opportunity to dominate the other team.

Byron Scott’s Coaching Success

Byron has done a great job everywhere he’s gone. He was doing a fantastic job in New Jersey and they fired him. I didn’t get that. I am glad he got the opportunity in New Orleans. The team has responded. Nobody gave him what would be considered a bunch of All-Stars but he’s got them operating on the same page and getting it done. That to me is all the credit to Byron. He certainly earned his Coach of the Year Award. I didn’t see or hear anything while he was playing to lead me to believe that he would become a coach, but when I was with the Clippers in 2000 and Byron was with the Kings I got a chance to go sit with him for a minute the couple times that we played them. He was enjoying himself and Coach Adelman thought he was a great addition to his staff. At that point I thought that Byron would have some future in coaching and when he got his opportunity he did a great job with it.

Robert Horry: Big shots, Hall of Fame chances and Breaking My Playoff Record of Games Played

Robert has been around because he understands how the game evolves over the 48 minutes. He knows how to do the right thing at the right time. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time to help his team win. He has had many standout shots in his career, but the one that stands out for me came against the Kings in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals because of how fortunate he was on that play. Vlade Divac could have controlled that rebound but he just took it and threw it out of the paint and it went right to Robert Horry. If he tries to control that rebound and smothers it, Robert Horry doesn’t get that chance. So I attribute that one to Vlade Divac not understanding what he needed to do. Some of the other ones like when he was with Houston show that when the game comes to him he does good things with his opportunities. He seems to thrive on rare opportunities. Every time he gets it he does something great with it. He’s got to be a fan favorite for it.

As far as the Hall of Fame goes, you have to look at the whole career. His career in the playoffs has been remarkable. You look at the regular season, you might come to a different conclusion, but you can’t take away his success.

Robert is on the verge of passing my mark for the most games played in the playoffs. But we’re talking about two different eras. When I first started playing, if you won the world championship you only played in three rounds of playoffs. So it was an opportunity for him and he’s made the best of it.

April 29, 2008

Lakers take round One

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Lakers have taken a step forward in beating the Denver Nuggets in round one of the Western Conference playoffs. The ability to eliminate the Nuggets - 50 game winners this season - was a major indication of their improvement this year. First round exits in 07 and 06 were very disappointing for the Laker faithful. Expectations can only grow if the Lakers continue to win in this fashion.

The most obvious improvement for the Lakers has been their ability to share the ball. The high ratio of assists to baskets in always a sign that the team is in sync and eager to help each other. Denver, for its part, has not done well in the team aspects of the game. They haven't worked the ball into positions for easy shots and they've settled for the quick long range jump shot. Those shots aren't falling and the Lakers advanced because of it.

Denvers seems to have resorted to one on one play as a response to the challenges they faced and things did not work out for them. Carmelo Anthony was particularly unable to contribute for the Nuggets. JR Smith and Allen Iverson gave it the college try but the Lakers had an answer to every effort the Nuggets made. Kobe Bryant was spectacular at crunch time and he singlehandedly held off the Nuggets in the final minutes of the game, his presence alone was the decisive factor in those moments.

For the first time in my memory, I saw Kobe struggle at the free throw line. But that was no consolation for the Nuggets. They were unable to take advantage of any openings. I'm sure the next round of the playoffs will be more competitive but I think the Lakers are on a roll.

(photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

April 03, 2008

The Lakers gotta have heart

Kareem_paugasol After watching the Lakers I was reminded of the song from "Damn Yankees," "You Gotta Have Heart."

Last night the Lakers were enhanced by the return of center Pau Gasol. Gasol has been out with an injured ankle since March 14, and his absence created the worst of situations for the Lakers. When they acquired Gasol from Memphis, he was able to step in and solidify their front line and their confidence almost instantly. Without him, the Lakers have been very unstable and have tried to get by with people playing out of position to fill the void created by his absence. A center is the heart of the team. A player who can do well at that position is a foundation that other players use to fortify their own ability to contribute to the team’s success. Without Gasol, the Lakers seemed tentative and confused at times, and his return will make it possible for them to actually prepare to contend for success in the playoff season.

There is also the hope that Andrew Bynum will be ready to make his return soon. His injury in January started the unsteady tendencies of the Laker squad. All the fans that support the Lakers are waiting with much anticipation to get the opportunity to see Gasol and Bynum on the court together. I know I will be relieved to see Bynum return, because then I’ll be able to go to the market without having to answer the questions about when he’ll return. As it is, I have to shop at 1 a.m. to avoid the constant questions about when Bynum will return. He could make this playoff season one to remember.

(Photo credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

February 25, 2008

Star wars, NBA-style II

Pau Gasol taking on Shaquille O'Neal in their first meeting as a Laker and a Sun, respectively

The Lakers stepped up and delivered in a major way in last week's victory over Phoenix. It was a statement of the first order. The Suns' acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal was an attempt to put some muscle and size in the mix for a small but speedy lineup. Shaq was able to deliver some muscle but that alone is not going to stop these Lakers.

The depth and cohesion of the Lakers squad is a pleasure to watch for Laker fans. Pau Gasol has made a seamless transition to the Laker offense and complements Kobe perfectly.  His ability on the perimeter to shoot, pass or attack the hoop creates problems for both his defender and those trying to help. Lamar Odom is like a Swiss Army knife at both ends of the court and is a threat to produce triple-double stats at any time.

Kobe was his usual self despite an injury to his shooting hand. The most ominous fact for their opponents is that the Lakers are not even at full strength. Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum are still sidelined with injuries at this point. When they return, we may get to see some truly scary hoops.

Like the rest of the Laker faithful, I can't wait for the next episode.

Photo of Pau Gasol taking on Shaquille O'Neal in Phoenix, by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Captain Kareem

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center, famous for his indefensible skyhook, dominated the NBA for 20 years, first with the Milwaukee Bucks then with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that he was the star of the UCLA Bruins teams that won three consecutive NCAA championships. Kareem was the NBA's MVP six times, a 19-time all-star and set the NBA all-time records in nine categories. He is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, a record that may never be broken.

Since retiring as a player in 1989, Kareem has balanced his love of basketball with his love of history. In 2002 he led a USBL team, the Oklahoma Storm, to a championship. Since 2005, he has been the special assistant coach for the Lakers, working with Andrew Bynum.

In 2008 he was chosen The Greatest Player in College Basketball History.

Kareem also remains intellectually active, authoring six bestselling history books intended to popularize the contributions of African-Americans to American culture and history. His books include "Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African-American Achievement"; "Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes"; "A Season on the Reservation," which chronicles his time teaching basketball and history on an Apache Indian reservation in White River, Ariz.; and the current New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance."

His audio adaptation, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Audio & Musical Journey through the Harlem Renaissance," is a four-volume compilation read by Bob Costas, Avery Brooks, Jesse L. Martin, and Stanley Crouch, and features private and fascinating conversations with dozens of icons, including Coach John Wooden, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones and Billy Crystal. He has also been written to L.A. Times, under the Sports section.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been appearing on various radio stations and TV shows, as well as the most relevant websites talking about his life and his new audio book, On the Shoulders of Giants.

All images are property of www.iconomy.com unless otherwise stated. All info copyrighted and owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not replicated without permission.

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