Game Notes: Rockets at Lakers
Kobe doesn’t like Boston or Miami.
by Chris O’Leary / @olearychris
If playing 37 minutes on a surgically repaired right knee and a line of 27 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal weren’t a message enough, Kobe Bryant sent a second note to the League on Tuesday night.
Asked what he thought of Boston’s win over Miami, Black Mamba lashed out in his own understated way.
There could be a lot of contributing factors to what Kobe said.
As the defending champs — as a group that’s on the verge of a three-peat — you’d think the attention would be in L.A. You’d expect it to be.
Instead, Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, Kenny, Ernie and Charles were in Boston, working the Heat game. So there’s that.
There’s also Kobe’s knee. Despite his strong play and heavy minutes logged, the questions are pouring down on him over what he can or cannot do.
Or maybe Kobe just didn’t want to talk. I could hear Kevin Harlan in my head (“Kobe Bryant, with no regard for media deadlines!”) as Kobe walked into the Lakers’ locker room after 11:20 p.m. to do his post-game media scrum.
Whatever it was, when Kobe was asked about Boston’s win over Miami, he decided to throw a little salt into the wounds of the trio of players that have won a combined one championship to his five. He has every right to. While the basketball world’s eyes were fixated on LeBron, DWade and Chris Bosh, David Stern was in L.A. with the Larry O’Brien trophy and a couple of dozen championship rings last night. There isn’t a Lakers Gauge on ESPN, but there is a Heat Index. Maybe Kobe’s already had enough of all of that. Maybe vitriol will be his answer to that question for the rest of the year.
Thank God (man upstairs, but I suppose MJ fits here too) for Phil Jackson. First game of the season and the man is in mid-season form. He made most of us laugh, ponder and reflect. One reporter may have cried after it was over, but I’m pretty sure that winning over the majority of the room is a Zen tactic. Actually I don’t know that at all.
Jackson was in a good mood and as a result was the highlight of the pregame. He started out serious, talking about his concerns over Kobe’s knee (“I thought he was running with a limp when we were first in Europe … but he’s started running more fluidly.”) and turned up the funny as the questions kept coming.
Would he be using his rookies a lot tonight?
“Aww, I hope not,” he said, sounding exhausted by them already. “I certainly hope not. But you’re right, we’ll probably have to play some rookies.”
He then decided he didn’t like a reporter’s story when the guy kept asking him if he thought he’d have to concede home court to the East this year because of injuries.
“I don’t know why you’re focusing on that,” Jackson says.
“Give me some kind of note to get me through,” the reporter says back.
“It’s a bad angle,” Jackson almost says under his breath before answering the question.
When the topic of the championship rings comes up, Jackson says they’re so gaudy that they’re unwearable. “I think it’s something that should be able to be worn,” he says. “But seeing as how Dr. Buss designed this one, I think it’s terrific.”
Finally, Jackson wrapped things up by saying that he would be writing a book on this season (it has to be his last now, right?).
While the Twitterverse found it corny, the Lakers themselves enjoyed how the ring ceremony unfolded. Ron Artest said that having Lamar Odom introduce him was something that he’d always remember. Which is perfect, since Ron is raffling off his ring for mental health.
“We just played basketball with each other for a long time. A lot of wins, a lot of championships and this is the biggest championship you can get,” Artest says of his relationship with LO.
“So Lamar introduced me. It was great and that was something I’ll probably keep for a long time, just the footage of that. Definitely going to keep that for a long time.”
The other intro that got a lot of talk was Derek Fisher introducing Kobe.
“They kind of went over the list and how it was going to happen and which guy was going to introduce which guy,” Fisher said. “You were going to have some things that you wanted to say already together and I don’t have to think very hard about what to say about Kobe Bryant.”
“It was special. You know about the bond that we share,” Kobe said on the intro. “It means a lot.”
The game finally is underway, but the Lakers look like they’re thinking about the party they were having in June…and July and August. Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin come out firing, hitting 5 treys between them and combining for 27 (12 for Martin, 15 for Brooks) of Houston’s 33 first quarter points.
Pau Gasol (12 points) and Artest (8-9 shots) are keeping L.A. in this. 33-26 after one. Kobe has 2 points on 1-5 shooting.
Kobe manages to score 11 points in the second, but they’re a quiet 11. The Rockets are giving the Lakers all kinds of trouble and their biggest problem for a stretch here is Chase Budinger, who scores 9 in the second frame, including a nasty reverse under the basket for an and one on Matt Barnes.
In between plays when they bring out the Laker Girls, they do this weird thing when the girls are done dancing. The PA announcer lowers his voice and says, “Laker Girls” but he says it like it’s one word. And like it has lots of Zs at the end.
I was thinking about how great it would be if other people just had their job title loudly announced whenever they carried out their job tasks. I could hit send on a story and the Lakers’ PA guy could come by and go, “FreelanceWriterrrrrr.” Or if my brother taught his class a math lesson, the Lakers guy could pop into the principal’s office, grab the mic and go, “Teacherrrrrrrr.” Something to think about.
So Kobe’s got it going now, but Artest’s three-point shot has wandered off on him. Odom comes alive in the second, adding 10 of his own, but Martin and Brooks are still warm for Houston.
Oddest moment of the night comes when Barnes goes to the free throw line in the second quarter and one fan tries to start an MVP chant. Everyone in the building paused and looked at the loneliest chant that ever existed. It died shortly after.
While the Lakers are taking turns picking up the O, no one is picking up Houston on D. The Rockets open up a 10-point lead, watch it slip to 5 and then push it to 15 on a Brooks three out of the corner with a minute to go. Kobe’s missed runner from deep makes it a 62-51 game at the half for the Rockets.