NBA Finals: Practice Report

by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

During the NBA Finals, on practice days, the League allows media folks access to both teams for a total of an hour. That’s it.

Thirty-minutes per team, during which the players and coaches try their hardest not to say anything that could be considered remotely interesting, or heaven forbid, a statement that could lead to firing up the opposition.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Pau Gasol did not get this memo. He faced the press today at Staples Center, and said what everyone already knows: that Kevin Garnett has lost some explosiveness, and now plays a largely jump-shooting game. Uh-oh.

KG didn’t take the bait, and refused to respond to Gasol’s words. You can be sure, however, that he’ll have extra motivation once Game 2 tips off on Sunday night.

I arrived at Staples today just in time for the media session, and walked around the floor taking pictures with my iPhone (which you can see here), and talking to some of the players on both squads. Below are some quotes and observations:

-Ron Artest has cleverly developed a standard response to any question that could lead him to getting in trouble. For instance, when asked about his Game 1 tussle in the first quarter with Paul Pierce, Artest danced around the issue and reverted back to his usual response: “I don’t know … not sure. I just play hard. Just play basketball.”

Artest and Sasha Vujacic were both wearing identical Peak shoes (white, gold and purple trim). When Lang and I walked onto the floor, they were concluding a three-point shooting contest. You shouldn’t be shocked to discover that Sasha was winning with great ease.

Ron, when asked about his upcoming summer plans, said he has yet to really think about them — but that he’ll be training hard — and added that playing against Boston “feels like Winter.”

Even though he has no idea who he’ll be rooting for in the World Cup, Artest told us that he’d like to see soccer get played in the ghetto more often, but seemed to confuse it with Golf: “I want a Tiger Woods from Compton. Pants saggin’ and all …”

-Lamar Odom held court at the opposite end of the floor, and said that Artest had a tough time when he first came onboard in L.A., since the team was so relaxed in the face of so many expectations. Odom also added that Ron had probably never meditated before, and if he had, he’d never done it in a room with 13 other men.

Lamar also had kind words for John Wooden, who’s hospitalized in reportedly grave condition. Odom said that Wooden has influenced generations of ballplayers, and called him a “wonderful man.”

-Luke Walton told me that his father, Bill, is doing great and that the big redhead will be in attendance for Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

-Tony Allen is perhaps the most talkative of the Celtics players, and held a long interview session with reporters. He said that Boston treated Game 1 like a “December game”, and played with a lackadaisical approach. Allen also claimed that the loss was good for Boston, since it has now woken them up.

Allen had great praise for the much-maligned Lakers bench, and said all of them are dangerous. He also said that Shannon Brown, when playing high school ball, was on the level of LeBron James. I somehow managed to stifle my laughter after hearing this.

-Glen Davis had perhaps the best quote of the day when asked about what Boston needs to do to bounce back in the series: “We got punched, got dazed … now we gotta fight.”

-My favorite part of the whole session was watching and listening to Rasheed Wallace, who absolutely despises having to deal with the media.

‘Sheed came out in his inimitable style: Flyers hat, raggedy sweat pants, shades, uncombed hair and metallic-green AF1’s (with his own emblem.)

Lang got Wallace to admit that the Celtics didn’t play hard enough in the series opener, and managed to do so without getting punched in the face. So, good on him.

We’ll be hitting up practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have to remember to bring a muzzle for Pau Gasol.