Lakers carry recent baggage into Big D
The Lakers will attempt to put some off-the-court turmoil behind them tonight when they visit the impetus for much of the acrimony, the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavs dethroned the Lakers last season, sweeping them out of the playoffs and sending Phil Jackson into retirement with an emphatic 122-86 Game 4 win in the Western Conference semifinals. Dallas, of course, went on to win the franchise's first NBA championship.
More unhappiness in Hollywood developed after the Lakers sent the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, to Big D before this season after a proposed three-way trade that would have landed Chris Paul fell through.
Meanwhile, trade rumors are still swirling around Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant ripped LA's management team after a setback in Phoenix on Sunday for allowing his teammate to twist in the wind.
A day can make quite a difference, however, and Bryant was all smiles after scoring 28 points in Los Angeles' 103-92 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
Gasol totaled 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Andrew Bynum added 14 and 19 in the win, the Lakers' fourth in five games.
Steve Blake scored 14 of his 17 points in a first half that saw the hosts lead by as many as 30. The Blazers' comeback ultimately came up short and they fell for the fourth time in six games.
"In the first half, that's the best we played, especially defensively," Bryant said. "We came out with great energy."
Prior to the game, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had responded to Bryant's comments by saying it would serve no purpose to announce publicly whether or not the team will deal Gasol.
After the game Bryant and Derek Fisher held a players-only meeting as the team looks at the daunting task of back-to-back games on the road against West powers Dallas and Oklahoma City. LA is just 5-11 on the road this season vs. 14-2 as the host.
The Mavericks continue to roll, winning for the seventh time in eight games on Monday, a 89-73 rout of the Boston Celtics in north Texas.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in that one as the Mavs never trailed in handing the Celtics a fourth straight loss.
Jason Terry chipped in 16 points and six assists for Dallas, which took advantage of no Kevin Garnett (personal) and no Rajon Rondo (suspension).
The Mavericks rebounded from Sunday's loss to the Knicks by outscoring the Celtics in the paint, 32-18, and cashing in 25 points off 17 Boston turnovers.
"They were two men down without Rondo and K.G., so a different ball club," Terry said. "They tried to junk up the game and I thought we did an excellent job of being patient and getting what we wanted on the offensive end."
Nowitzki recorded the 1,000th block of his career in the first quarter against Boston, joining Clifford Robinson and Rasheed Wallace as the only players in NBA history with 1,000-plus blocks and 1,000-plus three-pointers. Nowitzki also passed Robert Parish for 20th on the all-time scoring list. He now has 23,354 career points.
Point guard Jason Kidd also reached a milestone, notching three steals to catch Michael Jordan for second place on the NBA's all-time list. Kidd's 2,517 steals now trail only John Stockton's total of 3,265.