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Apr 13 2009 2:58PM

Welcome to the Mailbag, your chance to write in any questions, suggestions or random (but kind of applicable) pop culture references that have to do with Kobe and Co. Got a question you'd like to ask? Click here and ask it.


MAILBAG NO. 4 Ė Sunday, April 12
Q: Do you think that there is any way that Kobe Bryant will ever get traded?
- Hamlet, Glendale, CA

MT: Here are three things that to me are more likely than Bryant getting traded:
Undertaker 1) I start fighting in the WWE, and pin The Undertaker after executing my signature move, ďTru Death,Ē by throwing the black-clad pain machine (link) 20 feet into the air from the middle of the ring so that he lands with his face on the corner buckle.
2) They'll stop using Shakespeare (Hamlet) in college curriculum.
3) "Real World" CT becomes an exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.

Q: When do you think A. Bynum will recover? Ciao.
- Alessandro, Milan, Italy

MT: Since this question came before Bynumís return, letís change it to ďHow did Bynum look to you in his first two games?Ē To answer your well-put question, Alessandro, Iíd say that he was dominant at times and sluggish at others. While itís clearly going to take the young center a few more games to mimic his monster January, Lakers fans should be quite happy that Bynum was not only able to post 16 points in his first game, but play nearly 31 minutes the following night en route to 13 points and six boards. Sure, he was tentative at times particularly around the rim, but when he stopped thinking about his knee, he seemed fine. Defensively, he gave Portland a lot of problems in the second quarter before running out of gas a bit in the second half, though clearly his wind will improve on a game-by-game basis.

Q: With Andrewís return, do you think the teamís perimeter defense will improve because they shouldn't have to worry so much about helping in the paint? Thanks for improving the fans knowledge with excellent interviews.
- John, Kansas City, Missouri

MT: This question actually had some great insight from L.A.ís win in Houston in early March, which I edited out for timeliness but wanted to point out because Johnís point that L.A.ís perimeter defense will coincidentally look quite a bit different with the big fella protecting the rim is a good one. All of a sudden, if L.A.ís guards guide their opponent (or just gets beat) into the middle of the floor, the result is more likely to be a kick back, dribble exit, block or forced shot than a layup. We saw as much in that aforementioned second quarter against Portland, when Roy was beating his man and getting in the paint, and Bynum was there waiting. Itís like if youíre sitting around with a group of your girlfriendís friends that you hadnít met before, and your jokes are falling idly by because nobody gets your humor at first Ö But then your best buddy walks in, and all of a sudden your jokes are funnier because heís laughing at your material, piling onto the wise cracks, initiating other conversation and just generally getting your back. Heís your Andrew Bynum.

CT Q: I know you watch MTVís ďThe Duel 2Ē based on your Running Diary comments, but ohhhhh myyyyyy goooooooddddddd how amazing was the first episode? CT!! CT!!
- Ty, Compton, CA

MT: You have no idea how much I loved that episode, Ty (I know itís you, Ty Nowell, donít try to confuse me with the city change). Listen, the 20-minute fight scene where CT literally goes crazy may never be replicated again in TV history. Not only is he a 240-lb monster than would be tough to contain even if he were normal, but he was literally frothing at the mouth, and five other meatheads were completely unable to stop him from rampaging the entire house like he were the gorilla or lizard on the actual ďRampageĒ arcade game. MTVís producers, of course, werenít interested in calling the police (???) or, really, doing anything but filming everything, which was amazing, as you said. Iíve already re-watched it five times on my DVR.

Q: I've always wondered if on the road the players share hotel rooms or do they get their own? Do they all have like a certain person they always share a room with? And last but not least, GO LAKERS!!.
- Jennifer, Hesperia, CA

MT: Even the low man/new guy on the Lakers traveling crew (me) is fortunate to get his own room. But if that weren't the case, here's how I'd pair up the players:

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher; Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic; Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza; Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar; Josh Powell and Shannon Brown; Adam Morrison and D.J. Mbenga. This, of course, could be varied in 1,000 ways (e.g. Lamar could room with anybody, you could swap Morrison and Powell, whatever) but I like this grouping.

Q: If Kobe and LeBron switched teams what would be different?
- Saul, Los Angeles

MT: A lot of things would be different on a micro level, but on the macro side, I think both teams would still be the favorites in their respective conferences. Kobe and LeBron are the games two best players (youíre not far away, Dwyane), and while they play two different roles on their teams at (usually) different positions, both have enough talent and savvy to apply their skills to fit different systems. Think about it: If you put Alec Baldwin into the Michael Scott role on ďThe Office,Ē the show would be Undertaker slightly different, but Alec would work out it; if Steve Carell (SP?) became Tina Feyís boss on ď30 Rock,Ē things would change a bit, but the show would likely be just as good. We could speculate for days about what specifically would be different for both teams, but I think both are happy with their current MVP candidate.

Q: The Lakers have enough talent without Bynum. Why does the team count on Kobe and Pau too much? The bench has not have been producing a lot and Odom plays when he feels like it. To me it seems like only Phil, KB and Pau are hungry for a ring, why isn't the rest of the team progressing well; in other teams for example the Cavs, when LeBron is under pressure other player off the bench come and help the team lift up the confidence level. I just don't see that in the Lakers bench, when KB in under pressure the only one that seems to help is Pau and sometimes Odom. Why is this team struggling to even get a win?
Gopi, Los Angeles

MT: In fairness to Gopi, this question came directly after a bad Lakers loss when the team simply got outworked, but nonetheless, Iím compelled by my opinion to come out on the other side with one exception: Every team counts on its stars; agreed on the bench production, but that should shift with Bynumís return; completely disagree with the Odom take Ė there have been very few times all season where Odom hasnít brought it, even if heíll have momentarily lapses within games Ö How else do you explain a top three NBA-wide +/-? The guy is flat out super-productive when heís on the floor; I havenít noticed a discrepancy in hunger amongst the players, the championship goal seems universal; Clevelandís bench hasnít actually been as productive as L.A.ís with Odom (L.A. scores about seven more bench points going by player averages); 63-17 on a team that hasnít lost three straight games even once is clearly not struggling to get a win. I will say, Gopi, when a championship is the only acceptable outcome of a season, itís hard not to get wrapped up in nitpicking, but sometimes itís valuable to step back and scope the wider picture: L.A.ís beaten every contending team in the league in their own building minus only a few (Utah, Orlando, Portland), has clinched the superior conference (look at teams 3-9 in both conferences) by nearly 10 games and is getting back a crucial piece just in time for the playoffs. If youíre still feeling down, just watch this.

Q: Iím a basketball player and I am not Debrouille Wrong, I'm the best player in my team and I'd like to one day join the team. What should I do?
Christian, Kinshasa, Congo

MT: Great to hear from D.J. Mbengaís countryman; I have to admit I'm not familiar with Wrong, and he didn't come up in a google search. Now, while Iíd be solid in a 6-foot and under league, Iíll defer to assistant coach Jim Cleamons for your question. Coach explained that the best thing you can do is practice. He encourages any young player to work on every part of the game, which is code for ďShoot free throws, mid range jump shots and practice defensive drills instead of worrying about jacking threes and dunking.Ē Now, I also spent a few minutes talking to D.J. about your question, and his advice was also very simple: work hard. Thatís it. Thatís all he did. Now, he was blessed with an athletic 7-foot body, so obviously talent is a big part of the mix as well, but he also didnít start playing organized basketball until he was 17 in Belgium. We aren't all blessed with D.J.'s gifts, but we can all work hard. Best of luck Christian.

Q: Do you think you guys are better than Boston?
Emery, Bakersfield, CA

MT: I think that L.A. has as good a chance as any other team in the league to beat the Celtics. While it was certainly impressive to see the Lakers beat Boston twice in the regular season, and important for the purple and gold from a mental standpoint to win in Beantown, itís hard to draw conclusions. Common sense says that Boston will need Kevin Garnett, still struggling with his knee, to play near his top level¨¨¨ to get past Cleveland and even Orlando, and while the Lakers are the clear favorite in the West, itís not going to be an easy road. So whoís better? Weíll find out soon enough.

Q: Now that we are near the playoffs, what are the key things to do in order to get us that party on Figueroa this year?
- Stephany, Hawthorne, CA

MT: Letís make what could be a complicated answer quite simple: Bring a full effort defensively. Thatís it. Surely things like re-integrating Andrew Bynum, attacking the paint and getting consistent play from bench guys not named Lamar Odom (heís been fantastic) are paramount, but L.A. is talented and versatile enough from 1-10 to beat anybody Ė as they have all season long Ė as long as theyíre active defensively. Towards that end, itís hard to imagine the Lakers doing anything but once the playoffs start.

Q: Did Sasha allow himself to wear green on St Patrick's Day?
Mark, Atlanta, GA

Undertaker MT: Come on Mark, are you serious? No freaking WAY. They colored the Chicago River this year with all the green clothes Sasha threw out after last seasonís NBA Finals.

Q: I've noticed that a lot of the Lakers are wearing Kobe's new shoes, what's up with that?
- Mahmoud, Richland, WA

MT: Youíve noticed accurately. Hereís the list of Kobeís Nike Zoom IV wearers: Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown and D.J. Mbenga, while Sasha Vujacic wore them for a few games while waiting for his shoes to be shipped from China. Why do they wear them? I guess simply because they like the sneakers.

Q: Why do the Lakers retain Luke Walton? After that many years as a Laker, one would think that he should be playing at a higher level. He looks reluctant on the court and has never really blossomed like players usually do. He has many turnovers, and! Thank you.
Craig, San Jacinto, CA

MT: All right Craig, letís first check a postgame note from L.A.ís win over Sacramento:

ďHow good was Luke Walton on Tuesday? He finished the game at an absurd +/- of 32. The next highest Laker was Josh Powell at 17, while Trevor Ariza, the starting small forward, was -10. The fast tempo of the game certainly played to the strength of L.A.'s bench, but give Walton credit for playing QB1 like Peyton Manning.Ē

Now, that was just one game, but let me add a few more notes: Other than not shooting the ball particularly well from the perimeter, Walton has been very good in nearly every other aspect of the game since he began getting regular minutes in December. Heís been L.A.ís best per-minute passer and facilitator (20 assists in his last three games), heís been solid on the glass, staunch defensively, actually doesnít turn the ball over much (only one a game), and, perhaps most importantly, has the complete support and trust of his teammates. Thereís no question that every player and coach on the Lakers loves having him on the team, which should serve as the best answer to your inquiry.

Q: With Mbenga playing at the level he has of late (especially on the defensive end), what is the likelyhood of him actually getting some decent playing time? I know PJ likes to play matchup games and J-Peezy has stepped up as well when getting adequate time (i.e. Lakers vs Rockets 17 & 9). It just seems that despite his enormous passion on D, he just canít seem to get any love. The other day he was on a rebounding frenzy (4 rebounds in 5 minutes) and was only rewarded 5 minutes of court time despite his stellar play in short minutes?! I love what PJ has done as far as winning is concerned, but basketball is a game of ebb and flow. There has to come a time when you ride the hot hand (and play) and rest your starters or regulars so others can shine as well. However, the question rises... does he get any substantial time when Bynum is back?
Phil, Big Bear Lake, CA

MT: Nope. Your points are well taken, but thereís simply not room for four big men in a playoff rotation, as weíve seen by Mbengaís inclusion on the inactive list in both of Bynumís first two games. Thatís not to say that Jackson wouldnít consider activating Mbenga in a certain matchup, but even Powell will have a tough time seeing significant minutes barring serious foul trouble with the NBAís best three-big rotation of ĎDrew, Gasol and Odom.

Q: Do you think the Lakers organization is going to get a TRUE back-up center next season who can play behind the basket like Bynum?
- Lloyd, Las Vegas, NV

MT: As we can see with Phil and Lloydís opposite-end-of-the-spectrum questions, everybody has their own opinion. To me, being able to take Bynum out and simply shift the All-Star Gasol on the pivot is about as good as youíre ever going to get at the center position. Itís like being Aaron Spelling in the 1990ís and rolling out ďMelrose PlaceĒ after ďBeverly Hills 90210.Ē Just when you had all the drama you could handle from Brandon and Kelly, you were treated to a young Alyssa Milano alongside Heather Locklear. Or, say you were starving, and found a Butterfinger bar in your backpack and subsequently noticed that you also had a Three Musketeers in your backpack. Are you saying, Lloyd, that you also want ďModels Inc.Ē AND a Milky Way bar after devouring the aforementioned products? Iím already full at that point Ö Plus I donít have time for the third show and definitely donít have three candy bars in my bag.

Q: First of all, I want to say thanks to for all the videos, audio pieces and interviews. Theyíre great. My question is, what do you think about the inconsistent, and horrible officiating, plaguing the NBA right now?
- Christian, Long Beach, CA

MT: We appreciate the kind words, though Iím skeptical that my fatherís writing in under an alias. On second thought, heíd definitely use a weird nickname, so it canít be him. Alas, the only thing I can say is that the NBA has to be the hardest sport to officiate. Not only are the athletes the fastest and most athletic in the world, but theyíre all so focused on winning that a great deal of gamesmanship goes on, with players on both sides trying to convince the refs to make a call in their direction after literally every whistle.

Q: You want a piece of me on the low block, Andrew? Bring me that pain.
- Mehmet Okur, Salt Lake City

Undertaker MT: Um ... So is this an insult? I'm confused about the pain bringing. You want Bynum to bring you pain, Memo Fan No. 1 (insert look of confusion)?

Q: Why arenít there any stories of concern for Kobeís status with the team and Phil Jacksonís with both their contracts coming to an end?
Miles, Pittsburgh, PA

MT: Iím really not sure there is a ďconcern,Ē per say, about Kobe or Phil thatís any different from any teamís interest in re-signing their best player and coach. Every contract in the league eventually comes to an end, and until after a given season, itís pointless to speculate and conjecture about an unknown to which a very select few are ever privy.

Q: Hi Mike Trudell! Iím a big big lakers fan I skip my classes just to watch Kobe's show ... My question is this, "Do you agree that Kobe Bryant is the best scorer in the history of the NBA? Why and why not?
- Francis, Caloocan City, Philippines

MT: Hi Francis. Come on now, my momís a school social worker at an elementary school, so you know I canít condone skipping class! Nonetheless, Caloocan City may have just nudged its way into my top five coolest city names. In no particular order: Minnehaha, Minnesota; Phnom Phen, Vietnam; Phuket, Thailand; Antananarivo, Madagascar; Reykjavik, Iceland and Caloocan City. Iíd agree that Kobe is the best current scorer in the NBA, but give Michael Jordan the edge in NBA history. MJís the only player in NBA history other than Wilt Chamberlain to average 30+ points in his career, and he did it during one of the most repressive eras of the NBA, when teams like Detroit, Miami and New York in particular just clobbered him every time he went into the paint. Kobeís skill set, however, is right up there with MJ and perhaps no one else certainly in my lifetime (1981 on).

Q: Iím huge Kobe and Lakers fan, and thanks for the insights you make on whatís going on with the team! I got 2 questions: When is Kobe coming to Brazil? Iím sure he will be surprised with the fans and the country! Second, how high is his vertical jump?
- Bruno, Brazil

MT: Welcome to the Mailbag, Brazil Ö We were starting to worry about South America, since Europe and Southeast Asia were dominating you with questions, but this assuages some of that concern. Anyways, if I find out Kobeís travel plans, can I come to Brazil? Iíd prefer a jaunt through Rio and Brasilia, then some small city of which Iíve never heard, before a trip south through Buenos Aires, Argentina. Iím willing to bring several friends and boost the economy via tourist dollars. To be honest, I think Kobe has a really firm grasp on what fantastic fans he has literally all over the world, and he seems genuinely thankful that people appreciate his game so much especially in places that he doesnít have a ton of familiarity. Iím quite sure that he loves Brazil, however, because he loves soccer and we all know it doesnít get any better than the yellow jerseys and blue shorts. Finally, I donít know what his vert is right now, but it has to still be higher than 40 inches.

Q: Mike, why won't Phil let the starting five and Kobe bury the opponents when they have such a big lead. The starters have to work harder once they return to the game. Last night was a good example. He should have put the game out of reach by allowing Kobe and the gang to pour it on heavy. Just put the game totally out of reach for pop to surrender and pull his starting five.
- Mike, Cleveland, OH

MT: What up Mike? Are people in Cleveland hating your Laker love, or are they just happy to have a sick team thatís looking pretty good in the East? To answer your question with brevity in mind (since it could take a while to really delve into), Iíd say that Phil knows heís going to need his bench to win the title. In other words, he has to build their confidence while also making them see that the starters canít just come in and bail them out. Itís kind of like managing your fantasy basketball team. Itís like youíre Michael Scott (pre-resignation) looking at your sales calendar for the year. You canít simply send Jim to every account Ö Youíre going to have to bring Dwight along too, even if heís at times entirely horrible around people, because ultimately you canít meet your forecast without his sales. Jimís still getting the big accounts, and Kobe and Pau are still getting the crunch time minutes, but they need some help.

Q: Contadino... Have you improved your sock skills? I sure hope so. ;) hahaha Did Sasha ever tell you what that word meant? That would be pretty mean & super hilarious if he hasn't.
- Cristina, Whittier, CA

MT: How surprising that one of Sashaís fans is a female. The ladies around Los Angeles seem to have Mr. Vujacic penciled in as the Slovenian Leonardo DeCaprio, but Iím a Sasha guy so I wonít argue. Rumor has it that ďContadino,Ē as Sasha randomly called me in an interview, means ďLocal farmerĒ or something. I had J-Peezy put him in a headlock with D.J. Mbenga waiting to use his black belt in order to get the information. Alas, I have made some marked progress with my socks Ė my mom even bought me two pairs of tan socks to wear with my one tan suit. I will say that the sock interest is getting ridiculous on the road: not only does Vujacic try and force me to lift my pant leg whenever he sees me, but some of the media members and even L.A.ís PR staff have joined in on the fun. The primary problem for them is that I have a penchant for wearing short black socks with my black shoes, as opposed to long dress socks. If youíre like me, you like the thickness of that particular sock, especially since youíre putting them on at, say, 11 a.m. before shootaround, and not taking them off until midnight for a home game and often 2 a.m. or later on a flight back from a road game. I look at it like this: If Lamar Odom wears three pairs of heavy socks for games to help his level of comfort, I should be afforded the right to wear short black socks (on occasion) to ensure that my mood is sunny so as not to come across as snippy in writing or while doing interviews. Iíll stop tying now.

Q: What is going on with Lamar Odom? I think his nickname should be Rollercoaster! He was on a hot streak for almost three weeks, but right now his level of play has decreased? I truly believe in order for our Lakers to be successful he needs to play like his live is depending on it. Do you think that he will ever get out of his slump? P.S. I will be back home in time for the Lakers to be in the Finals!
- Alan, Baghdad, Iraq

MT: First of all, thatís awesome that youíll be back soon. Iím very happy to hear that, and hope that the Lakers and the NBA have afforded you a welcomed and entertaining break from your service. Now, in far less important news Ö Iíve already to alluded to how good Odomís been in answering Gopiís question, but wanted to get you into the Mailbag. Stay safe.

MAILBAG NO. 3 Ė Wednesday, March 11

Q: Who do you think would be the Lakers' toughest opponent in the playoffs? San Antonio might be the only significant opponent.
- Mark, Angeles City, Philippines

MT: Since the Philippines led all countries outside of the U.S. in Mailbag questions, who better than our buddy Mark from Angeles City (I mean, you canít live in Angeles City and cheer for the Celtics) to kick things off? First of all, Mark, letís be fair to you: Your question came in a few weeks ago. Now, what weíve seen particularly in the Paul Williamslast few weeks is that there are at least three, maybe four legitimate threats out West, which weíll break down in a tier system in a few lines. To my mind, the Western Conference has been overlooked/underrated throughout the season (other than L.A.), primarily due to injuries and because the Lakers, on the heels of their Finals loss, charged out of the gate like a WWE wrestler finally tagged in after straining to enter the ring while his partner got double-teamed/beat up.

Every contending team has had an important player (or two) miss significant time. Look: Manu Ginobili (still out), Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady (done for the season) Amare Stoudemire (ditto), Jason Terry, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and even Greg Oden (Iím probably missing a couple). Meanwhile, the Eastís top teams had stayed almost oddly healthy until Kevin Garnett (another week?) and Jameer Nelson (season) went down.

Now that Utah, Denver and New Orleans are basically healthy, the Spurs are still very good (but not great) without Manu, the Suns are still good (but not really good) without Amare and Portlandís fine without Oden, weíre seeing that the West is basically as good as it was last year. The East probably has but two serious contenders (unless you buy Orlando without Nelson, Detroitís sans-AI resurgence, the Heat with Wade by himself or Atlanta without a bench. This has started to even out in the standings of late, and mostly stopped reporters from asking Phil Jackson what he thinks is wrong with the West (um, injuries). The major point here, Mark? Donít even think about giving the Lakers a pass to the Finals, not with having to likely get past at least two of the teams in tier two:

Tier 1 Ė The Tiger Woods Team: L.A. Lakers
Tiger Woods If Tigerís playing in your tournament, heís the favorite. Period. Similarly, on paper in the Western Conference Playoffs, L.A. will be the favorite, thanks in part to the almost-assured home court advantage. Sure, L.A. has begun to feel the effects of Andrew Bynumís injury. Kobe, Pau and Lamar were unbelievable for about three weeks after he went down, but havenít been able to carry the load on the road without much help from the bench. Still, three road losses to teamís playing their own version of the Finals (Denver, Phoenix, Portland) as L.A. failed to match the energy has to be taken into context, at least for now. Bynumís expected back in a few weeks, either Gasol or Odom will still give you All-Star play up front, the bench remains talented and, most importantly, you have Bryant, who probably wears a red polo shirt under his jersey just like Tiger on Sundays.

Tier 2 Ė The Roger Federer Group: Utah, San Antonio, New Orleans
Roger Federer Federer may not win every tournament anymore, but you know youíre going to have to drag him off the pedestal to get to the title, kicking and screaming. Each of these teams has enough talent to challenge the Lakers, as all three have already done in the regular season. Tim Duncanís still the best player in this group, Iíd argue (is he the most underrated player ever??), but notice the other commonality between the three squads: a fantastic point guard. Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Chris Paul can all create havoc in the paint, and as such, Bynumís return is a major key to squashing a Western rebellion. When the big centerís timing is on, opposing point guards all of a sudden canít do much in L.A.ís paint (what a coincidence). The question is, can he get his cadence back in time? The good news for Lakers fans is that even if he canít completely, ĎDrew should at least be on the floor as a threat, which coinciding with home court advantage still makes L.A. the favorite. Oh, by the way, L.A. won the West last season without Bynum and Ariza. But if the Lakers canít get it clicking, the Artful Rogerís sitting there waiting to pounceÖ

Tier 3 Ė Phil Mickelsonís Squad: Houston
Phil Mickelson Youíre probably a few key shots short of beating the best without a healthy Tracy McGrady in the backcourt, a key club in your bag, particularly with Tiger Woods lurking. But thatís not to say that in a given tournament, you canít find some way to make tough chip shots and long putts while driving the ball consistently, using the Ron Artest-Shane Battier defensive combo alongside Yao Ming to get the job done. You have a lot of decent clubs in your bag, some really solid role players, but thereís no way weíre picking you to close it out on Sunday against the red jersey.

Tier 4 Ė The Andy Roddick Club: Denver, Portland, Dallas, Phoenix
Andy Roddick Youíve had talent for a while now (OK, except for Portland) like Lacosteís favorite spokesman, have terrific specific assets like a huge serve and Brooklyn Decker (Meloís scoring/Billupsí leadership; Dirkís shooting/Kiddís floor game; Nashís passing/Shaqís dominance; Royís all-around game/young athletes) and are capable of advancing to the semifinals of Wimbledon (finding a way out of round one). But youíre not beating Rafa or Roger in the semis. Itís just not happening Ė too many flaws, and one special asset short.

Q: Whenís the next J-Peezyís Playlist coming out? Iím needing that.
- Lisa, Raleigh, North Carolina

MT: Not a coincidence getting some North Carolina love for Peezy since he played for the Wolfpack, but donít you worry Ė Weíre working on a compilation right now thatís going to guest star Shannon Brown. Essentially, weíre having a hip hop draft, where we alternate selecting rappers to fill out a starting five. Iíve been listening to all my old CDís in preparation, but donít claim to have the musical knowledge of Powell, so weíll see how it goesÖ
***EDITORS NOTE: You can now find all the playlists HERE and also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Q: The Lakers suck.
- James Posey, New Orleans, Louisiana

MT: This made me laugh. Thanks. I was hoping that Posey actually read (or maybe not, since I think I explicitly called him a dirty [if effective] player), but then looked at your e-mail address, Bobby from Boston. Next time at least create a fake e-mail account, or Iíll be forced to post your e-mail to our Lakers fans in the Philippines, which we all know you donít want.

Q: It appears that coming off the bench makes putting up big numbers very difficult almost regardless of how many minutes played. Agree? Why is that?
- Old Lakers Fan, Mission Viejo, CA

MT: Digging the name, O.L.F., and this is a good question, but I do have to disagree with some qualifications: The bottom line is that production is based much more on minutes than anything else. Of course, starters generally put up bigger numbers both because theyíre usually better players than pine sitters and because theyíre playing more minutes, but thatís a completely separate issue from a good bench player putting up big numbers if given big minutes, which happens often around the league (i.e. Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa, J.R. Smith). Now, on the Lakers without Andrew Bynum, itís a harder case because no bench player gets big minutes. Lamar Odomís numbers were huge when he began to start for L.A., but it was both because he was playing big minutes and because his role increased without Bynum taking up space in the lane. I think that if he came off the bench and received big minutes now without Bynum, his numbers would swell just the same.

Q: Would Sasha Vujacic consider agreeing to a "Date with Sasha Vujacic" contest, perhaps as part of the new "Supper with Sasha" video series? His female fans would love it!
- Anji, Long Beach, CA

MT: Well Anji, I canít speak for Sasha on your dating segment (sorry), but I can tell you that weíre working on doing another dinner with him soon. The eight total nights in L.A. in February (including four game nights) didnít help that segment too much, but Sasha will be back. To be honest, heís a bit obsessed with my socks right now, but weíre working through it with him.

Q: Hey Mike. I was thinking what is your most favorite animal?
- Bobby, Palo Alto

MT: I like this question not just because of its originality, but because it couldnít be any less related to the Lakers, continuing our all-over-the-place Mailbag to this point. My answer is easy: penguins. I love penguins. Spend five minutes watching them flop around at the zoo and try to disagree. Now, if I had to take some animal traits, Iíd go with an eagle/lion mixture. But thatís another story.

Q: Hey Mike, did you read Michael Lewisí New York Magazine article about Shane Battier that mentioned Kobe? Did you think it was a little one-sided?
- Marcus, New York

MT: This is a tough question to handle in limited space, Marcus, because itís a very in-depth article. Let me make an attempt: I think the synthesis of Lewisí argument is that Shane Battierís worth canít be proven in the numbers because of all the intangible ways in which he helps his team, particularly defensively. Generally Battier Bryantspeaking, I think weíd all agree, and even concede that Battier didnít get enough credit for what he does Ö At least until you get to the end of the article, when Battier becomes overrated. Lewis, the author of ďMoneyball,Ē is a great writer/statistical mind, and he really hammered his point home; but what does it mean on a macro level?

First of all, Battier doesnít have to score, rebound or assist much because heís focused almost solely on defense and hitting the odd open three Ė a la Bruce Bowen for the last several years on the Spurs. Furthermore, Batter now has the collective respect of the referees (just like Bowen did) and seems to be afforded more leeway in playing physical defense (grabbing, holding, etc.), which Lewis mentioned resulted in some strong protest from Kobe in L.A.'s 105-100 win on Jan. 13. This relates to Kobe Bryant because he was used in the article to, in some ways, exemplify Battierís defensive capabilities. Battierís whole bit with Kobe is to try and force him into taking contested jumpers Ė pretty simple, but effective within the context of good overall team defense, just like Boston was able to do in the Finals last year often with Paul Pierce in a central role. But on an island, neither Battier nor Pierce could really guard Kobe, so should they be called ďKobe Stoppers?Ē Ruben Patterson, anyone?

The articleís conclusion suggests that Battier did everything right on a ridiculous three-pointer that gave Bryant 33 points and sealed L.A.'s win in the final seconds. The shot went in, but the argument was that since Battier defended the play how he'd wanted, he wouldn't dwell on the outcome. Well, not only is Bryant one of the five or six players in the league who can make that shot, but what about the several times that Battierís attempted defense simply failed as Bryant succeeded in getting good looks at the basket, or beat Battier down the floor in transition? All in all, itís simple: Battier does as good a job on Kobe within the context of the teamís defensive plan as most players in the NBA, and heís certainly a very smart player with a greater ability than most players to understand if not orchestrate that plan (again, like Bowen) ... But he still needs the teamís three stars to even give him a chance to play his role. Alas, I donít think the article was unfair or inaccurate, and I found it interesting, even if I do think it stuck with one perspective.

Q: Do you think that Derek Fisher is the best clutch shooter with .4 seconds on the clock? One more thing, just want to make sure that I am saying the right thing, Kobe is the best in the NBA presently, right?
- Alexander, Nassua, Bahamas

MT: Good to have one of Mychal Thompsonís countrymen on I think Fisherís certainly among the best clutch shooters in the league; he seems to hit most open shots he has late in games (such as his game-tying bit vs. New Orleans two weeks ago), but remember that Fish generally wouldnít be open in the first place were Kobe Bryant not on the court. Iím personally in agreement that Kobeís the best, and the majority of players and coaches still seem to agree. Iíll concede that some of the leagueís younger players are peeling off Kobe and going with LeBron James in the supremacy argument, but I think LBJ needs a year or twoís worth of polish on his game (particularly shooting) to match his freakish athleticism and catch Kobe. In fairness, LeBronís defense has caught up markedly to Bryantís this regular season, perhaps having something to do with the Team USA practices. On that same note, I think we have to wait until the playoffs to really see the defensive demon in Bryant come out this season.

Q: Da Lkers R # 1 do ya thng.
- Derrick, Long Beach, CA

MT: Is that you, Josh Powell? Peezy? I thought you only used your abbreviation style in text messages?

Q: Kobe made the top 20 in points tonightís above Elgin Baylor, where is Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson on the list?
- Tessa, Adler, CA

MT: Like our first entry, this note came in a few weeks ago before Kobe passed Robert Parish for 18th on the all-time charts. Click here for the full list.

Q: Will the Lakers trade any of the stars like Lamar, Kobe, Pau or Bynum?
- Chua, Sembawang, Singapore

MT: OK, I need to do Mailbagís more often, my bad. This was a trade deadline question, but letís pretend itís for this summer. The answer youíd likely get out of Mitch Kupchakís office is that the Lakers really like their personnel and arenít actively looking to make a deal, but will always listen just in case somethingís too good to be true. Thanks for the note Chua Ö I just erased my joke about gum in your honor.

Q: If Andrew Bynum is injured why donít the Lakers get another center instead of putting all the weight on Pau's shoulders get another center like Hamed Haddadi from Memphis.
- Ali, Calif.

MT: Who? But seriously, Iím sure such moves get discussed, but itís always a matter of whether a given acquisition might be than an existing alternative like D.J. Mbenga, whoís been quite good in the last week or so especially. Furthermore, you have to give something up to get another player.

Q: Did you watch the ridiculous finale of ďThe Bachelor?Ē Amazing stuff. My question is, which Lakers player would be the best Bachelor?
- Johnny, Minneapolis, MN

BachelorMT: I knew Johnny (one of my best friends from home) was going to sneak a bad reality TV question into the Mailbag, and here it is. I loved the show this year - some really classic entertainment, but this is a tough inquiry. I donít think the ladies would have a problem with either Luke Walton or Sasha Vujacic in that role, even though there are a few other Lakers that could hold it down. Still, I think both Sasha and Luke would set all time ratings highs for ABC. In fact, Iím prepared to guarantee it. Even if they put the show on pay per view, Iíd personally fork over at least a few hundred bucks per episode to see it.

Q: This is my first question on the Lakers mailbag, so please stick with me. The 23-year-old who just hit the halfcourt shot, does he need to pay taxes on the money? Also, I was wondering when the Lakers reset the amount and how much does it start at when the season begins.
- Thomas, L.A.

MT: Yes, he has to pay taxes, and the amount was reset to $25,000. It goes up by $5,000 every time someone misses a shot, and is already nearing $50,000.

Q: How does it feel to work for the best team in the NBA?
- Zulma, Pomona, CA

MT: Iím guessing pretty similar to how it feels being a fan of the best team in the NBA Ė winning never hurt anybody Ö Except maybe Curt Schilling. If he hadnít won rings, would he still feel the need to evangelize on, basically, everything? Sorry for the random transgression, while I was answering that question Schill popped up on SportsCenter and I almost tossed my remote through my roommateís TV.

Q: Do you know any workouts to increase my vertical jump. I am 6' 1", and I need about three more inches to dunk.
- Jamal, Harlem, NYC

MT: There are several different philosophies that could be construed as an answer, Jamal, but one little trick a buddy of mine used to do was complete 100 calf raises on his bathtub before taking a shower every day. That canít hurt. As far as a serious professional answer, Iíll get with Chip Schaefer, who handles the Lakers strength and conditioning, in a coming podcast.

Q: Shawn Marion will be a FA next season. How could the Lakers obtain cap room to sign him? They also have three draft choices plus present players adjustment.
- Dick, Hampton, Virginia

MT: Obtaining cap room for signing free agents is both complicated and simple, like this sentence: Cutting contracts, trading draft picks and swapping salary for future picks all clears space, it just depends on what yearís cap the particular moves affect. Basically, the Lakers could figure out a way to obtain room if they really wanted a specific player for a set amount of money Ö But Shawn Marion? Really? He got run out of Phoenix, did nothing in Miami and is now doing little in Toronto. You can do better than that, Dick!

Q: I have a couple of questions to ask you. My first question is if you could trade Kobe Bryant who would you trade him for? My 2nd question is who do you think is the person that talks most in the team and my last question is in your opinion who is the biggest trash talker in the league.
- Jason, Mukadi, Calgary

MT: I wouldnít trade Kobe Bryant. But for sake of argument Ö If you had me stretched out in a rack like William Wallace Ö Nope, I still wouldnít make a trade. Even if I could get equal value for Kobe (only about four young studs in that argument) , which I couldnít, I still probably wouldnít do it. Obviously it depends on the length of the deal and such, though, so that if I can sign a guy for 10 years, itís a different story. For question No. 2, the answer is Kobe, in practice and in the locker room, though the Lakers donít talk much in general during games. The biggest trash talker in the NBA, without a close second, is Kevin Garnett, which has really irked a lot of opposing players and teams and made the target on Bostonís back even bigger.

Q: I have a question with one person in mind, Vince Carter. Do you think that Vince Carter would compliment Kobe. Say like a Scottie Pippen, was to Jordan. If so, why don't they make an effort to get him or someone just as talented. Personally, that's the only way, that they'll beat Boston in the championship.
- Joseph, Westwego, L.A.

MT: No. I donít think Vince Carter is anywhere near Scottie Pippen as an overall player, and certainly has never shown the ability to be an ace wingman. Vince is all about shooting and scoring Ė thatís what he does. Scottie was the leagueís best defender for a good spell, was a terrific and willing passer, could hit the boards, hit the three, and basically do anything that Jordan and the Bulls needed him to do. I think Phil Jackson would vomit if you compared Vince Carter to Scottie Pippen. I think the way to beat Boston in the Finals is to play like L.A. played in Boston in February, and to get the support of Andrew Bynum.

Q: Since Derek Fisher is 33 (which is 97 in NBA years) do you think the Lakers will try to get a big time point guard in the next two years?
- Dalrey, Michigan City, Indiana

MT: Well, I think itís more notable that Fisherís 231 in dog years, but I would love to know your formula Dalrey. Seriously, every team covets a ďbig-time point guard.Ē How many are there in the NBA right now? Maybe seven? Teams arenít giving up Chris Paul or Deron Williams, so the key may be finding or developing the next big time point guard.

Atlanta Rap Q: What is Kobe's favorite music genre?? And who are his favorite artists?
- Kevin, Marietta, Georgia

MT: Based on the fact that he is quite often reciting hip hop lyrics regardless of where he is with the team (locker room, bus or elevator on the road, at practice), letís go with rap. Since youíre from Atlanta, Iím letís include Young Jeezy, Outkast, T.I. and Ludacris Ö Though Iíll try and get your question to Kobe sometime soon.

Q: Would you please update on Bynumís progress? Thanks.
- Jon, Peoria, CA

MT: The last update we had detailed Bynumís progression to cardio on a Precor machine and a stationary bike, and thereís been nothing new. However, I did see ĎDrew at L.A.ís 19th Annual Charity Golf Tourney, and he said he felt very good and was getting better on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we have to avoid any kind of time line other than the original 8-to-12 week window originally stated. Now, Phil Jackson said prior to the Portland game not to ask about Bynum until April, meaning we might not have anything further until then, but you never know with injuries.

Q: When will Adam Morrison get a chance to play? Do you think he has a chance to start?
- Kasinda, Kansas City, Missouri

MT: Morrisonís been on the court for 8.5 minutes as a Laker, scoring six points with five rebounds and two assists on 2-of-6 shooting. Not much of a sample size, huh? He has no chance to start this season whatsoever Ė I canít think of a single situation that would mandate his starting not just of L.A.ís depth and fluidity, but because even he admits that his knee isnít fully healthy. However, Iíd never say that he doesnít have a chance to start in the future Ö His jumper is too wet to dismiss.

Q: Hello Lakers, first of all I would like to thanks to all players for moments in NBA. I am a really big fan of Lakers, especially Mamba. I love him. Iíve got his poster in front of my bed and every night I look up and pray to him ( joke ). My question is how many times does players have training per day ??? I appreciate your answer. go lakers to tittle.
- Dominik, Prague, Czech Republic

MT: Well, Dominik, the team never officially practices/trains more than once per day as a group, but individual players like Kobe Bryant often train on their own. Each guy is different in terms of how hard he works, how much he lifts weights, how much he shoots and so on, but the team canít force players to do more than the official training session. While weíve got your attention, can you please apologize on behalf of your country for destroying our 2006 World Cup team?

Q: Do you think the current Laker team is fit for a dynasty run? You know like maybe 8 years of Western Supremacy? An example would be the San Antonio Spurs.
- Rao, Alhambra, CA

MT: With the young talent on L.A.ís roster and the fact that itís not hard to get free agents to Los Angeles, itís not out of the realm of possibility. But thereís a lot more talent league wide today than there was in 1999 when the Spurs started their run, so it wonít be easy. Contending should be expected, but winning multiple championships takes a combination of skill and luck.

Jery West Kobe Bryant Q: I am a huge Laker Fan since the late 60's. Think about this classic match up. Jerry West(in his prime) versus Kobe Bryant(now) 1 on 1.......who would win?
- Joe, Las Vegas, Nevada

MT: Iím taking Kobe, with apologies for not ever seeing Jerry West in person. Iím going to try and get with Stu Lantz on this question, Joe, to get a good breakdown.

Q: Who is more athletic, Kobe or Trevor?
- Jay, Northridge, CA

MT: Thatís like asking whoís better looking between Adriana Lima and Giselle Bundchen, whoís the better athlete between their husbands Marko Jaric and Tom Brady (OK, not the second one) or what show takes the cake between ď90210Ē and ďSaved By the Bell.Ē That said, Iíll take Kobe, because heís so much more fluid than Ariza, yet still has many of the same freakish athletic traits (explosion, pure speed, hand-eye coordination, etc.). Ariza is super long and rangy, which certainly helps him be effective but isnít necessarily because of raw athleticism so much as body type. Lots of Kobe questions today, people. Whereís the D.J. Mbenga love?

Q: On the road what is the typical routine for the players and how many practices do they have. Do they have time to sight see in any of the cities.
- Donnis, Moreno Valley, CA

MT: Good question, and it always depends on how long weíre in a particular city. For example, some games will be of the back-to-back nature where the team literally lands at night after game one, takes a bus to the hotel, goes to bed, wakes up for shootaround, naps/eats and takes a bus to the arena. Clearly thereís no sight-seeing time in that context. Now, if thereís an extra day between games, sometimes players will venture out to see certain things, but itís just as likely that theyíll want to maximize the off day by actually resting.

Practice time also depends on the schedule; if the team were to land in a city at 2:00 a.m. (like in Denver last week), Phil Jackson will sometimes cancel shootaround and let the team sleep in. Shootaround, in case youíre unaware, is simply a get together/run through on game day with the dual purpose of getting the players out of bed and the bodies activated while preparing for the opponent. On off days, there is almost always practice Ė rarely will guys be completely free on the road; Jackson seems more likely to save those rare and exceptional days for Los Angeles, when players can be with their families.

MAILBAG NO. 2 Ė Monday, February 9

Q: Was Kobe Bryant happy about the new trade that involved Vladimir Radmanovic going to Charlotte for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown?
- Leon O., Tarzana, CA

MT: Everybody wins when I can relay what a player or coach said himself, as opposed to speculating on what I think that person might think. Know what I mean? Fortunately, Bryant answered that question after Lakers practice in Cleveland on Saturday, and we had the recorder running:

ďI donít really have any thoughts (on the trade),Ē said Bryant. ďItís always tough to see one of your brothers leave, but weíll always be here for him and wish him the best of luck. The two new guys we have coming into the group, weíll just embrace them and welcome them in. You come in this system with the group of guys we have here, and we tend to bring out the best in guys. (Morrison) and (Brown) will be fine.Ē

I think Kobe genuinely meant what he said. The team will miss Vladi as a person, but at the same time will welcome new blood into the group. What Bryant didnít and wouldnít say is that the trade certainly helps L.A. in terms of the payroll and salary cap, and gives the team more flexibility to resign players like Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom. So youíd assume a savvy guy like Bryant would be pleased with the basketball implications Ė and not just because those two lanky forwards wear his shoes.

Q: Hey Mike, love your videos Ö You ever have a moment where you felt like Brian Collins at Ball State?
- Casey, Mesa, AZ

MT: Hey Casey, letís dole out full respect to you for keeping this historic video alive. Your webmaster Ty Nowell found out that Brian Collins now works as a reporter for KXXV-TV in Waco, Texas. How Ďbout that? Itís good to hear after the poor guy was the butt of broadcast jokes for a few years. Letís hope heís doing well.

Now to answer your question: Definitely. There was one specific time when our half hour college sports show for Northwestern News Network (NNN) saw the teleprompter go down, the highlights differ greatly from my shot sheets and the producer freaked out like Sly Stallone without free weights. I was doing the show with a good buddy, and we just completely punted the prepared material and started bantering about how NU might never make the NCAA tourney in hoops (I think Ö fortunately thereís no video of this). Eventually, everything started working again, though I did have a sweat shower inside my first suit and one of my two dress shirts.

Q: How come Bynum and the Lakers donít search for another second opinion on Bynumís injury, such as the head surgeon for the Alabama tide, I donít recall the physicians name but he is highly accredited and he has done knee surgery on the likes of "sir charles barkley and also juwan howard and many others "if Im not mistaken.
- D Rod, unknown

MT: I guess youíll just have to trust that the Lakers have and will take every possible measure to make sure that their multi-million dollar investment and potential championship key is fully taken care of. Itís no secret around the league that the Lakers boast a fantastic athletic training staff featuring names like Gary Vitti, Chip Schaeffer, Alex McKechnie and the two Markoís. Alas, the doctor about which youíre thinking is Dr. James Andrews, whoís definitely the biggest name in athletic surgeries.
P.S. Youíre aware that Bynum isnít having surgery, right? A torn MCL doesnít require an operation.

Q: A lot of people compare Kobe with Michael Jordan. What two players in the league would you put with Kobe to match the fantastic three of Jordanís (Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman)?
- David F., Atlanta, GA

MT: This is an intriguing question, David, because I donít think youíre looking for the leagueís three best players, but rather the two other players that would best complement Kobeís skills (otherwise Iíd say LeBron James and Tim Duncan). Alas, I think the greatest complementary player in the NBA is Kevin Garnett, a six-foot 12-inch defensive maestro that needs other stars around him to be at his best due to the nature of his game. Just as Pippen could almost literally do everything at a high level alongside Jordan, KG would board, shoot, pass, steal, block and D up around Kobe. I should note here that Pau Gasolís also quite good at everything and obviously complements Kobe terrifically, but Gasol could better carry a team himself than Garnett or even Pippen (still, Iím completely fine with Pau and Lamar Odom/Andrew Bynum for this answer).

But letís continue going another way: For Rodmanís dirty work role, Iíd take Ron Artest with a bullet. Not only is Artest arguably the NBAís best on-ball defender at both forward positions, but heís fine in a switch situation with a guard or a center, which is extremely rare and similar to Rodman. Artestís not the elite rebounder that Rodman was (well, nobody really isÖ), but heís a much better shooter and ball-handler. Finally, you have the whole mentally unique (is that a nice way to put it?) aspect of Rodman and Artest that only a few players Ė like MJ and Kobe Ė could reign in. Works for me.

Q: Is there any trade now that Andrew Bynum is out for 8-12 weeks? I think we need another big man to help our inside rotation. Someone who can defend and rebound well, a rugged enforcer.
- Eric, Gasmen, Philippines

MT: You mean like Josh Powell? Heís already a Laker. But no, the best answer is what Mitch Kupchak said in his conference call after L.A. acquired Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown from Charlotte for Vladimir Radmanovic: ďI don't think there's a deal out there that can make this a better team than the one we have or the one we potentially have.Ē Based not only on his recent draft picks that have turned out better than many expected (like Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic or Luke Walton) or fantastic recent trades (Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Charlotte), Iím in no position to disagree with any basketball point that Kupchak makes. He seems to know what heís doing. Furthermore, thereís no way youíre getting another big thatís both better than Chris Mihm and D.J. Mbenga without having to give up one of the current highly talented pieces you possess (like any of the aforementioned players). ďI donít know why weíd do thatĒ was Kupchakís comment on that front.

Q: When you were a kid who was your favorite players for the NBA, NFL AND MLB?
- Zamaire L., Palmdale, CA
MT: I love this question, Zamaire, and my answers appeared to me immediately:

NBA: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls. Complete no-brainer. I first understood basketball in 1990 as an 11-year old, and WGN came on in Minnesota. Heís MJ. ĎNuff said.

NFL: Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills. I was born in Buffalo, where my momís whole family still lives, and I suffered through the four straight Super Bowl losses that directly influenced my first serious sports arguments when I had to defend my squad in front of the trash-talking venom of my middle school friends (upon moving to Minneapolis as a little kid). Plus Jim was cool.

MLB: Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins. Like almost every kid in Minnesota, Kirby was my first sports hero, not just for his amazing performance in leading the Twins to my first team championships (World Series titles in 1987 and 1991) but for his gregarious, loving personality. It was incredibly sad for all my friends growing up and I to see his decline first from baseball (fastball to the eye) and then in his personal life.

A few others: NHL Ė Mike Modano, Minnesota North Stars; WWF Ė The Ultimate Warrior; Tennis: Andre Agassi; All-Around Ė Bo Jackson; Golf Ė didnít care; Track and Field Ė Carl Lewis; Soccer: Roberto Baggio (Italy), Romario (Brazil), Cobi Jones/John Harkes (USA).

Q: Do the Lakers have a rebound drill? Why is so difficult for these players to box out? I have played in High School games where boxing out is executed better!
- Lionel G., Ventura, CA

MT: Well, Lionel, youíre right that players often donít exhibit the best box out skills, but the athleticism in the NBA is so ridiculous that sometimes the best pure technical box-out rebounders donít get the most rebounds. For example, Kevin Garnett never boxes out, and heís one of the top five boarders in the NBA. One of the best rebounders in the league already is a rookie, Kevin Love, who doesnít always box out; but he literally attacks every possible board at each end, has great hands and is terrific with angles. Iím guessing he didnít play against your high school team too often, or boxing out wouldnít look as good. Now as far as the Lakers go, theyíre actually fifth in the NBA in rebounding. Just sayiní.


MT: Gonna go with a negative on that one, Cliff, but thanks for asking. In other news, were you named after the big red dog? Thatíd be cool.

Q: Now that Andrew is down and we don't know how effective he'll be if and when he comes back, do we pull the trigger (Mihm and Odom) and get Brad Miller? Would the Kings ownership even consider dealing with the Lakers, i.e. early 2000's spank down?
- Al A., Camarillo, CA

MT: Even if they would, Iím not doing that deal if Iím the Lakers. I wouldnít have done it before Odom dropped 28 and 17 on the Cavs, either. A quick point: LOís defensive versatility and ability to attack the hole on offense are two things both key to the Lakers and absent from Millerís game.

Q: Who can jump the highest? Including the new comers Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison.
- Julian K., Durham, NC

MT: I can tell you itís not Adam Morrison, and Iíd be surprised if Brown could surpass Jordan Farmarís 43-inch vertical. But Iíll find out and make a new post if Brownís on a pogo stick.

Q: I'm a big Lakers fan even though I'm from the Southeast Asia part of the globe. So, my friend & I are big KOBE BRYANT FANS, and we just wanna ask what can we expect from Kobe this season.
- Justine Mae R., Cebu, Philippines

MT: I think 27, five and five are what you can continue to expect in terms of numbers. But more importantly for L.A., Kobeís leadership seems not only to help his Laker teammates play hard every night but also regularly sees them trying to impress their best player. Watch any Lakers game, and see where Kobeís teammates look for approval after a particularly good play Ö That should speak volumes. By the way, can we get some more Mailbag questions from the Philippines since I know that Manilla is the capital? We donít ask for much here.

Q: I've heard that Sasha talks the most smack on the team. Is he that way in practice too? Does he ever stop?
- Eli A., Orange County, CA

MT: The Slovenian is always doing something that may or may not get under the skin particularly of his opponents, but itís not just by running his mouth. Particularly in games, I donít see talking much trash this season, though heís definitely not quiet in practice. Sometimes he stops talking, sure. In fact, Iíd say that Kobe talks the most smack in practice, and can obviously back it up. During games, however, Kobe generally lets his play speak for itself. Although Kobe doesnít talk trash to me anymore after I dunked on him after practice in Cleveland. Oh wait, that didnít happen.

MAILBAG NO. 1 Ė Wednesday, January 21

ariza powell Q: Who on the Lakers has the most tattoos?
-- Coach Ray, Cooper City, FL

MT: Hi coach. I knew before checking that this question would be a toss-up between Josh Powell and Trevor Ariza. As some brief locker-room research told us, Ariza has 27 tattoos, and Powell doesnít know how many he has since many of his are intricately intertwined. As such, he asked me how many I thought he had. ďUm Ö no idea Josh,Ē I said. ďHow about 34?Ē Powell thought that sounded fine: ďThatís cool.Ē So your answer is Powell by seven, I guess.

Q: Do any of the players ever talk about other sports (NFL, MLB, etc)? Iíd be interested to know what some of their favorite teams are, especially with NFL playoffs off and running.
-- Chris H., Hermosa Beach

MT: They certainly do. Kobe Bryantís a big Eagles fan, and spent much of the last few weeks talking trash about his squad, starting with his guarantee that theyíd beat Lamar Odomís New York Giants (good call). In so many words, Kobe explained that Odomís more of a flopper than Sasha Vujacic (who prefers A.C. Milan) depending on if the Giants or Jets are better that season, but Iíve never personally heard Odom praise any team but the blue and silver. Bryant even went on to explain (on camera) how heíd be a beast of a WR for the Eagles right now. Luke Waltonís also a big Chargers fan, and Sun Yue favors the Washington Redskins due to their red pants (not really). As far as baseball goes, the recent locker room chatter has centered around Odom bragging about all the Yankees acquisitions, along with his explanation that theyíre on the books for less money this coming year than they were last (Giambi, Kevin Brown, Mussina, Pavano, etc.). Plus Kobe said he'd bat third and play left field for the Dodgers.

Q: I play on a rec-league squad called ďFriends Oí ClydeĒ in the Valley of the Sun, and Iím pretty sure we could beat the Lakers. You guys arenít that good, we could wax you.
-- Brad P., Phoenix

MT: Good point, Brad Ö Iíll pass that information to the squad if I get a chance. I feel like your name is a good start towards being pretty solid, but would you guys be playing basketball, or drinking games? Also, good word choice with ďwax.Ē Thanks for playing.

Q: If you were Mike Tomlin, which Lakers player would you most like to have on your squad heading into the Super Bowl?
-- Brian, West Hollywood

MT: Is that you Chris, writing under a pseudonym? Two NFL questions, huh? At least itís a good one Ö Kobe already told us about his prowess as a WR, so we know that he could fit in next to Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Pau Gasol would be interesting at tight end (tell me someoneís stopping him from catching a fade), Lamar Odom could play emergency QB (in his opinion) and DJ Mbenga would be interesting at defensive end (great motor). But I think Reid might opt for Josh Powell on special teams. Heís a solid 6-9, 240, and is actually very fast, and could be potent as a wedge buster in particular. I also wouldnít mind sticking him at outside linebacker in blitz situations if I were Tomlin.

Q: Whatís been the best atmosphere for a road arena this season?
-- Shayna, San Diego

MT: Other than the Lakers preseason game in San Diego, Iíd have to give the nod to Golden State, whose fans remain extremely loud despite suffering through a losing season just two years removed from that fantastic first round upset of the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks. Phoenix and New Orleans werenít far behind, though it was a bit harder for those fan bases to stay in the game since L.A. really controlled both games in Louisiana and didnít trail for more than a few minutes of the Suns game. Iíll add that there are Lakers fans in each city the teamís traveled to, and itís clear that the players get a little something extra out of hearing purple and gold supporters in road buildings.

Q: Will Pau Gasol make his second All-Star game?
-- Angel, Barcelona

MT: Si. In fact, Angel, we went ahead and broke down the Western Conference forwards for you last week to put some numbers behind our assertion. Iíd really be shocked if the coaches donít put him on the squad; the San Boi native is heís extremely well respected around the league.

Q: I played Division II hoops at a small school. Is there anybody on the team that a pretty good college player could beat in anything?
-- Jaime, Redondo Beach

MT: I guess you never know, Jaime, but the easy answer is: Thatís ridiculous. Absolutely not. To be fair, itís not like a really good shooter couldnít beat D.J. Mbenga in a three-point contest, but thereís a specific reason why each and every one of the 450 or so NBA players is in the league.