Lakers Gameday | 10/27/09 | Clippers

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1 Fun story Phil Jackson told before the game: In his early days as an assistant coach for the Bulls, GM Jerry Krause forced him to wear the ring he won as a Knicks player because no one else had one (motivational tool). Jackson said he actually lost the diamond in the ring (there weren’t 14 diamonds then), and where did he lose it? Bennigan’s.

3 First half steals for a ball-hawking Kobe Bryant, who’d finish the game with four of L.A.’s 13 steals that helped push the Clippers to 20 turnovers.

22 Birthday for Bynum, who celebrated the occasion by scoring 26 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing two assists.

33 Game-high points for Bryant on 11-of-26 shooting and 11-of-12 free throws, plus eight rebounds.

--- Mike Trudell

Additional Video:
Phil Jackson Postgame Video

Lakers Celebrate Ring Night with Victory
Western Conference Preview: Memphis
Western Conference Preview: G.S.
Western Conference Preview: Dallas
Opening Night Traffic Advisory


Lakers begin title defense with victory over rival Clippers

Bryan Chu, for

LOS ANGELES -- -- New rings. New banner. Similar result.

The defending champion Lakers began their title defense Tuesday on the winning side, dropping the in-house rival Clippers 99-92 in the season opener in front of a soldout crowd at Staples Center.

"It's a great night," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "It's a magical night."

Emotions were high before tipoff as previous Lakers legends like Magic Johnson and Jerry West greeted this year's champs. But aside from the ring ceremony and a few Bryant reverse layups, there wasn't much for the Lakers to cheer as the Clippers kept it close.

They got to within one point, 76-75, at the end of third quarter, but too much Bryant, who finished with a game-high 33 points, and Lamar Odom (16 points and 13 rebounds) pushed the Lakers back to a 89-79 lead with 6:23 left in the game and never looked back.

"I think it's always tough to play games after those kinds of ceremonies," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "[But] we got it back. We did OK."

Added Bynum: "For me [the ceremony] was an energizer. I was out there jumping around. I didn't need to get re-wound up or nothing like that."

Bynum, who celebrated his 22nd birthday, also chipped in a double-double of his own with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

One of the many storylines coming into Tuesday's game was each team's lineup.

Clippers rookie Blake Griffin, who will miss up to six weeks due to a fractured left kneecap, left a question mark on who would step in for the No. 1 overall pick. This night it was reserve forward Craig Smith and center Chris Kaman, both of whom kept the Clippers' deficit to single digits. Smith scored all 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the first half and brought the Clippers to within three with 5:36 left in the first half. Kaman finished with 18 and 16 rebounds.

"You know, I don't really care about all that stuff," said Kaman of having to deal with Griffin being out. "You're dealt the cards and you play them. All we can do is look forward and try to get some wins."

With Lakers center Pau Gasol out with a sore right hamstring he suffered in the preseason, center Andrew Bynum shook off doubts of last season's lingering MCL injury. However, the Lakers' second unit was stagnant on offense, Bynum said. At one point in the second quarter, the reserves clanked six straight shots, including a DJ Mbenga airball, and the Lakers went without a field goal for seven minutes.

Clippers guard Eric Gordon, who averaged 16.1 points in a stellar rookie season, showed it wasn't an aberration. Guarded by Bryant most of the night, he cobbled together a team-high 21 points and was a major catalyst for the Clippers getting back into the game in the third quarter.

But it was Lakers' defense that was the difference. The Clippers had 20 turnovers which led to 24 points for the Lakers.

All night long, the soldout crowd tried to will in a few of Ron Artest's shots. In his Lakers debut, Artest scored 10 points on just 3-for-10 from the field. He made his mark on the defensive end, however, holding Al Thornton to eight points.

"Some offensive things he had opportunities for he didn't complete, but I thought he looked like he was in the mix and knew what was going on most of the time," Jackson said.

Much of the Clippers success this season will rest on Baron Davis' shoulders. The oft-injured guard, who shed nearly 20 pounds in the offseason, looked spry in the first quarter, but couldn't get anything going offensively. Davis sat out the entire second quarter and picked up three quick fouls in the third. He finished with 2 points on 1-for-10 shooting and eight assists. He didn't score until a layup in the 6:49 mark in the third quarter.

"It was disappointing for us, but at the same time it was encouraging, because we still stuck to it," Davis said. "We're close to making something happen."

Like last season, Bryant set the tone early. He had 13 of his 33 points in the first quarter, but he did it defensively, recording three steals in the early going. The Lakers as a whole set the tempo on defensive end, causing nine turnovers in the first quarter, which led to 14 points and an early 32-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.

With the Lakers' first win of the season, not much has changed in the L.A. rivalry. The Lakers have won nine straight against the Clippers while taking a positive step as defending champions.

Lakers vs. Clippers Game Preview


The Los Angeles Lakers might be more talented now than they were four months ago when they won the NBA title. That's if they can stay healthy.

The in-town rival Clippers hope the addition of No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin will help them join the Lakers as playoff contenders again - but they'll have to wait a while to see what impact their rookie will have.

Moments after the franchise's 15th NBA championship banner is raised, the Lakers look to open their 50th anniversary season with a ninth straight victory over the Griffin-less Clippers on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

After going 65-17, the Lakers advanced to the finals for the second consecutive season and beat Orlando in five games for their first championship since 2002.

Kobe Bryant, who averaged 26.8 points during the regular season and earned Finals MVP honors, won his fourth title and first without Shaquille O'Neal. It was also coach Phil Jackson's fourth with Los Angeles and record-10th overall.

At 64 years old, Jackson feels fit enough to return for the final year of his contract and guide a team that could be better than the one that averaged 106.9 points a game - third-best in the league - last season.

"On paper we certainly are a better team,'' Jackson said, "but sometimes it's chemistry that counts between players and how they work together.''

The Lakers signed volatile free-agent Ron Artest to a five-year deal worth about $33 million. He switched places with playoff star Trevor Ariza, who left Los Angeles to take Artest's spot in Houston.

Artest, who averaged 17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 69 games last season for the Rockets, joins Andrew Bynum (14.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Pau Gasol (18.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Lamar Odom (11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg) to provide support for Bryant.

"We have the talent to win another one,'' said Bryant, who begins his 14th season in Los Angeles. "If we don't, it's because of our lack of focus or something else or an injury here or there.''

The key could be staying healthy, something they were able to do for the most part in 2008-09, but not in the preseason.

Gasol sat out the Lakers' final six preseason games because of a strained right hamstring, and seems unlikely to play in the opener. Odom, who married reality TV starlet Khloe Kardashian on the eve of training camp and then missed time because of a leg injury, could start in his place.

Bynum, who missed 32 games after tearing his MCL last season and was basically ineffective when he returned for the playoffs, averaged 20.8 points in his previous 12 contests before being injured Jan. 31.

"He's talking about wearing two (knee) braces this year,'' Jackson said of Bynum, who expects to play in the opener despite missing two preseason games because of a strained right rotator cuff and sore left hamstring. "He's talking about hopefully making the All-Star team and that's a good goal.''

Key reserve Luke Walton also sat out during training camp with a sore back.

"We understand the challenge of winning another one. We have to be lucky, making sure guys stay healthy and stay strong,'' Bryant said.

Coming off a 19-63 season, the Clippers - believe they have a strong enough roster to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Before they worry about the postseason, however, the Clippers must worry about Griffin's health. The team confirmed late Monday night that the top draft pick has a broken left kneecap that could sideline him for six weeks.

The Clippers, who ranked near the bottom of the NBA averaging 95.1 points a game last season, had been banking on the potential of the 6-foot-10 Griffin. He led the Big 12 with 22.7 points per game for Oklahoma last season while ranking first in the nation with 14.4 rebounds per game.

Despite straining his shoulder during the NBA Summer League, Griffin averaged 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in those games.

"He looks like he has a world of talent,'' said Bryant, who's averaged 24.6 points in his career against the Clippers but has been held under 20 in six of the last seven meetings. "He seems very polished. I think all he has to do is get used to the NBA game."

Griffin feels comfortable despite knowing the Clippers have recorded two winning seasons in the last 30 years.

"I don't feel like a lot of individual pressure to go out and do this or that,'' Griffin said. "We have guys that can do all this stuff. I just need to come in and contribute.''

Once healthy, he may need to do more if veterans Baron Davis and Chris Kaman can't bounce back from disappointing seasons.

After averaging 21.8 points for Golden State in 2007-08, Davis put up 14.9 in 65 games for the Clippers last season.

Kaman, meanwhile, was a coming off a season where he set career highs with 15.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, but a foot injury limited him to 31 games in 2008-09.

Despite some subpar performances from veteran players, the Clippers are encouraged by the play of their young talent. Guard Eric Gordon, the seventh overall pick in 2008, averaged 16.1 points as a rookie, and second-year forward Al Thornton averaged 16.8 points and 5.2 boards in 2008-09.

The Clippers also traded for veteran Rasual Butler, who averaged a career-high 11.2 points last season for New Orleans.

The Lakers are 31-9 against the Clippers at Staples Center, which has been home to both teams since 1999-2000. They haven't lost in this series since a 118-110 defeat April 12, 2007.

Copyright 2009 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

Scouting Report Coming Soon

Andrew Bynum (right rotator cuff strain) is probable.

Pau Gasol (right hamstring strain) is doubtful.

Luke Walton (sore back) is probable.

For the 17th time since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season, the Lakers will be opening the regular season at home. In those games, the Lakers have a record of 12-4. Overall, Los Angeles has a mark of 34-15 in their 49 REGULAR SEASON openers. The Lakers have won 5-of-their-last-6 opening night games and are 15-2 in their last 17 opening night games overall dating back to 1992.

Last season, the Lakers opened the regular season at home against Portland, defeating the Trail Blazers 96-76. Portland’s 76 points against the Lakers in the teams’ season opener marked the fewest points the Lakers had ever allowed on opening night since the introduction of the shot clock prior to the 1954-55 season. Portland’s 76 points also established a new low for points allowed in the Lakers-Blazers series dating back to the 1970-71 season.

The Lakers are 2-0 in regular season openers against the Clippers, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 114-102 in overtime 11/6/92 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and the San Diego Clippers 103-102 10/12/79 at the San Diego Sports Arena.

In HOME OPENERS (first home game of the year), the Lakers are 32-17 since moving to Los Angeles, most recently defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 96-76 at STAPLES Center 10/28/08. With their victory over the Trail Blazers last season, the Lakers improved to 14-3 in their last 17 HOME openers overall.
The Lakers have opened their home schedule against the Clippers once (none on opening night), losing in overtime 109-114 on November 5, 1991.

The 2009-10 season marks the 10th title defense for the Lakers since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season. In SEASON OPENERS coming off of an NBA Championship, the Lakers are 7-2 overall but just 2-2 when the season opener is at home. In HOME OPENERS following an NBA Championship, the Lakers are 5-4.

1972-73: Season opener: 129-94 victory at K.C. Omaha (10/11/72)
1980-81: Season opener: 99-98 victory at Seattle (10/10/80)
1982-83: Season opener: 117-132 loss vs. Golden State (10/29/82)
1985-86: Season opener: 121-116 (2OT) victory at San Antonio (10/26/85)
1987-88: Season opener: 113-109 victory vs. Seattle (11/6/87)
1988-89: Season opener: 116-113 victory at Dallas (11/4/88)
2000-01: Season opener: 96-86 victory at Portland (10/30/00)
2001-02: Season opener: 98-87 victory vs. Portland (10/30/01)
2002-03: Season opener: 82-87 loss vs. San Antonio (10/29/02)

Home opener: 126-104 victory vs. Portland (10/20/72)
Home opener: 114-103 victory vs. Houston (10/12/80)
Home opener: 111-129 loss vs. Cleveland (11/5/85)
Home opener: 128-110 victory vs. Denver (11/9/88)
Home opener: 92-97 loss vs. Utah (11/1/00)

The 2009 preseason marked the second consecutive year that the Lakers went 6-2 in exhibition games. Since the Lakers first year of complete preseason records in 1982- 83, their best preseason finish was a 7-1 mark in 1987-88. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers have had three winning preseasons, going 6-2 in each of the last two preseasons and 6-2 in 2005-06 as well. Overall, Jackson’s Lakers teams have posted preseason records of 6-2 (2009-10), 6-2 (2008-09), 3-4 (2007-08), 4-4 (2006- 07), 6-2 (2005-06), 3-5 (2003-04), 4-4 (2002-03), 4-4 (2001-02), 3-5 (2000-01) and 3-5 (1999-2000).


The 2009-10 Lakers preseason roster includes 12 players from last season’s NBA Championship team, one more than in 2008-09 when the Lakers brought back 11 players from the Western Conference Championship squad. This will be the 4th consecutive season in which the Lakers have returned at least 11 players, having brought back 12 players to start the 2007-08 season and 11 to start the 2006-07 campaign. However, only Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher remain from the Lakers 2000-02 title runs with Fisher rejoining the team prior to the 2007-08 season after spending the previous three years in Golden State and Utah. The longest tenured Laker after Bryant and Fisher is Luke Walton, who joined the team as a rookie in 2003-04. Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Pau Gasol, DJ Mbenga, Adam Morrison, Lamar Odom, Josh Powell & Sasha Vujacic all return from a year ago while Ron Artest is the loan new addition to the Lakers roster.

With his first two free throws of the Lakers April 10 game at Portland last season, Kobe Bryant moved past Charles Barkley (23,757) for 17th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Barkley reached his scoring total in 1,073 games over 16 seasons in contrast to Bryant, who did so in his 946th career game. In all last season, Bryant (23,820) passed Robert Parish (23,334) for 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 19th, Elgin Baylor (23,149) for 20th, Clyde Drexler (22,195) for 21st, Gary Payton (21,813) for 22nd and Larry Bird (21,791) for 23rd. Additionally, in passing Baylor, now only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176) and Jerry West (25,192 points) have scored more points with the Lakers than Bryant. Next on the NBA’s all-time list are Allen Iverson (23,983) and Patrick Ewing (24,815).

On Sunday, September 20, Pau Gasol posted 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots in leading Spain to an 85-63 victory over Serbia at the final of the 2009 European basketball championship in Poland. Gasol, who was named tournament MVP, helped Spain earn its first European title after six runner-up finishes. With the victory, Gasol is currently a member of the reigning NBA Champions, the reigning FIBA World Champions (led Spain to the 2006 FIBA World Championship while earning tournament MVP honors) and the reigning European Champions. Additionally, last summer, the highly decorated Spaniard helped his country to a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as well, coming up just short with a loss to a United States team led by Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant in the Olympic finals.

On October 1, 2009, the NBA announced that Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers tops the list of most popular NBA jerseys in Europe for the second straight year. Coming off his fourth NBA title in 2009, Bryant also has the most popular jersey in the U.S. The top four most popular jerseys remain unchanged from last year with Kevin Garnett (Boston) at No. 2, Pau Gasol (LA Lakers) at No.3 and LeBron James (Cleveland) at No. 4. The Most Popular NBA Jerseys in Europe list is based on sales from retail locations across Europe during the 2008-09 NBA season.