SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers and Rockets have split the first two games of their season series 1-1 with one game remaining. The Lakers won last season's series with Houston 3-1 and swept the '08-09 series 4-0. The two teams have met 190 times in all with the Lakers holding a 128-62 series advantage (106-56 since the Rockets moved to Houston). The Lakers are 8-2 against the Rockets in their last 10 games overall. At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 14-8 all-time against the Rockets and 6-4 in their last 10. In Houston, the Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 road games and are 9-5 all- time at Toyota Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 27-12 against Houston in 39 regular season meetings. Kobe Bryant holds the series scoring record with two 53-point games. Both games broke his own series mark of 52 established at STAPLES Center in February of 2003. In 48 career games (43 starts) versus Houston, Bryant is now averaging 26.7 points per game, 5th highest among all teams behind Charlotte, Toronto, Portland and Golden State. Lakers forward Ron Artest played the 2008-09 season in Houston, averaging 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.52 steals in 35.5 minutes while setting single season career-highs in 3-point field goals made (153) and attempted (383) in 69 games (55 starts). He was also teammates in Sacramento from 2005-08 with current Rockets Brad Miller and Kevin Martin while Pau Gasol played alongside current Rockets forward Shane Battier from their rookie seasons in 2001-02 through '05-06. In the postseason, the Lakers are 5-3 in eight meetings with the Rockets, most recently defeating the Houston 4-3 in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals.
LACK OF ASSISTS
In their January 30th loss to Boston, the Lakers handed out a season-low 10 assists. That total is the Lakers lowest in a home game since October 25, 1960 (two weeks before the Kennedy-Nixon presidential election) in the team's second home game after moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. In Jerry West's fourth NBA game, Los Angeles was credited with only five assists on 42 field goals in a 120-118 win over the Knickerbockers.*
SHOOTING LIGHTS OUT
In the Lakers January 30th loss to Boston, the Celtics made 44-of-73 shots from the field (60.3%) at STAPLES Center. That was the third-highest field-goal percentage ever posted by the Celtics against the Lakers, at home or on the road, during the regular or postseason, versus the Minneapolis or the Los Angeles Lakers. In the other two games, Boston shot 61.5 percent from the field in a regular season loss at the LA Forum in 1990 and 60.8 percent in a victory in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals.*
BRYANT PASSES HAKEEM OLAJUWON FOR 8th ON NBA'S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
With a fast break dunk at the 3:29 mark of the first quarter 1/28 vs. Sacramento, Kobe Bryant moved past Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) for 8th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Earlier this month, Bryant moved past Oscar Robertson (26,710) 1/7 vs. New Orleans and Dominique Wilkins (26,668) 1/4 vs. Detroit on the all-time list. Should he continue to score anywhere near his current pace (25.5 ppg), Bryant (27,013) would move to 6th on the all-time list by season's end. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant are Elvin Hayes (7th/27,313) and Moses Malone (6th/27,409). Among the top eight scorers in NBA history, more than half (5) have worn the Lakers uniform (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st), Karl Malone (2nd), Wilt Chamberlain (4th), Shaquille O'Neal (5th) and Bryant (8th)).
Bryant has been steadily moving up the list over the past few years. Earlier this season, with 23 points at Chicago (12/10/10), he passed John Havlicek (26,395) for 11th. Last season, he passed Alex English (25,613), Reggie Miller (25,279), Jerry West (25,192), Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Allen Iverson (24,368). In passing West with a slam dunk at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter February 1, 2010 at Memphis, finishing the game with 44 points (West's retired number), Bryant became the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. In 2008-09, Bryant passed Gary Payton (21,813) and Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley (23,757), Robert Parish (23,334), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Elgin Baylor (23,149), Clyde Drexler (22,195) and Larry Bird (21,791).
BRYANT YOUNGEST IN NBA HISTORY TO 27,000 POINTS; 8th EVER TO REACH MILESTONE
With his 28th point January 30th vs. Boston, Kobe Bryant reached 27,000 for his career. In doing so, Bryant became the youngest to 27,000 points in NBA history (31 years, 160 days), surpassing Wilt Chamberlain (32 years, 202 days) who reached the milestone back on March 11, 1969. Michael Jordan, the only guard in NBA history to score 27,000 points, reached the milestone November 5, 1997 when he was 34 years, 261 days of age. Additionally, Bryant became the 8th player in NBA history to score 27,000 points and the 5th fastest to do so (1,069) in terms of games. Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 27,000, doing so in 780 games, followed by Jordan (852), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (965) and Karl Malone (1,035).
Earlier this season, with his 17th point November 11th at Denver, Bryant reached 26,000 for his career. In doing so, he became the youngest to do so in NBA history (32 years, 80 days), surpassing Wilt Chamberlain (32 years, 114 days) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33 years, 331 days). Additionally, Bryant became the 12th player in NBA history to score 26,000 points and the 8th fastest to do so (1,030) in terms of games, behind Shaquille O'Neal (1,022). Wilt Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 26,000, doing so in 734 games. Among the remaining top five scorers in NBA history (Chamberlain and O'Neal already mentioned), Michael Jordan reached 26,000 points in 815 games, Abdul-Jabbar in 925 games and Karl Malone in 997 games. The youngest player in league history to accumulate 17,000 – 20,000 and 23,000 – 27,000 points, Bryant was the 20th fastest to 17,000, 16th fastest to 18,000, 15th fastest to 19,000, 15th fastest to 20,000, 12th fastest to 21,000, 12th fastest to 22,000, 11th fastest to 23,000, 9th fastest to 24,000, 9th fastest to 25,000 and 8th fastest to 26,000 points in terms of games.
KOBE BRYANT IS TOP VOTE GETTER IN 2011 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING PRESENTED BY T-MOBILE
On January 27th, the NBA announced that Kobe Bryant is this year's leading vote-getter in the All-Star Balloting program presented by T-Mobile with 2,380,016 votes. It is the second time Bryant, who was the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, has led all players in NBA All-Star balloting (2003) as well as his 13th consecutive All-Star selection; only Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal have more been selected more times consecutively (14 times each). In league history, only Kareem Abdul- Jabbar (19), O'Neal (15), Michael Jordan (14), Malone (14) and West (14) have more NBA All-Star selections. Pau Gasol (1,100,772), who made his third All-Star team last season as a reserve (2006, 2009, 2010) and in 2009 became the 27th Laker in franchise history to be named to an All-Star team, finished 3rd among forwards in the West behind Kevin Durant (1,736,728) and Carmelo Anthony (1,299,849). Andrew Bynum (974,546) finished 2nd among West centers behind Yao Ming (1,146,426) while Chris Paul (1,281,591) will start at guard alongside Bryant in the West. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, the second leading vote-getter overall with 2,099,204, led the Eastern Conference in balloting. Starting alongside Howard in the East are LeBron James (2,053,011) and Amar'e Stoudemire (1,674,995) at forward and Dwyane Wade (2,048,175) and Derrick Rose (1,914,996) in the backcourt.
With the 2011 results in, Bryant has now led the Western Conference in all-star balloting in each of the last four seasons. Last season, Bryant received 2,456,224 votes, finishing second overall to Cleveland's LeBron James (2,549,693). In 2008-09, he accumulated 2,805,397 votes, finishing third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and James (2,940,823). In 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991). In 2006-07, when he earned his second All-Star MVP, Bryant finished third overall in balloting behind James and Yao Ming. A three-time All-Star MVP (2002 Philadelphia, 2007 Las Vegas, 2009 Phoenix), Bryant is now a 13-time All-Star. He had started 11 consecutive All-Star games before missing last year's contest due to a sprained left ankle.
30 WINS AT THE MID-POINT
With a 100-88 victory over the New Jersey Nets on January 14th, the Lakers improved to 30-11 on the season, marking the third consecutive year that they have reached the mid-point of their season with 30 or more wins. Last season, the Lakers held a 32-9 record at the halfway point after starting the 2008-09 season with a 33-8 mark. Over the past 10 seasons, the Sacramento Kings from 2001-04 are the only other NBA team to hit the mid-point with at least 30 wins in three consecutive seasons. Since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule prior to the 1967-68 season, the Lakers have now posted at least 30 wins by the mid-point 14 times, having also put together one additional three season streak from 1985-88.*
DEREK FISHER AMONG PLAYERS ELIGIBLE FOR FAN VOTE IN 2011 TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE
On January 27th, the NBA announced that for the first time, the league and Taco Bell are giving fans the opportunity to determine participants in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of the "Choose Your Squad" program. In addition to adding a fan vote, the 2011 Taco Bell Skills Challenge will feature an expanded field from four to five participants. Beginning today and running through 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 14, fans can log on to NBA.com/chooseyoursquad to choose from among eight players to determine four of the five participants in the 2011 event in Los Angeles. The players taking part in the vote include: Stephen Curry, Baron Davis, Tyreke Evans, Derek Fisher, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, John Wall and Russell Westbrook. The four finalists will compete against "Choose Your Squad" spokesman Chris Paul.
The event includes a new charitable twist from NBA Cares & Taco Bell Foundation for Teens' "Graduate to Go" program, a national initiative helping teens graduate from high school through real-world experiences. Each of the five participants will be matched with a teen member of a local Boys & Girls Club. The teen paired with the event winner will receive a 4-year college scholarship. The other scholarship winners each receive an educational scholarship courtesy of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens.
Introduced at NBA All-Star 2003 in Atlanta – the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge will feature five players competing in a two-round timed "obstacle course" consisting of dribbling, passing, and shooting stations. All players must observe basic NBA ball-handling rules while completing the course. The two players with the fastest times from the first round advance to the finals with the order of competition determined by inverse order of the first-round times. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will be televised live nationally as part of the NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, which will also feature the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, Haier Shooting Stars, and Sprite Slam Dunk. TNT and ESPN Radio's national coverage will begin at 8 p.m. EST from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
GASOL REACHES UNIQUE WELL-ROUNDED MILESTONE
With a four foot hook shot at the 1:00 mark of the second quarter 1/19 at Dallas, Pau Gasol scored his 13,000th career point in his 693rd career regular season game. Among players who debuted since 1973-74 (first season of blocked shots), Gasol, became the 6th fastest player in terms of games to record 13,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks. Only Chris Webber (587), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (605), Tim Duncan (640), Kevin Garnett (657) and David Robinson (672) reached those totals faster than Gasol.
GASOL NAMED 2010 EUROPEAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR
In January, La Gazzetta dello Sport, one of the premier sports journals in the world, named Pau Gasol European Player of the Year for the THIRD consecutive year. The prestigious award was decided on by a panel of judges comprised of players, coaches and basketball journalists. Gasol beat out Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki (2nd), who had won the award five consecutive years from 2002-06, and the Spanish League's Juan Carlos Navarro (3rd) of FC Barcelona. The first Spanish player to win the award, Gasol joins Nowitzki as the only other player to win the award three-straight years. Other notable past winners include Arvydas Sabonis (6-time winner), Toni Kukoc (5-time winner), Drazen Petrovic (4-time winner) and Tony Parker.
Entering the Lakers game vs. Houston, Derek Fisher has played in 461 consecutive regular season games dating back to April 15, 2005, the longest consecutive games streak among all active NBA players. Fisher moved into the top position after Portland's Andre Miller (632) missed the Blazers game against Phoenix (12/7/10) due to NBA suspension. Additionally, Fisher has started 339 consecutive regular season games dating back to January 15, 2007, tops among all active players by more than a season's worth of games (2nd – Luis Scola). Former Laker A.C. Green holds the NBA record for most consecutive games played with 1,192 dating from 11/19/86 – 4/18/01 while a member of the Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.
With their record setting 121-90 victory vs. Utah on January 25th, the Lakers recorded their league-leading EIGHTH wire-to-wire win of the season. Getting to seven wire- to-wire victories in just 39 games matched the Lakers regular season total from all of last season, while their eighth in 46 games surpassed that total. This season, the Lakers (8) lead the NBA in wire-to-wire victories, followed by the Celtics (7), Spurs (5) and Bucks (5) through games played 1/30/11. The Lakers other wire-to-wire victories this season came against the Warriors (10/31 vs. GS, 11/21 vs. GS), Grizzlies (11/2 vs. MEM), Wizards (12/7 vs. WAS), Pacers (12/15 @ IND), 76ers (12/31 vs. PHI) and Cavaliers (1/11 vs. CLE). Last year, the Lakers claimed NINE wire-to-wire victories (games in which they never trailed); seven during the regular season and two during the 2010 Playoffs (4/18 & 4/27 vs. Oklahoma City). During their previous championship run in 2008-09, the Lakers claimed 11 wire-to-wire victories; nine during the regular season and two during the 2009 Playoffs (4/29 vs. Utah & 5/17 vs. Houston). Last season, the Lakers also lost twice in wire-to-wire fashion (98-107 1/8/10 @ POR and 75-91 3/26/10 @ OKC).
FISHER NAMED 2010 "SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR" BY LOS ANGELES SPORTS COUNCIL
On January 6th, the Los Angeles Sports Council announced that Lakers guard Derek Fisher will receive the prestigious 2010 Sportsman of the Year award at the 6th annual LA Sports Awards to be held Thursday, February 24th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The LA Sports Awards are presented annually by the Los Angeles Sports Council to celebrate the greatest moments of the year in local sports. The Sportsman award is given to the local male athlete whose performance and character best exemplified the ideals of sportsmanship during the calendar year. Past Sportsman of the Year honorees include Matt Leinart (2005), Elton Brand (2006), David Beckam (2007), Kobe Bryant (2008) and Pau Gasol (2009). The awards show will be televised on Fox Sports West (initial airing will be March 4th).
FAN VOTING BEGINS FOR LA SPORTS AWARDS
Southern California sports fans can cast their ballot for the 2010 LA Sports Awards, the annual televised awards show celebrating the greatest sports moments of the year in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. Through balloting at www.lasports.org, fans can vote on 14 different award categories. Voting takes place through January 31; winners will be revealed during the sixth annual LA Sports Awards on Thursday, February 24 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. For voting purposes, each of the area's professional sports teams, major universities and associations has nominated its top moments from 2010 for fans to vote on. The top Lakers moments nominated include: Kobe Bryant becoming the Lakers franchise scoring leader, Phil Jackson becoming the Lakers all-time winningest coach, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Lakers winning their 16th NBA Championship with a thrilling 83-79 win over the Boston Celtics in game 7 of the NBA Finals at STAPLES Center. To vote, go to www.lasports.org and click on the Greatest Moments icon at the top of the home page. The awards gala will be televised on Prime Ticket, with the initial airing on February 25, and will include special appearances by many of the athletes and coaches whose achievements helped make 2010 such a memorable year in sports. The awards ceremony will also feature a countdown of the year's Top 10 moments in ranked order as selected by a blue-ribbon media panel. Additionally, Derek Fisher will be receiving the prestigious 2010 Sportsman of the Year award, given yearly to the local male athlete whose performance and character best exemplified the ideals of sportsmanship during the calendar year, while the naming of Sportswoman, Coach and Sports Executive of the Year will also take place.