Lakers On The Road - December 9th - 20th, 2010

Hi folks.

Are you at all curious about which Laker is the best at NBA video games? Who sits where on the team plane? Which Lakers are frequent meal buddies on the road? Why assistant coaches are doing push ups on the court before games? Which players most often compete in pregame shooting contests, or who makes the most halfcourt shots?

Questions like these can be best answered on road trips, when players have no choice but to constantly interact with one another on and off the court. And in this 2010-11 season, there are two trips of at least 11 days, the first of which began when the Lakers took off from their private terminal at LAX on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 9) and landed in dark, windy Chicago skies three-and-a-half hours later.

In the next 11 days, we'll go through New York/New Jersey, Washington D.C., Indiana, Philadelphia and finally Canada before returning to Los Angeles in the early morning hours of Monday, Dec. 20.

As such, we took the opportunity to jot down items of interest, record some video/audio and take pictures of what we can behind the scenes … at least to a degree that won't annoy Phil Jackson, anger Kobe Bryant or dismay athletic trainer/travel boss Gary Vitti (gotta keep our spot on the plane, after all). Until we take off on the final flight from Canada, every little item of content will find a place below:

Rookies Load the Bus
Published by Mike Trudell | December 9th, 2010 @ 6:14pm CST

Devin Ebanks transfers bags from the luggage carts onto the team bus after the teams charter flight lands.

During my first season covering the Lakers (2008-09), a shy but humorous second round pick from the previous season¹s draft named Sun Yue (you bought
his jersey, right?) was the lone rookie on a veteran team. As such, there wasn¹t a single road trip in which Sun -- a good natured Chinese kid whose English was better than you may have expected -- couldn¹t be seen loading equipment onto the truck as the veterans listened to their respective iPods.

Sure, most every player on the roster had to do it himself at one point in time, so they knew personally that the task of dragging and heaving heavy bags of shoes, jerseys, training staff items and personal luggage off the plane's cargo ramp and onto the truck isn¹t exactly as fun as boogie boarding in Manhattan Beach, even in warm weather cities. But when the amount of bags reaches its absolute peak during a long road trip, and the Lakers are in northern cities in December? Not ideal. But never did team equipment manager Rudy Garciduenas -- one of the best, hardest working and longest tenured guys in the NBA -- miss him some Sun Yue more than 2009-10, when the Lakers had not a single rookie on the team.

Enter 2010 second round picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. Welcome to the NBA, lads!!!

Full disclosure: this photo was actually taken in Memphis last week. I thought about just trying to trick you, but felt guilty (sorry? Sue me?). Alas, there were snowflakes diving through the air in Chicago when the collective hands of Ebanks and Caracter worked like Ron Artest¹s mitts on defense, with the obvious intention of getting out of the 28-degree weather as soon as possible (meanwhile, Pau Gasol was enjoying his book on the warm team bus). By the way, we haven't heard a single complaint all season from the task-heavy rookies, to their credit.

Chicago. Da Bears. Da Bulls.
Published by Mike Trudell | December 10th, 2010 @ 12:45pm CST

The John Hancock Center, on Chicago's famous Michigan Avenue, is the United States sixth tallest building at 1,506 feet.

The old Saturday Night Live skit "Bill Swerski's Superfans" that featured Chris Farley, Mike Myers and George Wendt imitating heavily accented Chicago natives neglected to mention the high class shops on the Miracle Mile of downtown Chi-Town's Michigan Ave. But since the Lakers hotel in the Windy City is within a Sammy Sosa home run (circa 1998, at least) of all that shopping, there were no doubt a few players heading over to do some Christmas shopping for their wives, girlfriends and kids.

Or so you'd think … right?

Instead, nobody I talked to had a chance to get over to the mall area, which actually isn't a surprise on a game day. If the team had arrived earlier in the day yesterday, more guys may have ventured out, but noon shootaround basically killed anyone's motivation.

That, and the cold weather …

30 degrees was enough to keep Devin Ebanks in his hotel room, while Lamar Odom said he was rested up as he's planning on seeing his kids tomorrow in New York. Derrick Caracter wanted to rest his ankle, Shannon Brown had lunch with his agent, and so on and so forth. This trip to Chicago, for the Lakers players at least, involved only two buildings: the team hotel, and the United Center.

Game day transportation ... with some Phil Jackson Pregame Video
Published by Mike Trudell | December 10th, 2010 @ 6:30pm CST

OK, I know the first part of this topic doesn't sound all that interesting. But much of travel on the road is about these little details, so we'll see what we can do…

Lakers radio play-by-play voice Spero Dedes doing some prep work in a Chicago cab.

The team bus generally leaves from the hotel towards the arena about two hours before game time, depending upon the proximity of the arena in each city. Certain players will head over to the arena a few hours early to get some shots up or get loosened up, often bringing an assistant coach to rebound (usually Kobe Bryant, and sometimes Ron Artest). The ride is generally a time of focus for the players, each guy thinking about his role for the evening, or perhaps trying not to think about anything in particular (that's what headphones are for). Of course, there are several laid back Lakers (i.e. Lamar Odom and Luke Walton) that are pretty cool characters regardless of the situation, so it's not like jokes aren't told and hard times aren't given.

For the media staff -- including Stu Lantz, Joel Meyers, John Ireland and the TV crew, radio voices Mychal Thompson and Spero Dedes and myself -- there's a bus that generally goes straight to the airport after games, but no transportation to the arena. As such, I generally hop into a taxi with Dedes, our time spent discussing the matchup of the evening, reading about that night's opponent (as Spero's doing with the local clips on the Bulls) or, more commonly, comparing what we ate for lunch*. Despite allotting an extra 30 minutes for traffic in Chicago rush hour traffic, we may have been better off running to the arena on this Friday evening. The latest we ever want to arrive at the arena is an hour-and-a-half before tip off, 15 minutes before Phil Jackson generally addresses the media. After all, if you're trying to cover the Lakers the right way, it's ill advised to miss anything that comes out of Jackson's mouth.
*Giordano's Chicago style pizza for this guy.

In this case, our extra 30 minutes paid off, as I was in place to record the first two-plus minutes of Jackson's media session:

And finally, postgame: After a win or a loss, it's always a mad dash to get enough things done before getting on the media bus that must leave before the players bus to the airport. Generally, I'll post the running diary and postgame numbers from my media seat, half jog to the media room to collect my bag and put away my computer, half jog a bit faster to the locker room to listen to Phil Jackson, and hopefully have time to interview at least one player before fully jogging to the TSA airport security check in station. There, we get wanded down, with bags checked after showing some ID, and hop on the bus while hopefully avoiding any repercussions of being the last one on the bus, also known as Stu's least favorite person of the evening. Once enough bags are loaded onto the bus, we head to the airport and board the plane in advance of the players and coaches, because once Kobe Bryant's in his seat, we're off to the next city.

Hip Hop in the Locker Room
Published by Mike Trudell | December 11th, 2010 @ 2:33pm EST

Before each and every NBA game, the league mandates a 45-minute period in which reporters are granted access to the locker room. While some players, veterans especially, are skilled at spending more time in the training room during this open forum and thus not taking questions, most of the Lakers will engage in either actual interview questions ("How different are the Bulls with Carlos Boozer?") or simple chit chat. For the latter category, among the most natural -- and common -- topics of conversation between myself the players (other than basketball) is hip-hop music.

The Lakers, and the NBA for that matter, feature a plethora of rap fans that almost always have the latest and greatest on their iPods and cell phones. Prior to the Bulls game, Shannon Brown was tying his shoes at his locker when I walked in. Now, with the release of Kanye West's new album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," I knew many of the players would be able to offer me a review before I decided whether to purchase the whole album or just start with a few tracks on iTunes. Earlier in the week, a team staffer told me that Derek Fisher already had the album and thought it was outstanding, but since Fisher wasn't around prior to the game in Chicago, I broached the subject with hip-hop enthusiast Brown.

A Chi-towner like Kanye (who grew up on the South Side to Brown's West Side), Brown said he'd heard a few tracks already but didn't have the whole album yet. He certainly planned to get it soon, and was very impressed with what he'd heard at that point. In Brown's estimation, West is trying to bring hip-hop music back to its lyrical roots. I asked Brown if "bringing it back" alluded to the hip-hop we both grew up with in the 1990's (we took turns listing favorites like Tupac, Biggy, A Tribe Called Quest, N.W.A. and so on) that seems to say so much more than much of what's come out in the last decade, where an undue amount of emphasis has been placed on beats, dancing and videos, and less on MC'ing.

Brown agreed, though we mutually conceded that there are still plenty of rappers making great lyrical hip-hop music today and Brown was quick to add that he respected every other artist that produces any hip-hop music, explaining that some of the younger rappers simply may not be as in tune with cultural issues, which in many cases comes at no fault of their own. It's a good point, because if someone's going to give a rapper a bunch of money to make a song that is virtually void of a message or any good lyrics but has a good beat and makes Ryan Seacrest's "Top 10," we don't need to fault that rapper for getting paid (Brown certainly doesn't), but instead simply listen to the artists with whom we better connect. Nonetheless, this certainly won't be the last time we chat about hip-hop in the locker room … with Josh Powell now gone, other frequent rap conversationalists include Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes.

Derrick Rose, Kobe and the "I can't use that tonight" Interview
Published by Mike Trudell | December 13th, 2010 @ 5:21pm EST

A phrase that I'll often be saying to myself (er, thinking to myself, because I don't talk to myself … never mind) in NBA arenas after interviewing or just chatting with someone: "That was interesting, but when are you going to use it?"

The "that" is material for a story, generally from an interview with a player or coach, which doesn't fit in with that night's pregame, game or postgame story, or a practice day's theme or what have you. It can come from many places: side conversations in the locker room; detailed conversations with opposing players in their pre or postgame locker room; chats with assistant coaches in the hallway; casual conversations with trainers and other staff at media meals; debates or arguments with other journalists; postgame talks with different players or just the last two minutes of Phil Jackson's 13-minute media session after a random Tuesday practice. And so on.

It's pretty much the nature of the beast for beat reporters because of the sheer amount of time spent around, in this case, the Lakers and that particular night's opponent. The most recent example for me came on Friday night in Chicago, about an hour before the game. Bulls point guard Derrick Rose had just completed a pregame media session, and I waited until he'd answered each question from the scrum before introducing myself and asking him if he'd mind a few follow up questions. Rose, among the more humble and approachable stars in the NBA, gave me about five minutes. While these types of interviews can be had at home as well, there is generally more time to conduct them on the road, particularly on long trips. Here's a bit from of our chat, which centered around his thoughts on Kobe Bryant and how things relate to him:

MT: As a kid growing up in Chicago in the 1990's, you must have spent a lot of time mimicking the moves of Michael Jordan while he was busy winning six titles. But I'm curious how much early Kobe Bryant you saw? There's a certain aspect of his game back in those days that comes into my head when you drive to the hoop.
Rose: Oh yeah, a lot. I remember Kobe when he was really, really active, like driving … hitting athletic shots. He's still doing it now, but when he was younger, he was really, really hard to defend when he drove the ball.

MT: What's funny to me is that you were only like eight years old when Kobe was a rookie in 1996 [Rose is only 22].
Rose: Yeah man, I was in grammar school. I started watching Kobe more when I was in my teens, but other than that, I was in the park all day.

MT: Makes sense. Kobe's gotten a lot of credit, and fairly so, for adding something to his game every offseason, something I think he learned when he was a kid watching tapes of Michael Jordan, among others. So it seems that you've added three-point shooting for this year, as you've gone from shooting in the 20's [actually 22.2% and 26.7%] to the 40's [41.6%], and already taken and made twice as many threes this year [37-of-89] as you had last or as a rookie [combined 32-of-132 in two seasons].
Rose: No doubt, I'm really trying to add something every year. You get a lot of players in this league that I don't think add things to their games in the offseason, but I'm trying to add something whether it's posting up, three-point shooting or whatever it is so that I'm a total threat on the court.

MT: That "total threat" part sounds like something Kobe would say. What stands out to you now, or in the past or whatever, about Bryant?
Rose: I love the way that he competes out there. I think that's the way you're supposed to compete. Just go at it. He has the mentality where he's not going to stop, he got like an old school mentality. I love the way he thinks and acts when he's on the court … if anything, I would take that from him.

MT: Right. Finally Derrick, I'm not sure if you heard about the interchange, but a reporter basically asked Kobe about what he said to you after the close loss in L.A. a few weeks back, wondering if he was "passing the torch" in any sense. And Kobe, of course, responded along the lines of "I'm not passing (anything)," with a word we can't write, obviously suggesting that he isn't going anywhere or conceding anything anytime soon. I'm guessing you actually like hearing that?
Rose: Oh I love it. If I was in his shoes, I wouldn't (pass anything on) either, especially while I'm still playing. I would never … you'd never hear that coming out of my mouth. And Kobe is Kobe, man. And that's how I am too, I'd never back down from anybody.

*Update: When the Lakers met with President Barack Obama at the Greater Washington D.C. Boys & Girls Club on Monday, Obama had some good natured trash talk about his beloved Chicago Bulls to share with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. As Bryant explained: "The President said that Derrick Rose had our number. So I said, if he calls that number, I'll be sure to pick up after the fifth ring."

The President … and Barack Obama
Published by Mike Trudell | December 14th, 2010 @ 2:42pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets guard Derek Fisher (L) while helping children volunteers fill care packages during a NBA Cares service event at the Boys and Girls Club.

The Lakers and the NBA have their own President in Derek Fisher, who heads the Player's Association (NBAPA) and just generally sweats leadership onto the basketball court.

On Monday in Washington, D.C., Fisher and his teammates had the chance to spend some time with the nation's President, Barack Obama, while helping a group of excited kids write letters to military members that were placed in care packages destined for the troops.

There's a natural connection between Fisher and Obama, two self-made men who took very different paths, but who got there with a combination of really hard work and determination. When President Obama first arrived at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, Fisher was helping two eight-year-old kids seal some of the packages. A few seconds later, Obama had already made his way over to where Fisher was standing, warmly embracing L.A.'s co-captain with a one-arm hug, and pausing for a catch-up conversation.

I was standing about 15 feet away, recording video of the interaction on a FlipCam while trying to line up a decent picture on my phone, but noticed the two men were exchanging well wishes and information about one another's families. When observing this, it is also not too difficult to imagine Obama calling upon Fisher, among the smartest and most polished professional athletes there is, one day to work on something for the population's greater good. As such, I made sure to ask Fisher about his Presidential conversation after Obama addressed the team in a ceremony. Since I ended up writing more about Kobe Bryant's interaction with Obama yesterday, there wasn't room in that particular story for the Fisher conversation. Good thing for On The Road…

MT: Lamar Odom mentioned today how seeing President Obama always makes him get a bit emotional, thinking about his Grandma growing up in the South in the early 20th century. And now you have Obama knowing you on a personal level, asking you about your family … what do you draw from that?
Fisher: I think it just speaks to, in my opinion, how mindful he is to other people's stories and experiences, good and bad. He pays attention. He doesn't just live in the bubble of Washington politics and making all of these decisions that impact the world. He's an every day human being that cares about the well being of other people. I think that's what makes it so special to get a chance to meet him and talk to him, because you can tell that he's very well rounded in terms of his information base and the knowledge that he brings.

MT: Is this type of encounter something that you and the team can bottle up and use as an emotional boost into the season?
Fisher: Yeah. I think when you get a chance to meet a President, especially President Obama who is a serious basketball fan, pays attention and knows what's going on … to me it helps add to that desire to never not want to be in this position again. You want to have the opportunity to come here every year to meet any sitting President.

One other Fisher nugget: When President Obama made sure to point out that Phil Jackson had won one more championship as coach of the Chicago Bulls than as the Lakers' head man, a voice behind him said "Not for long!" Obama thought it was Kobe Bryant, and shared as much with the audience, but as the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding pointed out, it was actually Fisher who made the comment. Bryant would later tell Ding that Fisher simply "beat him to the punch."

Halftime Acts: featuring Rubber Boy
Published by Mike Trudell | December 15th, 2010 @ 5:07pm EST

Had I not been so mesmerized* by the intentional absurdity of Rubber Boy's longstanding halftime act in NBA arenas that I've been watching in person since 2006, I may have had the presence of mind to record a video on my phone. Instead, you'll have to settle for this YouTube clip of Rubber Boy getting looser than Chris Webber's Michigan shorts at an Atlanta Hawks game. You should really just watch, as no description I could provide would suffice. The only acts I've seen more often than Rubber Boy are the popular Red Panda and Quick Change, who get called in often when the Lakers are in town, and there's truly nothing that gets my stomach feeling queasy like good ol' Rubber Boy.

*At least in the way I can't look away from an Ultimate Fighting beat down or one of the Saw movies despite really, really not wanting to see anything.

The Hardened Hands of The Finn
Published by Mike Trudell | December 16th, 2010 @ 10:50am EST

The Finn puts Kobe Bryant through his regular muscle activation routine prior to the team's win at Washington. If Kobe trusts you with his body, you gotta be pretty good.

Lakers sports massage therapist Marko Yrjovuori spends so many hours per week literally working the soreness out of the Lakers that he can't keep track. No, seriously. I asked him how many hours he spent working on Kobe, Pau and Co., and he wasn't sure. Affectionately known as "Finn" by many around the team (in part due to distinguish himself from an assistant trainer who happens to share his first name, Marco Nunez, and in part because, well, his last name isn't the easiest to pronounce), Yrjovuori does so much more for the team than his title suggests. He came across the pond from Finland in 1998 to work for the L.A. Kings, before moving on to the Lakers prior to the 2004-05 season. Since then, he's been an essential member of Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti's staff, as both his fellow trainers and the players can't tell you enough.

"Marko is the consummate professional," said Vitti. "He rarely gets the credit he deserves. Many people don't know that it is commonplace for us to arrive at a hotel at 2:00 in the morning, at which time Marko will grab his table and do his best to get a player ready for a back-to-back game in less than 24 hours."

Among Yrjovuori's specialties is the "active release" technique, which he uses most frequently to educate the muscles of Bryant and Gasol back into more neutral states. Each player has a specific routine he follows on practice and game days, and Bryant's includes about 30 minutes with Marko prior to games.

"We do the active release techniques and little treatments for Kobe's knee, and then stretch," Yrjovuori explained. "Our pregame stretch is different from the postgame stretch we do, with activation of the muscles being the focus before and relax and recovery afterwards."

On game days, the Finn will also work on Gasol, Ron Artest and Shannon Brown before the game starts. Afterwards, the players have only a few minutes to shower and change before boarding the team bus destined to the team plane, and on Tuesday night (err, Wednesday morning), we arrived at about 2 a.m. in Indianapolis; Yrjovuori came down to grab his bags and massage table in the lobby, tired from a full day's worth of treatments. But he wasn't done yet.

Yrjovuori sets up his massage table in his hotel room in each NBA city, and has an open door policy with the players, particularly Pau Gasol.

"On back-to-back nights, I have a routine with Gasol where we do the recovery treatment with him as soon as we get to the hotel," said Yrjovuori. "Getting treatment at night is what he prefers, and from a training perspective it should be done as soon as possible to help him recover and be ready for the next game. We do light stretching, some release techniques and a light flush, which is more like a massage, to help him get rid of the lactic acid in his body."

While both Yrjovuori and Gasol are often weary heading into these sessions*, they each understand the importance of the work.
* Being a fourth degree black belt in taekwondo and an MMA fighter for years haven't hurt Yrjovuori's endurance.

"It's a big plus for me to be able to work with Marko, especially after games no matter what time we get into cities," said Gasol. "You're tired from the game and the trip, he's tired from all the work he's been doing, but you have to be disciplined in your profession. You have to understand what is best for you, not really what you feel like doing or what's easier to do."

To put Yrjovuori's commitment into perspective: he has spent exactly nine days in the past four years in Finland, where his entire family (aside from his wife Taru and two daughters, Emma [four and a half] and Erika [five months]) and many of his friends still live. At least the long sessions are made a bit easier thanks to the ease with which Gasol and Yrjovuori converse.

"Anything but basketball," said the Spaniard. "He's a very active guy with a lot of ambitions, and we talk about some of his goals, some of my goals, what I do off the court and his plans off the court back in Finland or L.A. We always have good conversations."

After Wednesday morning's session ended at 3 a.m., Yrjovuori got ready for bed, and was asleep soon after 4 a.m., only to wake up a few hours later for the next day's round of treatments.

"We all do so many things, not only what our contracts says," Yrjovuori concluded. "We do any and everything to get these guys through the day."

"Classy Hobo"
Published by Mike Trudell | December 19th, 2010 @ 2:50pm EST

Fashion is a hot topic of locker room conversation in the NBA, and the Lakers feature three players with their own clothing lines, including Matt Barnes, who took us through the process.

"I like to define my dress as like a classy hobo. Not too dressy with a suit and tie, but still more than just jeans and a t-shirt. A nice mix in between sweaters, cardigans and ties."
- Matt Barnes

So, what does a 12-day road trip with six game nights mean to Matt Barnes? After the basketball (he did have 15 points and 10 rebounds in L.A.'s most recent win), of course, it's about carefully packing up some suitcases with his choice outfits. The NBA is, after all, one of the more fashion conscious workplaces there is. Combine a healthy income, a dose of swagger and television cameras constantly documenting player's appearances, and the importance of shoes, pants, shirts and accessories goes up.

A veteran team like the Lakers often conspire to leave Rodeo Drive impressions in the locker room, albeit with some personal touches as Barnes has joined Lamar and Kobe in establishing his own line.

Here's Barnes in one of his self-designed sweaters, a key component of "Classy Hobo."

"I work with a designer named Archer out of L.A. who used to be a big graffiti artist, but now he's kind of come to fashion," Barnes explained. "We come up with all kinds of wild stuff, just stuff that I think I'd like to see that isn't really out there. Since it's my line, I can do what I want to do."

The first-year Laker is already getting inquiries into his clothes from other athletes, and said he's looking to collaborate with Odom for a fashion show during the All-Star game in Los Angeles this February. It wasn't always like that for the former All-American wide receiver.

While attending his Sacramento high school, Barnes didn't own any brand name clothes, because he couldn't afford them. To get the Air Max shoes he so coveted, Barnes would save up lunch money for a month, and then, well…

"Once they got old and dingy I'd pop the air pocket and take them back for a fresh pair," he conceded. "I used to do that in high school, but in college I started getting per diem and stipend checks so it was a little easier."

Barnes likes to keep his accessories simple and classy as well. He likes smaller watches without too many diamonds and nice earrings, but he stays away from "iced out chains and iced out watches" because those to him are "a thing of the past, and nothing but trouble." He wears stuff that accentuates his outfit, but tries not to go overboard.


"Louis Vutton, Prada, Gucci," he said. "Chuck Taylor's are my favorite ones. I don't wear them all the time because I know that's not dress code, but I mix those three designers with Chuck's."

"He wasn't kidding about Chuck's being his No. 1 -- he owns 75 pairs of 'em.

"They have to be clean," he said, pausing for emphasis. "A white pair, you can probably only get two good wears out of them and then they're gone because those scuff marks don't come off. But the colored pairs with the different colored soles, you can just clean those off. I've had some for three or four years."

The UCLA product clarified that if he's "just hanging out," the scuffed Chucks are fine, but if he's wearing them to a game as part of an outfit, he doesn't feel they should be beat up. He'll just turn such pairs over to friends. And by the way, it's not just his friends outside of the game for whom he's looking out.

"I already have (rookie Devin) Ebanks under my wing," concluded Barnes. "We're going to have him talk to my stylist. He needs a lot of help, but he's young. He's cool with it, he understands that he's taking that next step. It's the best we can do to make him look good … we can't have him walking around the way he's been walking around lately."

Before long, there may be another classy hobo walking around in purple and gold cardigans.

Road Trip Photo Gallery
Published by Mike Trudell | December 20th, 2010 @ 3:50pm EST

To wrap up our On The Road travel log, here's a collection of iPhone photos from the Lakers' trek through Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Toronto.

KCAL sideline reporter and 710 ESPN radio host John Ireland is putting in work in Chicago at the start of the 6-game trip. No one spends more time in front of a microphone than Irish.

Here's the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in advance of the team's game in Newark, just across the river from the team's hotel in southeast Manhattan.

New York City at night from Brooklyn Heights on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Every so often on the road, there are a few hours to take in some sites.

It's always a scramble for the team's training staff to get bags organized upon arriving at hotels. Here in Indianapolis at 2:30 a.m., it's about 10 degrees outside, so the line is formed in the lobby.

Lakers Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti had to make upwards of 25 calls to set up all of the details of the Sasha Vujacic - Joe Smith (and draft picks) trades from his Indy hotel room.

Each player has his own pregame routine to get ready for action, and in this case, Pau Gasol's getting some core work in with assistant trainer Marco Nunez before the Pacers game.

The Lakers almost always leaves a city directly after a game, but Phil Jackson opted to sleep in Indy and then fly to Philly in the morning. Here's a shot of Philadelphia from the airplane.

They parked my car for me outside of the team's Philadelphia hotel. Either that, or I took a picture of someone else's sick ride.

It was appropriate that among the first things we'd see in Toronto was a bunch of Canadians skating, this at an open skate where the Maple Leafs and Raptors play prior to Raps practice.

On the practice floor in Toronto, Phil Jackson was hilarious, providing reporters details of rookie Derrick Caracter's "oops" $200 breakfast order at the Four Seasons, including a $45 pitcher of orange juice.

After the Lakers beat the Raptors to finish the trip 5-1, we all heard about Michael Vick's absurd fourth quarter in the Eagles comeback while en route to the airport. Matt Barnes was celebrating by wearing his signed Vick jersey, which he was given by Vick after providing Vick and buddy DeSean Jackson (who returned the game-winning punt) tickets to the Lakers – Sixers game.


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