The Lakers took some of their pent-up anger out on the Mavericks, who looked hapless against LA's most complete effort of the season. Also, Dwight Howard pranked me.
DALLAS, TX --- The Lakers put a whooping on the Mavericks last night, riding a 36-point first quarter to a blowout win that allowed Mike D'Antoni to rest his starters for what seemed like the first time this season. Metta World Peace set the tone for the Lakers, scoring their first 10 points of the game while nailing four threes in the first quarter alone, and the shots kept falling after that. Antawn Jamison was subbed into the game early and found his rhythm on some very nice cuts against an unsuspecting Dallas defense, Jodie Meeks was connecting on his outside shot and by the time Kobe made his first field goal, it was the second quarter and he already had five assists.
Kobe's continued brilliance when operating the pick-and-roll is fueling the Lakers' offense while they await the return of Steve Nash, and Bryant is playing at a really nice tempo. The Lakers occasionally slowed the game down with post-ups for Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, but for the most part they were pushing the ball at every opportunity and getting into pick-and-roll action as quickly as possible.
Los Angeles' defense was impressive in this contest, but the Mavericks were also just missing a lot of shots they have been making at a pretty good rate this season. Credit the Lakers for rotating well to shooters and protecting the paint in this one, but O.J. Mayo, who entered the game shooting 57% from three, missed all five of his long-range attempts, Chris Kaman, who has been playing some excellent basketball this season, was just 2-of-12, and Darren Collison was 1-for-10 with four assists and four turnovers. The Lakers did a good job putting pressure on the Mavericks early on, but this was just an off night for them.
That pretty much sums up what was really an uninteresting game for the majority of the night. But since I was in Dallas for this one, lets get to some interesting lockerroom tidbits:
- I was the first one to breakout of Pau Gasol's media scrum after the game so that I could get over to Dwight Howard's locker. I was rewarded with a prank from the fun loving big man. As the reporters started to surround his locker, an attractive TV correspondent (no, not Mike Trudell) pulled up behind me. While reaching into his locker to get himself some gum, Howard took out an extra piece. He handed it to me and, while pointing at that female TV reporter, said "Here, she said you need it."
Hardy har har, Dwight. He followed it up by saying "I'm just joking, man!" a few times, but the damage was done.
Dwight was doing some pretty obvious flirting with that same TV reporter before he started his media session. He said that she looked like Lolo Jones but I didn't see the resemblance. The very last thing I heard while the media was being forced out of the lockerroom was Dwight saying "Where's Lolo at?"
- Steve Nash declined to do any pre-game interviews, promising reporters that he would be available after the game. Steve was not in the lockerroom during the post-game media session. Shame on you, Steve!
- It wasn't all bad with Dwight, though. We talked about the new Call of Duty game while he was getting dressed and joked about how long of a wait it was for Kobe to speak to the media after the game.
- The first post-game question to Pau Gasol was phrased like this: "Pau, you were benched in the fourth quarter again." Gasol was not amused.
- I talked to Robert Sacre before the game about the cult hero status that his bench celebrations have earned him. He said that there are only two celebrations in his arsenal right now - the Metta World Peace follow-through gesture and the Dwight Howard dunk guns that Sacre fires off - but he said he will come up with more throughout the rest of the season. Sacre says this is his way of giving the team some energy even if his on the court role is not very big.
- The rookies (Darius Johnson-Odom and Sacre) were the first players at the arena and did some on and off the court work before the rest of the team arrived. Kobe Bryant was the first player off of the first team bus that arrived to the arena, followed closely by Pau Gasol, Earl Clark, Devin Ebanks, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison. Outside of Kobe, Pau and Hill, all of those guys went and got some shots up on the court. The rest of the team (and the coaches) arrived on the second bus. The last two players off the second bus? Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
- Mike D'Antoni mobility update: Pope-like.
- Kobe's post-game walk from the lockerroom to the team bus came with a security escort (shockingly, Chris Duhon's did not) but that didn't stop him from making a few gracious stops along the way. First a group of foreign tourists asked him for a quick picture. Kobe granted them a picture, which prompted one of the guys in the group to say that Kobe was "the greatest of all-time." Kobe smiled when he heard that.
Next Kobe stopped by to take a few pictures with a Laker fan that was in a wheelchair and his family. And finally, Kobe ran into Maverick Dahntay Jones, who went hard at Kobe in the 2009 Western Conference Finals, and his family. I'm sure it wasn't his intention, but it seemed as if Jones was rolling his stroller at just the right speed so that Kobe would have to run into him. Bryant did stop and even said hello to Jones' baby.
- Antawn Jamison seems to embody the classic "he's just a professional" line. That was the first vibe I got from talking to him. He's been through it all and he is very good about putting things in perspective and knows what he he has to do to help his team succeed. Coincidentally, just an hour after he told me he wanted to start being a bit more assertive on both ends, Jamison went out and had his best game of his young Laker career, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.
- Metta World Peace came out on fire in the first quarter and ended up with 19 points, but that wasn't enough for me to change my MWP highlight of the night from the time I overheard him say "She has a big ass." in the lockerroom before the game.
- I had the urge to ask Troy Murphy if this was a huge payback game for him but I resisted.
- After watching him run the break both on film and in person, I have to say that Darius Morris is the worst player in basketball when it comes to hitting wide open shooters in transition. This man takes it right to the rim everytime like he is LeBron. I swear Jodie Meeks had a "WTF" experession on his face for at least four straight possessions after Morris drove into the paint and threw up a brick at the rim rather than kicking it to a wideopen Meeks during the fourth quarter.
- The Mavericks referred to MWP as both "Artest" and "W.Peace" on their lockerroom whiteboard.
- Every single available player for either team played in this game. Every Maverick lodged at least 10 minutes. The only two players from either team that didn't play in this game are old buddies: Nash and Dirk.
- Mark Cuban stood up for the entirety of the Mavs' win over the Knicks on Wednesday. He was pretty docile after the first quarter of this one.
- A German news station sent a couple of people out to this game, presumably to cover Dirk/Kaman as well as the Lakers. Lakers media relations personnel had to ask one German cameraman to stop filming Dwight Howard while he was changing clothes, which amused Howard to no end.
- Mark Cuban wouldn't say much about the Lakers during his treadmill/media session, other than that they have the most vicious Twitter following around. We aren't that bad, are we?
- Strangely, I was more nervous to be in the same lockerroom as Gary Vitti and Kevin Ding than Kobe or Dwight.
- Mavs' rookie Bernard James was their best big man last night. He fought hard on both ends of the floor and finished with four blocked shots in 15 minutes. In case you didn't know, James is a 27-year old rookie that spent six years serving in the Air Force. He went on three tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar and he attained the rank of staff sergeant, which is why his teammates call him "Sarge." He may already be at his ceiling but he is a quality big man that competes and he has produced when given time so far this season.
- Antawn Jamison does not put his pants on the same way we do. Unless you are a weirdo, that is. Jamison goes shoes first, then the pants. If the pants don't fit over the shoes then Jamison says the pants have to go. Crazy.
- Another gem from Dwight Howard's post-game/pre-media session session was when Chuck Person popped his head around the wall to look for somebody. Here's how the exchange went:
Dwight: "Hey Zach Randolph!"
Person: "Randolph? I look much better than him."
Dwight: "It don't matter, ya'll both ugly."
(Person exits the lockerroom)
Dwight (to media): "Y'all wanna know what we call him? Don't laugh, but we call him seal. But not like the singer, but like (insert seal noises here). He LOVES it."
He's a comedian, this guy.
- When they were walking off the floor, I noticed that Kobe was wearing a 4XL jersey, which wasn't surprising considering how baggy his uniform always looks. Dwight? A 2XL. No surprise there, either.
- Devin Ebanks played for the first time since he was arrested for driving under the influence. D'Antoni said that was the first time he had seen Ebanks play and noted that he had a "nice feel for the game." Ebanks made a three in this game and if he can start to hit his outside shot, he could find some kind of a role on this team.
- Jordan Hill confidently stepped into a 22-footer last night. It was incredible to watch.
- Chris Duhon took a picture with my mom.
- As the final seconds ticked off the clock, a "Let's go Lakers!" chant broke out at the American Airlines Center. I was already on my way to the lockerroom at the time but I would have loved to see the look on Mark Cuban's face when that was going down.