|Lakers plan another team dinner, viewing party|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 18 May 2008 12:29|
The question is, will Kobe Bryant pick up the tab again?
``As MVP, I think he's going to step up,'' Sasha Vujacic said.
``He's got to, you can't break tradition,'' Jordan Farmar said.
Added Luke Walton: ``I don't know, he doesn't have to, he's already picked up two in a row. It has been good luck for us the last two times.''
The Lakers gathered before the playoffs for a players-only dinner, and went on to sweep Denver in the first round. Bryant paid the bill.
Then, they got together May 2 to watch the final game of the Houston-Utah series. Bryant got the check again.
Having eliminated the Jazz in six games, the Lakers will watch Monday night's seventh game of the San Antonio-New Orleans series at a site to be determined to see who'll they face in the Western Conference finals, which begin Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Bryant wasn't around the team practice facility Sunday to discuss the matter, having been given the day off by coach Phil Jackson. Fellow starters Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol had the same option, but Gasol showed up for treatment on his ankle and back.
Except for Vujacic, the other Lakers took part in an informal workout of around 90 minutes that included conditioning, light scrimmaging and shooting. Vujacic received treatment for a sore neck, the result of a charging foul he took from Paul Millsap late in Friday night's 108-105 series-clinching victory at Utah, and a sore right big toe.
``I'm doing better, two days of rest,'' Vujacic said. ``I took a charge, it was worth it. We got away from a win. It was for a good cause. I just did what I had to do. It didn't feel good afterward.''
Nevertheless, Vujacic's teammates teased him following the game.
``My first charge of the year,'' he said with a sheepish grin.
Vujacic, who scored 12 points in the finale against Utah and is averaging 8.7 points in the playoffs, said it didn't matter whether the Lakers faced the Spurs or the Hornets.
``Both point guards (San Antonio's Tony Parker and New Orleans' Chris Paul) are very good,'' he said. ``We're familiar with both teams. Both matchups are really good. I think it's going to be an exciting series, no matter who we play.
``We know the load is on our shoulders. We're ready to take the pressure.''
Jackson said he had one concern at this stage.
``It's always going to be health, how healthy you are going into these series,'' the coach said. ``This part, having two days off for the starters, having the other guys go through conditioning today, that's a good thing.''
Jackson expressed the opinion that either team the Lakers meet in the conference finals will give his team a difficult time.
``There's no comfort knowing you're going up against a team one or two games behind you in the win column,'' he said. ``You've got a team (San Antonio) with all the experience in the world, they've been through some heavy battles, they're the oldest team in the league. The other side (New Orleans), you have a very young team with confidence, very athletic, very capable.
``You've got two teams who are very confident, very proficient.''
Jackson noted some members of his second unit struggled against the Jazz and pointed to confidence as a factor.
``You just don't have an opportunity to practice and establish that rhythm,'' Jackson said. ``Tomorrow will be an opportunity to do that.''
One player in particular who struggled was Farmar, a 21-year-old second-year guard who shot 3-for-23 and scored only 10 points in six games against the Jazz.
``I think it's just the way the ball was bouncing, being a little more passive than I usually am,'' he said. ``There's nothing like experience. I wanted to be aggressive but be smart. I learned from it. I'll be better. It was a tough series, I grew a lot from it.''
Jackson said he didn't know how much forward Trevor Ariza might play in the conference finals. Ariza, who hasn't played since breaking his right foot Jan. 20, was cleared for full contact last week.
``We just have to see him practice, see how he fits in,'' Jackson said.