Powered by Kobe Bryant’s 31 points in three quarters of work, the Los Angeles Lakers easily defeated the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center, 99-89. Pau Gasol chipped in 13 points, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic posted 11 points apiece, and Derek Fisher added 10 points to pace the victory. Lamar Odom had another off shooting night, finishing with only two points, but he grabbed 13 rebounds, dished off for 8 assists and added 6 blocked shots. The Bench Mob made an appearance tonight after taking the previous two games off, scoring 32 points and effectively breaking the game wide open in the third quarter. Jordan Farmer and Josh Powell both contributed 8 points each with Powell adding 8 rebounds as well. DJ Mbenga provided the highlight of the night with his spirited play, first by blocking a dunk attempt by Rudy Gay, then by finishing the play with a 15-footer at the other end. The Lakers bench exploded with his blocked shot, then nearly spilled onto the floor when he connected on his jumper. Mbenga followed this up with a similar play, this time blocking Gay’s lay-in attempt and then sinking a 21-footer. Clearly soaking up his newfound glory, Mbenga almost floored Kobe as the two chest-bumped when Memphis called time-out. O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol led Memphis with 17 points each, but the Grizzlies were outscored 20-0 on fast break points, lost in the assist department, 28-19, and committed 19 turnovers to the Lakers’ 10. It was a much needed victory after two, subpar performances on the road, and also a night for free tacos.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
Lamar Odom did an unusual thing the other day. He took one on the chin… Not in game action for the Los Angeles Lakers, but rather to absolve himself of past wrongdoings. He stood up, took notice, and apologized to a former coach. Odom, then with the Clippers with Alvin Gentry at the helm, was a troubled and tormented soul. Scrapes with the law, followed by disciplinary action brought forth by the league for drug use left Gentry with an emotionally fragile and sensitive 20-yrs. old point forward. The expectations that came along with his tremendous skills proved to be too much to handle and ultimately led to his trade out of Los Angeles to the Miami Heat. But along the way, Gentry was blamed for the team’s failures and discarded midseason in favor of assistant Dennis Johnson, who took over on an interim basis and was ultimately succeeded by Mike Dunleavy.
When any team (professional, amateur, developmental, high school, pee-wee, church league) loses more than its fair share of games, accusatory fingers from fans and supporters alike point in only one direction. We have become extremely comfortable leveling blame at our leaders, not ourselves, from everyday politics to our litigious society down to school and sports. Regardless if a participant is out of shape, incompetent, or the nephew of the company sponsor, a head coach’s job is to motivate them, get the most out of their limited skill-set, and most importantly, win. In almost every case, this is an almost impossible task, and all coaches are either keenly aware of this, or just fooling themselves.
To succeed in the NBA, you need a highly skilled athlete who must mesh his individual talent with other similarly skilled athletes to form a perfect, cohesive unit. Each piece of the puzzle must fit snugly and uniformly together in order to prosper. Add in god-given physical attributes, intelligence and maturity beyond one’s years, and finally an ample dosage of luck, a generous dash of perfect timing and a heaping amount of good fortune, and still, all of these ingredients may not be enough to get the job done. Alvin Gentry may not have had the perfect players to compete nor the pedigree to succeed, but he did make a lasting impression on at least one young player. It was this realization that has brought Lamar Odom full circle to where he is today. Competing in, succeeding in, and living in life.