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April 21, 2008

My first Lakers playoff season


(Bill Walton trying to block me out, 1977)

My first season in the playoffs with the Lakers was 1977. That was an up-and-down year in all respects. Our regular season was very successful and we felt that we had a great chance to play in the Finals. All those hopes were lost when we had injuries to two key players: Lucius Allen and Kermit Washington. The Portland Trailblazers beat us in the conference finals and went on to win the world championship from the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.

This season is starting to look the same way. Injuries have had a dramatic impact on the team's chances. Andrew Bynum's emergence as a dominant NBA center was something that had Lakers fans relishing the playoff season but a knee injury to Drew has made it impossible for anyone to know when he will be coming back. The acquisition of Pau Gasol has also buoyed the hopes of the Lakers faithful. An ankle injury almost took out that dream, but Pau has recovered nicely and should be in good shape for the playoff season. Trevor Ariza has also been a player who has come to the forefront as a Laker this year. He is our best defensive player at three positions. But a stress fracture has sidelined Trevor and we are waiting patiently for his return.

At full strength, the Lakers are a formidable crew, but who knows when they will reach that status? I think the playoffs will hold that answer.

The Lakers opened up their post season last night beating the Denver Nuggets 128-114 in LA. The game was rather uneven but it featured fine passing, flagrant fouls and flaring tempers. The Lakers led at halftime by only two points, 58-56. It seemed that the two teams were evenly matched, but in the second half the Lakers pulled away and maintained a lead that Denver could not overcome. The game was especially meaningful for Pau Gasol, who experienced his first playoff win in his seven years in the NBA. His statistics were quite impressive: 36 points on 14 of 20 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free throw line,  16 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots. That’s the type of game that people talk about when they try to figure out who the elite players are. Lamar Odom was very crucial in making the plays that create opportunities for his teammates for easy shots. He finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds while only giving up one turnover. Everyone on the Lakers got into creating assists for their teammates, including Luke Walton, Vladimir Radmanovic and Pau.

Their total of 33 assists (a great Laker number!) was remarkable in this day of the quick jumper. The Nuggets had only 20. Things got ugly at times, especially when the Lakers had an easy shot attempt opportunity. J.R. Smith was called for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter and Anthony Carter (1), Kenyon Martin (1) and Allen Iverson (2) were slapped with technicals. Iverson was ejected as a result of his two techs in quick succession. The crowd was very much into getting under the skin of whoever presented an opportunity. Carmelo Anthony was heckled on every free throw he shot with reminders of his DUI arrest. The Laker faithful are not inclined to be kind at this time of year, and I wonder what else they’ll come up with when given the opportunity. After the game, Coach Phil Jackson chided the Lakers about a few improvements they need to make but said that the victory was quite satisfactory. If things stay this intense, expect a lot more fireworks.


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ok 80+% for kobe --- what is going on???
I'll tell ya what - this vote is biased because its all Laker fans (no offense - KAJ) voting for a Lakers player.
I'm saying you have to give credit where its due and this season it is CHRIS PAUL & New Orleans Hornets. I mean man look at Boston and Lakers --- they have serveral superstars each and Hornets have stars who need the glue, Superstar -> Chris Paul to lead them. As a neutral person - I do not cheer for anyone particular team - i think Chris Paul should be the MVP because MVP stands for Most Valuble Player - a single player; unlike Lakers or Boston who have mutiple MVP type players: Garnett, Allen, Pierce, Casell , Kobe, Gasol, Fisher, Odom.

Rod from Burbank

Kareem, Thank you for taking the time to Blog, and allow us fans the opportunity to read your very well put together insight on the Lakers. You are an Icon to NBA fans all over the world, and I appreciate the many positives you have contributed to fans and society not only on the court, but more importantly off the court. You are a great example of how to be pro in the NBA. Take care of Andrew for us, and thank you once again for being a great person all these years! Happy Birthday ! Signed, Rod from Burbank

fred warrick

I remember the great series between your Lakers and the Golden State Warriors in the opening round of those 1977 playoffs.

Despite playing against the center tandem of Robert Parish and Cifford Ray, it seemed as if you were near a quadruple double in every game, and Don Chaney clamped down on Phil Smith - a rising star as a shooting guard for the Warriors.

I'm sure Kermit Washington would have helped neutralize Portland's Maurice Lucas, but the Trailblazers would have been a difficult team to beat even at full strength. They were one of the quickest teams I've ever seen in my fourty years of NBA watching. Had the Lakers been completely healthy I think that would've been a 7 game series and one of the best ever - no matter who came out on top.

It's unfortunate you seldom got to compete in the playoffs against Walton. He had a bright future in 1977 derailed by health issues

Onto 08 - good luck. Here's hoping health issues don't derail another good young team in Los Angeles - or another good young center in Bynum.

fred warrick


Does the Dream got beef with Kobe? he didn't mention kobe once in his whole blog. I aint trying to create things here, just stating a fact.


Denver made is way too easy for LA, and I expect that trend to continue tomorrow night.

fred warrick

upon re-reading this column - Gasol's numbers for game one were pretty much your stats for the 7 gane series against Golden State your first playoffs as a Laker

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Captain Kareem

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered by many fans and sportswriters to be the greatest basketball player of all time. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center, famous for his indefensible skyhook, dominated the NBA for 20 years, first with the Milwaukee Bucks then with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that he was the star of the UCLA Bruins teams that won three consecutive NCAA championships. Kareem was the NBA's MVP six times, a 19-time all-star and set the NBA all-time records in nine categories. He is the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, a record that may never be broken.

Since retiring as a player in 1989, Kareem has balanced his love of basketball with his love of history. In 2002 he led a USBL team, the Oklahoma Storm, to a championship. Since 2005, he has been the special assistant coach for the Lakers, working with Andrew Bynum.

In 2008 he was chosen The Greatest Player in College Basketball History.

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His audio adaptation, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Audio & Musical Journey through the Harlem Renaissance," is a four-volume compilation read by Bob Costas, Avery Brooks, Jesse L. Martin, and Stanley Crouch, and features private and fascinating conversations with dozens of icons, including Coach John Wooden, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones and Billy Crystal. He has also been written to L.A. Times, under the Sports section.

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