LOS ANGELES — The best way for the Los Angeles Lakers to honor their late owner, Jerry Buss, was to beat the hated Boston Celtics.
Wednesday night the Lakers did just that, clobbering the Celtics 113-99 at Staples Center. Dwight Howard had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant added 16 as the Lakers improved their record to 26-29.
“It’s very fitting (we beat the Celtics)” Bryant said. “Sports always seems to have those poetic stories. Something like (Buss’ death) happens and we just happen to be playing the Celtics the next game.
“He would have loved it.”
Bryant went on to express gratitude for everything Buss had done for him.
“It’s a huge honor to play for this organization; everything he’s built,” Kobe said. “You look around and you look at all the trophies and you remember the parades, and it all came from this one man — his vision.
“His vision transcended the game. It became pop culture and his impact is a global one.”
Howard said that Buss was definitely on the collective minds of the team.
“We came out with great energy and played a great game,” Howard said. “We want to get this thing (making the playoffs) done for Dr. Buss.”
However, “we” could have a totally different definition by noon Pacific time on Thursday, the deadline for NBA trades to be made. Both the Lakers and Celtics (28-26) have been mentioned as teams that could be making changes.
Rumors have had the Lakers trying to trade Howard, afraid he will walk away as a free agent at the end of the season. General manager Mitch Kupchak told everyone who asked that the Lakers center is not going to be traded, saying on a national radio show on Wednesday that Howard is “the future of the Lakers franchise.
“I tell everybody the same thing — teams and the media — that we’re not going to listen to trades for Dwight,” Kupchak said before the Celtics game. “Dwight is not going to be traded. Why they don’t believe me, I can’t understand.”
However, the GM didn’t give any such assurances about Pau Gasol, currently out until at least late-March with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.
According to which rumor you believe, the Celtics are either being asked about the availability of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, or they’re shopping the pair along with an injured Rajon Rondo.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers laughed about the rumor mill when was asked about possibly having a different team on Thursday.
“That stuff has been going on forever,” Rivers said. “As a player, I just ignored the rumors, and I tell my players the same thing. If it happens, it happens. I can’t concern myself with it, even if I don’t know what my team is going to look like in 24 hours.”
One report had the Celtics receiving point guard Eric Bledsoe and either center DeAndre Jordan or forward Caron Butler from the Clippers in exchange for Garnett. During All-Star weekend, Garnett said he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause, saying he wants to retire in Boston green.
Wednesday, the Clippers reportedly pulled their offer, but that could be a smokescreen to keep a possible agreement as quiet as possible. Coach Vinny Del Negro is said to be pushing for the deal.
Regarding a possible trade involving Pierce, league sources told Yahoo! Sports that Pierce was possibly heading to Brooklyn for the Nets’ Kris Humphries, guard MarShon Brooks and a first-round pick. Boston reportedly wants a bigger package — possibly two first-round picks — for the original member of the Big Three. The Nets aren’t likely interested at that steep price.
If the Celtics trade either one, don’t they have to trade both? What would be the strategy in keeping Garnett or Pierce to be part of a rebuilding process? If they did trade Pierce and Garnett, would that keep Rondo safe? That seems to be logical, but of the Big Three, the Celtics seem determined to rid themselves of their point guard.
Rondo is without question one of the best players in the league, but he’s one of the least popular players in his own locker room. Also he won’t be back until around the 2014 All-Star Game after tearing his ACL, prompting Boston’s interest in Bledsoe. NOTES
Steve Nash collected seven assists to move ahead of Laker great Magic Johnson for fourth place on the all-time assist list. Nash has 10,144 during his career … Earl Clark had a career-high 16 rebounds.
1 — Where has this Laker team been all season? They beat Boston with ease, and instead of falling apart for quarters at a time, it only happened for a few minutes in the entire game. Howard and Nash played well together for one of the few times this season, going a combined 16 of 20 from the field. If they can play like this every night, LA can go 20-7 and make the playoffs. But after the way they performed in most of the first 54 games, do you believe they’ll actually do it?
2 — The Lakers are living in a world the franchise hasn’t seen in the 33-plus years since Buss bought the team. There’s no sole decision maker, and many observers are already hinting that Jim Buss and his sister, Jeanie, will be at each other’s throats sooner than later. Some of the LA media are jumping on the Jeanie bandwagon, saying the team will be better with her running the entire operation. Now, Jerry ran the team brilliantly, so why wouldn’t he have the sense to pick the best possible succession plan for his beloved Lakers? He chose Jim and Jeanie to work together, and people should respect his choice.
3 — It’s likely going to be closer to the playoffs — if at all — that Gasol is ready to play again. Even if he is, there’s certainly no guarantee that the Lakers will even make the postseason. He’s still walking around on crutches and looking to be in a tremendous amount of pain despite the hours of treatment he’s going through each day. Rehabbing plantar fascia injuries is one of the most unpredictable things an athlete can do, because time is usually the best option for healing. With Gasol, it might be a long, long time.