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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

It might be a lot of yawners for Lakers.

With the best record in the league, Lakers don't have a lot of marquee games left.

February 11, 2009|MARK HEISLER | ON THE NBA

Arf.

Now for the dog days, that point at midseason when it starts to seem endless, unless you're Shaquille O'Neal, whose dog days used to start around Dec. 15.

For Lakers fans, things to look forward to include . . . uh . . . how about that All-Star game, with Kobe Bryant and O'Neal together again!

Talk about excitement. Tune in Sunday as O'Neal reveals that he and Kobe pretended to feud to sell newspapers, noting the industry's decline since they split up.

As for the present, it shapes up like Tuesday night's game in which the Lakers, back from their triumphant trip, dispatched the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-98.

The Lakers are through with the big three in the East and have one game left with San Antonio and New Orleans.

After tonight's game in Utah, they get a well-earned rest over the All-Star break, except for Bryant and Pau Gasol, who look forward to attending the game, and Phil Jackson, who doesn't.

With the best record and control of ties with Boston and Cleveland, the Lakers have yet to put it all together and they're on a 68-win pace.

Being the best in February doesn't mean much more than being the best in January, or December. On the other hand, if Doc Rivers, Mike Brown and Stan Van Gundy had their choice of teams, I'd bet they'd all take the same one.

The Lakers' wins in Boston and Cleveland will have the Celtics and Cavaliers talking to themselves for months.

This was without Andrew Bynum, whom the Lakers projected to miss eight to 12 months because of his knee injury, to make sure they didn't sit around waiting for him, like last season.

Actually, they project Andrew to miss only eight to 12 weeks, but that may be conservative too. There are now suggestions it will be more like eight (or seven) than 12.

"He came to practice yesterday and we talked a little bit about it," Jackson said before Tuesday's game.

"He showed me his flexibility. He has a brace he's wearing. The swelling is at a minimum right now. He's walking without aid. So he feels pretty good about what he's doing."

As if there isn't enough going right, there has been a Lamar Odom sighting.

Odom, who was great playing alongside Gasol last season, is doing it all over, keeping it going Tuesday night with 12 points and 18 rebounds.

It started in Boston, where he started woefully, passing up shots in the paint, whereupon, Jackson said, "I threw up on his shoes. . . . That's the way he made me feel after the start."

Jackson actually just glared at Odom, but the effect was the same. Lamar went back out and rocked the Celtics' world, and for good measure, rocked the Cavaliers' world too.

The Lakers might now even have a keep-Lamar scenario.

The problem all along has been Odom's salary -- $11.4 million -- relative to his diminished role, with the Lakers eager to cut down their huge luxury-tax bill.

However, trading Vladimir Radmanovic to Charlotte saves about $7 million over two seasons, and could create enough flexibility to keep Odom, if he'll take less money.

Which Odom said he's willing to do.

"Less is still a lot," he said before the game. "I've been blessed. Basketball has given me everything I wanted, and I'm far from greedy.

"And this is where I want to be, so I don't see why not."

Of course, there's always Bryant's latest exploit.

Tuesday night, he became the youngest player ever to score 23,000 points!

You may remember, on Dec. 1, he needed 38 to replace Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest to reach 22,000 and Jackson said putting it in the paper was like "putting a carrot in front of a donkey.

After scoring 21 points in the first half Tuesday, Bryant then surprised everyone by taking only three shots in the second.

So, all good things come to he who waits, assuming he's Kobe Bryant.

It should be noted that Kobe entered the NBA at 18, Chamberlain at 23. Nevertheless, I can hardly wait to see who's the youngest to get to 24,000! Or 23,500!

These days, you take your thrills where you can find them.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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