Mike Bresnahan covers the Lakers for the Times. Readers' questions about the Lakers will be answered every week.
Question: While approaching the restroom during halftime of a recent USC game, I noticed Jerry Buss standing ahead of me decked out in Trojan gear. The guy in front of me congratulated him on winning the championship. As I walked by I just pointed at him, smiled and said, "You should have never let Pau play in the European championships," to which he replied, "You know, I think you're right."
So if he winds up injured all year he could certainly derail the Lakers' hopes to repeat, more than any other player on the team.
-- Bruce Alan, Granada Hills
Answer: Now that is an insider report. I think it's the first-ever Lakers scoop on the way to the urinal.
Gasol is on his way back after missing 11 games, but your e-mail brings up a good point. When is too much basketball simply too much?
The Lakers went all the way from October to mid-June before winning the championship, and then, after a brief rest, some players began taking part in international competition, going through practices and tournaments with their respective countries.
It's a sticky situation not only for the Lakers, who want to protect their multimillion-dollar investments without irritating players who have national pride, but also for the NBA, which wants to showcase its players around the world . . . as long as nobody gets hurt. It's a big if.
Some players get hurt while they're overseas (Gasol suffered a finger injury that required minor surgery). Some get hurt when they come back (Gasol's hamstring). And then some do both (Gasol).
All Lakers players are contractually banned from activities such as hang gliding, bungee jumping and rappelling. (Snowboarding should also be included. Call it the "Radmanovic Addendum.") But should Gasol be barred from playing for Spain? Should Kobe Bryant be banned from representing the U.S.?
I'm going to say no on both accounts. Say you're a money manager making big bucks. You want to go with your buddies to climb Kilimanjaro.
Fine. Get in good shape, take a ton of climbing classes, and have fun. No need to get permission from the boss, other than to request vacation days.
I feel the same way with NBA players. As long as they're not doing something that is contractually forbidden, they can do what they want during the off-season.
What's the NBA's take on the issue? Maybe I'll follow David Stern into the bathroom and ask him.
Q: As I was supposed to be writing a term paper, I stumbled across the news that Allen Iverson is now, once again, a free agent. In your wildest imagination can you see Iverson in a Lakers jersey?! As much as I love A.I., even I think this would be a total nightmare. We're already pushing our limits with Ron Artest (who is doing a great job in my opinion), but if A.I. really would settle for coming off the bench for a contender, do you think in some crazy way it could work? We seem to really need some kind of spark off the bench.
-- Suki Thind, Duarte
A: Any time I can steer people away from studying and other important things . . . I'm here to help!
Allen Iverson, however, would not be much of a help to the Lakers. When he signed with the Grizzlies before the season, I had one thought -- this will end badly.
And it did, obviously.
The Grizzlies have a young backcourt with good potential (O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley). Adding Iverson to the mix is like watering your plants with lighter fluid. Bad idea.
The Lakers won't make the same mistake.
Once Gasol comes back, Lamar Odom returns to reserve status and, voila, there's your spark off the bench.
Now get back to the books.
Q: The Lakers look totally out of sync and Ron Artest is still trying to figure out the triangle. Biggest problem is discipline. I believe that they are not working hard or have the desire right now and are totally resting on their "we just won a championship" [mind-set]. But it's just matter of time before they gel and get into a groove.
A: Hmmmm. This one was mysteriously sent by "Phil," and it pinpointed exactly what's wrong with the Lakers so far.
I think the Zen Master's sending me e-mails.
And he didn't even mention Gasol, which shows how disappointed he is in the length of time it's taken his All-Star forward to get back to the court.
I agree with "Phil" that the Lakers look horribly unmotivated. Out of sync too.
But it's also true that it's only a matter of time before the Lakers get their groove back. Like, probably, tonight, when Gasol returns against Chicago.
Thanks for the e-mail, "Phil." See ya at the game tonight?
Q: I'm a huge Lakers fan here in the Bay Area. Wanted to see how we can start a campaign to get Mr. Shannon Brown in the dunk contest for this year's All-Star weekend. He's been throwing it down with lots of authority, style and height, and I think he would shock Dwight Howard and LeBron. I just thought I'd ask you how we can get this started.
-- Paolo Dava, Antioch
A: Consider it done. And so is this Q&A session.