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Lakers must find way to stay settled in season-opener

Emotions are expected to be high after players receive their championship rings Tuesday night before the game against the Clippers.

October 25, 2009|Broderick Turner

There will be a celebration, a time to honor the 2008-09 NBA champion Lakers, a time to pay homage to their accomplishment.

The ceremony Tuesday night will have the players excited to receive their championship rings. The fans will be in a frenzy to see their beloved Lakers raise the franchise's 15th banner.

But then the Lakers have to play a basketball game against the Clippers, a game in which their emotions will be sky-high, a game in which they'll have to find a way to settle themselves after they are crowned the NBA's best from last season.

"I think you have to really go into it knowing that the emotion in the building is related to something that you've already done," Derek Fisher said. "That's something that doesn't necessarily exist anymore. It's something of the past.

"You really have to emotionally try and stay focused on that night, in terms of 'you're here for a game.' But it's a difficult task."

Fisher knows firsthand.

He was a part of the three consecutive championships the Lakers won earlier this decade and remembers how tough it was to come down from the pregame high.

After the Lakers won the championship in 2000, they lost the season opener at home to the Utah Jazz after getting their rings. After winning the title in 2001, the Lakers got their rings and won the opener over the Portland Trail Blazers. But after the Lakers won the NBA championship in 2002, they got their rings at home and lost to the San Antonio Spurs.

"When we get the rings, we'll be overwhelmed and emotional because we won a championship and this is our reward for winning it," Lamar Odom said. "But you get the ring. You give it to your loved one and then you play basketball."

The Clippers probably will be watching the Lakers get their rings, hoping they can catch the Lakers spent emotionally.

"It's to be expected that the emotion will be there," Fisher said. "We want to win another championship, so we feel like every opportunity to go out and prove to ourselves that we deserve that chance again every time we have a game, then we have to go there preparing ourselves to win. That means keeping your emotions in check."

Mbenga wants time

DJ Mbenga is aware that his playing time will be limited when the season starts. He knows that he is the third-string center behind starter Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who starts at power forward and is the backup center.

But when Mbenga does play, like when he started in place of the injured Bynum on Thursday and Friday night, he said he will give it his all, just like he does in practice.

Mbenga had seven blocked shots Thursday night, being the same defensive presence he is in practice with the Lakers. He followed that up by scoring 14 points Friday night, making all six of his shots, mostly dunks.

"I'm just trying to do my job," Mbenga said. "Andrew is out right now, so I have to do what I have to do."

Mbenga, who is in the final year of his deal that pays him $959,000, played in just 23 games last season and averaged just 7.9 minutes per game.


The Lakers took Saturday off, so there was no update on whether Bynum (right rotator cuff injury) or Gasol (strained right hamstring) will be ready for the opener.


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