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Lakers' European trip is time for a change

Trainer has tips for adjusting after a long flight. Phil Jackson isn't thrilled about leaving camp.

September 29, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

It has been almost 20 years since the Lakers played a game outside of North America, so the refresher courses have been prevalent at practice this week, courtesy of longtime trainer Gary Vitti.

An 11-hour flight and an eight-hour time change await the Lakers, who leave for Europe a little after 5 p.m. Thursday, arrive in London about noon Friday and will go right to a light practice at O2 Arena.

"We're not going to go out there and scrimmage and knock heads," Vitti said. "It's just a chance to get off the plane and get moving because you stiffen up on the plane."

The Lakers play exhibition games Monday in London against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Thursday in Barcelona against FC Barcelona, a top-flight pro European team. The Lakers haven't played outside North America since two exhibitions in France in 1991.

Vitti's keys to acclimating to the time change: Drink a lot of water and don't nap upon arrival.

"You get dehydrated on flights, so stay away from caffeine and alcohol drinks," he said. "And then try to get on their time schedule as soon as you can. The tendency is you're really worn out and you want to take a nap at five or six o'clock, but it's the worst thing you can do. The idea is to stay up until your normal bedtime, say 11 o'clock or midnight and wake up in the morning ready to go."

The Lakers will have 105 people on their chartered 777 jet, more than double their normal traveling party. Players and team personnel are allowed to bring a guest, the main reason for the larger-than-usual flight manifest.

"We've got a lot of people," Vitti said. "There's a lot of luggage."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson isn't exactly thrilled about going to Europe, in case his recent comments about the trip weren't clear.

"This training camp is kind of a bust, as we call it," he said last week, unhappy that the Lakers couldn't hold camp solely at their training facility in El Segundo. "We don't anticipate that the first two weeks we're going to gain any ground. It's our turn to go [to Europe] and we'll make the best out of it."

Pau Gasol has done the trip from the U.S. to Europe numerous times since joining the league in 2001 out of Spain. He knows it can be complicated to adjust to the time change.

"Your body feels a little out of whack and your energy is not all there and your head is not all there, but it's good to get a little sweat going and exercise," he said. "You don't want to kill the team during the practice, but executing a few things and stretching makes sense."

Then there's Ron Artest, who just shrugged at it all.

"Once I land on any flight, I go right to the gym," he said. "Your body's all messed up, so you've got to get it used to everything. The first day will be tough, your body will be cramped up and then you stretch it out and you'll be good for the next day."

Bynum update

Andrew Bynum started shooting flat-footed off to the side during Wednesday's practice, a small step in his rehabilitation from off-season knee surgery.

He will go with the team to Europe because all the Lakers' trainers and physical therapists will be there. The team has declined to provide a timetable, but Bynum is expected to return to game action in mid-to-late November.

Still popular

Kobe Bryant's jersey was the top NBA seller in Europe for a third consecutive year, the NBA will announce Thursday. LeBron James was second and Dwyane Wade was third, based on sales at retail locations throughout Europe during the 2009-10 season.

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