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LAKERS FYI

Lakers happy to have a day off

Break in the schedule gives them some rest after victory at Denver.

January 22, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan

Finally, a breather.

After 15 games in 25 days, the Lakers were told to stay home Saturday, their first non-basketball day in weeks.

"It's beautiful," forward Ron Artest said. "It's definitely necessary. I know Kobe [Bryant] needs it. He's been working hard. And Pau [Gasol] and 'Drew [Bynum]. It's great. It's perfect timing."

The Lakers deserved some down time after a methodical 107-97 victory Friday over Denver. Artest was key to the Lakers' cause, scoring a season-high 19 points and helping force Carmelo Anthony into a rough night (23 points on 10-for-24 shooting).

Lamar Odom continued his steady play with his 19th double-double this season and NBA-leading sixth as a reserve.

Gasol, Odom and Bynum pushed the Lakers to an overwhelming 47-27 rebounding edge, the largest negative discrepancy for Denver in a home game since November 2001, also against the Lakers.

A day off? The Lakers will take it.

"Ready for a little bit of rest," Bynum said, though he was cognizant that harder days were ahead on the schedule.

The Lakers (32-13) don't play again until Tuesday against Utah at Staples Center. Their home game next Sunday against Boston looms in the distance, though Bynum is pointing toward a seven-game trip that starts Feb. 5 in New Orleans and also takes the Lakers through Boston and Orlando.

"We've been struggling on the road as of late, so we need to really get prepared for that," he said.

Too late?

Some NBA followers think the Western Conference centers are the weakest All-Star crop since Jamaal Magloire was an East All-Star center with New Orleans in 2004.

Yao Ming is expected to be voted the starter but he will miss the game, and the rest of the season, because of an ankle injury, leaving at least two openings at center.

Dallas' Tyson Chandler and Denver's Nene are mentioned as candidates, though Bynum pushed around Nene numerous times Friday, scoring 17 points on seven-for-11 shooting.

Bynum has averaged 11 points and 7.3 rebounds since returning from off-season knee surgery.

He has played only 21 of the Lakers' 45 games and is second in voting behind Yao, but doesn't think he'll make the team as a reserve, which will be determined by West coaches in coming weeks.

"I think it's too late," he said Friday. "But I still think I'm going to pick my game up and get back to where I was."

Then he added an important caveat.

"And stay healthy," he said, smiling.

Bynum has not played in an All-Star Game in part because of a career continually interrupted by injuries. He averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds in 65 regular-season games last season.

The All-Star Game is Feb. 20 at Staples Center. Bryant leads all players in voting.

Gasol or Odom could make the team as a reserve forward, though it is a crowded field that includes Tim Duncan of San Antonio, Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas, Blake Griffin of the Clippers, LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland and Kevin Love of Minnesota.

The starting West forwards, as of the latest voting update, would be Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and Denver's Anthony.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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