Lakers Barnstorming Tour

ONTARIO, Calif. — Dwight Howard‘s best moves came as he danced to “Gangnam Style” during a third-quarter time out. Kobe Bryant‘s came before the game as he unleashed a new set of hysterical insults directed at one of his favorite targets, former Lakers point guard Smush Parker.
As for the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers, well, they got some work in during a 93-75 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Another stop on the annual barnstorming tour, another loss that basically means nothing in the grand scheme. But at some point before the start of the regular season on Oct. 30, you’d like to see what the Lakers look like at full strength for one of these games. Or at least be playing with more of their key players as they get closer to the games that count.
That obviously didn’t happen Wednesday night as Bryant was a late scratch because of a strained right shoulder and Howard sat out again as he continues to cautiously make his way from back surgery.
Bryant said he didn’t think his injury was serious. “Just a little pinch,” he said before the game. He was pretty confident he’d be back by Saturday’s exhibition game against Utah at Staples Center, if not sooner.
So mostly it was the fans in the Inland Empire who missed much by him not playing Wednesday. And Bryant actually seemed to feel a little bad about it.
“This stuff is fun,” he said, referring to the Lakers’ tradition of playing exhibition games all over California. “You don’t get a chance to play in front of them often. So now you get a chance to see the team up close and personal.”
A nice sentiment, sure. But not a good enough reason to risk making his shoulder any worse.
“It’s just a coaches’ decision,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “He always champs at the bit to play. But today I said, ‘You can fight me on it, but it’s done.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ I was like, ‘Yes.’
“But Kobe always wants to play. I don’t know when the guy doesn’t want to play. He’s a competitor, that’s his nature.”
Meeks starts, never really gets started
Jodie Meeks started in place of Bryant, but it didn’t exactly go well. The third-year guard from Kentucky has impressed Brown with his intelligence and toughness. It was his shooting stroke that let him down Wednesday though as he went 1-for-7 from the field. He did haul in five rebounds and make all of his four free throws. Brown said afterward that he was impressed with Meeks overall, despite his rough shooting night, because of the toughness he showed on defense.
Steve Nash played 25 minutes and seemed totally in control of the game when he was in there. Nash made six of his nine shots to finish with 13 points. He also grabbed four rebounds and passed out four assists.
Pau, Jamison go deep
So much for spreading the minutes out. With Howard and backup Jordan Hill out because of back injuries, Pau Gasol played a healthy 30 minutes and Antawn Jamison played nearly 25 minutes. Earl Clark, whom Brown had singled out as a guy who’d pick up some of the slack for Hill at practice Tuesday, didn’t get off the bench until late in the fourth quarter.
Gasol went just 3-for-12 from the field (eight points) with only three rebounds. Jamison was just 2-for-7 (four points) but pulled down five rebounds. Brown said Gasol played a lot of minutes because “he’s working on his conditioning.”

Ramona Shelburne

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