As I write this, the Lakers are 27-5, tops in the NBA. I'm back with the team sitting on the bench during games supporting my team. Just being back around the game again is nice. After I work with my therapist rehabbing, I watch the team practice. It is cool to step back and watch things develop. You see things a little differently, maybe a little slower, instead of being caught up in it on the court. Great athletes from all sports say that when the game slows down from their perspective, they can see things develop better, so this is an interesting point of view for me, never having been on the sidelines this much before. You can see things where guys maybe could've made different decisions, and you pick up on subtle little things, that you might not pay as much attention to when you're in the midst everyday. I'm looking to return after the All-Star game February 15. I want to thank all my fans for their support!
I've been doing a lot of stretching with my therapist and this week I start doing some jogging in the pool, with the water taking most of my body weight. That will help get more motion in my knee. I've also been on the court doing some movement exercises, full body weight, but no jumping and running yet. I've been shooting free throws, and that's pretty much it basketball-wise. I don't want to be doing too much with my legs, because a lot of full-out shooting involves the legs. The key thing is to get swelling out -- that will enable me to have a full range of motion. Once that happens, I can start getting the strength back in my leg.
In the meantime, we started off the new year with wins over Utah and Portland, our 14th and 15th straight home wins, so we continue to protect home court, which is key come playoff time. After those games, we were looking at 14 more games in January, which is going to be a nice challenging stretch, playing some tough Western teams and also good Eastern teams like the Pacers, Magic and Cavs. It's going to be a good test. We've been using a short bench, mostly nine players. But I'm going to mess that up in a little bit, lol, when I return!
My former school UCLA opened Pac-10 play with two big road wins over Oregon State and Oregon. Darren Collison said, "We came out and took care of business early.” And they did. But it's a very competitive conference, and there'll be tough games going into other teams' buildings, so it was good to start off with two wins, especially on the road. Stanford is going to be tough, starting off 10-0, and so is Arizona State, who have a Playboy All-America guard pick, James Harden, along with a lot of supporting talent. USC, with freshman star Demar DeRozan, is going to be solid.
UCLA is known for its traditional aggressive play on defense. One key element of coach Ben Howland's successful philosophy is pressure on the ball. He's a big believer that the first line of defense is pressuring whoever has the ball, giving your teammates time to negotiate screens. For instance, if your guy, the one you're guarding, sets a screen, you have to jump out on the ball-handler until your teammate fights through the screen, then you got to get back on your man, so you don't let the ball-handler just pick out whoever they want to pass to whenever they want. You want to put them under duress, so they have to take a split second longer to make decisions. You want to take them out of their comfort zone.