NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 10, 2012, in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
If history is any sort of indicator, Monday night's game is there for the taking for the Lakers ... but will the off-court distractions be too much for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to overcome when they meet the Portland Trail Blazers?
The Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers are typically able to hold serve on their homecourt when they meet during the season, as the Blazers won 11 of the last 13 meetings at the Rose Garden while the Lakers have left victorious after seven of the last eight meetings between the two at the Staples Center.
That statistic bodes well for the Lakers on Monday night, then, as they host the Blazers in a game scheduled to be televised by TNT at 10:30 p.m. as the third NBA game to be shown to a national audience on President's Day. The first two will feature the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls followed by a game between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks.
The story of Monday night might well be the burgeoning riff between Kobe Bryant and Lakers management as Pau Gasol continues to be included in trade rumors. Bryant feels caught in the middle of the rumors because he knows they're forcing his teammate's head away from focusing solely on the Lakers -- something he mentioned during his comments to the media on Sunday night.
"I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him ... I'd rather for them to not trade him at all. If they want to do something, I wished they'd just (expletive) do it and if they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it. ...This way he can be comfortable and he can go out and he can perform and he can play and invest all of himself into (the team)."
That'll likely be the center of conversation during the national television broadcast, then, considering it seems Bryant wants something done fairly soon (that's what the expletive meant, right?).
As far as the Blazers are concerned, they've won the last two meetings between the two teams with Gerald Wallace leading Portland to victory at home last month. They have a bit of momentum, too, as their last game was a 20-point drubbing over the Atlanta Hawks as Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge both put up solid numbers.
If history is any sort of indicator, Monday night's game is there for the taking for the Lakers ... but will the off-court distractions be too much?