Bryant faces tough matchup in Sixers

first_imgEL SEGUNDO — As it should be for a game featuring the NBA’s two leading scorers, all attention tonight at Staples Center will be focused on Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, who already have scored 40 points or more in a combined 14 games this season. An interesting subplot, however, might be the matchup between Bryant and Philadelphia’s second-year guard Andre Iguodala, who played one of the best defensive games of the season against Bryant when the two teams met Nov. 11. With Iguodala blanketing him, Bryant shot a season-worst 7-of-27 and finished with 17 points in the Lakers’ 85-81 loss. Bryant missed a three-pointer over Iguodala with 5.9 seconds left and spent the fourth quarter trying to create any space possible. “That’s something Kobe has to watch with athletic players,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, “that it doesn’t get to be a matchup that’s just a mano-a-mano type of thing where you get involved ego-wise into it. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson “But it’s a challenge, and Iguodala played him very well.” Bryant, bothered by a bad finger in the November game, was reluctant to give Iguodala much credit after practice Thursday, calling the 21-year-old guard an “OK defender.” “I was playing in a closet,” Bryant added. “If they want to use the same defensive principles (tonight), we should be able to get some good looks, some open looks because our spacing is much better now than it was then.” Bryant will be returning from a two-game suspension and trying to lift the Lakers out of their five-game losing streak. As for Iverson, Jackson has not seen much from guards Smush Parker and Sasha Vujacic to give him reason for encouragement. “They have not played good defense for quite a while,” Jackson said. “But we’ll chase and we’ll play team defense (Friday) and hopefully play as well as we can.” center_img From Utah’s Deron Williams to Memphis’ Damon Stoudamire, the Lakers have been unable to stop opposing point guards recently. “We need more pressure defense,” Jackson added. “We’ve been getting away from what was good for us early in the year in putting some pressure on the ball and making guys have to bring it down court under duress.” NEW ARRIVAL? The agent for Ronny Turiaf put the odds at 50-50 that the 22-year-old forward would sign with the Lakers by Tuesday, the NBA deadline for all contracts to be guaranteed for the rest of the season. Agent Keith Moss also estimated that Turiaf is at 75 percent as he tries to regain his conditioning after undergoing heart surgery in July. Turiaf, a second-round draft pick by the Lakers, already has been medically cleared to play. “He’s excited but guarded, he doesn’t want to get his hopes up again,” Moss said. “We’re just playing the waiting game right now to see what happens.” Turiaf played his fifth game with the CBA’s Yakama (Wash.) Sun Kings on Tuesday, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes. The Lakers sent scouting director Bill Bertka to South Dakota to see Turiaf play twice this week. Moss also said Turiaf would play no more than two or three more games with Yakama before considering his options overseas. Turiaf has four or five offers to play for teams in France and Spain, with calls coming every day, according to Moss. ARTEST UPDATE Jackson was asked if the Lakers considered themselves out of the derby to acquire Indiana forward Ron Artest. “Right now it looks like no one’s in it,” Jackson said. “It’s been about a month, hasn’t it? It’s just an ongoing saga.” FAMILIAR FACE Former Lakers center Vlade Divac stopped by practice, having recently completed a month-long scouting trip to Europe. Earlier in the week, second-year guard Sasha Vujacic visited with Divac at his home in Park City, Utah. Vujacic described Divac as riding around on a snowmobile like a “15-year-old kid.” Divac, meanwhile, said he was happy to see Vujacic’s progress from his rookie season. “If you look at training camp, he didn’t do well,” Divac said. “But he showed last year that he can make shots. This year, he improved defensively. That’s been a big plus for him. He’s still young, he’s got to learn the game. But so far, he’s doing pretty good. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more