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And away the Lakers go, for 15 days
Jerry West was a fresh-faced rookie with a crew cut the last time anything like this happened.
The Lakers are leaving town for a while, a long while actually, 15 days and nine games on an 8,713-mile journey that will take them through more than half the Eastern Conference.
It is the Lakers' longest trip since 1960-61, their first season in Los Angeles, but that 10-game trip was broken up near its midpoint when the team returned home for several days before Christmas.
There will be no break for the current Lakers, beginning tonight against Detroit. If they don't know each other well enough now, they presumably will by the time they return.
"I don't think we have much of a choice," guard Derek Fisher said, smiling. "Over two weeks, I think we will have spent quite a bit of time together. Hopefully on the court, it'll show."
The trip starts with a flurry against three teams with winning records -- Detroit, Toronto, Washington -- and ends with a whisper against three teams with losing records, Miami, Charlotte, and Minnesota. In between is a mixture of the bad (New Jersey, Atlanta) and good (Orlando).
There will be three sets of back-to-back games, a challenge for any team in a condensed period away from home. In a minor break, five of the trip's nine games are against teams with under-.500 records.
The main reason for the time away is the annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center, although the league decided last summer to tack on an extra game or two beyond the time the Lakers typically leave town in late January and early February.
The Lakers are wounded these days, seemingly losing players and games at the same pace, but Kobe Bryant didn't flinch when asked about the laborious path over the next couple of weeks.
"Everybody's talking about this road trip like we're going to drop, like, nine straight," he said earlier this week. "It's ridiculous, you know what I mean? Like it's Murderers' Row. I'm not too concerned."
The roll call of the injured: Andrew Bynum (knee) and Trevor Ariza (foot) won't accompany the team; Chris Mihm (ankle, heel) went with the team Wednesday, but won't play until the end of the trip, at the earliest; Luke Walton also went with the team, but is day-to-day because of a right hip pointer; and Lamar Odom has a bruised left shin after being kicked in Tuesday's game against New York (X-rays and an MRI exam were negative, and he is expected to play tonight).
Healthy or otherwise, the Lakers are putting a positive spin on the trek.
"I do think there will be a lot of postgame dinners and obviously a lot of plane rides and bus rides where we'll get opportunities to talk and really focus in on what happened in the game that night," Fisher said. "We'll get quite a bit of time to do that on this trip."
Jordan Farmar was selected to take part in the rookie-sophomore challenge Feb. 15 in New Orleans, part of All-Star weekend festivities. . . . DJ Mbenga traveled with the team to Detroit, an indicator he would be signed to another 10-day contract. . . . Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman was suspended by the league for one game because he elbowed Sasha Vujacic in the jaw in Tuesday's game.
at Detroit, 4:30 PST, (Ch. 9, 5:30)
Site -- The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Radio -- 570; 1330.
Records -- Lakers 28-15; Pistons 32-13.
Record vs. Pistons -- 1-0.
Update -- At the Palace, the Pistons have beaten the Lakers eight consecutive times by an average of 15 points, including three games in the 2004 NBA Finals.