Brand Has the Night Off

Times Staff Writers

Elton Brand, serving a one-game NBA suspension for shoving Emeka Okafor in Monday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats, participated in the morning shoot-around at Staples Center but was barred from the building Saturday night.

Asked his plans for the evening, the Clipper forward said, laughing, “Sneak into Staples; support my team.” He also joked about throwing a barbecue.

Brand said he had sent word through Okafor’s teammates that he harbored no ill will toward the rookie. He said Okafor had played him physically but fairly.


“Just the stuff we do,” he said. “I have to remain cooler.”


The Lakers and Miami Heat move ever closer to their Dec. 25 game, and already there are signs of acknowledgment, the one-game-at-a-time mantra being kicked aside in advance.

“It’ll probably be history as far as ratings and everything like that’s concerned,” said Laker forward Lamar Odom, reiterating what Shaquille O’Neal predicted before the season. “It’s going to be intense out there. I’m looking forward to that, playing against my old teammates.”

Laker Coach Rudy Tomjanovich preached a less anticipatory approach, giving Lakers-Heat the same importance as Saturday’s game against the Clippers, technically a road game for the Lakers.

Saturday “is worth the same as beating Miami there or San Antonio in San Antonio,” he said. “It’s just as valuable. We’ve got to get this game.”


Tomjanovich continues to face questions about the Lakers’ inability to hold on to double-figure leads in almost half their games.

The latest count: The Lakers have lost leads of 13 or more points in eight games, recovering to win five.

“We have a great announcer who was here who said, ‘The game’s in the refrigerator, the eggs are cooling,’ ” Tomjanovich said. “Well to me, it ain’t over, and there’s that fat lady or whatever, but to me it’s the buzzer.”


More evidence of Bobby Simmons’ value in a breakout season: According to statistics compiled by the website through last Sunday’s games, the Clippers gained an average of 8.8 points while Simmons was on the floor and were outscored by 8.9 when he sat.

Simmons’ cumulative rating of +17.7 ranked behind only 13 other NBA players, among them Kobe Bryant, who was ninth at +20.7. (The Lakers had gained only 2.9 points when Bryant played but lost 17.8 when he sat.)

Andre Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz was the NBA leader at +27.7.

At the other end, one of the worst cumulative ratings was Chris Wilcox’s -14.7, the Clipper forward ranking ahead of only 10 other players that had logged at least 300 minutes. The Clippers had outscored opponents by an average of 13.3 points when Wilcox was on the bench.


Lakers vs. Orlando

Tonight, 6:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- KLAC (570); KWKW (1330).

Records -- Lakers 11-8; Magic 13-6.

Record vs. Magic -- 0-1.

Update -- Orlando has been the surprise of the Eastern Conference, staying stride for stride with Miami for the East’s best record. Point guard Steve Francis, acquired from Houston as part of the Tracy McGrady trade, is averaging 21.5 points. Grant Hill is averaging 20 points in a successful return from numerous foot injuries, but he might sit out tonight because of a bruised shin. The Lakers lost an 18-point lead in a 122-113 loss to the Magic on Nov. 12.