There was a reason Phil Jackson could be seen balancing a large stack of books earlier this week at a Los Angeles bookstore.
The Lakers coach bought books for each of his players and distributed them before their eight-game trip, part of an annual ritual before a Jackson-coached team begins a long winter trip.
Kobe Bryant, who rolls his eyes whenever Jackson gives him a book, probably won't be perusing what Jackson handed him: "Montana 1948," a Larry Watson novel about a middle-class Montana family torn apart by a scandal in the late 1940s.
"He never reads my books so I got him a book about Montana," Jackson said Thursday. "I'm not looking forward to having a review from him. It was about a part of the country I grew up in, so it was something special for me to give it to him."
Pau Gasol was given "2666," an 898-page novel by Roberto Bolano that focuses on hundreds of unsolved murders in northern Mexico.
"Pau's a reader," Jackson said. "He's got himself a tome right there."
Ron Artest was given "Sacred Hoops," another way for Artest to digest Jackson's share-the-ball system. Jackson, after all, wrote the book about his own coaching philosophy.
Andrew Bynum received "Six Easy Pieces: Easy Rawlins Stories" a collection of short stories by one of Jackson's favorite authors, Walter Mosley. Bynum said he had to finish two other books before he would get to Jackson's gift.
"He said it was a good, quick read," Bynum said.
Lamar Odom also got a Mosley book, "The Right Mistake," about an ex-convict who gains wisdom as a 60-year-old by scheduling weekly meetings with people from a wide cross-section of society.
None of it helped the Lakers in the first game of their trip. They lost to Cleveland on Thursday, 93-87, getting outmuscled and outhustled by the more active and assertive Cavaliers.
Bryant an All-Star
Bryant was selected to play in his 12th All-Star game, joining Phoenix guard Steve Nash, Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire, Denver forward Carmelo Anthony and San Antonio forward Tim Duncan as the Western Conference starters.
Bryant had 2.46 million votes but was passed in recent weeks by Cleveland forward LeBron James (2.55 million) to finish second in overall voting.
Bynum had more than 981,000 votes but finished a distant second to Stoudemire (1.8 million votes) among West centers. Gasol had 1.05 million votes and finished fourth among West forwards.
The reserves will be announced by the league next Thursday. The All-Star game is Feb. 14 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.