There was an interesting moment Monday afternoon in El Segundo when Kobe Bryant was asked about his All-Star experience and transition into among the youngest elder statesmen you'll find in any industry.
"That's what I am. It's pretty cool. [Russell] Westbrook had a post turnaround jump shot, and looked back to the bench. It was pretty clear where he got it from," Bryant said with a smile. "And it's pretty cool, because I got it from M.J. [Michael Jordan, though if you needed me to tell you I suspect Google did you wrong]. That time has come and gone, and now they're watching and getting [things] from me."
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Lakers may want to crank up some game film from more consistent periods of the last three seasons and imitate themselves. This year's version, winning two-thirds of its games, can hardly be classified as a disaster, but while the Lakers have periodically flashed the ability to beat just about anyone (and certainly have the track record), they've really shown the ability to lose to absolutely anyone.
This is the context in which the Lakers expressed excitement Monday afternoon to hit the stretch run.
As you'll see in the videos, as a group, they spoke of defensive rotations, of focus, of offensive execution and rhythm. Not necessarily anything unsaid before the break, but as GM Mitch Kupchak noted Thursday night (specifically referencing the Cleveland game, but applicable to the team's inconsistencies generally), the big question is how they respond coming out.
With eight games against current playoff teams- plus Charlotte, who beat them by 20 last week- over their next 11, the Lakers will quickly get a sense if the break did them any good. Like the rest of his teammates, Andrew Bynum understands the need to win. Now. "That's really the only concern we have. We can't afford any more losses," he said. "The schedule, it is what it is. We need to come out here and win games. At this point, we're tied for fourth, or in third and tied right now in losses with [Oklahoma City]... We can't afford to keep going down in the standings. We need to get some wins, so that we get better position than where we are, because [right now] we still won't have home court against everyone except San Antonio."
(Meaning they want to finish with as high a seed as possible, and at least from Bynum's (correct) perspective, they won't be catching the Spurs. It's the first time I've heard anyone say it out loud.)
Here's Kobe on the stretch run, his All-Star weekend, and more:
For more video from Monday afternoon, including Phil Jackson, Bynum, and Lamar Odom, click below the jump...
Jackson, on his All-Star break, Monday's practice, and what the team needs to work on going forward:
Jackson, on the team's offensive struggles, and more on his break:
Odom, on Monday's practice, the need for improvement going forward, and a weekend that didn't include watching the All-Star Game, for reasons he didn't specify but aren't all that hard to guess:
Bynum, who also said Monday his surgically repaired right knee still isn't where he wants it to be, on the team going forward: