The Lakers may be 2-7 away from Staples, facing a six-game, 10-day road trip kicking off Friday in Denver, followed by tough dates in Utah, and Philadelphia. Combined home records: 28-8. Technically speaking, this is a classic "Nothing's gotta give" scenario.
Hakuna matata, says Kobe Bryant, who suggested Wednesday following practice in El Segundo the team might be better than the road record suggests.
"I'm not really worried about it. I'm excited to get on the road and play. I'm extremely confident that we'll play much better."
For that to happen, the Lakers need to improve in a few key areas, Bryant pointing specifically to the defensive glass. Despite romping over a wretched Charlotte squad Tuesday night at Staples, the Lakers gifted the Bobcats 10 second-chance points in the first half (of the 36 Paul Silas' crew scratched out), one game after allowing the Timberwolves to grab 24 offensive rebounds, leading to 32 second-chance points. Facing the Clippers last week, the Lakers allowed 17 ORB's.
Obviously it's something requiring more attention, Bryant said.
"[We just need to] play with a sense of urgency. Be fundamentally sound on the glass. Put bodies on bodies. We're not gonna jump over people, so you can't just turn around and watch the ball. You gotta box people out, so you can be fundamentally sound."
Mike Brown echoed concerns about the boards, adding their general level of execution has to get better. The Lakers have been plagued by inconsistency, particularly on the road, where papering over mistakes is a tall order and periodic breakdowns can quickly cascade into total operational failure.
"The biggest thing is our execution, especially down the stretch and throughout the course of the game, because that’s where teams get separation. You’re in somebody else’s building, and if you’re not familiar with one another, if I’m constantly changing rotations and lineups and stuff like that, that affects that area," he noted. "Now you’re in a loud building and your execution isn’t good, and you waste three or four possessions offensively and the other team scores. The momentum goes to the other team, and the next thing (you know) you’re in a hole, and you’re fighting your way out of the hole, and it’s tough."
Brown said he'd try to build more consistency in the rotation, particularly in the second unit, using the two previous games as a blueprint. Andrew Bynum as an anchor, together with floor-stretching big Troy Murphy in the frontcourt and Andrew Goudelock running the point. "Hopefully," he said, "I can stick to it."
The bench scored 48 points against Charlotte, so at the very least, they're a group playing with a little confidence as the road trip starts. Ultimately it may not help, but it certainly can't hurt.
As for the team at large, while the evidence of improvement is still not firm, there's reason to believe the Lakers are better equipped to succeed on the road now, because he schedule has lightened up enough to let them practice. After weeks of having to learn plays in the middle of games, the Lakers finally have seen enough days off to run full speed practices.
As a result, Brown hopes their rate of improvement might change for the better.
"I do think now, especially getting some practices, our improvement should happen a little sooner than later, and hopefully that will continue to hold true," he said. “The road is obviously a lot tougher than at home, because of the noise environment and so on and so forth. So I hope our execution and confidence and all of that stuff from having practices at home and being able to drill all that stuff has increased, so now when we’re in a hostile environment, we’re able to execute the way I think we should be able to.”
Getting off to quicker starts would help, too. Against Orlando and Miami in particular, the Lakers were buried before the game really got going. A team still struggling offensively despite back-to-back 100 point nights and generally uncomfortable with uptempo play can't rely on huge comebacks against quality squads.
"It'd be great to get out on the road trip and find a few of these games where we can get out 12-2, or 14-5 or whatever and force the home team to play from behind and catch up with us the rest of the night," Derek Fisher said.
Three wins in four games has the Lakers talking again of process, and building towards something coming deep the spring, as opposed to the winter.
Bryant reiterated his belief that the standings mean less this year than in others.
"If you figure things out going into the postseason and you get a good rhythm, that’s what you want," he said. "Especially in a shortened season, that’s what you’re really looking to do. At least not for us, because you just can’t because of the changes [in] the players and so forth. You can’t just come out of the gates and fight for a one seed or a two seed. That’s just not realistic. But we want to build and get better and go into the playoffs with momentum."
If they can get that done, Bryant believes the Lakers will still be feared come playoff time.
"I don’t know too many teams that are going to feel comfortable playing us. You know what I mean? I don’t know too many of them."
Kobe Bryant on the road trip:
Mike Brown on the road trip:
Derek Fisher on the road trip:
Fisher on the Nuggets, the quality of road competition:
Andrew Goudelock on his "mini-Mamba" nickname, his recent performances and the road trip:
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