Phil Jackson on Sasha, facial maintenance

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
9:00
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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In delivering video after practice Thursday afternoon, I promised more crackerjack commentary and analysis to come. Yes, I said crackerjack. Did I over-sell? Possibly.

To recap the items of note from yesterday's post-practice events, Phil Jackson delivered some injury updates. Andrew Bynum is set to see the doctor again tomorrow evening (likely after the game), and is said to be progressing appropriately in his recovery. Jackson hopes to have him back in 10 days, give or take. Luke Walton practiced Thursday and could play this weekend.

Meanwhile, on the heels of losing three-of-five on the roadie, we were given a feel for the team's frustration level from Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol. Nobody's freaking out, but they're not exactly happy, either. Nor should they be.

I did have one more interesting exchange with PJ regarding Sasha Vujacic, shackled to his warmups since the OKC game on Friday after engaging in a sideline kerfuffle with the coaching staff. I asked Jackson how, given the struggles of the bench, he balances order and discipline while trying not to damage the product on the court.

"There has to be a certain sense of the right thing. You don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face, right? That’s what you’re basically (asking?)"

Yes. Yes, I am.

He continued.

"But there has to be some reconciliation, there has to be some acknowledgment. And those are the things that go along with what we feel. Our bench has been perfectly capable of supporting us over the year. They’ve done a really good job when Kobe’s been injured, Drew’s been injured, Pau’s been injured. This last little event has weighed down a little heavier on us,” he said.

Moral of the story? It appears the coaching staff is willing to wait this one out, in part because they don't feel Vujacic's contributions are so valuable they outweigh what they see as a larger and more important principle, both for the team's health and Sasha's growth. I guess he's more a sideburn left slightly crooked to spite the face, not an entire nose.

Regarding Jackson's comment about the "little event" weighing down "a little heavier" on the team, I read it as a message to Sasha. Your sulking is a drag the group. Suck it up and be a professional. This is just my take on the situation. I haven't spoken to Sasha, and could be misinterpreting the whole thing.

Then again, maybe not.

Assuming I'm in the ballpark, there's a simple solution. While I respect how hard Sasha works and the passion he has for the game, he ought to swallow his pride and "atone," as Jackson put it the other day. This isn't a battle he'll win (and given his station in the NBA world, almost surely doesn't deserve to), and meanwhile he's hurting his teammates and himself.

Sasha has long been upset about his place in the rotation. Fine. Shut up, play, and earn something better.

The Lakers could use Vujacic's contributions both because he was starting to deliver some in slowly expanding minutes and because, quite frankly, anything positive they can get off the bench would be helpful. Whatever it takes to bury this issue, be it a dinner invite from Vujacic to the assistant coaches or some sort of softening from Phil's gang, I expect it'll happen relatively soon.

The Lakers need all hands on deck heading into the playoffs, even ones playing secondary roles.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0