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Saturday, May 16, 2009
The Lakers Seek Michael Jordan Mentality


Shelley Smith, ESPN bureau reporter based in Los Angeles, was at Laker practice in El Segundo yesterday and writes:

The 90-minute film session Friday was finished, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson announced to his team that shooting drills or any extra minutes on the Stairmaster were completely optional. While some players headed for the treatment room and others walked out onto the court, Kobe Bryant took a sharp turn to the parking lot and bolted, barely making eye contact as he walked to the giant mini-van in which he is driven to and from practice.

He was clearly in no mood. For anything. Most of all small-talk or further verbiage about the Lakers' Game 6 performance that had Bryant raging at halftime, as angry and upset as Jackson says he has ever seen him in their entire tenure together, something Jordan Farmar confirmed.

"Kobe was vocal," Farmar said about Bryant's fiery halftime speech. "He was the one speaking, but we all got the message."

For a minute, it worked. The Lakers came out in the third quarter with the fire in their bellies they inexplicably couldn't find at the start of the game, when the Rockets abruptly put them in a 17-1 hole. They closed to within two points, but then, "we just couldn't hold on," Farmar said of Houston's focused play and 95-80 victory that brought the series back to LA for the crucial Game 7 Sunday. "They did everything they needed to do, made big shots, stretched it. When we got close, they continued to make plays."

But it obviously wasn't enough, something that was a topic of discussion as the team went over the film from the game.

"There was a lot of talking," Farmar said. "Everyone looked pretty focused, into learning and trying to get better."

Jackson, obviously trying to find a spark to motivate his self-described "Jekyl-and-Hyde team," spliced in a few Michael Jordan plays from back in the day (refusing to elaborate on which plays from which years), but with the idea that the Lakers need to be more like Mike -- create and don't wait.

"He told us just to go out there and get them," Farmar said. "It's not going to be given to us. We've got to go out there and play and make things happen. He showed us a clip of Michael Jordan making a spectacular play, saying we have to go and make things happen. He said one play can change the whole game. We have to make sure those plays work for us."

Jackson also hinted that he might change the point guard rotation to try to find a way to slow down Aaron Brooks. He was unhappy with the offensive production of Derek Fisher, saying he wasn't himself, but that he was going to have to play guys who earned their time, rather than just go by the usual pecking order of Fisher, Farmar and Shannon Brown (the latter two did stay to shoot after film).

The team seemed "somber," to Jackson, a word he's been using frequently as of late, maybe because there is no definition of what exactly that means. For Farmar, it meant getting some shots in to get better and "try to fix things."

For Bryant, it could have meant simply getting away, until what is expected to be a far more lively practice Saturday.