Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Lakers Notebook: Health a priority
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- As the Lakers look down the barrel of five games over the final seven days of the regular season starting Thursday in Denver, Los Angeles co-captain Derek Fisher has a list of two things he would like to improve.
First, he'd like somebody to kiss the team's collective boo-boos, from Andrew Bynum's left Achilles tendon, to Kobe Bryant's right index finger, to Lamar Odom's left shoulder, to Shannon Brown's right thumb.
"Getting and staying healthy," Fisher said. "No matter who you play, where you're seeded or what the situation is, if you don't have all your guys it makes things tougher. Being healthy and staying healthy will be the main key."
Second, he would like the Lakers to play at a higher level for extended stretches in games instead of being so inconsistent.
"Re-establishing the ability to play longer, better [is important]," Fisher said. "We've really had very few times where we've played more than one half of good basketball and I say that in terms of total, 24 minutes, not like a whole half where we played great."
Not since March 9 against Toronto, or a string of 13 games, has Los Angeles won more than two quarters in a ballgame.
"We've had a good or poor first quarter compared with a good or poor second quarter compared with a good or poor third quarter and on and on," Fisher said. "Just totally inconsistent."
Added Pau Gasol: "We're not very consistent. We're having too many ups and downs at this point of the year when you really want to be on your 'A' game or getting to that level. So, we got to work really hard these last 10 days that we have left before the playoffs to get to that level."
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson called the team "pretty inconclusive here since we had that seven game win streak" rather than opt for the word "inconsistent."
Fisher said that all the inconsistency has prevented the team from ever feeling that it was going to "definitely win another championship" at any point this season and called that the "most frustrating thing of all."
"With a team that has returned 99.6 percent of our championship team from last year, it's been frustrating but that's what makes this process so rewarding once you're the last team standing in June," Fisher said. "That's what we still expect from ourselves. We're not going to give up on that process; we're going to keep going."
While his teammates focused on what was ailing the Lakers, Lamar Odom spoke about an accomplishment that is right around the corner despite everything that's happened to his team this season.
"We have the second best record in the league.
We're sitting pretty, one win away from wrapping up the West, I think it's cool," Odom said.
When asked if getting the win against the Nuggets, who have defeated the Lakers twice this season, was imperative, Odom made sure to point out that L.A. has beaten Denver once as well.
"That's a team that we might bump into again," Odom said. "It'd be great to get it against them."
Odom acknowledged that the Nuggets could be affected by the absence of head coach George Karl, who is recovering from treatment for throat and neck cancer, but said the Lakers will concentrate on themselves and not their opponents.
"I'm pretty sure that they want to win for [Karl] and will be emotional, but I don't know if that changes our emotion, but we're prepared to combat theirs," Odom said.
The Lakers' sixth man turned starting power forward also contended that a reporter was off base when he asked how the team can stop "struggling."
"Struggling to you might be different than struggling to us," Odom said. "Our heads are held high. We just won the championship; we know teams are going to gun for us. They're going to play their best game. We're looking forward to winning, point blank."
No bench blame
Jackson said that Bynum's absence has "affected our bench obviously with Lamar being replaced as a starter and our bench having to stand down a little bit from that," but players on the team did not send any criticism the way of the beleaguered second unit that has been outscored 110-38 in the Lakers' last three losses.
"I don't know if we're overly concerned about just one particular part of what our team is experiencing right now," Fisher said. "I think we're all taking equal responsibility and an equal amount of accountability for what's going on. Obviously the injuries have impacted our bench more than their lack of performance. I still view it more as just an overall team situation. It's not about bench or starters or one guy or two guys, it's about our whole team."
Added Odom: "As a team, we've played better, all around the board."
From one Hall of Famer to another
Jackson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 and said Tuesday he thought that Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss' induction was inevitable over the last couple of years.
"Dr. Buss was obviously going in and everybody knew that," Jackson said. "It wasn't a campaign that put him in. It was a sequence of orders because [Bill] Davidson from Detroit went in and [Abe] Pollin from Washington went in, etc. We've known this was going to be a thing that was going to happen, it was just going to take a couple years to get it accomplished."
Lakers minority owner Magic Johnson, inducted into the Hall in 2002, started to campaign for Buss in 2008 after Davidson, the late Pistons owner, made it in.
Jackson said he has campaigned for Lakers special assistant coach Tex Winter to be inducted in the past but said, "With Tex, there's no indication that there's a movement towards that [now]."
Jackson said it would be a "familiar" induction group because he coached two of Buss' fellow inductees, Karl Malone in L.A. and Scottie Pippen in Chicago.
"It's quite an honor, auspicious in a way, but it's quite an honor for an owner to have that," Jackson said about Buss.
"It's really his style more than anything else," Jackson continued. "There's a style about the game that the Lakers play that's been consistent; understated -- the ambiance that was created by the Laker home games, the style of basketball that they had, the consistency of winning over the course of 25 years or more, it's 30 years now, all those things I think are prevalent.
"[It was] the little things like he was one of the first one that did signage, which I always thought was kind of interesting. The image that you have when you think about the Lakers has been something that's been developed and promoted."
It was announced Monday that Jackson was fined $35,000 by the league office for criticizing the referees, in particular 25-year veteran Bennett Salvatore, after the Lakers' loss to the Spurs on Sunday.
Jackson was asked Tuesday what he thought of the league's decision to fine him.
"I highly endorse it, I think it's a wonderful thing to do," Jackson deadpanned before adding, "There's nothing to appeal."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.