Monday, January 3, 2011
Updated: January 4, 12:33 PM ET
Phil Jackson clarifies comments
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A home loss like the Los Angeles Lakers experienced Sunday, a 19-point drubbing to a sub-.500 Memphis Grizzlies team, reverberates a little longer than a typical one-of-82 regular season loss.
So, after a long practice Monday, the team was still talking about what was said after Sunday's game along with looking ahead to the upcoming schedule.
Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 28 points against the Grizzlies but 17 of those points came in the third quarter when he took 12 of the Lakers' 22 shot attempts as a team. With Bryant controlling the offense, Memphis' lead ballooned from nine at halftime to 17 headed into the fourth.
"We get behind early on in the third quarter on some stupid plays -- poor passing, poor transition defense -- and then Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one and that takes the rest of the guys out as a consequence," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the game.
Jackson clarified what he meant when he said "screw up the game" after practice, taking some of the bite out of the sound bite.
"When a game starts getting out of hand -- and rightly so -- Kobe will crank it up, not screw it up," Jackson said. "I used that term 'screw it up' but not in terms of it being an error or a mistake, but 'crank it up.' He'll go to another notch to try to get us back in the ballgame. That's something we do in the fourth quarter, that's our fourth quarter action, that's how we win ballgames. To have to crank it up and do that in the third quarter, we didn't have much left in the gas tank after that."
Bryant admitted Jackson's assessment was not off base, but said it is his role on the team to bear the brunt of the scoring load from time to time.
"[Jackson] was right, I totally broke the offense, but I did it intentionally because I felt like we needed to get something started because what we were doing just wasn't working," Bryant said. "So, I tried to kick start it and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't but that's my responsibility. When it works out? Great. When it doesn't? I'll take the criticism for it, but I have thick enough skin to be able to do that. ... You just have to take the good with the bad. That's part of my job in the seat that I sit.
"I was trying to win the damn game. We were playing like [expletive], we all were, so I was just trying to get something going, trying to pump a little energy to us and it just didn't work out. But Phil doesn't really care how many shots I take, he just wants me to take them inside of the offense. [Sunday] was one of those days where I was like, '[Expletive] the triangle, I need to get myself going and try to save this damn game,' and it just didn't work out."
Bryant did not take offense to the message.
"When you've been around Phil for as many years as I have, we all understand that he likes coaching publicly and I think it's important for the new guys to understand that -- Ron [Artest], Pau [Gasol], guys who kind of have issues with that," Bryant said. "You see myself, you see Fish [Derek Fisher], we understand that's how he coaches so it's fine. You just let him do his job and you go about your business."
Gasol said that last season he was irked by Jackson going to the press when he was out with a hamstring injury and "joking around with it a little too much," but accepts the practice.
"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," Gasol said. "With me, I try not to pay too much attention to it. I find out from you guys when you say, 'Phil just said ...' and I'm like, 'OK.' That's just part of his coaching strategy and mindset. That's the way he does it and guys, I think, respect him and understand why he does it. He doesn't try to create any trouble; he just tries to motivate guys to do better."
Gasol, who is averaging just 13.7 points on 10.5 shot attempts per game during the team's current 2-4 slump over its last six games, described what it is like to play with Bryant when he commandeers the offense.
"We're all familiar with his game and his ability to score and his ability to take over games," Gasol said. "Sometimes it's a double-edged sword because it can keep you in the games or even sometimes win you games, but it can also lose you games. I think we're more effective and we're more successful when our offense is balanced and everybody is contributing. We all know that. We're in good shape when everybody is scoring 10-plus points and getting good looks, because the offense will do that for you."
The Lakers placed just three players in double-digits Sunday with Gasol scoring 10 and Shannon Brown chipping in 11 to go along with Bryant's 28 points. Coming into the Lakers recent struggles over the last six games, Gasol was averaging 19.8 points on 14.8 shot attempts per game.
While the issue about Bryant's scoring was seemingly put to rest, Jackson pointed to another potential reason for the problems the Lakers are going through -- outside distractions.
"[The challenge] is keeping them intrigued and immersed in what we're doing so they don't get bored," Jackson said. "We're a little afraid that some of the outside activity is an element that may be distracting them. I never thought that would happen. I thought we had professional guys. But, maybe it is."
Among the extra-curricular activities surrounding the Lakers this season have been Artest's championship ring raffle, Brown's engagement to R&B singer Monica, Lamar Odom's proposed reality TV show with wife Khloe Kardashian, controversies surrounding Bryant endorsing Turkish Airlines and appearing in a commercial featuring gun play for the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops and even Fisher fulfilling his role as president of the player's association with a lockout looming.
"I wouldn't name names," Jackson said when asked which distractions he was referring to.
All in all, Bryant said that the trials and tribulations facing this season's three-peat bid are nothing compared to what the Lakers went through in the early 2000s when he and Shaquille O'Neal feuded over control of the team.
"We had some deep-seeded issues on that team. That was a very dysfunctional group. This is not that," Bryant said. "It looks pretty grim right now, but I like the way we're working."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.