- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers play their longtime rival Boston Celtics on Sunday, but all anybody wanted to talk about following the team's light practice Saturday was what was talked about at the team's meeting between players and coaches Thursday in Minnesota.
The Lakers canceled practice Thursday following back-to-back losses to Detroit and Washington on their three-game road trip that ended with a 105-102 win over the Timberwolves on Friday.
In place of practice, Lakers coach Mike Brown scheduled a film review at the team hotel and invited players and his coaching staff to speak their minds.
Part of the assistant coaches' message was urging the players to curtail any "external chatter," according to a source.
"It wasn't an airing out session," Brown said Saturday, downplaying its significance. "It was a film session."
The session was mostly X's and O's based and run by Brown until he handed over the floor to his assistant coaches.
"I utilized my assistants a lot because I don't like the players hearing my voice a lot," Brown said. "I talked a lot. I said, 'You know what? I'm going to have someone else talk.' After two losses like that everybody's feeling kind of down. So, I wanted to hear other guys' voices."
Players were invited to speak after Lakers assistant coaches John Kuester and Chuck Person left strong impressions.
"I stuck to my beliefs and my principles, which is togetherness, unity," Gasol said. "If we're going to be successful, we're going to do it all together being on the same page, holding each other accountable and just counting on each other and having each other's back. That's my thing. That's how I learned to play this game. That's how I love playing this game. And, communication (is important). Being on the same page, communicate, talk to each other, those are keys I think for any team to function together."
Fisher, who has a reputation of knowing when to say the right thing at the right time, including calling an impromptu players' only meeting following a win over Portland earlier this season, said that from a player's standpoint "it wasn't a time to go there," but he, Bryant and Gasol engaged in the conversation out of respect to the coaching staff who had spoken up.
"If there's too much talking and not enough playing, then yes (it could be a bad sign)," Fisher said. "I don't know if communication for us is bad. We're trying to do something that we've done before, in terms of winning a championship, in a completely different way. So, we're trying to recreate something with a new model and that's the challenge. Communicating and working through our differences and talking about things and ultimately holding ourselves accountable, I don't know if that's a bad thing for us. It's in some ways part of the process."
Following the players' pow-wow stemming from the Portland game, Bryant said he was "not much of a meeting person" yet he shared his thoughts Thursday as well. Bryant did not speak to reporters on Saturday, however.
The film session came on the heels of a report by ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne that players were unhappy with Brown's offense and were holding private discussions about the desire to return to former coach Phil Jackson's triangle system.
"When you're trying to continue to have a culture of excellence and championship success, the commitment and the time that that takes, you become like a family and there are going to be times when the family is just not clicking or it's not getting along," said Fisher. "We've all been there. There are just some cousins at Christmas dinner that we all wish weren't there, but you know, they're part of the family and you got to welcome them and do your thing and you'll see them next Christmas. But, in this business, you got to see them everyday regardless. So, sometimes it's not flowing the way you'd like it to, but we've been pretty good at figuring how to work through those things and we'll continue to do it that way."
Even though the Lakers got some things right on offense Friday in their win against Minnesota, scoring 100 points for the second straight game while shooting 47.6 percent as a team, Gasol still sounded skeptical when asked if the Lakers were "comfortable" with Brown's schemes yet.
"I think we all know more or less what's going on, what we need to do and what the coaching staff wants us to do out there as far as defense and offense," Gasol said. "Basically, it's focus on defense. Whatever goes on offensively, forget about that, go play D. As simple as that might sound, sometimes it's not that easy because I think you also have to respect what goes on on the offensive end, especially when you have the kind of talent that we have on this team."
While Fisher told reporters that there "wasn't anything magical" shared by him, Bryant or Gasol on Thursday, the overall theme of his words managed to stay positive. Fisher's positive message at the time it came seems like a bit of magic when you consider the Lakers had just come off losses to the Pistons and Wizards, two teams with combined 23-55 records.
"I think I just kind of brought it back to us," Fisher said. "How bad do we want this? Despite what everybody thinks or what's going on or why, how badly do we want to be successful? That was basically the question that I posed. Because if we want it bad enough, collectively as a group, we'll figure it out and we'll take the actions necessary to get there."
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