Around the World (Wide Web): Lakers ‘edgy’, Sasha’s Back

Phillip Barnett —  March 9, 2010

So here we are, two games after the Lakers first three-game losing streak of the season, and it seems like, still, all everyone can talk about is how the Lakers are struggling. Yes, a three-game losing streak is definitely nothing we should ignore, but the Lakers were only a shot or two away from winning both games. As we’ve seen, read and heard about ad nauseam, the Lakers defense hasn’t been the problem. In this last month and a half of regular season hoops, we’re going to hear a lot about home court advantage, about how Dallas and Denver are closing in on the Lakers for the top spot in the Western Conference and about how the Cavaliers will be tough to be with four of seven in Ohio.  These things, however, are just NBA rhetoric, speculation into what the future might hold. No one knows for sure what is going to happen, but what we do know is that the Lakers still have the most talented collection of basketball players in the NBA, and for any of the other 29 teams to take home the Larry O’ Brien trophy, they’re going to have to beat the Lakers four of seven times.

After Monday’s practice, Kobe Bryant described the team as “upset” and “edgy” while Pau Gasol was disappointed and frustrated:

Kobe Bryant described the Lakers as “upset” and “a little edgy,” supporting his descriptors with a series of curt answers to reporters’ questions. Asked if he was feeling better a day after stomach issues forced him to miss the team bus to Amway Arena in Orlando, Bryant said, “I’m getting a stomach virus now with all these questions.”

The Lakers all seemed a bit queasy after losing three consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 23-27, 2008. Coach Phil Jackson lamented his team’s lack of execution, and forward Pau Gasol said the Lakers needed to improve their ball movement.

Gasol had not previously experienced a losing streak this long since joining the Lakers in February 2008, but he said their recent defeats weren’t as vexing as the defending NBA champions’ inability to play to their potential.

“That’s what’s disappointing and frustrating,” Gasol said. “That’s why I want us to get ourselves going and playing well and being confident and having that swagger of the best team in the league, and lately we haven’t been carrying that with us.

In terms of good news for the Lakers, it was reported that Sasha Vujacic was back practicing with the Lakers and should be back on the floor for tonight’s game against the Raptors. Also, Ron Artest shaved that god-awful haircut, although you could still vaguely see the design. Artest said the cut had nothing to do with Sunday’s loss to Orlando. Thing’s are necessarily as good for Luke Walton, but they’re an improvement over the last injury update I read. There is a time table for his return, the beginning of next month, and it’s looking more likely that he will not need to have surgery until the off season:

For Walton, the timeline on his wonky lower back is a little longer. The goal is to return from his second long stretch in street clothes by the beginning of next month, in time to get in the flow of things before the playoffs.

“It’s definitely going to be attempted. I’m hoping (I can do it.) I’m feeling really good again right now, with these last couple weeks off,” Walton said. “In the last week or so we’ve stepped up the workout, what we’ve been doing in the weight room, I’ve been on the court with (Athletic Performance Coordinator) Alex (McKechnie), and then I got on the treadmill for the first time today. So over the next three weeks we’re going to gradually push it up higher and higher, and hopefully be ready to start going by the first of April.”

Land O’ Lakers usually has video of post-practice interviews, but for today, they have selected quotes from Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol and this more optimistic quote from Derek Fisher:

“March is to me a good time of year. Playoff focus starts to come in, and you start to see how teams are going to line up a little bit. Teams start playing at an elevated level. I don’t think it’s so much about dog days, I just think that the season is long and to do something a hundred times, there are more opportunities for you to have great times when you do it and not so great times when you don’t do it well. That’s what we’re going through. We’ve still done it right 46 times and haven’t done it right 18 times. That’s still a pretty good percentage, and we’ll keep fighting to get better.”

Kelley Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie has a nice post on the current state of the Lakers:

So once again, I’m in the uneasy position of telling you why things aren’t as bad as you think they are, or for some of you, why things aren’t going as well as you think they should. It’s that middle ground that I can’t live with myself for at least attempting to smartly occupy, and it’s probably why you’ve never seen me on TV. So it goes.

The streak, to start. Los Angeles has lost three in a row, for the first time in more than two years. The first time since Pau Gasol became a Laker. The first time since, really, a three-game losing streak would mean anything to this team since Shaquille O’Neal was a Laker.

But they also lost to the Heat by three in overtime. That’s a swing-either-way game. They were thumped again by the Bobcats, but that marks the seventh time in nine attempts that Charlotte has beaten the Lakers. The Bobcats have their number. It’s over. They also won’t see them again until sometime next December.

Then on Sunday, the Lakers lost to the Magic by three. Another either/or game, because as much as I credit the Magic for this win, these close games can go either way. It’s usually your rooting interest that deludes you into believing otherwise.

So, clearly, this is the three-game losing streak that isn’t. Or, probably, it’s the three-game losing streak that really doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. There wasn’t anything the Lakers were doing in this streak that they haven’t been doing all season.

For better and for worse.

Tonight, the Lakers are back home to play the Toronto Raptors. Raptors Republic, one of my favorite TrueHoop Blogs, has an early preview of tonight’s match up.


Phillip Barnett