Throngs of media. Players and coaches walking around like every day people. People whose work I read on a daily basis and the guys whose games I analyze essentially standing right next to you. Pretty surreal. But I’m here not to observe, but to jump into the deep end of the pool and see what nuggets can be passed along to all of you. A snapshot of my first day…
- First of all, Tony Toni Tone lied, it actually does rain in Southern California. What started out as a cold, gusty day has now turned wet. Folks seem to be adjusting fine, if you define fine as hustling through the rain without an umbrella. Luckily, I came prepared.
- The media sessions with the coaches and players from both the East and West teams provided some insight on what folks think about the current state of the Lakers. The prognosis is that they may be struggling but they still have everyone’s respect.
- Greg Popovich called them the “best team in the West”.
- Doc Rivers said that the spotlight still belongs on the Lakers and he tried to deflect any attention that his Celtics may garner and said that he’s “perfectly happy with (the Celtics) flying under the radar”. He also mentioned that the Heat deserve the attention that they’re getting, citing their big three and how bringing them together is something special.
- Dirk also mentioned that his Mavs are flying a bit under the radar and seemed perfectly content with that. When asked the direct question about how he felt about catching the Spurs and if the West is more exciting with the Lakers “floundering” he replied “Yeah I think they’re stuggling a little bit. But after back to back championships and (playing) until July almost every year I think they’re going to be okay. I think they’re going to step it up after the break. To me, the Lakers are still the team to beat. They’re still the same team. They still have length.”
- The person most confident about the Lakers though was none other than our own Kobe Bryant. He laughed off a question about whether the Lakers recent play was a downer on his All-Star experience and when asked if this was rock bottom, he said “sure, but that means there’s no where to go but up”. When asked a follow up stating that Jerry West mentioned that rock bottom is normally 8 or 9 consecutive losses, Kobe quipped that “3 losses in a row is like 9 in a row for this team”. When asked if he knew what was wrong with the team he simply said “yes”. He then followed that up by saying that he wouldn’t share what that was and that he sees it as entirely fixable, further saying that he has full confidence that the team will play better.
- The most insightful part of Kobe’s media session came when he answered a question about if he worries that when this team tries to call on its experience and institutional knowledge that it won’t be there for them. He answered “Of course. That’s where the concern comes from. But that’s the challenge of playing the game. That’s what brings the excitement . It’s not knowing. Even when you’re rolling and you’re playing extremely well there’s still the unknown of saying well, this can slip from us in any game in the series. It cut’s both ways”. He then went on to say that the Lakers are a team that has a better chance than others of pulling it together to make a run and continued to put the focus on what’s most important is how a team is playing together at those crucial times.
It’s tough to gauge if guys like Dirk, Doc, and Coach Pop are just paying lip service to the Lakers as the current champ and putting them up on a pedestal or if they truly believe that L.A. is still the team to beat. It’s probably a bit of both as no one attempts to crown or elevate a new team until the current champion is knocked off. That said, I thought Kobe’s comments speak to what other players and coaches see in the Lakers as the challenge. L.A. still has #24 and the memory of what they’re capable of doing is still quite strong.
We’ll continue to have updates throughout the weekend. Stay tuned for more.