The Lakers have a tough schedule coming up, with five games in eight days, including match-ups with Chicago, Phoenix, and Denver. Perhaps it’s for the best after the loss to Detroit. They got a few days off to mull it over and presumably come back stronger, and now they have a run of games to get back on track. In the meantime, we are left with some random developments on the Lakers front, including some typically funny but nonsensical comments from Shaq.
Kobe reportedly took the loss in stride, feigning surprise when being told that they no longer had a chance to go 82-0. As always, he mentioned his favorite term, “execution,” and claimed that it comes down to “little tweaks you make as the season goes on, so when the playoffs come around you’re clicking on all cylinders.” Lamar Odom, on the other hand, acted much testier in his post-game comments, storming off mid-interview and reflecting the anger I felt while watching the game. I get both sides: Odom was understandably frustrated with the team’s performance, but it’s Kobe’s job to keep his head about him and respond appropriately, which he did. Hopefully stable leadership will filter down and help the team down the line.
Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times echoed my sentiments in more way than one. First, the Lakers lack that vaunted toughness they worked on all off-season and still got shoved around by an aging Pistons squad. Second, that Vladimir Radmanovic is all but invisible out there. And third, that, despite this being just one loss in a long season, the team would do well to take it seriously and remember exactly how and why they lost. It was, as Plaschke noted, “the same tired song we heard last June in Boston” when “the Celtics controlled the Lakers’ inside presence and easily won the game.” Bynum and Gasol must not be such pushovers inside and play like the seven-footers they are.
Finally, the Big Aristotle is running his mouth again, in alternatingly entertaining and bizarre fashion. His most recent claims are that Phil Jackson fueled his rivalry with Kobe to elicit better performances out of the two superstars due to their competitive natures. He rightly remarked that Phil could have called them to his office and told them to cut it out but never did. Whether that gets either player off the hook for their childish antics remains doubtful, however. Shaq also expressed a possible desire to return to the Lakers when his contract is up in 2010. Um, first of all, no. And second of all, mm-mmm. I find it extremely unlikely that both Kobe and Phil would want to take all of the baggage on board again, especially if they continue to play well (fingers crossed). I wouldn’t say no outright to the idea, but Shaq was always out for about a third of the season before. Now, with his knees and feet aging exponentially, it seems dubious that he’d last for an extended run, unless he pulled one of his patented stay-hurt-till-the-playoffs stuns. And if that’s the case, he’ll probably be more expense than he’s worth.
That’s all the news for now. Tomorrow night we have the Bulls at home. Chicago is 5-5 and led by Ben Gordon’s 21 points a game and rookie Derrick Rose’s 5.6 assists. I’m eager to say whether we can stop another slasher from tearing us to bits.