Patton: Lakers still in crisis

Jan 5 2011 - 5:15pm

LOS ANGELES -- On this night anyway, no one left Staples Center early, or mad, or feeling cheated. No one booed the home team.

No Los Angeles Lakers suggested that Kobe Bryant took too many shots, even though he missed his first nine. No Lakers were upset that the big guys didn't get the ball inside. No Lakers complained that they didn't play tough enough defense.

For one night Tuesday, the gathering gloom over Lakers Land lifted, an easy victory over star-deficient Detroit bringing some tranquility to Crisis Corners.

No one, of course, does drama like the Lakers, where four losses in their previous six games was the Southland sports equivalent of a small earthquake, followed by Brad and Angelina breaking up, after the Oscars moved to New York, on the heels of a wildfire burning the Hollywood sign.

In this part of the country, a few bad Lakers defeats demand dissection.

But it never ends with simple analysis. This is Los Angeles. It's the Lakers. In between Sunday's unexpected lopsided loss to visiting Milwaukee and Tuesday's 108-83 laugher over Detroit, there were these theatrical gems to mull over:

Coach Phil Jackson said Bryant went on a shooting spree against the Bucks to "screw up" the game, meaning Kobe tried to shake the Lakers out of their offensive doldrums. But naturally Jackson was deliberately misinterpreted by some of us media troublemakers and had to explain that he didn't mean his superstar sets out to sabotage the team. Duh.

Jackson noted that Dallas will miss injured forward Caron Butler. Naturally, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took it personally, snidely thanking "Jeanie's boy toy" for his concern.

A report surfaced that Jackson and slumping forward Ron Artest had a "loud" confrontation at a recent practice over Phil's motivational techniques. Tuesday before the game, Jackson said it wasn't loud. Artest chose not to discuss it, saying he was into avoiding confrontation these days. And, oh yeah, he added that he was "blessed" to have Jackson as his coach. If this sounded familiar, it's because Ron-Ron and Phil did the same thing during the playoffs last May. When the Lakers won it all.

If the sideshows surrounding this team are always entertaining, they rarely have anything to do with the important stuff -- that is, what's happening on the court. For a few weeks, the Lakers have been quite mediocre and the buzz would have you believe the sky is falling.

The Lakers' lousy month may seem important now, especially since home-court advantage issues could come back to haunt them in the postseason. Certainly, the doomsayers aren't going away.

"They'll wait until we run off a number of wins," Jackson said. "One game isn't the end of this situation."

But everyone should have crises like the Lakers. No one cares now that they slumped last spring, on the cusp of the playoffs, finishing the regular season on a 4-7 yawn.

No doubt, the Lakers are into some bad habits, but nothing that isn't correctable enough to get them to the Western Conference finals, at the very least.

They also know what the difference was between Sunday and Tuesday -- or Wednesday night's trip to Phoenix.

"Defense, attitude, mind-set," said Lamar Odom, who added the team isn't as worried as its faithful followers.

"We understand (why) we win and lose. We just need to play, take our time, get better. The playoffs aren't tomorrow."

It's just a long drive to the postseason, and with this team, always sprinkled with roadside distractions.


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