Whether through Frank Hamblen kicking it 80's style with a "Frankie Says Relax!" t-shirt, a singing PJ, or the players themselves staying loose, the Lakers are sending signals that nobody is panicking after two straight losses dropped them from the top spot in the Western Conference. Perhaps it's because they had a quality day of practice, and even the night before, were working on their games. Kobe, who wasn't pleased with the lack of arc on his shot in Sunday's loss to Houston, led a group of backcourt mates (and one small forward) to the Mavs practice facility for an informal shooting workout. They'll still take the floor tonight in Dallas without Pau Gasol, who was moving without crutches on Monday, but still fighting some swelling in the injured ankle. As for the rest of the injury brigade, Chris Mihm could be back on the practice court next week, while Andrew Bynum comes along slowly but surely.
Just as it's a big stretch for the Lakers, who will finish up in Utah on Thursday, then play back to back against Golden State Sunday and Monday, it's an important time for Dallas, who will see Boston and San Antonio when LA is gone. The key tonight might be Josh Howard, who didn't have a good game when the Mavs last visited LA. Avery Johnson wants to keep Kobe off the stripe.
Are the Lakers that much better with Pau Gasol? One study (feel free to poke holes) questions if the results have been there.
In the big "Believe it when you see it" rumor of the day, the Lakers apparently- and I stress "apparently"- have interest in Washington's Gilbert Arenas if he opts out as expected this summer. The Clippers? That's very possible. But LAL? Makes a lot less sense.
Around the WC (meaningful games only):
Chris Paul was unstoppable down the stretch, as New Orleans came back to beat Chicago.
The Spurs blew a 20 point first half lead, as both Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell played big as Boston beat San Antonio in Texas. Manu says SA's problems are mental, not physical.
Who do the Lakers want in the first round? Try the Suns.