Lifting the dis from disgruntled
It was a mellow day in El Segundo for the Lakers, coming of Tuesday night's ugly 94-93 loss to the Sixers. Light work on the court, and what Lamar Odom told me later was a "father-son" talk between Phil Jackson and the team about what needs to be done going forward.
Nobody was offering intimate detals, but meeting with the media, after first speaking of his appreciation for the word "disgruntled," ("Because there's a grunt involved in that, and it kind of makes it a special word."), Jackson turned the focus to the more important issue of disgruntled players.
"We have some disgruntledness on the team, and that's because their own personal game isn't going well, and they have to break out of that," he said. That theme of team play is a drum Jackson beats with consistency. I asked him where the problems tend to manifest. "You usually see it on the offensive end. If things don't go well offensively, they're open, something happens, they turn it over, that next move- that hustle move that you respond with defensively is not there, and they're still playing that last play that they're unhappy about."
Clearly much of that is directed at the reserves, and (I'm guessing here, since nothing specific was said) particularly at Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar. Personnel issues (that's code for the Andrew Bynum injury) have left the Lakers with a different bench, one that can't push pace as easily, has fewer facilitators and good ball handlers, and has to make things work in the half court more than they'd like.
"I used to turn to the coaches on the bench and say, "Thank god we have a bench team that wants to go out there and kick some butt." Because a lot of times we'd be playing even with teams and they'd go out and build a ten point lead," Jackson said. "Now it's inverted. We build a ten point lead with our starters and are trying to hold our own with the bench. They were coming out and playing a different style of game. An active, running, attacking game, and they've lost that attack level."
Reviewing the end of the first quarter and the first six minutes of the second from Tuesday's game, it's easy to see where things are going wrong when the reserves hit the floor. Empty possessions and turnovers, making it tough to set up on the other end. When they did score- Sasha following an entry pass to Pau Gasol for a layup, Josh Powell using a nice ball screen from Luke Walton to get free before taking a pass at the right elbow and hitting a jumper, a quick entry from Vujacic to Gasol in the post for the and-one, for example- it tended to be because of good off-ball movement and passing.
That's what has to happen, because until Bynum returns opposing teams will look to force the reserves (no matter who is on the floor with them) into a half court game. Jackson has tried a few different combinations, but bottom line is that guys like Farmar, Vujacic, and now Walton all need to raise their games to help give some relief to the starting five.
Check the video as well for some comments from Jackson about Gasol's frustration with declining touches as games go on.
- Kobe Bryant was absent from practice (scuttling what I believe was supposed to be team photo day) because of jury duty, a first for Phil Jackson. Hopefully, 24 will get his service postponed, unless of course the presiding judge he draws is a Celtics fan. "It's my understanding, if I was a legal person and I was picking a jury, I probably wouldn't pick a guy like Kobe Bryant to sit on the jury," Jackson said. Could be a touch too high profile? You think? Can you imagine, though, if he missed the road trip to serve? "Sorry, Kobe. It's your duty as a citizen."
- Let's say Kobe is selected. Is he made foreman? The Lakers have problems with players deferring to him on the court. Does that happen in a jury room?
- Jackson was asked if any of his players had Twittered during halftime, as Charlie Villanueva did during halftime of Milwaukee's win Sunday over Boston. "I did have a player that did that, but he was texting. I don't know if he was Twittering or not. I had to correct him." In a related note, I got an email this week from my mom, subject line: What is a Twitter?
- Sasha Vujacic finished off his day doing a stand up interview for a website called English Baby. It appears to be a place where folks can come to improve their spoken English. I don't know exactly what they talked about, but the interview finished with the dude on the mic and Sasha high fiving and yelling, "English Baby!" That's going to be the first thing I do to Sasha when I walk into the locker room tomorrow night. I encourage other members of the media to do the same.
Trevor Ariza- More on last night's final play, plus talk of what the Lakers need to do going forward. TA said he didn't think the Lakers lacked the "killer instinct" PJ has referred to over the last few days, but did say he believes the team sometimes takes situations for granted. Same thing, really, but since not every player speaks cliche in quite the same way, it's hard to take too much from it. The important part? Ariza promised it the Lakers would learn and said that lack of proper focus won't happen again.
Phil Jackson on last night's game, the "disgruntledness" of players, getting the ball into the post:
PJ on the second unit, the road trip, and items of import: