Lakers lack consensus on magnitude of eight-game trip
Whether the Lakers were just playing semantics, didn't exactly coordinate on sound-bite discipline or actually disagreed on these issues is debatable.
Yet, players such as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher as well as Coach Phil Jackson had varying perspectives on what the team's eight-game trip actually means.
That included whether these road games, which begin tonight at Cleveland, are more significant than the rest of the Lakers' remaining 41 games. (For those not near a Lakers schedule, the road games also include stops in New York (Jan. 22), Toronto (Jan. 24), Washington (Jan. 26), Indiana (Jan. 27), Philadelphia (Jan. 29), Boston (Jan. 31) and Memphis (Feb. 1).
"When you’re on top, you always have a point to prove and statements to make," Gasol said of the team, which has a league-leading 32-9 record. "Otherwise, they can be made the other way around. We definitely want to go and be aggressive and prove to ourselves that we’re the best team out there."
Said Fisher: "I don't see it as something that will define our season."
The disagreement also spread to whether team bonding -- a variable often enhanced during trips -- is necessary for success.
"I’m looking forward to being on the road with the guys for that long amount of time and catching up and going through adversity together on the road," Artest said. "It’s going to be great."
"I’ve been on teams that didn't bond for anything and still won," said Bryant, who more than likely was referring to Shaq. "Last year is the closest team I’ve ever been on, and we won. There’s different ways to skin a cat. Ultimately, you just have to get it done in between the lines."
And then there was the subject of whether the travel itself poses an additional challenge.
"You never know, traveling in the winter time," Jackson said. "You never know what’s going to happen. You end up in a bus trip or have delayed flights or have a plane has to be de-iced and you don’t get in until 4 in the morning. Those are always things that are problematic in these types of trips."
"It’s not like we’re necessarily out there struggling," Bryant said. "We get room service. We have maids to clean your room. It’s not like we’re suffering out there. We’re playing a game in a different environment, that’s all."
Hey, at least the Lakers all agree on what's the most important part of the trip.
Said Fisher: "You go to win every game."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: The Lakers' chartered plane receives a firefighters' welcome at LAX the morning after the team beat the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of last year's NBA Finals to clinch the league championship. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times