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Kobe Bryant in a happier mood during NBA TV's Fan Night

There Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat in the NBA TV studios, discussing the regular season MVP race. There Bryant stood on set, explaining the six game-winners he compiled this season. And there Bryant was, openly acknowledging that Coach Phil Jackson had once used him as a decoy on a final play.

During NBA TV's Fan Night on Tuesday, Bryant appeared in a much different mood than he displayed Monday during the final moments of the Lakers' 108-100 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Before the result was all but official, a frustrated Bryant punched a chair during a timeout. After it was official, Bryant's curt one-sentence answers barely masked his obvious frustrations.

Ahh, how a day can help heal wounds.

"What kind of mood are you in right now?" NBA TV host Ernie Johnson asked Bryant. "You weren't too happy last night after that New Orleans game."

"I was very jovial," Bryant joked.

"Yeah, right," Johnson laughed. "How you feeling now?"

"I'm OK," Bryant said. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game."

Bryant, of course, is referring to the Lakers' (54-20) matchup with Atlanta (47-26) on Wednesday night, concluding the team's five-game trip. And with the team having the day off Tuesday, Bryant spent part of his downtime with the NBA TV crew. The fact that he was willing to even discuss the regular season MVP race demonstrates his happier mental state. After all, Bryant has often deemed that topic rather insignificant compared with the quest for championships.

What was perhaps the most timely topic in Bryant's interview was something the league didn't feature on its website: With eight games remaining in the regular season, his main concern regarding the Lakers (54-20) is the team's lack of urgency. That theme, of course, has been repeated ad nauseam, including by Bryant, but it's telling that it's something that's still bothering him. The Lakers' latest performance entailed coming back from a double-digit deficit against New Orleans, only to fall short at the end, a habit that Bryant says he fears could hurt the team in the playoffs.

"The trap that you run into is you play with that sense of urgency when you're down 10, 12, 13 points, and that's the kind of mentality I do not want us to have going into the postseason," Bryant told NBA TV's Johnson, Kevin McHale and Chris Webber. "You kind of lollygag around for a series, and now you're down, 3-1, now it's time to play. You kind of fall into that false sense of security, and all of a sudden it's time to go and sometimes it's too late to turn it on."

The Lakers were largely accustomed to surviving that mind-set in last year's playoffs, going through a seven-game Western Conference semifinal against Houston and then going toe-to-toe with Denver in the first four games of the West Final before finally increasing the effort. With the Lakers appearing mostly disinterested for the last month, Jackson recently challenged the team to try to win 60 regular-season games. Though Bryant said he likes the approach, he wants the team to worry more about sharpening its play than reaching tangible results.

Case in point, the Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games, but last week's win against San Antonio served as the lone impressive performance. The Lakers had also set their sights on breaking the Chicago Bulls' 72-game win mark, set in 1996, and have the league's best record. But the team fell short of the first goal and, barring a late-season collapse from Cleveland (58-16), won't reach the second.

Bryant said the same logic applies to achieving home-court advantage.

"It doesn't matter," Bryant said. "You have to win on the road eventually at some point. Home court can be deceiving. We're eventually going to drop one of those games. You have to go on the road, and you have to win."

And if it's up to Bryant, it won't involve last-second shots, something he's grown sick of after nailing that sixth game-winner of the season March 9 against Toronto. Nonetheless, it's a nice accessory for the Lakers to have, and Bryant shared what went into making those shots.

In a joking manner, Johnson asked Bryant if he's ever been used as a decoy. It's well established that everyone -- "from the popcorn vendors to the most rabid fans," as Johnson noted -- knows Bryant will be the one taking the last-second shot. So the spirit of the question seemed to be more to confirm that it's one thing to know Bryant will have the ball in his hands in the final possession, but quite another thing to know how to stop him from making the shot. But Bryant's answer will surprise in you more ways than one.

Watching those type of highlight reels surely propels Bryant's young fans to emulate those plays in the backyard, the playground or the gym. But that's overrated. His basketball academy will spare kids from having to read "Sacred Hoops" in order to learn the triangle offense. Sorry, Ron Artest, I don't think you can sign up for the summer camp.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

 
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MORE MINUTES FOR SASHA (THE MACHINE) DON’T BE MEAN – BANDWAGON
*
(01) WALLACE – OWNER - I'm starting a roll call for Sasha to get some minutes for the rest of the season. Sure, the machine is not as good as last year but he displays more heart than Farmar and Brown. Who's with me?
(02) MAMBA24 – DRIVER – I’ll take that ride with you Wallace. In fact I’ll drive the Van.
(03) CORNER-J – RIDING SHOTGUN/GUNNER RE-LOADER - put me on the Sasha Bandwagon as Gunner Re-Loader. He's our only pure shooter and I want him re-loaded for the playoffs.
(04)


One positive thing about the NOH game is that Kobe's finger was able to stand up to that beating he put on the sideline chair towards the end of the game.(JK!) We've all seen Kobe giving high-fives gingerly since the injury in December. Hope that finger is doing a lot better.

Something has been bothering me since Farmar joined the Lakers; whatever happened to Farmar's defense? When Farmar played for Ben Howland at UCLA he was part of a feared defensive backcourt with Collison. Farmar's jumper has always been suspect. He has never shot well, but he used to shut down the other teams' guards and make big plays at the end of games.

Where did it go? I know that is what Mitch was looking at when he drafted him. The Lakers have been getting tourched by small guards ever since Shaq got here. It isn't a do or die type thing, obviously, since we've won FOUR championships without ever being able to stop penetration or defend the P&R well. Which is why we've been picking up bench players to help with that regard instead of starters.

The problem is, Farmar doesn't help with that regard. Ariza did.

He is quicker, faster, bigger, and can jump higher than Fish, but it seems that Fish does a slightly better job on defense than Jordan does. Nearly every single game. First off, Fish is usually getting beat by one of the league's elite PG's. These are men that usually beat WHOEVER is guarding (probably why they get to be called elite IMHO) them.

Farmar is getting beat by second and third string guards, too. Fish can usually abuse those guys, at least.

Plus, every game, for at least one play, and usually two, Fish can thwart the opposing PG and force him to turn the ball over. Fish usually saves that play for late in the fourth quarter. And, if the game is close enough, he becomes the hero. Fish usually follows that timely defensive play with a timely bucket of some sort on the other end.

That is like a 4-,5-, or 6-point play at the end of the game. Usually, but not always, an insurmountable turn of events for the opponent. Whenever Fish's heroics fails to seal the deal, we always have Kobe to close. You know, just in case.

So even though his averages are down this season, Fish does seem to have a hand in winning an inordinate number of games this season. But, all that should come easy to Farmar. He's done it before.

What's bothering me is why he can't do it now?

Does anyone know what's up?

--FEARless

FEARless....

You sure raise some good questions about Jordan. Just looking at his skill-set, you'd think he'd be able to produce better results. I wish I knew why the kid hasn't been able to put it together on a regular basis.

MAMBA24....

I wish the Lakers could read your roll call...they'd run through walls afterwards! Great job, as always, brother!!!

Mamba24,

Thanks for the roll call. I'm on a Lenten retreat and posting on the blog is my sacrifice. Keep up the good work. Will be back by Saturday.

Edwin - That's a pretty noble sacrifice. Hope you're having a good week

MM

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Ron leave the three pointers, to all the rest, just do what you do, Do it to your best
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FEARless, if Jordan was hitting his shots, none of this really matters...Last game, we miss way too many shots.

Thanks to PJ for canceling pratice...

Cheers

@EDWIN, I would expect no less dedication than that from the mentor of Mamba24. Lol! Have a good holiday, be well & be with God

@BRONXLAKERFAN, thank you my brother! Coming from you that is a great compliment. But the Lakers don' need a Roll call because they are...THE FREAKIN WORLD CHAMPION LA LAKERS. If they need any more motivation than that then they might as well just forget about the playoffs because they will have already lost.

@FEARLESS, brother you have figuratively hit the nail on the head. Great Post!
Mamba24(LarrY)

@MAGIC PHIL, True that brother!!

*
MORE MINUTES FOR SASHA (THE MACHINE) DON’T BE MEAN – BANDWAGON
*
(01) WALLACE – OWNER - I'm starting a roll call for Sasha to get some minutes for the rest of the season. Sure, the machine is not as good as last year but he displays more heart than Farmar and Brown. Who's with me?
(02) MAMBA24 – DRIVER – I’ll take that ride with you Wallace. In fact I’ll drive the Van.
(03) CORNER-J – GUNNER RE-LOADER - put me on the Sasha Bandwagon as Gunner Re-Loader. He's our only pure shooter and I want him re-loaded for the playoffs.
(04)
(05) ART-FL LAKER FAN – RIDDING SHOTGUN - Agree we should be seeing more of Sasha.
Play him enough to give him a confidence boost.
(06) JOVBATZ44 – BALL BOY - he displays more heart than Farmar and Brown" - Wallace, re: Sasha absolutely agree! Good shooting or bad shooting, Sasha plays with HEART. please put me in the bandwagon as the Ball Boy.


Mamba24,

THE LAKERS RELOADED

Very refreshing as usual, bravo!

WE ARE THE FREAKIN LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AND WE ARE GONNA FREAKIN WIN ALL DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sasha was begining to turn the corner but some inexplicable reason was not given a chance to play a few minutes. We do not have another 3 pt. shooter with his skell set. Farmar's D-skills are in the closet with what used to be decent mental toughness! Same with SB, so Sasha needs to be given a chance to repair the machine with at least 3 more ten minute opportunities in the remaing 8 games. Fisher does not need more than 18 minutes a game the rest of the regular season. Farmar & SB have not earned more than 15 minutes each.......last chance to find out who has the mental toughness & defensive IQ.

Hey guys we got a new post up on all the morning links.

MM

@JOVBATZ44, you said it brother. WIN ALL DAY LONG!!!
*
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So Freakin La Lakers, the things I’ve said are true, now that you know them, WHAT YOU GONNA DO!!

*
MORE MINUTES FOR SASHA (THE MACHINE) DON’T BE MEAN – BANDWAGON
*
(01) WALLACE – OWNER - I'm starting a roll call for Sasha to get some minutes for the rest of the season. Sure, the machine is not as good as last year but he displays more heart than Farmar and Brown. Who's with me?
(02) MAMBA24 – DRIVER – I’ll take that ride with you Wallace. In fact I’ll drive the Van.
(03) CORNER-J – GUNNER RE-LOADER - put me on the Sasha Bandwagon as Gunner Re-Loader. He's our only pure shooter and I want him re-loaded for the playoffs.
(04)
(05) ART-FL LAKER FAN – RIDDING SHOTGUN - Agree we should be seeing more of Sasha.
Play him enough to give him a confidence boost.
(06) JOVBATZ44 – BALL BOY - he displays more heart than Farmar and Brown" - Wallace, re: Sasha absolutely agree! Good shooting or bad shooting, Sasha plays with HEART. please put me in the bandwagon as the Ball Boy.
(07) ROSS – SECURITY - Sasha was begining to turn the corner but some inexplicable reason was not given a chance to play a few minutes. We do not have another 3 pt. shooter with his skIll set. Farmar's D-skills are in the closet with what used to be decent mental toughness! Same with SB, so Sasha needs to be given a chance to repair the machine with at least 3 more ten minute opportunities in the remaing 8 games. Fisher does not need more than 18 minutes a game the rest of the regular season. Farmar & SB have not earned more than 15 minutes each.......last chance to find out who has the mental toughness & defensive.
(08)

@MM, THNAK YOU BLOG GOD!

THAT'S THANK YOU BLOG GOD!

Mamba24 - Thanks for the love, but what are you thanking me for?

MM

MAMBA24, you can puit me in the MORE MINUTES FOR SASHA (THE MACHINE) DON’T BE MEAN – BANDWAGON....BUT only if he's gonna hit the darn shots, for the love of G.

PJ canceled another pratice yesterday, so let's see:

1) When I'm on vacation, I have a hard time getting back to the regular pace at work. We all know why.

2) When I wake up, it takes a bit of time to getting me going. We all know why.

3) When I skip BBall with the guys, next week I feel a bit behing the fellas. We all know why.

That's why, PJ, some genius invented something called PRATICE!!!!! Are they tired? At the age of 30 (ok, Fish is 35)??????? I'm 44 and I can catch up with the 25 kids, c'mon...

If you wanna be sharp for the playoffs, PRATICE.

Cheers.

@MM, I'm thanking you for all the great threads you've given us this week and it's only the middle of the week. I not only say thanks but...OUT FREAKIN STANDING
mamba24(Larry)

That's why, PJ, some genius invented something called PRATICE!!!!! Are they tired? At the age of 30 (ok, Fish is 35)??????? I'm 44 and I can catch up with the 25 kids, c'mon... If you wanna be sharp for the playoffs, PRATICE. Cheers. Posted by: Magic Phil | March 31, 2010 at 11:49 AM
*
CHEERS MAGIC PHIL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUYjD7A75HQ


"if Jordan was hitting his shots, none of this really matters...Last game, we miss way too many shots.

Thanks to PJ for canceling pratice...

Cheers"

Posted by: Magic Phil | March 31, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Magic Phil,

That really is the elephant in the room. If only Jordan was hitting his shots....

BTW, even if PJ cancels practice, you know Kobe and Powell are in the gym, putting up their shots, trying to stay sharp.

--FEARless

"if Jordan was hitting his shots, none of this really matters...Last game, we miss way too many shots.
Thanks to PJ for canceling pratice...
Cheers"
Posted by: Magic Phil | March 31, 2010 at 10:22 AM
Magic Phil,
That really is the elephant in the room. If only Jordan was hitting his shots....
BTW, even if PJ cancels practice, you know Kobe and Powell are in the gym, putting up their shots, trying to stay sharp.
--FEARless
Posted by: FEARless | March 31, 2010 at 12:59 PM


Exactly.
All this complaining about poor defense from the guards and how the speedy opposing guards get by us and a supposedly soft Gasol, etc.
It doesn't matter.
We don't NEED better defense to win these games, we don't NEED a tough Gasol, we just NEED to hit those open shots.
Look back at the great Laker teams of the 80's and the early 2000's that drew double teams on Magic or Kareem and Kobe and Shaq. All those teams had outside shooters who would make the other team pay for leaving them open.
Scott, Cooper, Horry, Fox, Fisher, even J.R.
Last year in the playoffs Ariza especially made them pay as well as Fisher.

So, as I've been saying, if the guys just step up and make those shots we will win. Kobe will get them open looks, they have got to make those shots. That is the key to a repeat right there.
Fisher, Farmar, Brown, Sasha and Ron are the keys to us winning.
They hit their shots consistently and they get brand new shiny rings.
If they don't, then they don't.
Focus!!


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