Lakers eyeing San Antonio as possible playoff opponent, Luke Walton eyes return
I apologize in advance. My camera had a few technical issues, so there will be no moving pictures this time around. Nothing really newsworthy came out of Saturday's practice, other than Luke Walton confirmed he plans to play in tomorrow' game against San Antonio after missing nearly two months of basketball because of a pinched nerve in his lower back.
Below is a transcript with interviews including Pau Gasol, Jackson, Lamar Odom and Walton.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol
On team's win over Utah: "That's a line we want to continue to follow and continue to play with that kind of focus, energy and aggressiveness and all the above."
On there's still need for more consistency: "It was mostly up. As long as we're mostly up and we go in that direction, we'll be okay. I'm looking forward to doing it consistently in all the other games. It's a process. It doesn't happen from one game to another, but I think we're continuing in this line of work and this focus and understanding where we're at and what point of the season we're in and who we're about to face. We'll be all right."
On how teams sustains momentum: "Obviously it's a mental focus and a mindset you have to play with every single night. The results will help that momentum. If we're able to finish the six games off on a high note and feeling good about what we're doing and how things are going, it'll be a plus for the playoffs."
On if there's a certain record the team wants to finish the last seven games: "Just play our best and that'll pay off. I think we understand when we play like we mostly did last night, we're in good shape. The wins will come with that. That's the mindset that we want to have."
On if he sees San Antonio as being a possible first-round matchup: "It's possible. It's possible we play them. It's possible we play Portland. There's different possibilities. But we're thinking who we're facing tomorrow is a very top rival and a game we want to win. We want to continue to play with intensity and focus so that's where we're at."
On if it's good preparation wise to play a team the Lakers recently played: "It's good because it's easier to prepare for and you know exactly what they're doing. It's easier for us to play Western Conference teams because we're more familiar with them instead of Eastern Conference teams where we're a little more unprepared. But at the same time, it is easier to face them."
More interviews (after the jump)
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson
On what's needed for the team to sustain momentum: "We know that this is an interesting week. We got a Sunday games from one weekend to the next and we have Denver and an arduous trip to Minnesota behind that. One things we look forward this week is meeting opponents we may see in the playoffs. Not to discount Minnesota, but San Antonio and Portland are highly potential first-round (opponents). Denver has been in our playoff situation the last two years. These are important games for us. We really want to go in and play hard. Maybe not show our whole hand, but still have that kind of game we want to play."
On if he felt team moved in the right direction with win over Utah: "Our defense was pretty aggressive. We had lapses, obviously in the second quarter we had a lapse. Third quarter, we struggled I thought a little bit. Fatigue and guys trying a little too hard to do things and make it difficult on ourselves. We had a push in the fourth quarter, which was good."
On whether Walton will play tomorrow: "He wants to. He'll discuss that in the morning and see how it is. He had a hard workout yesterday and we have to check him and see how he's going to do after that."
On what he can help with on the team: "I think he can help this second unit and solidify as a playmaker with that group from a different position than just our guards. He's always looking to get passes to guys and does that in the right way. He can help the team a lot."
On if he still has pain: "He had a little discomfort and soreness from last night's workout. He worked out at the arena last night. He worked hard and had a little discomfort this morning. It's mostly stiffness."
On if he can fill what was missing with what Lamar provided for the bench: "I wouldn't lay that on anybody. That's a group thing. But he can help them out a lot."
On if Sasha's minutes indicates he's out of the doghouse: "He's usually a (Kyle) Korver matchup for us. They didn't use Korver and I wasn't going to use Sasha in the first rotation. We had a rotation I wanted to go with, but he had an opportunity to get out there and at least get a run out there."
On if there's extra importance to tomorrow's game since San Antonio could be a first-round matchup: "It's important from the standpoint of just getting used to how they are and we do know that the liklihood of Parker coming back in the playoffs is great. So they'll still be a little bit of a different team in the playoffs. But Ginobili is always going to carry the force for us out there. It's always good to have that matchup and that intensity."
Lakers forward Lamar Odom
On if he saw the Lakers' win against Utah as a step in the right direction: "I think so. We played basketball the right way. We moved the basketball, executed our offense, took good shots and played defense together."
On how the team will sustain it: "I don't think we'll have a problem doing that. I think overall we had a pretty good season. We maybe let some games go due to being a little too cocky. But I think we're focused on what we need to do. We want to win as many games as we can so we can wrap up that No. 1 spot in the West. Do that and move on and hopefully play most of our games here at home and try to do it again."
On if team's 2-3 trip was a reality check: "Yeah, especially when you don't prepare for these teams. We're prepared against Utah and San Antonio because we've seen them so much. We're of course not prepared as against Atlanta. When you don't play the right way, things can get out of hand. Everything happens for a reason. We're focused and ready to play."
On if he sees San Antonio as a likely first-round matchup: "Right now we're just worrying about getting the No. 1 spot. Once we do that, then we'll be all right no matter who we play."
On when the team doesn't execute the offense well, why it falls apart so quickly: "We got so many guys who can make plays on our own. We just try to go out and get it. Sometimes we're down eight or 10 points and we try to get it back all in one play. Everybody starts to go one-on-one and when that doesn't work, our defense and our all-around game suffers."
Lakers forward Luke Walton
On how he's feeling: "I'm feeling good. A little sore, but nothing too bad. Hopefully tomorrow is still the day."
On frustration level sitting out this season: "It's been one of the toughest years of basketball in my life. It is tough. It feels really good when I'm not playing. Mentally I can get out there and do a couple days of practice and then it goes right back down. It's been tough watching the team going through everything that it's gone through and not being able to be out there and help them."
On worry about him trying to overdo it upon return: "It's going to be hard. I know I need to pull back when I start feeling it. Whether or not I'll be able to do that, we'll find out. It's so late in the season and now in the playoffs. There's really no more time or chance to sit out again for a couple of weeks and let it calm down. I have to juggle how much I should work and if it starts to get back again."
On if he's confident he'll be play tomorrow: "Yeah, absolutely."
On how this injury distinguished among his other ones: "Every other injury I had, I know how I hurt it. I either rolled an ankle or hurt a hand or something like that. This came out of nowhere. This one has been extremely tough to try to play through because if the back is not working for you, it's tough to move and do the things you have to do on the basketball court to help your team win."
On if he's talking to anyone who's had back issues: I've talked to a ton of people. Doctors. My dad (Bill Walton) has been going through back pains. A lot of people come to me randomly now and tell me about the things they're going through. But we got a great training staff here and the franchise has been great about it as far as being supportive with it. We're going to try to make this last push and see if I can help this team repeat."
On if he noticed anything missing from the team when he was helping with the coaching staff: "One main thing, I'm not going to try to come back and be a scorer and come out and shoot. I know the thing I noticed the most was the lack of execution we've been having this season. The flow hasn't been as good. We've shown at times we can do it. It just hasn't been consistent. Coming back, I'm coming in with more of the mindset of trying to get everything running correctly and get the offense working and get people easy shots and see if that will start carrying over to everybody else."
On what he took away from helping the coaching staff: "It was fun. It was a lot of fun actually. They let me go to one of the meetings. That kept me involved with everything. Being out that long, sometimes you start to drift and don't feel like you're part of the team anymore and you're hurt. It was a way to keep me going and keep me at practice every day and do the thngs in the game to help them out but also help me out mentally and staying positive."
If players lobbied him for minutes: "Yeah, (laughs). That was the toughest part about it. There are still my teammates and I'm one of the players still so they were trying to get me to say stuff to them. They were joking they didn't want to say too much around me because I might rat them out. It was a fun experience."
If Sasha took him out to dinner: "No (laughs). I declined the invitation."
On if he should be listed as probable, definite, maybe or no for tomorrow's game: "Anything but no. You can put down any one of those. I'm suiting up tomorrow. So unless I get there and (trainer Gary Vitti) tells me I'm on the inactive list, then I'll be suited up."
If he stays on the inactive list, how would he react: "I'll be a little frustrated. But that's kind of been the theme this season anyway so it won't be anything new."
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Photo: Lakers forwards Ron Artest, left, and Lamar Odom pressure Spurs forward Antonio McDyess during the first half Monday night. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times>