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Lakers hope to channel off-court drama into a motivating force

Standing by his locker, Kobe Bryant engaged in something he rarely does.

He had fun with the media.

A devastating loss to Memphis carried all the same problematic characteristics in poor offensive execution, defensive lapses and shoddy effort. It was followed by the same endless questions about the Lakers' current state of being. But instead of sticking to the script, Bryant made an in-game adjustment.

He had spent the previous week finding endless ways to challenge the team, ranging from publicly criticizing them after a Miami loss, carrying the team albeit with negative results against San Antonio and then just having fun against New Orleans. The latter approach worked, except the effort proved unsustaining as he carried the team to victory against Philadelphia but then couldn't jolt them enough against Memphis. So Bryant asked for help.

"That's the role that you guys [the press] play in this thing," Bryant said when asked what can motivate the Lakers. "You guys write doom-and-gloom stories. I think that actually builds up a lot of tension. Most of the guys don't read them, but you can feel the energy from the crowd when you go out there, how concerned everybody is, so that does put a lot of pressure on us."

Well, Bryant received his wish.

Various reports surfaced that kept the media surely occupied enough before what became a Lakers' 108-83 victory Tuesday over the Detroit Pistons.

Those reports include the following: Forward Ron Artest confronted Coach Phil Jackson, expressing frustration of Jackson's public zinging regarding Artest's performances and goofy antics, with Jackson confirming most of the story and Artest remaining mum about the details. Several Lakers arrived late or missed Sunday's shoot-around completely, with forward Pau Gasol admitting afterwards he was one of them. There was Jackson's misconstrued quote that suggested Bryant "screwed up the game" against Memphis by scoring 17 third-quarter points, a charge both later said was accurate and appropriate. And then, of course, there was a shot delivered from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban toward Jackson for being the "boy toy" of Lakers executive vice president and girlfriend Jeanie Buss after Jackson speculated that Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury would severely hurt Dallas' chances to remain competitive in the West, a banter both Jackson and Buss embraced with one-liners of their own.

The stories made for one entertaining pre-game news conference for Jackson, but it surely validated charges expressed by Jackson and Bryant that off-court distractions have surrounded the Lakers for the past month. With all these stories as a backdrop, Bryant said he addressed his teammates before walking on the court about using this as a teachable moment.

"Listen to how everybody talks to you. Embrace this," Bryant recalled saying. "This is L.A. It comes with the territory of being back-to-back champs. You have to deal with it and you have to embrace it and you have to use it as fuel and motivation, because what matters the most are the people that are in this huddle right here. If we stay focused on that, we'll be fine."

There are already suggestions, one from The Times' T.J. Simers, that contends Bryant's fingerprints are all over the Artest story, considering it came from Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, a Bryant confidant who recently had dinner with the Lakers star. Regardless of whether that's the case or not, the verdict is still out on whether the Lakers will successfully handle the team's surrounding drama. 

Artest neither confirmed or denied the confrontation report to me, saying afterwards, "I don't remember my conversation," though he had revealed his hurt feelings to The Times' Bill Plaschke. But Jackson filled in the details, saying the confrontation wasn't loud and wasn't unusual of what might happen during a practice. "Ron came in and apologized, not only to me but in front of the whole team for what he said was a distraction at practice," Jackson said. "That was his own desire to do that. I didn't solicit it from him." Added Gasol: "Ron felt like he had to apologize for something. And he did, and it was welcome."

The Lakers for one game properly channeled that energy, resulting in the team featuring a near Bryant triple-double in 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, which made up for his six of 18 shooting clip; inside production from Andrew Bynum (13 points on six of six shooting and seven rebounds), Gasol (21 points on seven of 11 shooting and seven rebounds) and Lamar Odom (16 points on six of 12 shooting and nine rebounds) and timely deflections from Derek Fisher and Artest himself. 

But as far as whether the Lakers' dirty laundry becoming public will be a good thing for the team? It's too early to say.

"This is part of the business," Gasol said. "We understand that. It also makes you tougher and it also makes you grow."

But Gasol's the same person who has acknowledged feeling frustrated at times when Jackson would zing him in public, most notably when the coach poked fun at his strained left hamstring injury last season that sidelined him for the first 11 games. Jackson joked about Gasol's timetable, once telling reporters that he wouldn't return until Christmas and then insisted Gasol's injury pointed to his role in filming a "CSI" episode.

"He was joking around with it a little too much," Gasol said. "To me, I'm unhappy when I'm not playing and I'm not helping my team. It wasn't a time to joke around with it."

Artest isn't in a joking mood either. With praise thrown his way after Jackson said his play "broke the game open" in the third quarter, Artest still seemed in a stoic mood. "It was hard to take too many compliments right now," he said. "It's hard to feel good about anything right now."

That's because Artest and Jackson planned to talk after the game or sometime Wednesday before the Lakers' game against Phoenix regarding the confrontation in practice.

"I know he's disappointed the word got out, however it leaked out because we have closed practices at that time," Jackson said. "Somebody obviously said something and he feels probably betrayed by that too." 

But with Jackson joking that the NBA invites teams to "manufacture controversy" because of its media-friendly policies including practice, pre-game and post-game availability, he drove the point home to the players that handling it properly shows the true markings of a professional.

Take Bryant's response after Jackson said the following after the Lakers' loss to Memphis: "We get behind early in the third quarter on some stupid plays, poor passing and poor transition defense. Kobe has to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one. It takes the rest of the guys out. As a consequence, that didn't bring us back in. It did give us a little bit of run. But we couldn't sustain it. We came right back and made the same mistakes again."

Bryant responded by laying out the groundwork in what the Lakers currently face right now.

"I've been around Phil for as many years as I have, we all understand that he likes coaching publicly," Bryant said. "I think it's important for the new guys to understand that -- Ron, Pau, guys have issues with that. You see myself, you see Fish, we understand that's how he coaches. It's fine. Let him do his job and you go about your business. But he was right. I totally broke the offense. But I did it intentionally because we needed to get something started. We were doing it and it wasn't working. I tried to kick-start it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.  But that's my responsibility. When it works out, great. When it doesn't, take the criticism for it but I have thick-enough skin to be able to do that."

That argument also points to the Lakers needing thick enough skin to handle any scrutiny whether it comes from Jackson, Bryant or unnamed sources. These stories wouldn't have gotten leaked had Gasol arrived to the shoot-around on time and Artest didn't remain lost on offense and stretched thin with his efforts in supporting mental-health charities. After all, Bryant argued: "It's L.A. That [stuff] always comes out." 

And this time it was exactly what Bryant wanted, a wish that remains unclear whether it will have fruitful or negative consequences.

-- Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

 
Comments () | Archives (35)

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If Phil and Ron chat, he needs to instill in Ron that the Lakers need him to be more than just a defensive threat, and that he has confidence in him and his abilities on both ends of the floor. Ron Artest was at one time able to create his own shot, consistently shoot from the outside, and play lock-down defense. Everyone thinks of Bynum as a "wild card" or "x-factor" for the Lakers success, but really its Ron Artest. If he can regain his confidence on the offensive end, and renew his focus, the Lakers could easily look like the most complete team in the NBA again.

The media types have nothing else to do but find material, just like a comedian. These guys have to realize they're in LA, and there's always a story...When you had shaq and Kobe winning multiple titles, there was the soap opera of the rift. Those supporting guys didn't let it derail the train, even with the drama that the media wouldn't let go of. Ron and Pau need to have coffee with Dennis Rodman and figure out how to do your job professionally without letting the drama affect your play.

Yet another example of the shortcomings of Phil Jackson, not in having the blowup, but in how he handles his players one on one, can't cultivate talent, nurture it, or get them to make adjustments, look at Kobe, how much attention does he give Phil in making adjustments to his game. Horrible communicator, sounds like a bumbling fool most of the time. MJ at the great talent in Chicago made his career, and the same is true with Laker ownership.

Overrated egomaniac, the aura has been gone for me for years. They squeeked through the playoffs last year on sheer talent. No last minute play designs, Ironically Ron-Ron was one of those that made brilliant plays, Why shoudl PJ get any credit at all. sick to death of this man.

KobeMVP888,

you wrote: The Lakers are taking a collective snooze. God forbid. They've earned it. They'll wake and up and be fresh when it matters, not when it matters to fans who need to get all paranoid and wrapped up in these meaningless regular season games.

my response: you realize that Phil & Kobe disagree with you, right?

KobeMVP888,

in case you missed it:

He spent the previous week finding endless ways to challenge the team, ranging from publicly criticizing them after a Miami loss, carrying the team albeit with negative results against San Antonio and then just having fun against New Orleans. The latter approach worked except the effort proved unsustaining as he carried the team to victory against Philadelphia and then couldn't jolt them enough against Memphis. So Bryant asked for help.

so you can see that they're really snoozing and don't care about the
regular season. Oh, this was Bryant.

That cry baby! That doomsayer. What does Mr. 5 championships know
about what it takes to win.

Didn't I just predict this a few threads ago...

The only motivation these dudes need is this:

Fulfill the prophecy!

Championship #17, thus tying the Celtics for the NBA lead.

Another ring for PJ in his swan song season.

Another ring for Kobe, tying Mike, and passing Magic.

Another ring for Fish, feeding the haters more chum.

A third ring for Gasol, further justifying his greatness.

A third ring for Lamar, because he deserves it.

A second ring for Ron, so he can keep it this time.

Lastly, another trophy for the organization. The Lakers' legacy of championship caliber players, coaches, ownership, and business practices is what will attract the next generation of stars (Durant? Griffin? Love, even?)to lace 'em up in the purple and gold.

That's all the motivation that is truly necessary.


DBDH!

Confessions/Conflictions of a Lakerfan.As I/we all hope,just like a few games ago is that this win is the start of a streak an things headed in the right direction. I must say as a fan the last few years has had its ups and downs and a few championships in between. The team has almost done a complete 180.....B4 I was suprised when they lost games(especially to certain(subpar)teams).Now when i look for the box score I'm scared and actually suprised to see that they won a game(againt anybody). this must be what it feels like to be a clipper,or kings fan...again here's to hoping this is a step in the right direction for 2011......

Good Morning Laker Fam,

Ah the Pistons, just what the doctor ordered. A team that doesn't look to run and that not very strong in the paint.


It was refreshing to see very good team defense initiated by Kobe and Fish, and even better to see the Lakers take care of the basketball with only six turnovers.


Since the Lakers did play "better", I'll roll with that for my musical selection from Axl and the fellas...a hard effort is worthy of a hard rocking jam...


Guns N'Roses - Better

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbyqqd2Lwp8

@LakerTom – Oh yeah. I definitely thought about the “Wild Side” lyrics and that what made the whole situation humorous.


@TNTLakerfan – Good point about Ron being a more than capable scorer. Yes, he’s lost some lift and has had trouble finishing in the paint, but he still needs to be encouraged to be aggressive.


@What up DBDH! I like all your motivational points. If that’s not enough then nothing is.


VILakerfan - It's been bad, but its not that bleak...keep the faith.

@LRob...
Lol you made a funny...
But ya know you are right ain't that bad yet,feels like it sometimes though.. but definately not yet...peace

heat fans are so lifeless, i bet the twenty yr olds still go to elemtary schools and beat up 3rd graders and then brag about it, thats what happens when most miami locals were raised illegally in this country, by the way you're welcome. the heat are boring, lebron and wade demand a double team. of course they win alot, look at the rest of the teams averages, bosh 16pts a game, arroyo 7pts a game, chalmers 7pts a game, im sure you get it, its not team ball you idiots and you better hope you can survive 7 a series in june g castros money....by the way you do know we're on to you, you're a laker fan but you're afraid of your exposure because you know how sharp the show fans are, its ok ruka, we'll use the outer parts of our hands, wont leave as big of a mark.

Posted by: rossdogg76 | January 05, 2011 at 01:28 AM

rossdoggie dog76- I've always said the Lakers are my second team....WHAT the HELL is a ruka? Is this EBONICS?

Okay fellas don't get too excited. The Pistons are a mess. So I wouldn't take too much from this game. Let's see what the team does when they play a team that really has a clue.

at least they are talking about it. the reporters are just looking for a story,this is their job.but with focus the lakers can give them another story involving winning streaks instead.this is the delicate relationship .ron-ron needs to deal with his pain but i think these guys need to act like adults and move down the road.they need to play real hard all of the time

KobeMVP888,

you wrote: The Lakers are taking a collective snooze. God forbid. They've earned it. They'll wake and up and be fresh when it matters, not when it matters to fans who need to get all paranoid and wrapped up in these meaningless regular season games.

my response: you realize that Phil & Kobe disagree with you, right?

Posted by: hobbitmage | January 05, 2011 at 06:01 AM
=====

About what?

Troll Man - I warned you in different handles you had about making different personal attacks.

"Okay fellas don't get too excited. The Pistons are a mess. So I wouldn't take too much from this game. Let's see what the team does when they play a team that really has a clue.

Posted by: S Perkins | January 05, 2011 at 07:22 AM"

Dude, I can't believe it...you finally said something I agree with. Mirabile dictu...I suspected you had more potential than just being a DFish stalker. Keep it up so we don't have go to speed-scroll when we see your posts.

By the way, MM, I must say your thread articles are becoming really outstanding. There's a depth and a maturity in your writing now that frankly are superior to those of some of the Times' featured columnists. Your pieces are thorough, accurate, objective, and don't try to call attention to yourself more than to the subject you write about (cough***TJ Simers, take a hint***cough). In short, they're authoritative, informative, and trustworthy. Dude, please start making them crappier...otherwise, I'm afraid your editors are going to take you away from us and start giving you your own regular column.

Okay fellas don't get too excited. The Pistons are a mess. So I wouldn't take too much from this game. Let's see what the team does when they play a team that really has a clue.

Posted by: S Perkins | January 05, 2011 at 07:22 AM


These are the same type of teams the heat, the celtics the mavs, the spurs are beating up on. No, not too excited or exciting, but at least we didn't lose by double digits this time. So yeah, happy.

[x] Happy the Lakers crushed a weak opponent
[_] Problems are solved
[_] Sign me up for the __ win bandwagon
[x] Medina is currently the best Laker writer at the Times

[x] Happy the Lakers crushed a weak opponent
[_] Problems are solved
[_] Sign me up for the __ win bandwagon
[x] Medina is currently the best Laker writer at the Times

Posted by: Tim-4-Show | January 05, 2011 at 07:55 AM
**

That was awesome, Tim-4-Show!!

Liked most everything I saw last night. Let's keep it going, Lakers!! I personally would like to see you KILL the Suns! (Figuratively, not literally you weirdos out there who might get your nose out of joint. You know who you are.)

On a side note, I came really close to feeling sorry for the Pistons. They looked terrible. Nothing worse than players against the coach. I hope they fix their problems. Although, anything to get rid of "DETROIT BASKETBALLLLLL" during the game is great, so maybe I am good with the way things are!

GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!

Vlade Radmanovic being a leader in GS....looks like he learned well from his time in LA...


"I knew some people would take what I said and be like, 'Who is this guy to talk about stepping up?' " Radmanovic said. "But there were problems that I saw and I wanted to say something about them. I didn't really care what people were going to think or what people were going to say."
------------

Also...nice to see him get a little dig back at Phil...


"I have a lot of respect for coach Phil, but I think he's kind of a space cadet of his own," said Radmanovic, who played 2 1/2 seasons for the Lakers.


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/04/SPTL1H41TN.DTL

Tim-4-Show, perfect check list for this morning...EXCEPT that I just noticed...hmmmm...if the Lakers run the table for the rest of the season, their record would be 73-11, thus breaking not only our NBA consecutive win record but also the Bulls' all-time season win-loss record. Sorry, man, I gotta be on that bandwagon...Mamba24, where are you?!!

This cracks me up. I mean, it's the Bigs. I have to deal with this stuff in Hollywood all the time: actors, studio execs, ext. Egos and different methodologies to try and corral them. This is what it's like when you deal with everyone making millions of dollars and are always in the public eye.

Phil's absolutely the best at doing this. No one's perfect, but his ability to sustain egos over season after season to continue their excellence when it most counts (the postseason, the Finals) is iconoclastic.

Anyone who's never worked in the Bigs has no idea what a different world it is. It's NOT a 9 to 5 where you can forget it and go home at the end of the day. It's NOT something where a little ragging on the boss is between you and your coworkers. It's NOT just a yearly review of your work. It's CONSTANT scrutiny 24/7 where anything and everything becomes gist for the media and the stakes are so high that at one moment you can be the toast of the town and the next moment out of the game completely (and selling cars somewhere).

This cracks me up.

63 Footer

You gotta love TJ Simers' last line in his article this morning about Phil Jackson:


"And given his record, you'd have to be a real yahoo or yay-hoo to challenge his chances for success."

I must admit besides Tom Ziller from SBnation.com
ur articles are pretty good, but I want to say this we all know that the Lakers are going to win this years championship- the real question is how do we stay relevant for the next 3 to four years? I see Kobe winning 8 rings but we have to play almost perfect basketball , oh im sorry I jumped into the future *true Laker speaking*

You gotta love TJ Simers' last line in his article this morning about Phil Jackson:

"And given his record, you'd have to be a real yahoo or yay-hoo to challenge his chances for success."
Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 05, 2011 at 08:25 AM

KobeMVP888, in case you haven't noticed, lately we've been seeing a kinder, gentler TJ Simers. It sounds to me as though TJ has had his very own Ron-Ron/Phil "loud" chastising moment with his editors, and is (momentarily at least) grudgingly with clenched teeth, on his best behavior. His recent "going into the stands moment" with his UCLA articles undoubtedly sparked this.

artese need to spend more time playing ball and quit
getting bend out of s.hape about what a sometime coach is
saying.you are in holiwood it goes with the territory,how
ever the management need to deal with phil.the person he
should be railing against is fisher whom he should bench.

as soon as pj retires and take fish with him the better.
and as far as the other players quit whinning and start playing with some toughness and quit being pushed around.
pau you need to get some toughness.all five players should
be fighting for rebounds and quits standing around with your
hand up your;.,;,, you know what i mean.go lakers

CornerJ - "lately we've been seeing a kinder, gentler TJ Simers"

I don't know... I think he's waiting in the weeds, like a big ol' snappin' turtle, just waiting, waiting till someone sticks a toe in, then: CHOMP! It's his nature.

"I don't know... I think he's waiting in the weeds, like a big ol' snappin' turtle, just waiting, waiting till someone sticks a toe in, then: CHOMP! It's his nature.

Posted by: 63 Footer | January 05, 2011 at 08:53 AM"

63, I don't disagree at all. As I said, he's GRUDGINGLY writing this way for now. But it's definitely not in his nature, so I do expect him to snap sooner or later. Probably sooner.

By the way, I loved your very insightful post about people in the BIGS, and the people around them, being "different". I'm there too. We both know first-hand, unless you've been there, you have NO idea what that world is really like. Love your posts in general.

Corner J,

Better ck the math again, I think they only play 82 games :)

The first half of last nights game was the same old lost Lakers. The second half was more focused. Tonights game will be more of a test, and really see where this team is.

It's amazing how much Kobe has matured over the last five years.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!

CornerJ - I was joking with you; I saw you were "fair weathering" ol' Simers and waiting for the other hoof to drop.

Yeah, if you're in the Bigs then you know: it's a whole 'nother climate and completely alien to the "real" world. I bet you have stories to tell.... :) But it is odd when people comment on Phil and Kobe, etc., without an entry point into the fishbowl they live in. It's somewhat similar to when I hear people say something like: "Poor people, why don't they just get a better job?" Context is everything.

Enjoy your posts too.

By the way, MM, I must say your thread articles are becoming really outstanding. There's a depth and a maturity in your writing now that frankly are superior to those of some of the Times' featured columnists. Your pieces are thorough, accurate, objective, and don't try to call attention to yourself more than to the subject you write about (cough***TJ Simers, take a hint***cough). In short, they're authoritative, informative, and trustworthy. Dude, please start making them crappier...otherwise, I'm afraid your editors are going to take you away from us and start giving you your own regular column.

Posted by: CornerJ | January 05, 2011 at 07:47 AM

CornerJ, well-said. I too, have found MM's postings to be far more enjoyable and informative to read than the regular beat writers. Compared to his earlier postings when he was filling out the big shoes left by the K bros, MM's writing (not to mention his commitment and all the many little things he does around) has surpassed his predecessors'. But now, like CornerJ, I'm worried someone with more money will steal you away from us, and we have to 'house train' a new mod *lol*

Guys I'm really humbled by all the love. I'm really honored that you've enjoyed the work I provided to everyone. Just want to keep making this a great place for you all


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