Lakers trying to restore order without losing composure
As if to provide reassuring signs that all is right in Lakerland, a subtle reminder he's monitoring his $91 million payroll or perhaps a mix of both, Lakers owner Jerry Buss took a quick stroll into practice Tuesday at the team's facility in El Segundo.
"It's normal," Lakers forward Ron Artest said of Buss' visit, which was mainly to speak with his daughter Jeanie Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president. "It's not like he never comes. He's come in training camp and a couple times of the season and sometimes to eat lunch. He doesn't have to be here to show support."
As if to remind the Lakers their 96-94 Game 1 loss Monday to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals could've been nullified had they converted on a few single plays, Coach Phil Jackson instructed his reserves to be more patient passing the ball inside and highlighted Kobe Bryant's turnover on the second-to-last possession as evidence the result could've swung the other way.
"Everybody forgets about the game and [remembers], the Lakers held off Dallas in the second half," Jackson recalled saying. A single play or two like that can create it. But what we don't want to do is get mired back in that definition. We want to get back into what we do right as a basketball club.
"In 2008, we waltzed our way to the NBA Finals and didn't win it," he said. "The last couple of years, we've had more interesting dynamic times getting to the Finals and we figured out a way to win it in the Finals. We've done what's necessary to win and we've accepted the fact it won't be perfect, we're going to lose games and there will be times where we're not playing up to our abilities. But if it was as easy writing the script and having it go as written, there would be a lot more teams we're trying to do."
The above illustrations exemplify how the Lakers are continuing to remain even-keel about their latest adversity, even though there's a litany of issues to address heading into Game 2 with a 0-1 deficit. The Lakers have been in this position before, what with losing in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets in the 2009 Western Conference semifinals and also dropped Game 1 against the New Orleans Hornets in the first round. But it's a dicey proposition for the Lakers to continuously gamble, with Bryant conceded he remains concerned because of Dallas' improved play.
The anxieties go beyond figuring out how to avoid letting a 16-point third-quarter lead slip away or prevent the Lakers from missing four of five shots in the last three minutes and commit two turnovers in the final 20 seconds. There involves tangible things the Lakers may take a time figuring out, such as how to prevent Dirk Nowitzki from scoring 28 points on 11 of 22 shooting or how to stop the Maverick's reserves from scoring 40 points.
There's other areas the Lakers can control, such as fully utilizing their inside presence in two seven-footers with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. But the resurgence of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood as well as the frontline's inconsistent aggressiveness and the backcourt's inconsistency in finding them open looks, it remains to be seen whether Bynum and Gasol can combine for more than 23 points in 18 field-goal attempts. Then there's the sudden disappearing act from Ron Artest, who went one-of-eight from the field after averaging 11.8 points on 50% shooting against New Orleans, a dropoff he attributed to his lack of establishing post positioning and aggressiveness.
Mix all these variables together and the Lakers suddenly have a long list of things to correct without a lot of time. Yet, the Lakers insist and have shown they thrive in these situations.
"One thing we do well is deal with adversity and deal with losing," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "We'll get better and better as the playoffs go on."
Even if they have done so in the past, it remains to be seen whether the Lakers can duplicate that. As the Lakers continue to operate with a situational attitude, their margin of error will continue to decrease as teams improve and fatigue and age continue to increase. Their experience, maturity and talent level can carry the Lakers out of their current adversity, but believing they can do so doesn't amount to a great formula to follow.
E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]