Lakers vow to keep intensity during shortened season
The Lakers begin their 66-game schedule with a grueling stretch of three games in three consecutive nights. After their 88-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday at Staples Center, the Lakers took a 9 p.m. flight to Sacramento for their game Monday at Arco Arena. But don't count on Lakers Coach Mike Brown to adjust minutes, or instruct his players to dial back their intensity.
"The tough part for me is I've never been good at looking ahead," Brown said.
Only a few players, such as Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, can recall what it was like playing in the 50-game season during the 1998-99 campaign. But don't count on them for perspective. Fisher recalls more the team's semifinals loss to the San Antonio Spurs than falling to fatigue. Bryant had different issues than worrying about his basketball mileage and health.
"I really don't even remember much [of that] because I was like 19," Kobe Bryant said. "I don't even know if I was tired or not."
The Lakers begin this three-game stretch, the season opener against Chicago, the road game at Sacramento and another home game Tuesday against Utah, with limited parts. They're without center Andrew Bynum because of his suspension for throwing a forearm at Dallas' J.J. Barea in last season's playoffs. They hardly know enough of Brown's system to fully execute it. And they have unrecognizable faces in Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. Yet, the Lakers believe their three games on consecutive nights come at the perfect time.
"In some ways for us, we're fortunate it's the first three days as opposed to the last three days of the season," Fisher said. Maybe that early season energy will get us through."
The Lakers will soon find out if their pledge to maintain their intensity regardless of the compacted schedule remains nothing more than a pipe dream. They have fewer games to fully process the system, and fewer days in between to rest their bodies. Brown and his players have acknowledged the importance of having intense practices, but there is less time off between games to actually have them. They've entered the season full of good health. But one only has to consider the the torn ligament in Bryant's right wrist to know that unyielding intensity soon takes a backseat to monitoring injuries.
For now, the Lakers boastfully say they're not worrying about it. We'll soon find out how quickly that enthusiasm wanes.
""You can't worry about, 'This is going to be so many games, I'm going to be so tired,' " Gasol said before Sunday's season opener. "If you're able to go 3-0 or you're able to go 2-1, you're in good shape. If you're maybe 1-2 or 0-3, things start to get ugly."
-- Mark Medina
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