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Mike Brown admits struggles in handling compacted schedule

As he headed toward the trainer's room Monday, Lakers guard Derek Fisher simply shook his head. 

The Lakers' game tonight against the Phoenix Suns marks the second contest of a five-game stretch this week, leaving them with a late-night flight to Utah for Wednesday's game and Monday and Thursday as the only practice days. A reporter pointed out that next week's schedule of games against Dallas (Jan. 16), at Miami (Jan. 19) and at Orlando (Jan. 20) at least gives them four practice days. But that hardly assuaged Fisher's concerns.

When Coach Mike Brown stepped out toward the Lakers' practice court, Fisher said the following within earshot: "This week, we say we wish we had more practices, but when the practices come next week, we're going to say we need more rest."

Brown, Fisher and a small group of reporters laughed at the thought process, but it epitomizes an approach to this year's compacted schedule that Brown admits he's struggled handling. 

"I've been trying to teach and learn and all that, while not trying to do too much," he said. "But I have done that at times."

That's included three-hour practices. A few that were open to reporters included hourlong shooting sessions. After training camp started Dec. 9, the Lakers didn't have a single day off until Dec. 28, after playing three games on consecutive nights.

Brown initially wanted an even more intense schedule, but scrapped some of those plans. Instead of having six two-a-day sessions during training camp, the Lakers had three. Brown reduced the playbook to a third of its original size, and he has tried to limit recent morning shootarounds to no longer than 90 minutes. 

"We knew it was going to be a challenge," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. We knew we would face adversity first. We knew all that coming in."

But with the Lakers' fielding a 6-4 record through 10 games, it remains to be seen which approach is better. 

Don't expect the Lakers' co-captains to complain.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is nursing a torn ligament in his right wrist, requires pre-game injections to null the pain and wears an over-sized oven mitt to limit the wrist's movement, but he scoffed at the notion that playing a league-high 10 games in 15 nights has worn him out.

"Do I look tired?" he asked with a glare after being asked about it.

Fisher has tried catching up on his conditioning after his off-season centered on his role as NBA Players Assn. president during the protracted labor negotiations. Brown's strong-corner offense requires more speed than the 37-year-old can usually provide, but Fisher hasn't started in 505 consecutive games by accident. 

Addressing the issue of fatigue, Fisher said: "I haven't missed a game in quite some time, so you might want to check with someone else on that question."

But as far as learning Brown's system in a relatively short time, Bryant, Gasol, Fisher, Andrew Bynum, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks have all acknowledged they've felt overwhelmed by information overload.

For now, they view the situation as a necessary growing pain than anything that's counterproductive.

"That's not bad for me throwing all this stuff at them and keeping them in the gym for as long as I have," Brown said. "I got to give them some credit for where we're sitting right now." 

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

 
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