PORTLAND, Ore. — Funny guys, those
Their own fan base turned on them weeks ago, more interested in pingpong-ball percentages than on-court victories, so what did the Lakers do?
Win one in their personal house of horrors, beating the allegedly better
"Stop the presses," Lakers Coach
Then he added more seriously, "We need to play with a certain enthusiasm, sharing the ball, running the floor, and they've done it two times in a row."
The Lakers even played defense when it mattered, a true stop-the-presses event.
The Trail Blazers (41-19) were left stunned. The Lakers (21-39) are on a rare two-game winning streak.
Their news wasn't as exciting on the injured-player front — it looked increasingly unlikely Bryant and
"The doctors haven't cleared Kobe so it's a non-issue right now," D'Antoni said. "The thing is, does he get back and play some games to get his rhythm back for next year or just wait? So I don't know."
Does D'Antoni see advantages in Bryant trying to play?
"Not really," he said, adding quickly, "that's not on me. That's something that they've got to figure out."
Interestingly, D'Antoni said it would take about 40 games to evaluate how Bryant fit into the mix with his current teammates, a majority of whom are young players in the last year of their contracts.
But the Lakers have only 22 games left. Nash has played only 10 this season, Bryant a mere six.
Bryant had not been on any recent trips until joining the team in Portland. It was more for Nike reasons than anything. The headquarters of the sneaker giant, for which Bryant is a major endorser, are in nearby Beaverton.
D'Antoni didn't sound hopeful about Nash, saying the return of the 40-year-old guard "wasn't on the horizon right now."
"I don't know what to tell you. I doubt it," D'Antoni said. "What's the end game? We've talked about it. He's not completely healthy. We have  games left. We're not going to make the playoffs. So what's his objective into taking minutes away from the young guys that we're trying to develop?"
The young guys looked strong Monday. Bazemore and Johnson each had 14 points. Meeks scored 21.
They seemed to be loving this run-and-gun thing, which started last week when the slender 6-foot-8 Johnson became the starting power forward. Johnson said they discovered something the last two games.
"Yeah, just run," he said. "I think all of us are athletes who can get out there and run. Rebound, and get out."
Even Gasol seemed temporarily impressed by the small-ball concept, which he criticized last week. He acknowledged he liked the spacing of the offense Monday, as well as teammates' filling lanes on the break.
"Everybody got involved and engaged," Gasol said. "It was real productive."