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Motown Malaise Doesn’t Last

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers had blown out of Detroit on Tuesday night through a horizontal downpour, having been aired out -- really aired out, by some accounts -- by Coach Phil Jackson for the first time in a long while and leaving with something less than their usual shoulders-back gaits.

Kobe Bryant missed some shots, Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t seem to stay out of referee Jess Kersey’s way, Karl Malone aggravated a hamstring injury and Gary Payton was still looking for the diamond that fell out of his ear, and nobody was in much of a mood to hang around and talk basketball.

So, they could have fit their cumulative patience into a single ball bag. The mood was darker than usual after a November defeat, leading one player to suggest that, considering the enormous expectations, the Lakers would feel the pressure of every loss, all season long.

By Wednesday evening, they had largely moved on, shoved in that direction by the crush of New York and another game and another long trip home. Bryant, who left the arena Tuesday night without addressing the game, said he’d simply been down.

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“It was just, you know, sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have bad days,” Bryant said over the heads of dozens of reporters Wednesday night. “I mean, it wasn’t anything related to basketball, in particular. It was just one of those days, man.”

As for the group, Bryant said, “We wanted to kick off the road trip the right way and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that. I think everybody was pretty upset that our defense collapsed in the fourth quarter. We weren’t able to get any stops. We are accustomed to doing that and it just didn’t happen for us....

“Everything is fine. It is a process. It’s really early in the season. But we’re getting there. We’re making strides.”

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In Los Angeles, you have maps of the stars.

In New York, you have seating charts of the stars.

The Knicks put out a “Photo Tip Sheet” before each game, Wednesday’s touting the section, row and seat numbers of P. Diddy, Ashanti, Jay-Z, Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington and Derek Jeter, among others.

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Jackson sat behind a microphone early Wednesday evening, the interview room a pregame necessity for the first time this season, and began, “As long as I have this opportunity to pontificate ... “

Still steamed over O’Neal’s foul trouble against the Pistons, Jackson went on record again with his support for a no-foul-out policy in the NBA. He cited a policy in the CBA in which all fouls beyond six were punishable with free throws and the ball out of bounds.

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A couple of men who appeared to be Knick fans rode Karl Malone briefly in the second quarter. Briefly.

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“I’ll give you that one,” Malone said after one of the men shouted something. “I’ll give you that one. You keep talking, I’ll come over there and go after your boyfriend.”


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