No doubt about it. The Detroit Pistons bring out the worst in the Lakers.
Another visit to the Palace turned into another one-sided Lakers loss, punctuated by a belligerent Brian Cook in a 93-78 Pistons’ victory Thursday.
With the game slipping quickly out of the Lakers’ reach, Cook and Coach Phil Jackson argued after Cook dropped his warmups in Jackson’s lap upon being inserted into the game during a Detroit free throw with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
Cook had barely reached his spot at the end of the free-throw line when he was yanked in favor of Andrew Bynum.
Cook went to the bench, his jaw clenched, and yelled at Jackson between the third and fourth quarters. Then he got into a heated conversation with assistant coach Brian Shaw, who had gone to the end of the bench to calm him down. While talking to Shaw, Cook took off his warmup top and threw it to the ground, apparently demonstrating what he had done when he entered the game. The Lakers trailed, 73-55, when Cook was put into the game and then pulled.
It was still an issue three minutes into the fourth quarter, the normally stoic Cook voicing his frustration during another timeout to trainer Gary Vitti and injured forward Luke Walton, his closest friend on the team.
Cook, who has seen his minutes drop since Lamar Odom’s return from injury, claimed it was an accident. Jackson wasn’t so sure. Cook apologized to Jackson after the game and won’t be suspended for tonight’s game in Toronto, a team official said.
“I gave him an exhortation, a ‘hurry up’ type of thing, and he dropped his warmup in my lap, and I just said, ‘Take him right back out of the game,’ ” Jackson said. “We talked about it after the game. He apologized. That’s not in character for Brian to do that, but he’s frustrated. He hasn’t been playing in the regular rotation. There’s some things about that that’s not unnatural.”
Cook has averaged 2.1 points and eight minutes in eight games since Odom’s return from a sprained knee. He did not play Monday against Atlanta and played only three minutes last Saturday against Washington.
“We settled it,” said Cook, who signed a three-year, $10.5-million contract extension during the exhibition season. “I told him I didn’t mean to do it and he said that he wants to do what’s best for me, and that’s use me at the times he wants to use me. I’ve dealt with it all year, I’ve dealt with it for three years. It’s nothing new to me and I look forward to dealing with it for three more years.”
Said Jackson: “Players have to understand the discipline and trust the coach that he’s doing the best for the team and the players.”
Shaw, who developed a reputation as a peacemaker toward the end of his playing career, shrugged his shoulders before he boarded the team bus.
“Things happen,” said Shaw, in his third season as a Lakers assistant. “I just tried to nullify the situation.”
It was the second in-game incident on the Lakers’ bench in a week. Odom yelled at Bynum and threw a towel at Sasha Vujacic during the Lakers’ loss to Indiana last week.
The Lakers fell to 0-8 at Detroit since winning here in January 2002, including an 0-3 skid in the 2004 NBA Finals. The average margin in all those losses is 15 points.
They also fell to 3-3 on their current trip, with games tonight against the Raptors and Sunday in Cleveland before they head home. Jackson had hoped the Lakers would go 6-2 on the trip, but that’s obviously over.
The game itself was turbulent from the start for the Lakers, who trailed, 28-17, after the first quarter, cut the deficit to four midway through the second quarter, but trailed by double figures almost the entire second half.
Kobe Bryant had 18 points, eight turnovers and, by his count, five scratches on his arms from Pistons defenders.
“They have a reputation for their defense,” Bryant said. “They got away with getting some of our guys across the arms.”