Coach’s 40-20 vision is in sight

Times Staff Writer

Mention the phrase “40 before 20” to Phil Jackson, and you can almost sense his mind flashing back to greatness.

The Lakers’ coach believes that elite teams win 40 games before they lose 20, a mark achieved by the Lakers in all three of their championships earlier this decade and by the Chicago Bulls in all six of their championships with Jackson as coach in the 1990s.

The Lakers are currently 37-17, and eight of their next nine games are against teams that wouldn’t make the playoffs today -- the Clippers (twice), Seattle, Miami, Portland (twice) and Sacramento (twice).


It appears the Lakers will get 40 before 20, but Jackson flip-flops between complimenting the team and posting notes of caution until center Andrew Bynum returns.

“We’ll see how that all fits together,” he said recently. “Obviously, we still have a large order yet to come along with Andrew getting back and playing this year. . . . That will be a major adjustment for our team. For right now, it fits really well.”

True to his one-day-at-a-time mind-set, Jackson didn’t wander into the future when asked if Bynum’s return would be seamless.

“We really don’t know that,” he said. “But I think we’ll be fine. I think we’ll be able to do a lot of different types of things.”

Jackson gave the Lakers the day off Thursday, after their win at Phoenix on Wednesday.

Bynum jogged in a swimming pool Thursday, another step in his rehabilitation from a knee injury that has sidelined him for 18 games. “We’ll have to give it some time to see how the knee reacts to the activity,” Lakers spokesman John Black said.

Bynum could be back as early as mid-March, although Lakers officials are expecting a return date later that month.


He suffered a deep bone bruise in his left knee and a subluxation of his left kneecap -- a brief dislocation that popped back into place -- in a Jan. 13 game against Memphis.

Pau Gasol had 29 points and made 10 of his last 12 shots against Phoenix, one of many efforts that impressed teammates and coaches.

“His personality, besides his game, fits in very well with our team,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t demand the ball, he’s not unhappy about not scoring. He just goes out and does his job.”

Gasol turned out to be the Lakers’ only acquisition this month before Thursday’s trade deadline. Teams can’t make any more trades until their seasons have ended. (Their trading partners would have to be done as well.)

Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O’Neal attracted more than 3.6 million ESPN viewers to the Lakers-Suns game, making it the cable network’s third most-viewed regular-season NBA game. The most-viewed was a Houston-Lakers game on Jan. 17, 2003, when Yao Ming vs. O’Neal, then a Laker, drew 4.9 million ESPN viewers and a 3.8 rating. Wednesday night’s national telecast got a 2.9 rating, which also ranks third for an ESPN regular-season telecast.

The game was also televised locally by Channel 9, which got a season-high 7.5 rating and attracted 543,000 viewers.


Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton were back at Staples Center on Wednesday with Memphis. Brown didn’t play against the Clippers and Crittenton was scoreless in 12 minutes in the Grizzlies’ 100-86 loss.

Brown is healthy but has not played in three of the last five games. Crittenton has found it hard to get playing time behind Grizzlies point guards Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry, and has not played in two of the last four games.


Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.