Losing but not losing it
DALLAS -- Stuck in a two-game losing streak and suddenly looking up at someone else in the Western Conference, the Lakers don’t seem too uptight.
As practice ended on a court deep inside American Airlines Center, there was barely a whiff of resignation from the new second-place team in the West, no signs of distress anywhere.
Assistant coach Frank Hamblen wore a loud green T-shirt that said in big block letters, “Frankie Says Relax.” Lamar Odom joked about being able to throw a 50-yard pass as Arena Football League teams arrived for a game. Coach Phil Jackson even crooned a verse of “Only the Lonely” while approaching a group of reporters.
The Lakers were loose and laughing, perhaps knowing they had put forth a decent day of practice Monday and invested some quality time a few hours after their 104-92 loss Sunday afternoon in Houston. Not long after the Lakers’ charter flight landed Sunday night in Dallas, five players headed over to the arena for a late-night shooting expedition.
Kobe Bryant made a quick delivery on a promise to work on his shot because it was too “flat,” an admonition he made after a woeful 11-for-33 shooting effort against Houston. He scored 24 points against the Rockets.
“I’ve got to get more arc on the ball,” he said. “For me, it’s just making little tweaks here and there, sharpening up the stroke. Once you get your reps in, it kind of puts it back into your memory bank.”
Bryant was joined Sunday night by Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Derek Fisher. They were there for 90 minutes, until about 10:30 p.m.
Bryant couldn’t remember the last time he shot after a game.
“I don’t know. I just felt like shooting and they wanted to come along,” he said.
And they weren’t denied entrance by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban?
“He’s hoping I opt out. He’s got bigger things in mind,” he said.
Despite the spate of injuries and consecutive losses, Bryant seems happy with the Lakers, even though he can terminate his contract after next season.
Whether any of the above helps tonight against Dallas remains to be seen.
The Mavericks (44-23) have won five consecutive games and are only 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers (45-21) in the West.
“They’re not going to roll over and we’re not going to all of a sudden come out and have a hot night and just automatically win a game,” Jackson said. “We have to do something to do it.”
The Lakers have to do it without Pau Gasol, who was walking around without crutches at times Monday, but was still limping on a sprained left ankle.
“The swelling’s come down a little bit,” Jackson said. ‘It’s a positive sign. It’s all one step at a time.”
Meanwhile, back at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, the injured ones keep healing.
Andrew Bynum continues to work out on an anti-gravity treadmill without any “adverse reactions,” team spokesman John Black said. Bynum is not expected back from a knee injury until at least early April.
Trevor Ariza underwent a CT scan Monday that showed the broken bone in his right foot was healing. He no longer has to wear a walking boot and can begin working out on an elliptical machine, but he probably will not be back in time for the start of the playoffs, Jackson said.
Chris Mihm might practice next Monday for the first time since undergoing surgery last month to have a screw removed from his surgically repaired right foot. Mihm probably will not engage in contact in the practice but will take part in some drills, Jackson said.
Houston forward Tracy McGrady was impressed by the job teammate Shane Battier did while defending Bryant.
“If Shane Battier’s not on the All-Defensive team, I’m protesting,” McGrady said. “I’m boycotting the All-Defensive team, seriously, because this guy did a phenomenal job on the best scorer in our league.”
at Dallas, 5:30 PDT, Channel 9
Site -- American Airlines Center.
Radio -- 570, 1330.
Records -- Lakers 45-21, Mavericks 44-23.
Record vs. Mavericks -- 1-1.
Update -- Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 24 points and shooting 56.5% in five games since serving a one-game suspension for committing a flagrant foul on Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko.