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Lakers should be red-faced; instead they’re seeing red

Game over, Phil Jackson meets with the media, mixes in a cuss word on national TV and goes on to say, “If you want to call it an embarrassing effort, T.J., go ahead and write it.”

And here I was so worried I might not get his permission, but with the chains off, I can tell you now it was Mother’s Day and the way the Lakers played, only a mother could love them.

Maybe they will still claim the title when all this is over, but shocking as it might sound, an NBA team failed to show up Sunday for a playoff game -- as embarrassing an indictment as one can levy against a group of so-called professional athletes.

The Lakers are the superior team, the Rockets are down and without Yao Ming, and it was time for the Lakers to put them away.

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“So how come you guys failed to show up?” I said to Derek Fisher, a question a lot of folks in L.A., who were wasting their Mother’s Day in front of a TV, might’ve asked if given the opportunity.

“I’m a man,” Fisher told me, and the things you learn traveling with a team.

“You don’t address me,” he said. “You don’t wait until I’m done dressing. You throw something out like that.”

I know this will come as a shock to some folks out there, knowing the problems that so many athletes have these days, but I’ve found for the most part that most of them can dress and talk at the same time.

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Fisher had only one shoe left to tie when I dared ask him the obvious question, and if he can’t keep up with an inquisitive 58-year-old sports columnist, it’s no wonder he’s struggling with an energetic young pup like Aaron Brooks.

“You should have known better,” Fisher said, while ticking off the names of other Times reporters who know he can’t talk and dress at the same time.

Fisher continued to be defensive, obviously a good sign considering it never happened on the court, and so maybe the guys are already preparing for Game 5. They certainly should be fresh for it.

His shoe tied, he was still upset that he hadn’t been addressed before getting the full-court press.

I was sure wasting a lot of time on a guy who had scored only two points, but I looked to the side, and the alternative was talking to Luke Walton about the passes he had thrown successfully to the Rockets. Reminded me of a UCLA quarterback.

I guess another option might’ve been checking with Trevor Ariza to see if he was awake yet after missing the game.

But I stuck with Fisher, who said he has his championship rings tucked away, but he knows there’s nothing written on them that says how many games they lost, how many points were scored or what someone’s shooting percentage might be.

No question everything will probably be back in order Tuesday night in Staples Center, but with two more series and two tougher opponents yet to be played, a stinker like this shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

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Fisher would agree only that the Lakers got off to a slow start, and would not agree that it was an embarrassing performance.

So much for accountability, the correct answer being the Lakers barely went through the motions, but then Jackson’s postgame comments maybe explaining the team’s lack of zeal.

“We’ve done what we wanted to do in Houston, get home-court advantage back,” Jackson said. “We accomplished what we came to Houston to do.”

The Lakers crush the Rockets in Game 3, Plaschke announces the series is over and then Houston learns it will be without Yao. How much flatter can a team be, dismissed by Plaschke and disarmed without Yao?

But then once again we are reminded about the Lakers’ most glaring deficiency -- a lack of killer instinct, which not only makes them vulnerable, but frankly doesn’t make them championship-worthy right now.

Houston has no business hanging with the Lakers under the present circumstances. Maybe Jackson knows it and understands the Lakers remain in control with two home games in the bank, but his song and dance routine after this nose dive was as off target as Andrew Bynum, who failed to score.

Someone wanted to know whether such a lackluster team performance had thrown up a red flag, Jackson answering he had no idea what that meant.

I tried to be a little clearer.

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“Wasn’t this embarrassing?”

“Are you embarrassed?” Jackson fired back.

I told him I wasn’t embarrassed, but I thought the coach of the team that failed to show up might be.

“Are we embarrassed? No, we’re not,” he said, and I’m embarrassed to report that.

“Houston played a great game,” Jackson said, before swearing, and I wonder whether that’s the first time that has happened on Mother’s Day on national TV.

“Give them some credit,” he said. “For real, this kid Brooks played great tonight. They played well.”

In his meeting with the media before the game, Jackson said, “it’s not going to be easy” to beat the Rockets.

“You think your players are going to listen to you?” I said.

“They better or else we’re coming back here next week,” he said, and so now we know they weren’t listening.

Later, when I brought up the whole notion of the Lakers being an embarrassment to mankind -- receiving his permission to write it -- he added, “Was I angry at the team? Of course I was angry. They weren’t ready right off the bat. You say as much as you can as coach, then the players have to execute.”

That would suggest once again the players are not listening to him, or maybe deep down they really are -- and they were just happy to come to Houston and win one.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com


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