Lakers address the toughness issue

The question still lingered a day later. Are the Lakers tough enough?

Kobe Bryant brought it up after the Lakers’ 93-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his teammates had to answer for it Friday before a 115-105 victory over the New York Knicks.

“Kobe’s a tough guy. You’ve got to listen to your leader,” forward Lamar Odom said. “If he sees something, we’ll address it on the court or in practice. Kobe’s going to push us, you know?”

Bryant, however, didn’t directly address teammates after telling reporters it was “not in our DNA” to be a tough, physical team.

“If he really meant it, he wouldn’t have told you guys, you know what I’m saying?” Odom said. “He would have told us face-to-face. He would have broke every guy down.

“Maybe that’s how he feels right now. There’s nothing wrong with that. I see it at times. We could do things a little harder, maybe a little quicker, a little tougher. It happens.”

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn’t want to delve too deeply into any toughness questions, calling them “debatable.”

“There were some situations [Thursday] night that we could have stood up a little better, but just finishing the game is what’s important,” Jackson said. “When the game’s tied, we have two opportunities to take the lead, don’t do it. . . . Those are critical things that we’ve done before [successfully]. We’re good in that period of time, so we can’t get too excited about it.”

Jackson and Odom rallied to the defense of Pau Gasol, who missed two layups and two free-throw attempts in the final minute of the loss to Cleveland.

“I talked to him a little bit about it and he said it’s not going to be a mental block,” Jackson said. “He’s such a good performer for us, I just don’t think he’s going to be affected.”

Odom said it was “unfair” to criticize Gasol’s finesse-oriented skill set.

“Pau’s one of the best players ever in the NBA if you look at his numbers, if you look at coming to a team halfway through the season and then taking them to a championship [round] and then win a championship,” Odom said.

All-Star chatter

All-Star reserves will be selected Thursday, but Clippers center Chris Kaman didn’t wait to weigh in on whether Gasol should make the team.

“I don’t think Gasol should be in it at all,” Kaman told AOL FanHouse. “He’s only played, like, 20 games. I think you should have to play, like, 80% of the games.

“It shouldn’t be 50% [of games played] over a guy who plays 90% and who has better numbers. Not just me. Zach Randolph, a power forward, he has better numbers [than Gasol]. But he’s not on the Lakers.”

Kaman also didn’t like the thought of Andrew Bynum getting picked ahead of him.

“I think I’m more deserving than [Bynum],” he said. “I’d be disappointed if they put Pau Gasol ahead of me. If they put Bynum [ahead of me], it would be disappointing but it would be easier to accept.”

Meanwhile, Bynum said he still thought he had a chance to be selected.

“I think it’s possible because the play on this road trip is going to have a lot to do with it,” he said. “I think that I definitely have an opportunity.”

Bynum finished second to Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire among fan voting for Western Conference centers. He thought he knew why.

“I think that has a lot to do with my trip to Asia and all the Asian fans,” he said. “They liked me when I was out there, so that was pretty cool.”

Bynum went to China and Japan during the off-season.