Even Kobe Bryant admits, ‘This team is weird’
Surely, it was suggested to Kobe Bryant after Wednesday night’s overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings, there have to be some good vibes about the Lakers now that the playoffs are here.
After all, the 82-game regular season was tedious at times for the Lakers. But now they can focus just on the New Orleans Hornets, their first-round opponent.
How does Bryant feel about the Lakers going into the postseason?
“I’m not sure. I don’t know,” Bryant said, chuckling. “This team is so weird. I don’t know what the hell everybody is going to look like tomorrow. So I don’t know.”
Bryant has a point about the Lakers.
It was hard to figure out a team that lost three consecutive games before the All-Star break, including a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who finished the season with the second-worst record in the NBA.
The Lakers then went 17-1 after the All-Star break, then they lost five consecutive games before finishing the season on a two-game winning streak.
“We’ve had a very up-and-down finish,” Coach Phil Jackson said Thursday. “There’s no doubt that the last 25 games don’t make sense in a lot of ways — having a great win in a sequence of games and then losing five in a row from one Sunday to the next.”
Still, Jackson said, “We are anxious” to start the playoffs.
He mentioned how the Lakers have been to the NBA Finals the last three years, winning the last two titles.
The Lakers, who will be back at practice Friday after taking Thursday off, start their quest for another championship Sunday at Staples Center.
They will meet a Hornets team they swept, 4-0, during the regular season.
“I hope it doesn’t let us think that this is going to be anything easy,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have to really [focus on] this one with a kind of seriousness. …. They are a survival-type team and they are a very feisty group of guys.”
The Hornets won’t have forward David West because of season-ending knee surgery.
But Bryant has too much respect for Hornets All-Star guard Chris Paul and former Lakers teammate Trevor Ariza to think New Orleans will be an easy out in the best-of-seven series.
“I expect them to be a problem,” Bryant said. “Chris is a dear friend and I know how competitive he is. He’s tough, man. And Trevor has got something to prove and he’s going to come in extremely motivated.”
Win one for Phil?
This is it for Jackson, his last go-round as coach, his last chance to add to his NBA-best 11 championships. He plans to retire after the season, but says he’s not sentimental.
“We’ll digest this during the course of the playoffs, and yet it’s imminent,” Jackson said. “It’s the elephant in the living room or in the bedroom, depending upon where you want to put that elephant.”
Jackson said his retirement is “something that we have to acknowledge and go through it.”
His plan is to give “every bit of energy” to winning the championship.
But his players made things challenging at times this season. “They’ve treated me like a lame duck,” Jackson said, smiling.
The NBA fined the Lakers and Jackson $75,000 each for comments he made last week about the possibility of an NBA lockout next season, league spokesman Tim Frank said Thursday.
Team officials are forbidden to publicly discuss the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league.
“Who knows what the NBA’s going to look like after this year?” Jackson told a small group of reporters last Thursday. “I think there’s some people pretty convinced there’s not going to be a year next year.”
Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown played in all 82 games in the regular season.
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