Lakers give fans something to cheer about

The Lakers were playing poorly, their followers increasingly agitated.

A 15-12 record wasn’t doing much for the public. Neither was idling in the middle of the 15-team Western Conference.

But the Lakers look better these days, winners of eight of 10, pushing back against fans’ angst and silencing the media for now.

“It’s funny how that happens,” Kobe Bryant said dryly, as if he’d seen this show plenty of times.

The Lakers are 3-0 since the All-Star break and have a chance to extend their mini-run with a three-game trip against teams with a combined 40-74 record. The Lakers (23-14) are third in the West and top the Pacific Division.

Detroit (12-26) is stuck in another rebuilding season, Washington (8-29) has the NBA’s second-worst record, and Minnesota (20-19) has improved but is 0-2 against the Lakers.


Everybody knows about the woes on the road, the Lakers a lowly 6-12 after being trounced in Oklahoma City before the All-Star break, but the strategy remains the same.

“We have to make sure we’re coming prepared to play defense first,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

Their identity on offense is more evident in recent games, Bryant said.

“The big difference for us is that we understand what we are. We’re a low-post team,” he said, adding that 95% of NBA teams run screen-and-roll offenses but not the Lakers.

Bryant, by the way, included himself as a low-post player, along with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Masked man

It looks as if Bryant will keep wearing his plastic protective mask, even though it annoys him.

The broken nose he sustained at the All-Star game remained sensitive.

“I got hit in the face a couple times [Sunday] and it [still] hurt with the mask on,” he said after the game against Miami.

Bryant has said it feels like a sauna under the mask. He has at least one ally in his facial feelings.

“Welcome to my world bro,” veteran Chicago guard Richard Hamilton wrote on Twitter.

Hamilton has worn a mask the majority of his 13 years in the NBA. He sustained a broken nose three times in a two-year span and began wearing the mask in 2004 after being told by doctors to use it the rest of his career.

He’s back

Lakers assistant coach John Kuester returns Tuesday to the place where he was fired last year.

Kuester was 57-107 in two years as coach of the Pistons, losing his job amid whispers of player rebellion.

“I’m being honest with you: I wish them nothing but the best,” Kuester said. “Hey, coaches get fired all the time in this league, and what you do is move on.”

Kuester is Brown’s lead assistant with the Lakers. He was an assistant under Brown with Cleveland in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

“The one thing about every experience I’ve witnessed having been in this league 22 years, you live and you learn,” he said. “I’m here, in L.A. and continuing to get better as a coach.... I’m so excited about where we are right now, with this team, our team.”

Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.