Lakers are immobilized by their supporting cast
April 23, 2007
PHOENIX — I'm paraphrasing Phil Jackson
here, and although admittedly it's a somewhat loose translation of what he's been saying for weeks now, if Kobe Bryant
shoots 30 or more times a game, it's because his teammates stink and they have basically let him down.
Jackson has been complaining about the Lakers' inability to finish games despite having the best closer in the league, blaming it on the supposition that Bryant has had to expend too much energy early because his teammates failed to make a meaningful appearance.
Jackson mentioned it again before the first playoff game with the Suns, calling on Bryant's teammates to keep him under 30 shots, while allowing Bryant to take "quality shots" rather than playing "desperate."
Well, Bryant took 33 shots Sunday, running all over the place in the first half to dominate the show, but then going one-for-a-desperate-10 in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. As a result, the Lakers scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and lost, 95-87.
"He ran out of gas," Jackson said.
Not so, said Bryant. "I was fine."
He said the problem was "we didn't execute as well as we were executing. We started turning the ball over, which led to easy transition points for them, but it came off our lack of execution."
Translation: His teammates stink.
Bryant wasn't hot either in the second half, and what is it about this guy and second halves in Phoenix during the playoffs?
He shot four for 16 in the final two quarters, and lacked the energy he had displayed in the first half. It looked like the same old problem that has bedeviled the Lakers for weeks now when trying to hang on down the stretch.
"It sure looked like it, didn't it?" said Jackson, while praising Bryant's first-half performance but then adding, "we'd like to save that for end-game situations."
Jackson talked about Bryant's lack of "lift" in the fourth quarter, and you can understand why after carrying his teammates much of the game.
Bryant did not have an assist in the first half, though he did give it a try once, giving up the ball to a wide-open Brian Cook
. Cook missed, and although he has a three-year, $10.5-million deal that kicks in next season, it's probably too much to ask of him now to make an important shot while earning only $1.7 million.
You should have seen the look on Bryant's face as he backpedaled after passing the ball to Cook and watching him miss.
Bryant finished with one assist, getting the ball to Andrew Bynum
, who didn't botch a dunk — a good thing, I guess, he was in at the time and it wasn't Kwame Brown
trying to catch the ball and dunk.
Remember when Smush Parker
played for the Lakers?
is playing on a sore ankle, and Jackson said Walton finds it difficult to get off the floor. Cook played 6:11 and missed his only shot attempt, and Maurice Evans
was 0 for 3. Sasha Vujacic
was one for two but had two turnovers and still looks like he should be playing for Loyola Marymount rather than a NBA team.
had good numbers, and Jordan Farmar
had a bunch of good moments, but apparently as a group the Lakers weren't doing enough to gain Bryant's confidence. As a result, Bryant kept firing, the degree of difficulty increasing, and the results favoring the Suns.
Now I'm not crazy about watching Brown & Co. shoot the ball when Bryant is on the court, but a good guess now is we're going to see a lot more of that Tuesday when the Lakers try again to beat Phoenix.
It's the way they played against the Suns last year, Bryant starting the game in his role as facilitator, and saving himself for a run down the stretch.
That means it will be up to his teammates to carry the night, at least for the first half, thereby giving Bryant the chance to be well-rested when it comes to trying to overcome the 15-point halftime deficit.
a good part of the game on his feet, walking from one end of the bench to the other, at times yelling instructions to his players and at other times whistling for their attention. It might be the hardest he's ever worked during his time with the Lakers, and I mentioned it to him after the game.
"I thought the refs needed more help out there," he joked.
time, the 10,835 readers responding to an latimes.com poll asking who would win this series favored Phoenix 50.6% to 49.4%, while oddsmakers had made the Lakers 11-1 underdogs.
Hometown fans can still dream, I guess, 24.6% predicting the Lakers would win the series in six games. Phoenix was picked to win in five games by 25.4% of those responding. Three percent had the Lakers sweeping the Suns, and keep in mind those people could be living next door to you.
Farmar's performance tell us about Parker's future in L.A.? He doesn't have one.
game, Laurel D'Antoni,
wife of Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni
, took the microphone and urged the crowd to come to Tuesday's game and donate "new and gently used" books to the Phoenix Suns Wives' book drive. Makes you wonder if this is the Suns' way of taking most of those inflammatory ":07 Seconds or Less" books out of commission.
decided to donate money for each win two years ago to Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, inspiring several others to join him, and the Clippers went on to set a franchise record for most wins in a season.
Maggette & Friends contributed more than $100,000 to the hospital, which then used the money to hire an additional nurse for the cancer pediatric ward.
This year Grady Little
decided to donate $100 for each win, inspiring five others to join him — with room still there for more to join the club — and now the Dodgers have the most wins in baseball.
The real test will come if the Kings decide to donate next year.
T.J. Simers can be reached at
email@example.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.