Lakers coach Jackson goes with angry approach
12:01 AM PDT on Wednesday, May 2, 2007
By BRODERICK TURNER
EL SEGUNDO - His team has been beaten down in this first-round Western Conference playoff series and is on the brink of elimination. His team has not played with the intensity and effort he would have liked in the best-of-seven series. His team looked even worse once he watched the film of Game 4.
So upset was Lakers coach Phil Jackson, so disturbed and disgusted that he didn't let his team touch the court Monday for practice to prepare for tonight's Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center.
Kobe Bryant has been with Jackson for seven seasons and had never seen this side of his coach before.
Just how upset was Jackson?
"As irritated as I've seen him," Bryant said. "He was really upset. He was frustrated, and hopefully the message got across."
That message, Bryant said, was that the Lakers must play with a "sense of urgency."
"He's been communicating with us all year long about certain things, and it hasn't seemed to really stick with us," Bryant said. "So I think that was his way of saying, 'You guys better get in gear for the next game.' "
The Lakers came to practice Tuesday knowing that only eight teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. The Suns did it to them last year in the first round.
So once they took the court, surely the Lakers practiced with a sense of urgency knowing what's at stake, that if they lose tonight that they are headed to summer vacation.
"I'm not sure," Jackson said. "I'm really not sure about that."
Jackson said maybe it was "bad karma" still surrounding his team from the Game 4 loss.
"It spilled over on the court here and uglied up the court for 20 minutes, and I finally got them to work a little bit and get things done," Jackson said.
That doesn't sound good, but Jackson said he understood why it took so long for his team to get focused.
Bryant didn't practice because of a sore back, Kwame Brown didn't practice because of a sore left ankle and Lamar Odom was limited because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder, a hyperextended left elbow and a sore right knee.
This is not the first time Jackson, who faces the possibility of the Lakers going out of the playoffs in the first round in back-to-back seasons, has had some choice words for his team.
"I do tell them that they have the brain power of slugs or earthworms," Jackson joked. "That was just in a moment of irritation. That part is disappointing."
Jackson is not the only disappointed Laker.
Bryant has won three NBA championships as a Laker.
But he also has been on a Lakers team that has been in the lottery (2005), been dismissed in the first round of the playoffs (2006) and faces early elimination again (2007).
"Oh, yeah, it's very disappointing," Bryant said. "Very disappointing. This is the third year we've been kind of been struggling a little bit, and it's very frustrating."
Few believe the Lakers can win tonight.
Jackson is not among them, and he wants his players to follow his lead.
"No, it matters first that I think that we can win," Jackson said. "Then I instill that in them because that's where it comes from. They have to have a sense about the fact that we can get this accomplished out there."