One of the privileges of doing this job is that we have a seat for every game that most fans would kill to have just once. This is all changing with the NBAs new media guidelines but the seats at Conseco Fieldhouse tonight for the Lakers-Pacers game were exceptional.
In fact, they were almost uncomfortably great. We were sitting courtside, along the baseline, about 10 feet from the Lakers bench. We spend a lot of time watching the bench for visual clues as to what people are thinking and feeling. It’s hard not to feel like you’re staring when you’re sitting that close. But there’s also hundreds of small things you can note.
Heres one example: With 10:22 left in the fourth quarter, Lamar Odom was fouled on a play by Danny Granger. It seemed like a benign foul at the time and Odom tossed in a shot after the whistle. But Phil Jackson yelled “Continuation! from the bench, a one-word protest that that basket should have counted.
Im not sure any of the referees even acknowledged Jackson. The Lakers still had possession but Odom went on to miss a 3-pointer. It was the Lakers best chance at getting a basket during the fourth-quarter stretch with Kobe Bryant on the bench. Those four minutes also wound up torpedoing the entire night.
Jackson was asked afterward if there was a single play that turned the tide in that 32-14 fourth quarter.
His answer: “Lamar had a penetration, scored the basket, they called it on the floor, I dont think he put the ball down again. I was disappointed in that call. It was a big difference maker. We had to take (the ball) out on the side. It would have given us a four-point lead or something like that. That was a problematic thing.
(I wonder how many fans in the arena or watching on TV at home picked up on that play. My pick for the biggest play in the fourth came as the Pacers ran out after Bryant missed a drive and got a dunk by Granger to make it 82-76.)
There also was a timeout at what seemed like the end of the third quarter but wasnt. While the referees reviewed whether Vladimir Radmanovic committed an offensive foul before the buzzer, Shammond Williams and Smush Parker were dancing (discreetly) to the arena music.
That shows you how good the Lakers were feeling after three quarters and how devastating the fourth quarter was. Im sure the Lakers also would have rather us not be sitting next to the bench when Lamar Odom and Sasha Vujacic had a shouting match during a fourth-quarter timeout.
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If the fourth quarter was a horror show, the first quarter might as well have been a trip to the amusement park given the merry-go-round of players that were used.
Jackson sent Ronny Turiaf for Andrew Bynum 2:04 into the game after Bynum picked up his first foul and Jermaine ONeal had scored three baskets against him. But Turiaf stayed on the floor just 2:26 before picking up two fouls.
So Jackson brought in Brian Cook for Turiaf. They didnt even make it another 30 seconds before Jackson benched Smush Parker – - whod given up a layup to Jamaal Tinsley – - for Jordan Farmar and brought Bynum back for Vladimir Radmanovic.
Jackson used two timeouts in the first 6 1-2 minutes to try and unsuccessfully keep the Lakers from falling behind by double digits. He went on to sit Lamar Odom after Odom committed three straight turnovers and brought Radmanovic back for Cook.
Its not easy to get in a rhythm when all those changes are going on. Jackson went even deeper in his bench early in the second quarter, bringing in Shammond Williams to replace Farmar and guard Darrell Armstrong. Williams definitely was surprised to hear his name called.
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Jackson offered his thoughts on Caron Butler being selected an All-Star after being traded by the Lakers. If he wants, Jackson can congratulate Butler tonight when the Lakers and Wizards play in Washington.
“We didnt want to have to trade him, Jackson said. “Theres no doubt about it. We had to give up something to get a big man and at that particular point, we really needed a big man in this organization.
“We got Andrew and Kwame in the same year. Caron was the guy that had to go and thats a tough situation. I never had the opportunity to coach him, but I liked the way he played.
Jackson doubted that Butler would be averaging 20 ppg had he stayed with the Lakers: “I think that his game fits very well with (Washington) – - slashing, quick, operative offense.
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One highlight of the trip was watching Lakers spokesman John Black inform complete strangers Thursday that Indianapolis has the greatest radio station in the country. This was usually met with blank stares by the other person.
Black stumbled onto WTTS 92.3 FM in his hotel room. You can listen to it here. I have to say that I listened for several hours today while doing the NBA power rankings. It restores faith that there are good radio stations left in America.
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By Ross Siler
INDIANAPOLIS–Who knew that seasonal affective disorder could produce such profound effects on a basketball team, leading to a fourth-quarter collapse and shouting matches between teammates?
That was the diagnosis Lakers coach Phil Jackson offered after watching the Lakers score just six points in the first 10 1-2 minutes of the fourth quarter and fork over a 95-84 victory to the Indiana Pacers on a frigid Friday night.
The Lakers started the fourth quarter with a lineup of Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Maurice Evans and Brian Cook on the floor and coughed up a seven-point lead while Kobe Bryant was resting on the bench.
Not only did the Lakers fail to score a point during the four minutes without Bryant but Odom and Vujacic came to the bench shouting at each other with 8:07 remaining and exchanged words throughout the timeout.
“We kind of lost the lead, Vujacic said, “so the nerves went up and we just had a misunderstanding. Nothing huge. Its nothing big.
In addition, center Kwame Brown volunteered before the game that he would be seeking a second opinion on his sprained left ankle. Brown will return to Indianapolis after practice Tuesday to see the same specialist who once treated Devean George.
Now the Lakers would have to sweep the remaining five games on this road trip to finish with the 6-2 mark that Jackson talked about before leaving Los Angeles. Where, by the way, the temperature was not in the single digits Friday.
“I think they just had SAD tonight, Jackson said. “Its sunlight deprivation. When you get here and its all gray and you have all these California boys, they just get depressed and cant take it. They were very sad tonight.
Bryant had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, finishing with 22 points but making just 7 of 25 shots. Smush Parker finished with 20 points and six steals but the Lakers were trounced 32-14 in the fourth quarter by Indiana.
The Lakers took a 70-63 lead into the fourth quarter, with Parker providing a lift by turning two steals into easy dunks in the last 3 1-2 minutes of the third. But Bryant went to the bench and the Lakers immolated in the fourth.
“I might have been putting too big a responsibility on Lamar out there with the younger kids, Jackson said. “Theyve done pretty well over the course of the season but they werent ready for that tonight.
It started with Farmar missing a 3-pointer, Cook losing the ball and Odom missing a 3-pointer. The play that will be remembered, though, came as Darrell Armstrong – - the NBAs third-oldest player at 38 – - blocked Vujacic on the fast break.
“Thats his first taste of Darrell Armstrong, Bryant said. “He does that stuff. We saw it coming the whole way. I just couldnt say, `Nooooo. I was over on the bench and I tried to warn him but he couldnt hear me.
The Lakers struggled just to beat the 24-second clock on their next couple of possessions. Odom and Vujacic jawed at one another during the next timeout and Bryant had to calm down Vujacic on the bench.
“Sasha cares so much about doing the right thing, Bryant said, “`he gets wrapped up in the game emotionally. Hes got to step back from that and be a little bit calmer.
Asked what the Lakers should have been doing, Odom answered: “Get it to players where theyre comfortable with the ball. Its like our recognition is bad. We dont know who were playing with.
Even with Bryant back, the Lakers could not stop their demise. Odom missed all three shots in the fourth quarter and had two turnovers, including losing the ball to Jeff Foster with the Lakers down 82-76.
Bryant made just 1 of 5 shots in the quarter before burying back-to-back 3-pointers after the Lakers fell behind 89-76. The Lakers went nearly four minutes without a point in the fourth and were outscored 24-6 in the first 10 1-2 minutes.
“They sucked, Jackson said. “Thats about all you can say.
After scoring 43 points and hitting seven 3-pointers Wednesday in Boston, Bryant made just 1 of 8 shots in the first half and went 0 for 5 in the second quarter. He was able to draw a three-shot foul just before halftime as the Lakers closed to 44-41.
The Pacers went right at Andrew Bynum with Jermaine ONeal, who scored their first 11 points of the game. And Jackson wound up using 11 players, including summoning Shammond Williams from the end of the bench, in the first 14 minutes.
The Lakers bottomed out in the first quarter when Odom committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions and was benched with 2:55 left. Odom threw away a lob pass to Bynum, then a shovel pass to Bynum, and followed with an offensive foul.
Odom finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds but had six turnovers. The Lakers committed 21 turnovers in the game, although the Pacers finished with one more turnover for the game.
The news, meanwhile, was not encouraging for Brown, who missed his 16th game Friday with the sprained ankle. Brown said his agent requested the second opinion; the doctor who will be consulted was with at the Super Bowl this week with the Colts.
“Any time I ramp up exercise it starts flaring up and I cant complete a workout, Brown said. “Weve got to find out whats going on.