No matter what you thought of Thursdays events, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said one thing everyone can agree upon: “I think that the explosive media coverage raised expectations and the emotional level for a lot of people.
He was talking about the trade deadline, which passed without the Lakers making a move. The Jason Kidd-to-the-Lakers talk might have been the perfect storm, only gaining in volume the more it was downplayed by those involved.
Kupchak said he came into Thursday not expecting any deal. He spent the afternoon, in fact, attending a ceremony honoring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at City Hall.
From what I can gather, the Lakers and Nets tabled discussions a while back after New Jersey made it clear they wanted Andrew Bynum in the deal. The Lakers obviously are not about to give up the player who might be their franchise center someday.
The two sides revisited things Wednesday to see if there was any change. The Nets werent going to deal without Bynum, so that was that. It was hard for me to see from the beginning how the Nets were going to sell the trade to their fans without the 19-year-old.
Kupchak couldnt talk about any specifics but he did say that he “pulled out all the stops trying to make a move. But given the protocol that has to be followed for a trade, the Lakers didnt hold out hope after Wednesday that anything was going to happen.
Im therefore skeptical of reports that say the deal didnt go down at the last minute for one reason or another. Asked how close he got to making a deal, Kupchak said, “Not very close, which is what we expected going into the last day.
“Things could turn on one phone call or a pinhead but it was unlikely based on conversations going into the trade deadline that wed do anything. That was where our expectations were.
My thinking all along was that the Nets would have a hard time trading Kidd (as well as Vince Carter) if only because they would be forced to accept irrelevancy in the New York market. The only thing worse than losing is losing in front of 10,000 empty seats.
Now the Nets can cling to their playoff hopes – – especially with Dwyane Wades shoulder injury – – and the Lakers can fall back on the fact that they have beaten all five of the Western Conferences top teams. Theyre a good team when they play like it.
* * *
Assistant coach Kurt Rambis filled in Thursday with reporters while Phil Jackson went to the dentist. Rambis offered an interesting perspective on how Jackson is handling the first six-game losing streak of his career.
“He keeps in his mind that this is a young ballclub, Rambis said. “We have a lot of young guys that need a lot of basketball education. He talked to them today about not getting too high during the high times and not getting too low during the low times. To try and keep an even keel so theyre best able to learn.
“They cant focus on things that happened in the past. Maybe they didnt get a foul call and maybe their shot didnt go in, but thats gone. Lets focus on the next moment that appears in front of us. He wants these guys to educate themselves and hes here to perpetuate that learning process.
Rambis said that Jackson did talk to Kobe Bryant about the fourth quarter of Wednesdays loss to Portland and when it makes sense to take over a game. It was Jacksons belief that Bryant started too early and failed to keep everyone involved.
Of course, the Lakers fell apart when Jackson sat Bryant to try to facilitate that involvement on offense. “It wasnt as much for Kobe as it was to force other people to stop relying on Kobe, to stop force-feeding him the basketball, Rambis said.
As for the film session, Rambis said: “A lot of guys sat there and watched the edit with their mouths open. They couldnt believe they were making the mistakes they were making. [ep
* * *
I didnt envy Rambis having to answer a question about the death of Dennis Johnson not even an hour after the news came Thursday. He found the right words after being on the other side of all those Lakers-Celtics battles in the 1980s.
“I just remember him as an extremely tough competitor and defender, Rambis said. “He was one of those guys that just willed his team to win. He was such an integral cog in the success the Celtics had.
Johnson was very nice to me when I went to Austin last season to do a story on the NBAs new development league system. We talked for about a half-hour and I was struck by how much he clearly loved the game to be coaching at that level.
His team was practicing at a recreation center in a rough part of town with signs ringing the court that dunking was prohibited. There was no 3-point arc, although Johnson joked that he didnt mind because his team shot so poorly from long distance.
But he took pride in fulfilling a job that he saw as preparing players for the NBA. If they were hoping to stick in the league, Johnson made it clear that they had to do all the dirty work and out-hustle the guys with the million-dollar contracts.
It was the only conversation I had with Johnson but I was grateful for it today. It would have been nice to see him get a second chance at being an NBA head coach.
* * *
Luke Walton did some light practicing Thursday but is not expected to play Friday against Boston. With the Lakers playing back-to-back games Sunday and Monday, Waltons return from a sprained ankle might not come until March 2 against Sacramento.
* * *
By Ross Siler [ep
Staff Writer [ep
EL SEGUNDO–As the clock struck noon Thursday and the NBA trade deadline came and went without a move, the Lakers were sequestered in the film room at their practice facility, starting the search for answers from within. [ep
Only a day after becoming the first Phil Jackson-coached team to lose six consecutive games, the Lakers learned that they will move forward this season with a roster that general manager Mitch Kupchak said “in all likelihood will stay intact.
Asked how close the Lakers came to a deal, Kupchak said, “Not very close, which is what we expected going into the last day.
“Things could turn on one phone call or a pinhead but it was unlikely based on conversations going into the trade deadline that wed do anything, Kupchak added. “That was where our expectations were.
In the meantime, the players went frame by frame through their second-half failings in Wednesdays loss to Portland – – a video session turned team meeting – – before getting on the practice court to talk about defense and do some shooting.
They heeded Jacksons admonishment that they werent “playing for one another and reaffirmed their commitment to finding the open man on offense and being accountable for their defensive effort.
They will have every opportunity to end the losing streak tonight at Staples Center against the Boston Celtics, who have lost 27 of their last 30 games and own the NBAs worst record at 13-40.
“Weve just got to battle back out of it and become a better team, Kobe Bryant said. “I dont think anybodys wavered from the fact – – at least I havent – – that we can make some serious noise in the playoffs with the roster that we have.
“This is a bump in the road that were going to have to get through and when we get through it, well be a better ballclub.
The Lakers resolved to be a better defensive team than they were in giving up 112 points on nearly 60 percent shooting to Portland, which was the NBAs third-lowest scoring team coming into the game.
“Were just basically letting teams go wherever they want, do whatever they want, and were not going to be successful if we continue to do that, said assistant coach Kurt Rambis, who filled in with reporters after Jackson left to see the dentist.
“Its up to each individual to make a stand and make sure that their teammate doesnt get embarrassed at that end of the floor, either.
No big deal: In spite of all the rumors of a potential deal for All-Star guard Jason Kidd, the Lakers stood pat at the trade deadline for the eighth straight season.
“I think everybody was looking forward to possibly Jason coming out here, Bryant said. “Obviously, that would have been an amazing backcourt. But it didnt happen so we just move on from here.
The two sides never were close to a deal and there was little movement in the final days. The Lakers refused to include 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum in a trade and offered a package built around Kwame Brown, expiring contracts and draft picks.
Although he grew up in New Jersey, Bynum didnt hear much about the possibility of coming home to play for the Nets. Why? He said he lost his cell phone more than a week ago.
“It makes me feel good to be wanted by a lot of people, Bynum said. “That means Im doing something right. I wanted to be a Laker when I got drafted. This is my home. Im happy that they want me here.