Tuesday report

My only question walking out of practice Tuesday was $25,000 or $50,000. Its hard to imagine how Phil Jackson doesnt get fined for painting the picture of a league that has a “vendetta against Kobe Bryant and twice using the term “witch hunt.

Jackson certainly had his feelings on the NBAs decision to assess Bryant a flagrant foul penalty 1 for catching Philadelphias Kyle Korver in the face with an elbow in Fridays game. If you want to play David Stern, here are Jacksons unedited comments:

Q: Were you happy about the league just giving Kobe a flagrant 1?

Jackson: It shouldnt have even been a flagrant 1. Thats crazy. Thats a vendetta. They have a witch hunt going on. Thats nuts. A guys riding somebody. Everybody does that in this league. Its just becoming a witch hunt now.

Q: Do you have any idea why?

Jackson: I think that obviously once something happens like that and a lot of videotape starts floating around and people are making cuts of things that are happening, theres a lot of focus on him.

Q: Have you guys sent in tape to the league of him doing the arm motion on his shot?

Jackson: Not that I know of, unless Mitch (Kupchak) has asked our video guy to do that. Were just collecting things right now.

Q: Is it worrisome when these incidents involving Kobe have been no call, loose ball foul and no call on the court and you end up with two one-game suspensions and a flagrant foul?

Jackson: It is an after the fact type of thing. That is bothersome. They have (the) advantage of looking at videotape. We wish that they would correct some of the mistakes they make in ballgames the same way. Theres a couple games that probably could be swung, won or lost, by some of the calls if theyd correct them after the fact. But you cant do that in the game.

Q: Stu Jackson said after the second suspension that he didnt need to consult with the referees because he could watch the video replay. Do you think they should talk to the actual referees before they do something?

Jackson: Youd think that would happen, just off-hand. Even the details of the (Marko) Jaric foul, from what I understand, Jaric got on his arm before he got to the ball. So the shots coming, he hits his arm. Kobes reacting to his hand. The whole play ensues.

If a referee sees that, he might have called the first foul and not the second. A lot of referees will let a touch of the arm go if a guy pulls his hand back when his shooting motion begins. I mean, thats how our games become.

In those situations, the referee might have said, `Hey, he hit his arm first and Kobe reacted to that first arm touch and tried to draw the foul. But it doesnt look like theyre making that accommodation at all.

* * *

Luke Walton took part in most of practice but removed himself at the end to avoid any setback in returning from his ankle sprain. Walton is 99.99 percent sure hes playing Thursday at Denver but Jackson said his minutes will be limited for now.

What that computes to remains to be seen. The Lakers either played five on five or conducted full-court drills for the better part of two hours. Walton got through most of it, although he concedes that pain sets in when the ankle starts getting fatigued.

Walton also had a pretty good state-of-the-team quote in the wake of a six-game losing streak: “We need some shock therapy or something to get us going again because were dead right now.

Or this when asked about Sundays loss to Dallas: “Its one thing if youre losing, but if youre getting beat by 20 and theyre still out-hustling you, thats not right.

* * *

Jackson made a pretty stunning statement, I thought, about what the Lakers goals are here with barely a month before the playoffs begin. In essence, all the Lakers want to do is stay in the top eight and see what kind of momentum they can generate.

“I basically told them it doesnt really matter about our record, Jackson said. “At this point, were not searching for 55 wins, obviously. Were searching for an opportunity to make the playoffs and get healthy.

I asked Walton whether Jackson has changed his approach or his tone in the wake of the teams second six-game losing streak in a little more than a month. Jackson never had known a skid longer than five games before this season.

“Hes always very calm about it, Walton said. “I think were having a lot more conversations about self-checking ourselves now. Normally he lets us work our way out of it without saying much and then once we do, thats when we talk about it.

“Right now, were kind of talking about it a little more. Hes been very successful, so I dont think hes out there trying to change his ways.

* * *

The Lakers can look on the bright side in one respect: They came into Tuesday with the Western Conferences most favorable schedule the rest of the season.

The Lakers will play three games against teams with a .500 or better record and 15 games against teams with losing records.

They also have 10 home games and eight road games left. Thats a lot friendlier than Denver (8 home, 13 road) and the Clippers (8 home, 12 road). The Nuggets, however, could pull within a game of the Lakers if they beat Portland tonight at home.

The Lakers have three games left against Denver and two games remaining against Memphis, Sacramento, Phoenix, Seattle and the Clippers. If it comes down to it, the Lakers play their final game of the regular season at Sacramento.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Even as Kobe Bryant was forced to serve two one-game suspensions for striking opposing players in the face, Lakers coach Phil Jackson maintained that he didnt believe the NBA powers-that-be were singling out his star guard.

He wasnt saying the same thing Tuesday, however, after the league office assessed Bryant a flagrant foul penalty 1 for elbowing Philadelphias Kyle Korver in the jaw while trying to dribble free for a shot late in the first half of Fridays game.

In comments sure to reach the desk of Stu Jackson, the NBAs executive vice president in charge of all disciplinary matters, Jackson twice referred to a “witch hunt against Bryant.

“It shouldnt have even been a flagrant 1, Jackson said. “Thats crazy. Thats a vendetta. They have a witch hunt going on. Thats nuts. (Korvers) riding somebody. Everybody does that in this league. Its just becoming a witch hunt now.

An NBA spokesman said the league would review Jacksons comments today. Jackson was fined $25,000 earlier this season for referring to the “dubious referee crew that worked the Lakers Nov. 30 loss at Utah.

Bryant did not talk to reporters Tuesday but the flagrant foul marked the third time this season that the league has used video replay to punish Bryant after the fact. The NBA does have explicit rules regarding contact made above the shoulders.

No foul was called on the play from Fridays game. Korver was keeping step with Bryant on defense when Bryant threw his left elbow backward and caught him in the face.

On the plays for which he was suspended, Bryant was not called for a foul when he struck San Antonios Manu Ginobili in the face. He was called for a loose ball foul on a nearly identical sequence involving Minnesotas Marko Jaric.

“Obviously, once something happens like that, Jackson said, “and a lot of videotape starts floating around and people are making cuts of things that are happening, theres a lot of focus on him.

There are two degrees of flagrant fouls and Bryant was assessed the less severe of the two. Bryants contact was deemed to be “unnecessary as opposed to “unnecessary and excessive and worthy of immediate ejection.

Another ankle: The Lakers couldnt even get through their first full practice with Lamar Odom and Luke Walton back on the court before watching Brian Cook land awkwardly on a fast break drill and suffer a moderate left ankle sprain.

Cook, who has started 24 games this season, will be listed as doubtful for Thursdays game at Denver. The Lakers wont know the extent of his injury until today, Jackson said.

“Its out of control right now, Walton said. “Every time someone starts getting healthy again, someone else goes down. Hopefully, it is just moderate and hell be able to get back soon because weve got to get something going to make a run for the playoffs.

Odom update: Odom tested his injured left shoulder again in practice and could be seen shaking out the pain in his arm at times. As he told reporters, “Im going to be in situations where you might see me grimace or grab it, but its time to play.

There also will be situations when Odom will be forced to use his right hand on the court. He has used his left hand almost exclusively throughout his career.

“Ill try to do more things with two hands on the ball, Odom said. “That way Im a little stronger. I dont want to get on there and get it wrenched. Ill have to use it a little bit, pull it out. Theyve been saying, `Force him right since I was like 10 years old.

Also: Maurice Evans (sore right knee) didnt practice bit is expected to play Thursday. . . . Kwame Brown will start at center against the Nuggets, Jackson said.

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  • Michael

    Nice work Ross. You do the best Laker reporting in town.