Since there seemed to be a good reaction to posting the transcripts of the day’s interviews, I’ll give it another shot today. It’s a good way to give you, the readers, an unfiltered look at what goes on, especially since I’ll only have enough room to get about 5 percent of this stuff in the newspaper. So…enjoy!
For those who don’t have the patience or inclination to read thousands of words, I’ll summarize briefly:
– The mood of the team isn’t good. Kobe Bryant put up a good front, and as a team leader that’s absolutely what he should be doing, but Phil Jackson flat-out said that the team’s mental state was not good today. Whether they can recapture that before tomorrow night is anyone’s guess.
– There is still some mild pain in Kobe’s ankle, but he will play. He didn’t participate in the full-squad scrimmage, and neither did Odom, Brown or Walton, so it actually wasn’t much of a full-team scrimmage, was it?
– I found Lamar Odom’s comments after Game 2 fascinating. You could dismiss them, and say that every team that falls into a playoff hole ends up in some amount of disarray, but this seems to run deeper. And it begs the question, why aren’t the Laker more angry? Why aren’t they pulling together with an us-against-the-world mentality, or at least putting up that front? Maybe because they’re just not that unified.
– There’s lots of talk below about the screen-and-roll defense. That’s something I’ll be getting into more tomorrow. Hope everyone enjoys the quotes. Feel free to post any questions you might have.
[Can it be turned around defensively?]
We’ve just got to stop them from getting easy points. That’s the bottom line. In the first game we did a pretty good job of that, then we had a moment when it kind of collapsed on us. In the second game we just did a terrible job on transition.
[What's your mood like? Mad, angry, frustrated?]
A little bit of all of them, actually. I’m just ready to go. Ready for tomorrow.
[How frustrated are you?]
Extremely. I’m just ready to get out there and play. Anytime you have a game like that you just want to get back out there and look forward to the next one.
[How do you feel the mood is?]
Hopefully we don’t feel too down about it. We should be a little upset and frustrated a little bit, but we should be ready to come out tomorrow with maximum effort.
[How can you improve on the pick-and-roll defense?]
We talked about some things that we’re going to do, in terms of changing up some coverages and not allowing them to get easy opportunities.
[It seems like you're having the same problems that you had early in the season]
Yeah, well when you play a team like the Phoenix Suns it’s going to magnify the defensive troubles that you’re having and the defensive lapses that you’re having. They’re going to have scoring runs and scoring opportunities. The big key is to stop the transition points.
[Are you starting to get frustrated?]
I’m a little frustrated, sure, but you have to keep the pedal to the metal. You have to keep after it, and that’s the bottom line. We’re not the most talented team in the world, so the thing we have to fall back on is effort and hard work. Tomorrow night I’m sure we’ll bring that.
[It seems like there's been a lack of that effort you're talking about]
There has been. We’ re a young team, so hopefully the Staples crowd will get us energized a little bit.
[How do you counter Barbosa?]
You have to stay in front of him. Obviously he’s a tremendous basketball player. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this point, where he can shoot and also penetrate. Guys coming in off the bench, they have to focus on him, primarily Sasha and Smush. They have to key in on him.
[How's your ankle?]
It’s fine. It’s OK.
[It must have scared you last night]
Yeah. Well, we jumped on it early, so I think jumping on it early helped.
[You guys proved something against this team last year. Does it feel like you've backslid a little?]
Sure. It’s tough because the rhythm’s not there, the rhythm that we know we should be playing at. In the playoffs, I’ve been in situations before where one game turns the momentum around. A team starts getting more confident, especially a young team. If we can put together a good game tomorrow, I’m sure we will feed off that.
[You've been down 0-2 before but your teammates haven't. Can they handle that situation?]
We’ll find out who can and can’t.
[Is team chemistry an issue right now?]
It’s just a rhythm thing. When you’ve had guys out for 40-some games and things of that nature, your rhythm is going to be off. We’re trying to build that. One game in the playoffs can drastically change your energy and your confidence in your team. Hopefully that game will be tomorrow.
[As banged up as you are, can this team reach other level?]
Another level above this one? (Shoot), if we can’t put it in second gear brother, we stink. You know what I’m saying? Because we’re just playing bad. There’s another level that we can get to, and tomorrow night I’m sure everybody will be excited and energized to be playing at home.
[Are you still confident that you can succeed with the inside game?]
It’s been a challenge, but a couple plays here and there can give our inside guys some confidence.
[What will you tell your teammates before the game about rallying from a 2-0 deficit?]
It’s a must win. Our backs are against the wall and nobody thinks we can come back and win this series. We’ve just got to come out and play and play hard. That’s all we did against San Antonio. We just came out and played harder. We got that third game and the fourth game and went back there, and at that point anything can happen.
[Can this team turn things around?]
Not in the mood they were in today. They’ve got to change their mood about playing this game. They were depressed and they were humiliated last night. They still haven’t gotten over it.
[Did you even show them film of Game 2?]
Oh yeah. We showed them the second quarter and I think that’s part of the reason they were depressed and humiliated, because we got thumped pretty good.
[Are you surprised by what Phoenix did last night?]
I told my coaching staff, `We’re either going to be in this game or we’re going to get smoked in this game,’ because of the preparation that we had. I didn’t like the intensity that the team brought to it. They were feeling that they had lost Game 1 kind of by happenstance. The reality was that Phoenix hadn’t played as good. They had to bring the next level out of their game and they didn’t do it.
[Which mode of Kobe would be the more effective at this point?]
He just has to play the game and just read what goes on in the ballgame. In the first quarter he played fine and took his opportunities when he was there. I might just have to run him 48 minutes tomorrow. He might just have to find his spots (to rest) on the floor rather than taking him off the court.
[Are you seeing camaraderie issues with the team?]
Losing does that to teams and that’s not unusual.
[What do you need to do better defensively against screen and rolls?]
It’s the pace that they play at. In the first quarter yesterday we let the pace get pretty high. When that happens, Nash gets better angles, instead of starting the screen rolls above the 3-point line. He gets interior position for the offense and it makes it hard for guys who are quick and can jump, like Stoudemire.
[Do you need to be more physical against Barbosa? Do you need to knock him down?]
Before Game 1, the referees said right away, `We’re not going to let this be a physical series,’ and I kind of laughed because you don’t think of the Suns as being a physical team. The referees were really on guard for that right away. It’s the playoffs so that’s what happens.
[How can you get things turned around?]
Nothing happens until you lose on your home court in the playoffs. You hold serve, or whatever you want to call it. If you take care of your home court, you’re OK. With this game on Thursday, that’s our opportunity to start to even the score. There have been many series that have started out this way and ended up in seven-game series. But you have to win these games and have an opportunity to win on their home court.
[Do you agree with Lamar about the team chemistry issues?]
That has happened throughout the season. We’ve tried to make an effort to come together as a team more recently. We went out to dinner in Arizona and things like that. I think as a result of that we came out well in Game 1but we didn’t carry that over to the second game.
[Last night you were talking about the team not being together? What did you mean by that?]
It’s about camaraderie, and dealing with each other and sharing together. When guys are not playing well, the support for each other hasn’t been there the whole year. If that’s not going to be there, then we don’t stand a chance against a team that’s obviously really tight.
[Are you frustrated?]
I’m frustrated. I mean, we’ve had it at times this year, and played with it, but right now there’s obviously guys who are separating.
[Is anger a bad thing at this point?]
Hopefully this brings guys together and makes us want to compete at a high level.
[Would you say there's friction on the team?]
No, that’s too strong of a word.
[Why do you feel the defense is still struggling so late in the season?]
It’s tough because we’ve been struggling with screen and rolls all year, and now we’re playing Phoenix, which has 20 different ways to run their screen and rolls. And they’ve got the best point guard in the league, who picks defenses apart. We have to be more aggressive and be there for each other. We can’t think, `Oh, if I leave, my man might be open for a 3.’ We have to close down that lane and keep rotating for each other and do it for the whole game, not just a few possessions.