The Lakers went wheels-up for Phoenix shortly after 3 p.m. today. According to Phil, the first 20 minutes of practice were brutal — he invented the phrase “uglied it up” — but the Lakers got some quality work in after that.
— Kobe Bryant did not practice because of a stiff back. Of course, he will play tomorrow. Kwame Brown also was held out of practice because of his laundry list of injuries.
— Lamar Odom said he felt OK, and if you figure out the code, it means it’s probably difficult for him to even brush his teeth in the morning. At this point, he’s not going to admit how much he’s hurting, and you have to respect that.
— Phil played the maybe-I-will, maybe-I-won’t game in regard to who he will start at point guard. The smart money is on someone other than Jordan Farmar, but with Phil, who knows? Also remember that he’s considering putting Vlad Radmanovic back on the active roster, and that would likely be in place of Brian Cook.
Not much else going on. It was pretty subdued today. There’s no need for much talking anymore. The teams know each other very well and at this point, there’s not much left to be said.
But here are the (relatively bland) quotes anyway, for your consumption…
[Do you guys still have a good mindset?]
It’s tough, but it happened to us last year so we know it can be done.
[Do you just have a no-holds-barred kind of attitude?]
If we lose, we’re done. There’s no reason to hold anything back. We can’t get too out of control, because that’s the way Phoenix wants to play, but we have to get all the loose balls and do all the little things that win ballgames.
[How would you describe Phil yesterday?]
He was upset, just like the rest of us were upset. We had a great chance to tie up the series and we didn’t play as well as we needed to. If the leader of the family is upset, hopefully it will make us play that much harder tomorrow.
[Did you sense a difference in practice today?]
We’re focused, but we’ve been focused the whole series. It’s just one of those things where we’re going to have to go out and play the way we did in Game 3. We played a good first half in Game 4 and a good first half in Game 1 and we just have to be able to do it for an entire game. We have to give ourselves a shot.
[Why should the fans believe in you guys?]
We’ve still got a game to play, and we’ve already beaten them once already. We want to get back home.
[How are you feeling?]
I’m OK. Can’t complain.
[Do you feel a sense of urgency among the guys?]
This is it. It doesn’t get tighter than this. We’re facing elimination so hopefully we can come out and play our best game of the season.
[What was today’s practice like?]
We just executed a lot of our stuff, what we need to do and how we want to play. We were going over the tempo we want to play at and just executing our offense. If we don’t do it tomorrow it will be our last game.
[What’s the feeling among the team?]
I think the players are just ready to go. Our backs are against the wall so there’s not much you can do except wait for the game and get ready to play.
[How irritated did Phil seem yesterday?]
As irritated as I’ve seen him. He was really upset, just frustrated, and hopefully the message got through.
[How was practice?]
I was in the training room getting treatment so I didn’t see much practice.
[What was Phil trying to get across?]
Just a sense of urgency. He’s been communicating with us all year long about certain things that just haven’t seemed to stick with us. I think it’s his way of saying, `You guys better get your butts in gear for the next game.’
[Is it frustrating that those things aren’t getting through?]
I just go out and play. I try to stay on top of guys and make sure that their heads are where they need to be and that they stay focused and things of that nature.
[Are you fueled that nobody thinks you can win?]
They’re going to come out with a lot of intensity. It’s a difficult game. Closeout games are always tough so we have to make it as tough as possible. It’s a big challenge for us, going in that building. Nobody thinks we have a shot and nobody thinks we can win that game.
[What were you getting treatment on?]
My back. I tweaked it in the last game so I just have to make sure it’s ready.
[How is it?]
It’s alright. It’s pretty tight right now but we’ve got a great staff. I’ll do some work tonight and tomorrow morning and be ready to go.
[Did you get what you were looking for from the guys today?]
I’m not sure. I’m really not sure about that. They came out here and there was some bad karma, I think, from Sunday’s game. It spilled over to the court here and uglied up the court for 20 minutes and then I finally got them to work a little bit and get things done.
[Do you get the sense that they feel they can win?]
It’s never crossed my mind that we can’t, but I’m a positive guy. I don’t entertain those thoughts.
[But does it matter more that they think they can win?]
It matters first that I think we can win. Then I instill that to them, because that’s where it comes from. They have to have a sense that we can get this accomplished.
[Were you disappointed that it took 20 minutes to get going?]
Yeah, but we went through some organized stuff and they weren’t ready to use their competitive juices. That’s something that I had to get back after them about. Lamar is a little crippled and Kobe wasn’t out there and Kwame wasn’t out there, so we had a little bit of a different crew out there on the floor.
[Did practice at least end on an upbeat note?]
Yeah. We had some spirited play. We got going.
[Kobe said he hadn’t seen you more frustrated]
I got through watching that tape and seeing some mistakes. You’re inevitably going to have some, but when you have makes defensively and you don’t hustle on top of that, you really put yourselves in jeopardy. Hustle makes up for a lot of errors.
[Were you as upset as Kobe thinks?]
Our big guys didn’t play physical and we let them bounce us around. Little things like that were irritating for us as a coaching staff, that we were soft. You’ve got to get in the first blow in this game. I’m talking about action more than physical stuff. You have to make your opponents react to you.
[Are you still starting Jordan?]
I’m thinking about making a change.
[Who would that be?]
Smush, Sasha or Shammond. Or it could be that you go big and make them think about it. I’ll let you know tomorrow.
[On a personal level, how frustrating is it to be on the brink of losing again?]
I don’t think about it in those terms. I just think about, `What can we do next, to get back here on Friday?’ Not anything else. How can we sustain a 48-minute effort? How can we use our personnel in the right way to sustain that kind of effort? If we’ve got guys who can’t play at the same energy output level that we need to contain them, who can step in and fill the gap? Those are the only things I’m thinking about now.
[There’s not a moment where you think, `At this point of my career, I’m in this situation’?]
I did tell them that they had the brainpower of slugs or earthworms. That was just in a moment of irritation.