PORTLAND, Ore. — Kurt Rambis is filling in for Phil Jackson as the Lakers’ coach for tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers. He also filled in for Jackson during the pregame session with reporters and held his own in the banter department. He also had a few revealing comments about the Lakers’ lack of success in Portland over the years and said the team held a meeting this morning to address the torrent of verbal abuse Trevor Ariza is likely to take tonight. Ariza’s hard foul on Portland’s Rudy Fernandez in the last game here last month sent Fernandez to the hospital with a bruised hip and chest pains.
Here’s some of what Rambis had to say …
About the Lakers’ seven-game losing streak in Portland:
“It’s a quandary we’ve all been trying to figure out. Some of it has to do with travel, some of it has to do with our opponent over there. Matchups and they play some really good ball in this arena. It has more to do with the fact that they’re a really good team and they play really well in this arena. Let’s hope they play a lot better than the last time we were in Portland. That wasn’t a very good showing after the first few minutes of the ballgame. They should come out with a maximum effort. We’re still fighting for home court throughout the playoffs. We’re still battling with Cleveland. We still want to get ourselves prepared for the playoffs. And we’re still trying to assimilate Andrew Bynum into what we’re trying to do. So, there are a lot of things we’re trying to do right now.
About helping Ariza deal with the hecklers:
“We’ve already talked about it in a team meeting today. It’s something he’s going to have to block out and ignore. It’s unfortunate that he was vilified for what he did, but he made a great play on the ball. What happens when players go up off one foot and extend themselves, they get hit. It’s the nature of the sport. He got hand and ball. It was unfortunate what happened to Rudy. Nobody wants to see any play get hurt. Nobody wants anybody sustain an injury like that. It was unfortunate. But I know what was in Trevor’s heart. He, in no way, intended for that to happen.”
About increasing the role of backup guard Shannon Brown:
“Yes, we’ve been tinkering with the idea of moving him up in the rotation as a spot defender. He’s one of those rare players who can guard two or three different positions. His toughness, his aggressiveness, his strength are all assets for him. We’ve been waiting a little bit longer for him to pick up as much of the offense as possible, and that’s one of the things in this offense that’s not easy to do from the guard position. It’s the toughest position to learn the offense from, but he’s picked it up really well. He’s eager to play. You saw how hard he plays. That’s an asset for him and it’s an asset for us.”