MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Lamar Odom went right to the heart of the Lakers’ troubles after they fell to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight and suffered only their second three-game losing streak since Pau Gasol was acquired from Memphis on Feb. 1, 2008. Here’s some of what Odom had to say after the Lakers fell to 5-5 in their last 10 games:
“Defense takes unity. We’re a lot closer than we’re showing on the court as a team. We’re used to getting stops and talking, the energy picks up as a team. And we let teams hang around us. I watched teams almost start to give up before the game. Like, our first 11 games, I watched teams come in our gym or us go places and they almost gave up and then we kind of took our foot off the gas and we gave them confidence and we’ve started losing to teams I really felt like we shouldn’t be losing to.
“I don’t feel like they’ve beaten us to where we don’t know what to do or how to match up or anything like that. I think we have to get back to how we were playing as a group. Because your energy picks up, your focus picks up and the game comes really easy. Everybody shoots it well enough and passes well enough to make it really easy. A lot of the teams we were playing wouldn’t even get close to it. I’ve seen it. Earlier in the season. We were kind of toying with them a little bit.”
The Lakers have issues in the wake of their two-game losing streak, and Pau Gasol’s heavy workload is the biggest of them. He played 45 minutes, 30 seconds two nights after going 44:54 during the Lakers’ loss to the Utah Jazz. He scored 13 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and added three assists and three blocks tonight. But he looked fatigued at times and was frustrated by the Pacers’ tight defensive coverage on him. Things aren’t likely to get better for him when the Lakers face his younger brother, Marc, and the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. Lakers coach Phil Jackson made it clear tonight the team will not sign a free agent to serve as backup until Andrew Bynum is ready to play next month. Theo Ratliff could be out up to six weeks after he had knee surgery. Gasol has no backup and his team-leading average of 39:04 is not going to go down any time soon.
The Lakers were halfway to an embarrassing defeat tonight, with the Indiana Pacers dragging them yawning and snoring through the first half at Staples Center. Both teams played as if stuffed with Thanksgiving turkey. The Pacers were only slightly better at shooting, passing and rebounding, so they led. The Lakers shot 39.5 percent; the Pacers shot 44.4 percent. The Lakers had 19 rebounds; the Pacers had 25. The Lakers had 12 assists; the Pacers had 12. Kobe Bryant had 18 points and Lamar Odom had 10.
Andrew Bynum wants to make his season debut three weeks from now. “That’s just me,” he said after a rigorous on-court workout this afternoon at the Lakers’ training facility in El Segundo. “The training staff and other people may see things differently. I don’t have a target. I just want to be back within three weeks. That’s my personal goal.” FYI: the Lakers play the Raptors in Toronto on Dec. 19, three weeks from Sunday.
SALT LAKE CITY — This was one the Lakers had in their pockets, then suddenly got it swiped. Kobe Bryant went on one of his electric fourth-quarter runs, scoring 14 consecutive points to give the Lakers a 96-91 lead with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining. They didn’t score again, though, and the Utah Jazz rallied to win behind some determined play. Bryant ended up with 31 points, but didn’t get a lot of help in the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol went scoreless after scoring 21 points in the first three quarters. Ron Artest missed a couple of big shots, including a 3-pointer from the corner that would have given the Lakers a lead. He also fumbled a rebound out of bounds at a key moment late in the game. Deron Williams had 29 points for Utah, including the tying 3-pointer. Next: Indiana on Sunday.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Lakers built a 19-point lead over the Utah Jazz in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold it. They shot a scalding 13-for-19 in the first quarter, but then slumped to 4-for-21 shooting in the second quarter. It wasn’t a winning combination. Pau Gasol scored 11 of his team-leading 13 points in the first quarter. Kobe Bryant added 11 points by halftime. Deron Williams scored 11 points for the Jazz in the first half.
Oh man, when will these people learn? Lakers coach Phil Jackson has raised mind games to an art form during his Hall of Fame career. He jabbed the Miami Heat on Tuesday by suggesting if the team’s struggles continue, then team president Pat Riley might fire Eric Spoelstra as coach. Jackson likened it to a similar situation in Miami in 2005, when Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy early in the season.
Van Gundy, now coaching the Orlando Magic, responded to Jackson today.
“To second-guess another coach and comment on a situation he knows nothing about, I think, it’s inappropriate and it’s also ignorant,” Van Gundy told reporters. “I don’t mean that commenting on Phil’s intelligence, he’s obviously a very smart guy. I mean it as ignorant — he doesn’t know what that situation was and he doesn’t know what that situation in Miami is now.
“I don’t think that, unless their relationship’s changed drastically, that he and Pat talk on a regular basis. So I doubt he would have any insight ever on what’s going on in Miami.”
Here’s what Miami’s Dwyane Wade said: “The only thing surprising about it is a coach saying it about another coach in this league. I expect that from someone else to say it, but not another coach. It’s unfortunate. But I guess Coach Jackson has earned the right to say what he wants, and he continues to exercise that right.”
Too funny. Don’t these dudes get cable? Or read a newspaper?
The Lakers have the NBA’s highest average ticket at $95, according to a survey of the league’s 30 teams announced today. The two-time defending champions raised ticket prices by 2.1 percent overall. The New York Knicks had the second-highest prices at an average of $89 per ticket. The Boston Celtics were third at $69. The Memphis Grizzlies had the league’s lowest average ticket at $23, a drop of 3.9 percent.
Further, the Fan Cost Index, which takes into account the prices of four average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps, shows the Knicks with the most expensive night out at a game, with a cost of $506. The Lakers are second at $489, followed by Boston ($393), Miami ($380) and Chicago ($365).
The Lakers improved to 13-2 to start the season by winning a game they might have lost if not for their depth and resourcefulness. In the end, their second unit enabled them to pull out a victory over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. Shannon Brown scored 21 points and Steve Blake and Matt Barnes sparked a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter. Blake made a pair of 3-pointers and Barnes hit one. Lamar Odom also scored 21 points. Rose scored 30 points for the Bulls and also had five rebounds and eight assists. The Lakers’ backups outscored their Chicago counterparts, 39-10. Next: the Utah Jazz on Friday.
The evolution of Shannon Brown continued in the first half tonight. Brown scored 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting in 14 minutes in a reserve role. The Lakers would have been lost without him. Kobe Bryant added 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, but the rest of the Lakers were out of sync. Derrick Rose led Chicago with 16 points and seven assists in the half.