View Full Version : Trouble in Lakerland?(Long article)

05-10-2002, 08:13 PM
May 10, 2002
From the LA Times

Answers in Short Supply
Pro basketball: As struggling Lakers try to figure out why shots aren't falling, O'Neal
takes shot at Jackson.

By TIM BROWN, Times Staff Writer

Rick Fox, basketball wise and world savvy,
pondered for several seconds a question that
touched both arenas.

Everyone could see the results of five playoff
games, four that the Lakers had played poorly and
won, one that they had played poorly and lost.

Everyone could see that Shaquille O'Neal had
exhibited moments of dominance, that Kobe
Bryant had enjoyed possessions of uncommon
grace, and that the rest, Fox among them, had
helped sometimes.

But now the Lakers were headed to San Antonio,
with their most critical game since Game 2 of the
last NBA finals ahead of them, tied 1-1 in the
Western Conference semifinals. Tim Duncan had
just observed that the media had declared the
Lakers "immortal," which probably was an
overstatement, but that the Spurs had not.

There are signs, too, that O'Neal is unhappy with
Phil Jackson, either for Jackson's midweek request
for more activity from his center, or because
Jackson went public with that conversation, which
Jackson called "heated."

On his way from the team's practice facility
Thursday, O'Neal was asked about his health,
including a mildly sprained left ankle, a new ailment.
He told an Associated Press reporter, "Ask Phil.
He knows everything."

O'Neal often uses similar language when angry with
Jackson, most recently in November, when
Jackson fined O'Neal for missing two practices
while attending the birth of his daughter. He then
accused Jackson of talking too much.

Their relationship has been fine since. Indeed,
O'Neal often has threatened to retire if Jackson
were to leave the organization. The coach's
contract has two more seasons.

Clearly the Spurs were gaining confidence and the
Lakers' was slipping, and David Robinson's back
was getting stronger while O'Neal was hurting,
from his shooting forefinger to his jumping toe to his

So, Rick Fox was asked, Why? Why now?

He paused and looked to the rafters.

"You're wondering whether or not San Antonio is
responsible or we are," he said. "Looking at
ourselves, knowing what we do and what the
execution of our game plan is supposed to look
like, we are responsible in the sense we've dug
ourselves a hole the last two games in the first half
due to a lack of following through with our game
plan. You have to give San Antonio credit for
taking advantage of that. Other teams haven't taken advantage.

"Now, I know how it feels today. We haven't had a feeling like this for a long
time in the playoffs. It's not a sweet taste. We're faced with a team now that
will play two games at home, where it plays well, where we have to go and

Game 3 is tonight at the Alamodome. The Lakers practiced nearly up to the
moment their charter flight departed LAX on Thursday. They lifted weights and
paced through instructional drills for an hour on the floor, then watched film, all
as Jackson was dictating instructions. And all along with the sense that anything
short of a split—Game 4 is set for Sunday—could foreshadow the end of their
season, well short of their third consecutive title.

"We'd much rather be up, 2-0," said Bryant, one of the few players available
for comment after practice. "We could easily be down, 0-2, right now. So, we
just go up there and deal with the situation at hand and do our best."

They are pretty sure they haven't done anything close to their best yet. After
another regular season cloaked in complacency, the Lakers have been
uninspired in the playoffs. Their offense has almost completely left them. Not
even a gritty defense can make up for an offense scoring 85.5 points a game
against the Spurs, 16 points off the regular-season average.

There are reasons:

• Bryant shot only two free throws in Game 2. The Lakers have had five fewer
free throws than the Spurs.

• Compared to the regular season, O'Neal's scoring is down nearly five points.
Bryant's shooting percentage, rebounds and assists all are down.

• The Lakers are committing more turnovers and dispensing fewer
assists—more than four a game—than in the regular season, and they are
allowing more offensive rebounds, even though opponents are taking fewer
shots. The Lakers also are taking eight fewer shots a game.

It is, by all accounts, a bad time for them to be playing their worst basketball of
the season. They got through Portland on a couple of decent halves and one
very large three-pointer by Robert Horry, and have put two good quarters
together against the Spurs only once, the third and fourth on Tuesday, but only
after trailing by 16. They have scored more than 19 points in a quarter in the
first half only once against the Spurs.

The Lakers have no real answers, either, or simply aren't offering them.

"You people forget that it took an overtime for us a couple times last year in the
playoffs, one against Sacramento," Jackson said earlier in the week. "You don't
go through all these games blasting opponents out of the water.... There are
going to be struggles. They're hotly contested games. We know we're not
playing great basketball. We're not saying we can't play better, but we're not
downgrading what San Antonio's doing. They're having a big part of what's
happening to us."

Jackson added that he's not totally surprised by the laborious starts.

"The pressure on a team to succeed, to win three in a row, and the whole
countdown to the back-to-back-to-back activity we're involved in has been a
year-long watch for us," he said. "There's a good reason we're amped up a
little bit. But there's no reason we can't go out on the road and play good

Said Fox: "To be smacked around like we were Tuesday, we realize it's time to
accept the challenge. The challenge has been laid down."

Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times

05-10-2002, 10:17 PM
The guys on TNT were saying that Phil Jackson camne unglued and that it scared some of the guys that had never seen him pissed. There is a lot of petty bickering in Lakerland right now, but winning would cure that. I hope they argue there way out of the playoffs. That team needs a little strife.

05-10-2002, 10:40 PM
<< The guys on TNT were saying that Phil Jackson camne unglued and that it scared some of the guys that had never seen him pissed. There is a lot of petty bickering in Lakerland right now, but winning would cure that. I hope they argue there way out of the playoffs. That team needs a little strife. >>

i hope you mean &quot;out&quot; as in &quot;out to early summer vacation&quot;, not &quot;out to three-peat&quot;

05-10-2002, 11:21 PM
that's exactly what I mean DTL i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

05-11-2002, 01:20 PM
Phil is a master at motivation. It must have worked..lakers turned it on when they had to.

05-11-2002, 03:37 PM
can't argue with that unfortunately.