A few Lakers practiced Wednesday, but most stayed away, taking advantage of the last few hours of a scheduling reprieve that rivals the All-Star break for rest and relaxation.
When they reassemble today in El Segundo, they will have practiced once since Saturday's game in Portland, a second consecutive loss that dampened the spirit of the time off, if not its healing powers.
Kobe Bryant, who missed Monday's workout because of flu, is expected back today. Rick Fox and Brian Cook are gaining on recoveries from their surgeries, Fox perhaps a couple of weeks from a clear idea of when he will return.
Every moment off the floor is critical for the aged and bruised among them, though Karl Malone looked down at his thick arms on Monday afternoon, smiled and said, "I'm sure I'll probably work out once or twice."
Even if they won't make the kind of progress on offense or defense that Coach Phil Jackson might have hoped for, Jackson has a reputation for giving his players -- the veterans, in particular -- time to unwind. Training camp was one of the most demanding of Jackson's coaching career, and he has continued his focus on conditioning well into the season.
So, he gave them two days in December, the emphasis on a league-best 18-5 record rather than the Dallas-Portland failures at the end of last week.
"I think the players are much more alerted and determined about what they have to do ... as a team," Jackson had said Monday.
When the Lakers play the Denver Nuggets on Friday night at Staples Center, their most recent memories will be of the 222 combined points they allowed in consecutive defeats, and the 50 second-chance points that got the Mavericks and Trail Blazers to 222.
"We have a defensive scheme we think is pretty good, but we didn't finish it up and rebound out of our defensive opportunities," Jackson had said. "Loose balls and rebound opportunities, that really hurt us [Saturday] night. We gave them way too many points and opportunities off second chances.
"But, offensively, well, we're not quite as fluid. So we spent most of [Monday's] practice trying to find that kind of fluid way to play basketball ... so it's more conducive to getting the ball moving and players moving and things happening with the basketball.
"That's going to be an ongoing problem for us for a while. We've managed to play relatively well without a whole lot of offensive knowledge. We think we have a great opportunity to step forward in the next ... three weeks before we get into the crunch part of the season."
Joe Bryant told KCAL-TV on Tuesday night that he talks nearly every day with his son, Kobe, who is facing rape accusations in Eagle, Colo., and that he gives him advice.
"I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't Daddy," said Joe Bryant, in town as coach of the Las Vegas Rattlers of the American Basketball Assn., who lost Tuesday to the Long Beach Jam.
"He's a special young man," Joe told the television station. "I mean, he's very worldly, very intelligent, and I think he'll get through this."
The Bryants apparently have reconciled after a falling out.
Shaquille O'Neal is studying for his MBA at the University of Phoenix, which has several campuses around Los Angeles. It is all part of his goal to become a sheriff or police chief somewhere, someday.
Asked if it were in him to shoot at someone, even a criminal, O'Neal said, "No. Probably not. No."
"You can't ask me that," he said, laughing. "I'm not going to answer that."
Told he might have to, O'Neal said, "No, chief of police is an upstairs job. It's about managing the troops. I'm going to be chief. I'm not going to be out there working. I'm going to be chief.... I think I'm good at managing the troops and appeasing the political people. I think I'm good at that, also.... I have done the streets before. Once I do my required patrol time, straight upstairs."