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LAKERS REPORT

Trip was a bit longer than they'd hoped

December 31, 2006|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers returned quietly to Los Angeles by touching down early Saturday, their flight plans delayed more than an hour thanks to some extra basketball and a slowly emptying locker room in Charlotte.

On paper, they had a good trip, going 3-3 in front of unsympathetic crowds without Lamar Odom, but the 133-124, triple-overtime loss to the hapless Bobcats tugged at them in unexpected ways.

Phil Jackson wasn't thrilled with Kwame Brown's fumbling in the post, Brown wasn't enamored of the poor screen-and-roll defense -- some of which was his doing -- and Kobe Bryant insisted he didn't like scoring 58 points on 22-for-45 shooting.

"I'd much rather not do that," Bryant said. "It's too tiring. Sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do to keep the team in the game. I wanted to make sure we were aggressive early. I didn't think we'd be able to survive a slow start if we dug ourselves a hole."

Bryant made 16 of his first 27 shots but only six of his last 18. He had attempted more shots only one other time in his career -- the 46 he took against Toronto last January on the way to a memorable 81 points -- and that was accompanied by victory.

An hour before Friday's game, Jackson provided an analysis of Bryant's play this season, including occasional lapses where Bryant takes on too much.

"There's one sequence in the Orlando game [last Wednesday] where we ran a quickie, an automatic, and Kobe got the ball with about 19 seconds to go and dribbled the ball on the baseline, got it knocked out of his hands after pump-faking twice and managed to almost dribble out the clock for the next 18 seconds," Jackson said.

"So occasionally he'll fall back into his old self. I think he launched a three from about 10 feet behind the three-point line in that sequence. He goes off on forays once in a while. He saw Smush [Parker] the other night had a hot hand and started getting him going [against Orlando]. Those type of things are really helpful with Kobe's support."

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Jackson wasn't the only one irritated by Brown, who had three turnovers in the third overtime, including dropped passes down low from Bryant and Luke Walton.

Bryant said he would respond accordingly to Brown.

"You dog him a little bit," Bryant said, smiling slightly. "You let him know you're on him a little bit. But he's a key part of this team. We know that, and he knows that. He'll bounce back."

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Tonight's game against Philadelphia will be the last time the Lakers use the new microfiber composite basketball.

"We're happy to see it go," Jackson said.

All teams will switch back to the leather basketball starting Monday, as per Commissioner David Stern's orders. The Lakers' next game after tonight is Thursday at Sacramento.

"I think it'll bring its own adjustment period of time," Jackson said of going back to the leather ball. "We'll have a couple days of practice with it."

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Former Lakers forward Devin Green, who left the Lakers' Development League team for a German team, will play five EuroLeague games and 20 more in a German League with his new team, the Rhein Energie. Green averaged 19.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the D-Fenders, who have 35 games left in their regular season.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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