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Cleamons says records are safe

December 06, 2008|Broderick Turner | Turner is a Times staff writer

WASHINGTON — He was a rookie on the Lakers team that set a record with 33 consecutive victories and a then-NBA mark for victories at 69-13 during the 1971-72 season.

He was an assistant coach on the Chicago Bulls team that broke the Lakers' record by going 72-10 during the 1995-96 season.

Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons has seen it all and been a part of NBA lore, of NBA history.

This Lakers team is 16-2 and has been mentioned as one that can make history, but Cleamons isn't sold on that.

"Two things: The 33 in a row, I don't think it will be broken," Cleamons said. "And I surely don't think anybody is going to break the 72-10 record. Those are kind of badges of honor."

Cleamons laughed when asked if these Lakers can win 70 games.

"The team, as we sit right now, it's not mature enough to win that amount of games," Cleamons said emphatically. "It's about talent on one hand, but it's about maturity on the other hand. The team that won 72, that team had been together."

Cleamons said it had nothing to do with traveling or schedules. When he played, NBA teams sometimes played on three consecutive days. Now teams never play more than back-to-back games.

Cleamons played in only 38 games during that record-setting 1971-72 season, but even as a rookie out of Ohio State, he understood the significance of what they accomplished.

"When we got close to the record, then all of a sudden it became a little bit of hype," Cleamons said. "I think we all realized the magnitude of the game that ended the streak at 33. We were playing Milwaukee in Milwaukee and on Sunday afternoon and it was a nationally televised game and they beat us like we stole something."

The Lakers, who shattered the Bucks' NBA record of 20 consecutive wins, were 6-3 before they started the streak with a 110-106 victory over Baltimore on Nov. 5, 1971.

The streak was ended by the Bucks, who defeated the Lakers, 120-104, Jan. 9, 1972.

The Lakers, led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich, went on to win their first championship in Los Angeles, beating the New York Knicks in five games in the Finals.

"If you go back and look at our record prior to the streak, we were basically right around a .500 team, but all of a sudden we caught fire," Cleamons said. "That is what I think galvanized our team, the streak. It was a wonderful experience."

Stop stealing

Kobe Bryant is an eight-time member of the all-defensive team, but Coach Phil Jackson wants him to take fewer risks on defense.

Bryant has been trying to get extra steals, doing a little too much freelancing for Jackson's taste.

"We're trying to work with Kobe in staying inside the team framework of how we play defense," Jackson said. "Because he's such a good defensive player with great anticipation, sometimes he might take a foray into the steal market and come away empty-handed, which compromises our defense."

Jackson didn't seem enthused that Bryant, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar have a season-long bet on which one of them will have the most steals.

"I know these kids have notches on their belt as to how many steals they have because there's three or four of them that are in the competition of who's going to get the most," Jackson said.

"It does cost you defensively. Steals are not a mark of a great defensive player."

Ariza has 34 steals, Bryant has 28, Odom 26 and Farmar 22.


Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.


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