What a weird, wacky thing the NBA schedule can be.
As sure as the Lakers rushed back from a four-game, five-night trip to play the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, they are in the midst of the NBA equivalent of a bye week, with four full days between a romp over Golden State and, gasp, another game on Friday.
Coach Phil Jackson shrugged at all the downtime and gave the Lakers a rare two-day break from the practice court, gathering them together again Wednesday for a scrimmage and video session.
He then called the practice "disconnected" and said he was "glad we didn't play" a game Wednesday.
But he also saw the bigger picture when asked to reflect on the season to date.
The Lakers (25-5) are off to their best beginning through 30 games since also going 25-5 to start the 1999-2000 season.
Their resume has been thickened by a 92-83 victory over the Celtics, and they hold a five-game lead over New Orleans in the Western Conference as 2008 becomes 2009.
"We have to be pleased with what our record is," Jackson said. "We're sitting here with as good a record as we've hoped for."
Not that they want to acknowledge teams in the Eastern Conference with June still six months away, but the Lakers now have as many losses as Cleveland (26-5) and the Celtics (28-5), who stumbled at Staples Center last week and finished 1-3 on their recent West Coast trip.
The Lakers have won four consecutive games and showed glimpses of a resurgent defense last week, leading Kobe Bryant to answer optimistically when asked what grade he would give the team so far.
"An 'A,' no doubt," he said. "I think we've done a great job playing and put ourselves in a [great] position."
The schedule has tilted their direction, with 17 home games and 13 road games. Their most recent break in the action ends Friday at Staples Center against injury-ravaged Utah, followed by two more home games -- Sunday against Portland and Tuesday against New Orleans.
"We've had a lot of breaks," Bryant said. "We've had a lot of times where we've had three or four days between games, which is very rare. The flip side of that, though, is you're going to have to make it up at some point in time."
Happy New Year?
The Lakers were asked by a reporter to give their resolutions for the new year, with some cooperating and some not.
"Hopefully, to get that [championship] ring would be wonderful," Pau Gasol said. "That wouldn't be bad for a New Year's resolution, right?"
Jackson wasn't as open to the subject matter.
"I stay away from those," he said, smiling. "New Year's Eve is amateur night and resolutions are for fools."
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The Lakers will play 11 of their 16 games in January at Staples Center, including five of their next six:
*--* DATE OPPONENT Friday Utah Sunday Portland Tuesday New Orleans Wednesday at Golden State Jan. 9 Indiana Jan. 11 Miami Jan. 13 at Houston Jan. 14 at San Antonio Jan. 16 Orlando Jan. 19 Cleveland Jan. 21 at Clippers Jan. 22 Washington Jan. 25 San Antonio Jan. 27 Charlotte Jan. 30 at Minnesota Jan. 31 at Memphis *--*