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T.J. SIMERS

Lakers' confidence is causing some confusion

Amid the talk about flipping the switch when the playoffs start, there are many mysteries to unravel about this team and its prospects.

April 08, 2010|T.J. Simers

From Denver — Unless the Lakers are trying to make the case they are better without Kobe Bryant, they have bagged the rest of the regular season, but then you've known that for weeks.

No more phony baloney about gaining momentum as they go into the playoffs, it's all about flipping the switch on April 18, and by Phil Jackson's calculations the Lakers will be opening against Oklahoma City.

The tiebreakers and the schedule favor Portland, he said, and so the Lakers have the Blazers finishing sixth when the season ends next week.

San Antonio has the tiebreaker over Oklahoma City, which would leave one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference in the Thunder taking on the defending champs.

Young legs versus playoff know-how.

"The Lakers are going to maul somebody in that eighth spot," said Charles Barkley, apparently not impressed with Portland, San Antonio or Oklahoma City, the NBA experts on TNT switching their attention to the Finals and wondering whether the Lakers would be playing Cleveland or Orlando.

Hard to say if Lakers' fans share such confidence -- especially the way the team has played well only in spurts for some time now, but here we are.

And while Jackson was still talking before the game about wanting the Lakers to play better as a group or find their rhythm, he was just as concerned about Bryant's tired legs and not rushing Andrew Bynum back to work.

"That makes it very confusing on what you want to do," I suggested.

"I can't help you with your confusion,'' Jackson said, the picture clearing a little later when Jackson let it be known that Kobe had asked for the night off.

Certified a scrimmage now, Sasha Vujacic starting in place of Bryant, is this really how you want to go marching into the playoffs?

LAKERS BROADCASTER Mychal Thomson, who also does an afternoon radio show on 710 with Andrew Sicily or something like that, was talking recently about going into the Lakers' room to find the switch the players intend to pull once the playoffs begin.

I know this because the daughter likes to take her Weight Watchers creamy rigatoni with chicken and broccoli with her and sit in her car while listening to Thompson and Sicily on her lunch break.

And she wonders why she can't find the right guy to share her Weight Watchers creamy rigatoni with chicken and broccoli.

"I love the show,'' she said. "The other day they asked the question, 'Who would you go to prison for?' And Andrew named like seven or eight family members, but never mentioned a girlfriend."

OK, so that has nothing to do with the Lakers, but the girl can dream, can't she?

"I just think Mychal Thompson has made a great point talking about the Lakers and the idea of looking for that switch in the locker room. How come you didn't think of that?"

Now you know why she's no longer on the radio.

"Mychal is no Lakers' homer," she said. "He really makes you think they way things have been going -- can the Lakers just turn it on whenever they want?"

Thompson was sitting on the Lakers' bench a few hours before the game in Denver, no doubt recalling his championship days with the Lakers.

"If Magic, Kareem and Worthy didn't take anybody lightly, then nobody else better," Thompson said.

The Lakers are obviously not going to take a playoff opponent lightly, but have they set themselves up for a fall?

Have they just gone through the motions since learning they can't beat Cleveland's league-best record, while understanding they don't need to do anything more to keep the home-court advantage in the West?

If so, how will such lollygagging, as Jackson has said, impact their brand of play once the playoffs start?

"Doesn't every team flip the switch when the playoffs start?" Lamar Odom said. "Sure, every team wants to be playing well going into the playoffs, but we're going to be fine."

That's been the theme for some time now, the Lakers will be just fine once the games really count, the players convinced and NBA experts re-enforcing it with their predictions.

Jackson hasn't seemed so sure, and when asked whether he has a handle on where his team stands presently in preparing itself for postseason play, he said he did.

But he also said he wouldn't share what those feelings might be, time running out for the Lakers to put a few games or four great quarters together.

So much remains a mystery. Bynum? Does Bryant regain his legs and shooting touch? Does the bench respond? Does Artest find some consistency? Does the point guard position continue to be an issue? Does Phil call a timeout with a playoff game on the line?

We know this, had Thursday night's game really meant something, the Lakers would have really turned it on and had Kobe Bryant taking the last shot.

You see, nothing to worry about.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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