Kobe Bryant's last-second shots are nice and everything, but Lakers Coach Phil Jackson isn't exactly thrilled with them.
They tend to mask what ails the Lakers for 47-plus minutes in a game, Bryant's late-game dependability already bailing out the team three times this season.
"I'd just as soon he didn't have to do that, personally," Jackson said. "Losses make mountains out of molehills. You win, you think that there's nothing wrong and it's pretty easy. We talked about that as a team [Saturday]. I did most of the talking. The team didn't talk that much about it."
Bryant seemed to agree with Jackson. After all, his trio of winning shots came against teams hovering near .500.
"Obviously, we're not playing as well in those games as you want to play," he said. "It's not the best situation, but it works."
Bryant's last-second savers came in a 28-day span, a tidy ratio of one every 9.3 days. He began his string with his 27-foot three-point bank against Miami on Dec. 4. Then he backed down the smaller Charlie Bell and drained a 15-foot turnaround to beat Milwaukee on Dec. 16.
On Friday, he took a pass from Pau Gasol after making contact with Sacramento guard Sergio Rodriguez, who stumbled and fell, leaving Bryant with an open three-point look from the left side.
Did he foul Rodriguez to get open?
"It's tough to make those calls," Bryant said before making reference to the 1998 Eastern Conference finals. "A foul is Reggie Miller pushing MJ [Michael Jordan]. That's a foul. What I did is the same thing anybody does to get open in the post. I didn't shove the guy. The guy's, what, 6 feet, 180?"
Rodriguez is listed at 6 feet 3, 176 pounds.
The bigger issue is why a team wouldn't double-team Bryant in the waning seconds of a game -- not that it would help.
"One guy's not going to do it," Bryant said. "I know how to get open."
"I'll get a look," he said. "If I miss it, I miss it, but one guy's not going to matter, not in that situation. I've developed my skills to the point where I can go left, I can go right. I can pull up and shoot, I can fade and shoot. I feel confident in my abilities . . . because I've worked at those things."
Ron Artest went through part of Saturday's practice without contact, the first step in his return since suffering a concussion Christmas night at his home. After practice, he shot around while being watched on the court by a neurologist.
"He's with his new best friend out there," Jackson said, nodding in the direction of the doctor.
Artest will be reevaluated before tonight's game against Dallas.
Artest has sat out four games, during which the Lakers have given up 103 points to Sacramento, 118 to Phoenix, another 118 to Golden State and 108 to Sacramento.
Jackson won't look like an NFL coach roaming the sidelines with a large laminated play card, but he said he would take more action in the first halves of games after the Lakers' recent struggles.
"I think I'll have to probably program them a little bit more instead of letting them kind of go out on a free basis," Jackson said.
So Jackson might be scripting plays until the Lakers get on track?
"Yeah, like other coaches do," he said.
Tonight the Lakers face the Mavericks, who happen to be second in the Western Conference and, of equal interest, pummeled the Lakers, 94-80, in the second game of the season.
Bryant had an awful shooting night, scoring 20 points on six-for-19 shooting, and Artest had as many offensive fouls (three) as points.
"We refreshed our memory with it a little bit today," Jackson said. "I was just talking to our staff about how [the Mavericks] kind of got their resiliency back as a team. The addition of [Shawn] Marion obviously is a help. . . . They're a pretty deep team now and they seem to have the kind of chemistry that works well together."
Walton getting closer?
Forward Luke Walton (pinched nerve in neck) shot at a side basket during practice while being watched by Alex McKechnie, the team's athletic performance coordinator. A definite return date hasn't been set.