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T.J. SIMERS

By losing, the Lakers make it a lot more fun

Championships are supposed to be hard, and the Hornets teach the Lakers a lesson in raising their game. Plus, interest in the Lakers means less interest in the Dodgers and Kings.

April 17, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Hornets forward Trevor Ariza gets inside of Lakers power forward Pau Gasol for a layup in the game Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
Hornets forward Trevor Ariza gets inside of Lakers power forward Pau Gasol… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Finally, something goes right for Frank McCourt.

The Lakers lose.

Instead of sweeping New Orleans as most assumed, this Lakers series becomes more compelling and lasts longer.

Then there will be another series, the Lakers undoubtedly going belly up and extending it longer than necessary before playoff basketball really takes an interesting turn in May and June.

The longer the Lakers keep playing and keep making folks nervous, the less attention afforded the owner of the Dodgers. And this is one poor guy who needs to be out of the limelight.

Lakers-Hornets Game 1 box score

Now if only it was time for our Bill Shaikin to go on vacation.

Things were so bad for McCourt at Dodger Stadium this last week, Jamey Carroll was playing shortstop, Jamie Hoffman was starting in left and Jaime Garcia was pitching for the Cardinals. Talk about not being safe in your own ballpark.

But now McCourt can miss the next payroll as long as the Lakers are on track to haul in another trophy. And the way the Dodgers have been playing, who cares if anyone other than Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier get paid?

As long as the Lakers remain alive, they own Los Angeles. The Dodgers understand that, passing out purple and gold caps a few days ago just so they might be associated with the Lakers. Sunday, everyone in Staples Center was given "It's my life" gold T-shirts.

Photos: Lakers vs. Hornets Game 1

There's nothing that comes close to the Lakers around here, so you can understand the questions surrounding what happened to Kobe Bryant when he slid out of bounds and lay motionless at Tim Leiweke's feet.

Most of you have heard of Leiweke. He's the guy who paid millions of Philip Anschutz's money to Beckham to vacation in L.A. and play and promote soccer overseas.

Now he's trying to prove L.A. needs a downtown football stadium so people will have a reason to come here and stay in his LA Live hotel.

But his real love is hockey. And that would probably explain why the Lakers' courtside seat next to Leiweke sat empty.

On his left was will.i.am. I just gotta feeling — Leiweke and i.am didn't come to the game together. Maybe the empty chair was reserved for Beckham.

Lakers database: All things Lakers

Anyway, Bryant took a shot near the end of the first half and slid hard backward out of bounds. From my vantage point, it appeared Leiweke kneed Bryant in the neck, obviously trying to take him out and shift the spotlight to the Kings, who they tell me are in the playoffs too.

Just think what it would mean to the Kings if people had no choice but pay attention to them.

"I'm not touching that," said Bryant when I asked, Bryant contending it was the empty chair that he struck.

I didn't see Leiweke trying to move the empty chair, or keep Bryant from slamming into it.

But no matter, Bryant recovered during the halftime break, so still no one cares about the Kings.

Everyone, of course, remains more interested in what's wrong with the Lakers than what might be going right for the Kings.

After all, this was a real shocker?

"No," said Lamar Odom. "Been happening to us all year — losing to teams we're supposed to beat."

"No," said Andrew Bynum. "If we don't play defense we're going to look ugly and then be asked a load of questions about what went wrong."

"No," said Bryant. "It's very tough to beat a team that many times in a row."

The reason a team beats another team so often is because one team is that much better than the other. I mentioned this to Bryant.

"They came out extremely motivated and very well prepared and they played extremely well," said Bryant, and yet if the better team had done the same, it wouldn't have been a contest.

I would have thought Coach Phil Jackson would have had the Lakers motivated. He's won 225 playoff games, but he said, "We're not very good in morning games."

Only millionaires who play basketball for a living consider the morning 12:30 p.m.

Coach Monty Williams, who now has one playoff win, somehow managed to have the Hornets ready to play.

"If you don't get guys involved in the game, you lose," said Odom, but what does that mean?

Odom initially declined to be more specific, so I suggested I might have to guess. Was he talking about one player holding the ball and not giving it to everyone else? If you know who I mean?

"No," insisted Odom, it would be wrong to suggest Bryant was a ball hog although neither one of us mentioned his name. He said it was a "Lakers" problem, and "that's Lakers — plural."

Jackson said Bryant took it upon himself because he understands who is playing well and who isn't, and the only player really playing well was Ron Artest.

Would you want Bryant passing the ball to Artest?

Whatever went wrong, I'm with McCourt on this one. I just love it the Lakers lost. What fun would a four-game sweep have been?

This makes Wednesday night's game, and the fact the Lakers now have to win a game in New Orleans, so much more exciting. I'm for anything that makes the Lakers play harder and better, thereby making these games more entertaining.

Isn't a championship something that's supposed to be difficult to obtain? How many had the Lakers pegged to be playing in the Finals before the start of Sunday's game?

The Hornets don't have any chance whatsoever to win a championship. None. And they have no chance of eliminating the Lakers.

But they showed the Lakers how a team can raise their game when pressed. Here's hoping the Lakers got the message, and we can continue to ignore the hockey playoffs, and the Dodgers as well.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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