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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

The alarm is set, but will Lakers hit the snooze button?

In their own 'Groundhog Day,' Lakers must confront crises of their own making over and over. Will they learn their lesson and grab control against New Orleans and move on to bigger challenges?

April 25, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson during a game against Golden State earlier this month.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson during a game against Golden… (Kyle Terada / US Presswire )

Another chill goes up the spine of Lakerdom….

You won't believe what the Lakers said about their latest crisis after the NBA's poster children for narcolepsy nodded off again and Kobe Bryant left New Orleans on crutches, rejected the medical staff's plans for an MRI exam and went into seclusion for Tuesday night's pivotal Game 5.

Well, you wouldn't believe it if you hadn't heard it over and over since the start of their back-to-back title run in 2009.

What crisis?

"He'll play," said a serene-as-usual Coach Phil Jackson of Bryant, who was nowhere to be seen at practice Monday.

What did the medical staff say?

"He won't let them deal with it," said Jackson merrily.

Want to know the difference between the Lakers and the movie "Groundhog Day," in which churlish Bill Murray is doomed to live the same day over and over until he finds True Love?

There is none, to this point.

In the Lakers version, they're doomed to confront crises of their own making over and over until Learning Their Lesson.

Unfortunately for this team, it just veered off script.

Having already awakened to take a 2-1 lead, it wasn't supposed to mail in the very next game.

Worse, this isn't a movie.

Failing to grab control means a six- or seven-game series, taking a greater toll on the gimpy Lakers, Bryant and Andrew Bynum ... against the most undermanned team they'll face this spring.

That assumes, of course, they'll face anyone else.

Next would be Dallas, which has two front lines bigger than the one the Hornets start ... or Portland, now America's Team with written-off Brandon Roy rallying them from 23 points down in Game 4.

Next, presumably, would be Oklahoma City, which is running over Denver, or Memphis, which is running over San Antonio.

Forget about the East winner.

Unless the Lakers show up more often, they won't get that far.

It's one year less one day from the anniversary of last spring's Game 5 against Oklahoma City, which had just hammered the Lakers twice to make it 2-2.

Trying to hide his knee injury after taking 10 shots in Game 4 and being accused of "pouting," Bryant bristled at the funereal tone of questions before Game 5.

"Who said our backs are against the wall?" he said in genuine wonder.

"It's a 2-2 series. What the hell is going on around here?"

He then asked to guard Russell Westbrook, hobbled out, held him to four of 13 from the field while scoring only 13 points himself.

The Lakers won by 24, turning their postseason around.

Monday, Bryant didn't make an appearance, possibly because his injury can't be hidden.

After Sunday's game, reporters were invited into the normally off-limits training room to interview Bryant, seated on a training table.

Only after Bryant insisted he was fine and the media left did Kobe pick up crutches to get to the bus ... leaving reporters to wonder later whether he did it to conceal the nature of his injury.

Aside from that, Lakers fans, no worries.

Jackson, whose confidence remains eternal, at least, has no concerns about Bryant or even his team, even as he acknowledged it's ... different.

"We play with a certain — well, I won't use that word — calmness at the beginning of the game," Jackson said.

One can only guess at what it would take for Jackson, who said they had been "punked" in Game 4, to refrain from saying it aloud:

I don't want to say they're not hungry, but they keep checking their watches?

They care, but they're too old to do anything about it?

Not that Jackson has the least control over this aspect ... does he?

"No, we control their minds," said Jackson, grinning.

There's a relief for Lakers fans; someone's actually in control of this.

OK, I guess it's time to wake the guys up ... again.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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