Lakers center Andrew Bynum and Boston center Kendrick Perkins battle for… (Charles Krupa / Associated…)
Reporting from Boston
Even though Phil Jackson has called this season his "last stand," he's not going to ride off quietly into the sunset.
Sensing the need for a team pick-me-up, the Lakers coach asked longtime friend and sports psychologist George Mumford to talk to the players several hours before they took on the Boston Celtics.
It seemed to work.
Mumford "really inspired me to play a little bit better, to be a little bit more mindful," said Andrew Bynum, who had 16 points and nine rebounds in the Lakers' 92-86 victory Thursday. "He just talked a lot about mindfulness and not allowing outside things to distract you. Train your mind to keep coming back to the center."
Jackson also chose to hand out a book to each player the day before the game, part of his annual literary attempt to enlighten his players. Unlike previous years, he declined to reveal publicly which titles went to which players.
Some of the players were open about sharing their titles, some were not ("None of your business," snapped Kobe Bryant), and others, uh, couldn't remember.
"I forgot," Ron Artest said, smiling. "It's in my bag. I totally forgot the name of it."
Lamar Odom, a true fan of the sport he plays, received "The Book of Basketball," a 700-page tome of basketball history by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons.
Pau Gasol received the classic "Catch-22." "He said it was entertaining and humorous," Gasol said. "I will read it."
Bynum received "Drown," a story of the American Dream pursued by immigrants in New Jersey.
"I like it because I like to read," said Bynum, who can often be seen at his locker before games staring at a Kindle. "Most of the [other players'] books probably collect dust."
Jackson recently said he hadn't had any communication with Boston center Shaquille O'Neal other than a Christmas card.
But shortly after reporters circled around Jackson for his postgame news conference Thursday, a large fist penetrated it and slowly headed toward Jackson.
"Hey, Shaq," said Jackson, tapping O'Neal's fist. "Happy New Year."
Then O'Neal was gone.
If Bryant continues to average 25.4 points a game this season, he will move into sixth on the NBA's career scoring list, passing Elvin Hayes (27,313 points) and Moses Malone (27,409). Bryant has 27,135 points.
"It's kind of cool how it all just shakes out," Bryant said. "I just think it's really cool but in terms of the more motivational thing, the ring count is the thing that really gets me going."
In an introspective interview in which he looked back on his career, Bryant, 32, said he wasn't irritated that he had been the NBA's MVP only once.
"Things have worked out for me pretty well in June," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable with that."
On the same day Ray Allen became the NBA's all-time career leader for three-pointers, Bryant was asked if he could see himself eventually transitioning into a dead-eye shooter such as Allen.
"If I have to, yeah," he said. "When I first came into the league, I was pretty much a standing shooter. At the time before the triangle, we played one in and four out. I was a corner three-point shooter."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer (38,387 points).