Half Baked

Sliding Lakers need to fix what ails them, quick

February 22, 2011|Mike Bresnahan

The Lakers reassembled after All-Star weekend, but it felt as if they never left Cleveland.

They went through more than 90 minutes of video study Monday, most of which was generated by the Lakers' own little mistake by the lake, a lifeless 104-99 loss last Wednesday to the NBA's worst team.

Monday's visuals weren't exactly a fun way to start the final stretch of the regular season, but they didn't deter Kobe Bryant from an upbeat demeanor a day after he won his fourth All-Star most-valuable-player award.

"It's a marathon. You see the finish line, you tend to pick up the speed a little bit," he said after a light practice Monday.

On that note, here are four ways the Lakers can ensure a successful sprint to June.

* More Ron-Ron

Or maybe less of Ron-Ron.

Ron Artest jokingly sprayed cologne on sideline reporter John Ireland after the loss in Charlotte on Feb. 14 and posted a Twitter dispatch about his musical compilation shortly after the Cleveland loss. Both lapses in judgment would have been forgotten, passed off as Ron being Ron, if A) the Lakers had won those games, and B) Artest wasn't on pace for career lows across the board.

He is down to 7.9 points and 28.1 minutes a game this season, not to mention 39.7% shooting, all of which would be the worst numbers of his 12-year career.

The Lakers need him. Immediately.

* More production from the ballhandling guards

It's tough to criticize Derek Fisher because he makes his regular-season stats completely irrelevant with his playoff heroics, but he's averaging 6.6 points a game this season, his lowest since 1999-2000, and shooting 39%.

He scored a season-high 19 points against Cleveland. The Lakers would obviously welcome more of it.

Backup Steve Blake also hasn't had a major impact in his first season in the triangle offense. He started off well but has fallen to 4.3 points a game after failing to score in four of the Lakers' last seven games.

* Stop looking for a savior

The rumors of Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers were wildly overblown from the start, and it doesn't look as if the Lakers will make any impact trades before Thursday's deadline.

In fact, Coach Phil Jackson said he didn't expect any moves by the Lakers.

"We'll see what comes up, but right now we're not anticipating it," he said Monday. Jackson is aware that the Lakers have plenty of talent but few tradable assets thanks to long, cumbersome contracts held by almost all their rotation players.

Even if the Lakers don't make a deal by Thursday, they will soon add another body to their lineup.

Reserve forward Matt Barnes practiced Monday, without contact, for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair torn knee cartilage last month. He said he needed to practice three times with contact before returning to game action, which could happen next week, slightly ahead of schedule.

* Start acting like champions

Two-time defending champs don't lose home games to Indiana, Milwaukee, Memphis and Sacramento before the All-Star break, not to mention the Great Embarrassment last week.

But as Bryant said of Cleveland, "That game's been flushed."

The Lakers have plenty of time to prove it over the final eight weeks of the regular season.

There's a four-game trip next month to San Antonio, Atlanta, Miami and Dallas. There are home games in April against Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. There's a road game Wednesday in Portland, where the Lakers seemingly lose every time by 50.

There are plenty of chances to show they still belong among the NBA's elite before the regular season ends. Then the real basketball begins.



Tonight's game

Lakers vs. Atlanta

Staples Center, 7:30

TV: Fox Sports West

How the Lakers (38-19) have fared before and after the All-Star break the previous three seasons.

*--* Pre-break 2007-08 Post-break 35-17 673 22-8 733 Pre-break 2008-09 Post-break 42-10 807 23-7 767 Pre-break 2009-10 Post-break 41-13 759 16-12 571 *--*

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