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Lakers win easily, but not without conflict

A confrontation between Phil Jackson and Ron Artest at a recent practice overshadows victory as Kobe Bryant cracks NBA's all-time top 10 in scoring.

January 04, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Kobe Bryant finished with 17 points on six-for-18 shooting and also happened to pass Dominique Wilkins for 10th on the NBA's all-time scoring list (26,671 career points) in Tuesday's victory over Detroit at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant finished with 17 points on six-for-18 shooting and also happened… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Just another day for the Lakers, who bobbed, weaved and eventually beat the Detroit Pistons in a season just ripe for another Phil Jackson book.

Not long after a confrontation at practice between Ron Artest and Jackson was brought to light, the Lakers shook off a lousy first half and beat the hapless Pistons, 108-83, Tuesday at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant had a dreadful shooting night, but Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were sharp down low, combining for 34 points on 13-for-17 shooting.

The Artest-Jackson conflict was first reported by Yahoo Sports, with other details and versions of the confrontation emerging later.

Based on conversations Tuesday night, the quarrel happened about a week and-a half ago, when Artest asked Jackson during practice to stop criticizing him around teammates. Artest also didn't like Jackson castigating him around reporters.

Jackson and Artest spoke for a handful of seconds before the scrimmage continued, but Artest brought it back up with Jackson after a few trips up and down the court, emphasizing he would rather be called into Jackson's office and privately critiqued instead of publicly rebuked or teased.

Jackson disagreed with part of the Yahoo report, which said the coach was "loudly confronted" by Artest. Jackson characterized it as "nothing more than what can normally happen in a practice."

Artest later apologized to Jackson and to teammates, Jackson said. Artest did not deny a disagreement took place but declined to provide details.

"I've worked so hard to keep everything positive. … It's hard to comment on something right now until I speak to Coach," he said. "I've tried not to be part of any conflict or anything negative, I've tried to avoid any confrontation ... To have this happen now is not good."

As for the game itself, the Lakers had been notoriously poor at home against Detroit, going 4-4 in recent years, with the first half Tuesday looking like more of the same.

The Lakers held a weak 45-42 halftime lead but extended it to 76-59 through three quarters after Bryant scored eight points in the quarter and Derek Fisher had seven.

Bryant missed his first nine attempts, although with 17 points he passed Dominique Wilkins for 10th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Bryant now has 26,671 career points.

Gasol had 21 points on seven-for-11 shooting and Bynum had 13 points on six-for-six shooting.

"We wanted the ball inside," Jackson said.

Bynum looked particularly strong in the first quarter, scoring eight points down low with a dunk and a couple of layups against Ben Wallace.

The Lakers held the Pistons to 39% shooting in the second half.

Artest had eight points and also had two steals in the second half that led to easy baskets.

"I can't even remember what happened in that game," Artest said afterward. "I'm so ready to move forward to the next game. Keep on keepin' on."

Bryant said he told players in a pregame huddle to ignore any outside distractions.

"I said, 'Listen to how everybody's talking about you. Embrace this. This is L.A. This comes with the territory of being back-to-back champs. You have to deal with it, you have to embrace it and you have to use it as fuel and motivation. Because the things that matter the most are the people that are in this huddle right here. Not what's going on outside.'"

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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