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Despite attempts by Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, this is no laughing matter

T.J. SIMERS

Jackson pushes for his team 'to be a little more light-hearted,' but nothing seems to be working against the Mavericks. When will the best team start playing like it?

May 04, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers Coach Phil Jackson reacts to an referee's call during the Lakers' 93-81 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday at Staples Center.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson reacts to an referee's call during the Lakers'… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

You think the Lakers drive you crazy.

Phil Jackson was watching a talking dog video.

You would think if the NBA's all-time playoff genius was looking at a video, it would be to find a better way to stop Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki. Or Jose Barea, whoever that is.

But Phil was watching some mangy mutt, and no, I'm not talking about any of the Dodgers who were playing earlier Wednesday.

He says he was looking for "comic relief," which raises the question, Why wasn't he watching the Dodgers, or talking to Ron Artest?

Phil says he wanted his team "to be a little more light-hearted," so he found the dog on the Internet. It would have made more sense, of course, had he said he found the dog in some monastery in Tibet.

But nothing's going quite like most would think with the Lakers these days. As it is, a funny thing happened to the Lakers in Game 1 on the way to winning a third-straight championship. The hilarity returned, or would it be more accurate to say the Lakers played like jokers in Game 2? Bow wow!

Raise your hand if you thought the defending champs would come out all fired up after giving away Game 1. Don't you feel silly for raising your hand? I know I do.

When does the best team start playing like it? Well, not Wednesday night. As Phil was saying before the game, the Lakers' way is to get better and better as a series unfolds — preferably before it ends. Something about old dogs needing time to learn new tricks, I guess.

Any time now, guys. The Lakers were desperate and so early on, Artest was covering Nowitzki. Phil laughed off such an idea before the game. But nothing is going quite like most would think with the Lakers these days.

"Ron has a penchant for sending guys to his left,'' says Phil, "which is Dirk's strongest point.''

Oh well, the guy doesn't win 11 rings if he doesn't throw the kitchen sink at times against the opposition when nothing else works.

The kitchen sink doesn't work either, the Lakers are down by two at the half and are so darn frustrating.

"You get the sense this crowd is afraid of Dirk Nowitzki," Steve Kerr is telling everyone on TV — mistaking everyone's fear for shock and awe at how poorly Pau Gasol is playing.

By the way, anyone see Gasol? You can hear him whining to the refs, that's for sure. How about just shutting up and playing with some confidence? Maybe the refs will stop picking on the crybaby.

It's true the refs have hit Gasol with four fouls, but on a bright note he might foul out. That's how undependable he's become.

Almost as undependable as Steve Blake. He's the biggest Lakers' disappointment of the year and leaves no doubt in the playoffs it was no fluke. Coaching tip: Take him out, Phil.

There's no fourth quarter magic, no Kobe Bryant super hero. It's the Mavs by 10, six minutes to go and just imagine how fast Mark Cuban's heart is beating.

The question now — do the Lakers still have a pulse? Sorry, just trying to be light-hearted.

JUST IMAGINE the sleepless nights and anxiety that come with trying to keep a historical hitting streak going.

"Only reason I'm waking up at night is because our 9-month-old is crying,'' says Andre Ethier. "And I'm more worried I'm not going to get to my breakfast spot in time and beat the rush than the hitting streak. If I don't get the kids going and we're late, I have to wait 30 minutes."

They don't save a table for you?

"They don't have any idea who I am," Ethier says.

Either has hit safely in 29 straight games, and while he took Wednesday off to rest a tender elbow, he knows all about Joe DiMaggio.

"He got Marilyn Monroe, didn't he?" he says. "Things sure were different back then."

As for superstitions, he says he has none.

"The other day I shaved my beard after the road trip and someone wanted to know what I was doing. My little boys don't like it when I have a beard because when I try to rub my face against theirs, they get mad or try to push me away. So I'd rather shave my face and kiss someone on the cheek than have a superstition."

But how about a special bat?

"Used four Tuesday night including the one that flew into the stands,'' he says with a grin. "I mainly use Matt Kemp's bats; I think they send him better wood."

Does Kemp know you're swiping bats?

"Our equipment guy just orders extra Kemp bats that wind up in my locker," Either says. "I also have a Juan Uribe bat for practice because it's heavier and a [Blake] Hawksworth bat for when I'm not feeling that strong. It's more like [a Little League] bat.

"Sometimes a bat doesn't work out. I gave a bat a chance the other day, it wasn't doing it for me, so I went down the tunnel and broke it."

It wasn't that long ago, Ethier says with a laugh, that he would have been satisfied just making it to the Major Leagues and playing a year. But now it's been six years, Ethier having established himself as one of the game's top performers.

"Maybe you should tell the people here in the Dodgers organization," says Ethier, who had expressed unhappiness with the Dodgers for not extending his contract. "Oh, that's right, they have other things to worry about."

Ethier wasn't playing, but he was still getting his cuts in, and the hits just keep on coming.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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