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Phil Jackson keeps it loose after Lakers losses

The Lakers are down, 2-0, to the Mavericks, but their coach is cracking jokes instead of breaking a sweat. Ron Artest is suspended for Game 3.

May 05, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers Coach Phil Jackson disagrees with a referee's call during Game 2 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson disagrees with a referee's call during… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson met with reporters after Thursday's practice, and a joke-telling session broke out.

The coach who once called a 2-0 deficit to San Antonio in the 2004 playoffs pretty much a "death knell" was anything but deathly serious.

With Ron Artest suspended for Game 3 on Friday, will Jackson think about playing Luke Walton?

"I think about him every day," Jackson said wistfully, doing everything but clasping his hands to his heart.

What about the "trust issues" Andrew Bynum mentioned after Game 2?

"I thought he was speaking about trusses, and my dad wore a truss," Jackson said. "I don't know the trust issue."

Jackson seemed pretty jovial despite the Lakers facing a 2-0 deficit against Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

"I'd like to cry but I can't right now," he said, still continuing a light tone. "It's a game and we know it's a game and we play it and we play it hard. And we anticipate winning in Dallas."

So he hasn't coached his last game at Staples Center?

"We'll be back Tuesday," he said. That would be the day of Game 5.

The Lakers are an apparent mess, the franchise tottering after losing the first two games at home in a playoff series for the first time in 42 years.

On Friday they'll be without Artest, suspended by the NBA after smacking Dallas guard Jose Barea in the face with his forearm in the final minute of Game 2.

The Lakers practiced Thursday with Lamar Odom in Artest's place on the starting unit. Matt Barnes will also get more minutes, and Walton might even see his first court time of the postseason.

Artest didn't exactly apologize for his poor behavior, citing the need to "move on" or "move forward" no fewer than seven times in a two-minute period without taking responsibility.

Artest hadn't missed a game this season. "It definitely will affect us," Jackson said.

Artest will forfeit $57,476 in pay for the suspension. He had a strong start to the playoffs against New Orleans but has tailed off against Dallas, averaging 6.5 points in the two games while making only five of 18 shots (27.8%).

The Lakers are also sweeping away the issues Bynum mentioned after Wednesday's 93-81 loss. Jackson brought up the premise of trust briefly before Thursday's video session, and none of the players proceeded to talk about it.

For better or worse, it seemed a nonissue.

Kobe Bryant later said he understood Bynum's frustration, particularly a failure to cover for each other on defense.

"We all get upset about things like that," he said.

Bryant called the Lakers' screen-and-roll defense "atrocious," and Jackson agreed, acknowledging the team spent plenty of time looking it over Thursday.

If the Lakers themselves weren't fretting, one of their icons definitely was.

"The Mavs have the Lakers pointing fingers at one another," Magic Johnson wrote on his Twitter feed. "It's going to be a tough climb to come back and I think their chances are slim."

He also had some advice for the 23-year-old center.

"Bynum should have never made those comments publicly," Johnson wrote. "Call a players only meeting and discuss those issues internally with your teammates."

The Lakers have never lost a series to the Mavericks in the playoffs, hadn't played them in the postseason since 1988, and had won 10 of their last 13 regular-season games against them.

It still can't be called a rivalry, because one team is dominating the other at this point.

"We're not very good here at home the last two games, so going to Dallas might do us some damn good," Bryant said 45 minutes after Game 2.

He wasn't fearful of the Mavericks' crowd. "Noise never blocked a jump shot," he said.

An optimist like Jackson, Bryant also seemed to think the Lakers would return to Los Angeles for a Game 5.

"I just don't believe we're going to lose," he said. "I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about the next game and going from there."

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