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Lakers have lots of baggage at start of short trip

The Lakers held a brief meeting after beating Portland on Monday, hoping to "help everyone stick together" in light of trade rumors and players' comments about the coaches and management.

February 21, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant, left, and Pau Gasol sit on the bench during the final minutes of the Lakers' victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. The Lakers are looking to stay focused heading into Wednesday's road game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant, left, and Pau Gasol sit on the bench during… (Paul Buck / EPA )

Reporting from Dallas — These spur-of-the-moment team meetings are becoming common events.

Lakers players met briefly for the second time in two weeks after a game, wanting to clear up a few things Monday night.

It had been a wild few days. Pau Gasol twisted in the trade winds, Kobe Bryant called out the front office, and Andrew Bynum complained publicly about too much time devoted to shoot-arounds.

So the Lakers hammered home the importance of working together, like they did most of the time in a 103-92 victory Monday against Portland.

Bryant and Derek Fisher implored everybody to stop worrying about the front office. Don't be bothered by practice lengths. Be concerned only about games. And winning them.

One person familiar with the informal gathering said it would "hopefully help everyone stick together."

It couldn't hurt for the players to crystallize their thoughts before a short but important trip leading up to All-Star weekend. The Lakers play for the first time this season at Dallas on Wednesday and make their only trip to Oklahoma City for a game Thursday.

They are 5-11 on the road, 0-10 when they trail after the third quarter.

The Lakers also held a brief meeting earlier this month on their six-game trip. It was believed to be after their crushing loss in New York, a game in which Bryant was so irritated he kicked a trash can in the locker room. The Lakers recovered in time to squeak past Toronto and finish 3-3 on the trip.

This past holiday weekend was a long one for the Lakers.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Mike Brown were playing defense Monday, responding to different forms of criticism.

Kupchak said in a statement the Lakers would continue to seek trades with other teams because it would hurt their competitive balance to do otherwise. Brown acknowledged having long on court-sessions earlier this season because there was so little practice time in the lockout-shortened schedule.

Some shoot-arounds were "more than two hours at times," Brown said. "But [Sunday] ... we went and walked through their plays … and about four or five of our plays, got some shots up and then basically left."

It was the second time within a week that Brown stuck up for himself.

Metta World Peace complained about his uneven playing time, referring to Brown as being "all stats." Brown handled it by reminding World Peace that the veteran forward hadn't been playing well this season.

"I said …'If I was a stats guy, Metta, you wouldn't be playing at all. Look at your stats offensively. And then Synergy [Sports Technology] says you're the 192nd-best defensive player in the league,' " Brown said last week.

World Peace continues to struggle on offense but has improved defensively, holding Portland forward Gerald Wallace to seven points on two-for-seven shooting.

The Lakers, meanwhile, get another chance to show they can win important road games.

The Mavericks have won seven of their last eight games, thanks in large part to Dirk Nowitzki who has averaged 25 points a game in that span.

Last month Nowitzki took a four-game break to strengthen a sore right knee — and said he didn't even deserve to make the All-Star team. But the league's coaches disagreed and named him as a reserve, the 11th consecutive season Nowitzki has been an All-Star.

The Lakers will also check in on their old, struggling friend.

Lamar Odom continues to flat-line with Dallas, averaging 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21.4 minutes. He is shooting 35.7% and hasn't had any double-doubles after totaling 28 last season with the Lakers.

These are trying times for the NBA's reigning sixth man of the year.

"Even though I didn't start the last couple years, I've always finished games," Odom told the Dallas Morning News after getting four points and four rebounds Monday against Boston. "So it's a little different. But I have to get used to it. This is what it is."

Odom was quickly ushered out of Los Angeles, because he was insulted to be included in the Lakers' failed trade for Chris Paul. Then he asked to be traded and was immediately whisked off to Dallas for a future first-round pick.

"I think it's important that everybody understand the situation he's in now is unlike any situation he's been in his entire career," Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's not playing all [power forward] minutes and he's not playing with two 7-footers who are great scorers in the post."

Odom has sometimes played at small forward for Dallas.

It could only get tougher a night later for the Lakers. Oklahoma City (25-7) has the best record in the Western Conference and is 13-1 at home.

The Thunder had a historic overtime victory Sunday against Denver. Kevin Durant scored 51 points, Russell Westbrook had 40 and Serge Ibaka had an unusual triple-double (14 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocked shots). It marked the first time in NBA history that a team had a 50-point scorer, a 40-point scorer and a player with a triple-double all in one game.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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