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Their play's the thing in Lakers' victory

While Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant continue to ramp up the drama, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher lead 96-91 win over Dallas.

February 22, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant moves the ball up court in front of Dallas forward Shawn Marion during the Lakers' 96-91 victory Wednesday.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant moves the ball up court in front of Dallas forward… (Tony Gutierrez / Associated…)

Reporting from Dallas — The franchise was tilting again, the drama creeping into the front office and dripping down to the roster.

So the Lakers did what they usually do in these times. They shrugged. Then they beat the Dallas Mavericks, 96-91, Wednesday at American Airlines Center.

On the day Magic Johnson weighed in forcefully on the Lakers' front office, the Lakers successfully visited the scene of their demise last season.

They won despite Kobe Bryant's making four of 15 shots and committing seven turnovers. They were victorious even though they came in with a 5-11 road record.

They won despite the last few days of players calling out their coach and Bryant calling out the front office.

It started with Derek Fisher reminding teammates before the game of the playoff sweep by Dallas last season. He scored 15 points, including a crucial three-pointer and floater in the final minutes.

Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine rebounds, more than contributing to the cause, and Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers (20-13).

"We've got a lot of character," Gasol said.

And a lot of chaos. Johnson, a Lakers vice president, set the latest episode in motion Wednesday by saying Lakers executive Jim Buss had taken over control from General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

"Mitch isn't running the team. Jim Buss is running the team," Johnson said on a conference call with reporters. "Mitch has to follow the direction of Jim Buss and what he wants. I wouldn't say Mitch is the problem. He's going to do his job."

Kupchak has been in the Lakers' front office for 25 years, but Buss has gradually been handed more responsibilities by his father, team owner Jerry Buss.

Johnson said Jim Buss should meet with Bryant because the 14-time All-Star "just wants to be informed as a leader and future Hall of Famer and a guy who has brought five championships to the Lakers."

"He wants more communication, probably like he did when Phil Jackson was there and he worked well with Mitch. I don't think Kobe feels he has that type of relationship or the communication has been there with Jim.

"[Jerry] Buss was the master at taking you to lunch or taking you to dinner and going over what he was thinking and what he wanted to do with the team. Jerry West was good at that as well. Kobe, Mitch and Jim just have to get on the same page and things will be OK."

When asked if he would meet with Jim Buss, Bryant responded, "Um, perhaps."

Bryant also clarified why he challenged the front office by telling them Sunday to make a decision whether to trade Gasol.

"Nobody else is going to say it, man," Bryant said, suggesting he had enough courage to speak up. "So I said it."

He added later that Gasol's status was the "elephant in the room. You address it, talk about it, and I think everybody can relax a little bit more instead of tip-toeing around the issue."

The Lakers almost tip-toed their way out of a victory against Dallas, missing six consecutive free throws in the final minute — two each by Matt Barnes, Bryant and Gasol.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown called Fisher over to the sideline.

As Brown tells it: "I said, 'Are you trying to kill me? You know my heart is going crazy right now? I'm a little overweight and it's not good for overweight people to have heart problems like that.'"

Barnes got the offensive rebound off Gasol's second miss, was fouled and made both from the line for a 95-91 lead with 18.9 seconds left. The Mavericks didn't score again.

Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points for Dallas, which played without Lamar Odom because of a family matter, according to the Mavericks.

Earlier in the day, Bryant was asked if Dallas dinged the Lakers' mystique last season.

"It's tough to put a dent in mystique with all of them [championship] banners," Bryant said.

Can the Lakers get another one with their current roster?

"Yeah, we can," Bryant said, "but we've got to be damn near perfect."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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