The Lakers remained so tight for time that they didn't bother settling into their hotel room.
Instead, Coach Mike Brown recalled their trip to Sacramento two months ago on the second night of three consecutive games to open the season happened this way. They left L.A. at 9 p.m. Christmas night after a season-opening loss to Chicago. The team left its hotel at 9 a.m. the next morning for a two-hour shootaround. Then everyone ate lunch together. Around 2 p.m., the Lakers returned to their hotel, but just to pick up their bags for their evening game.
It perfectly illustrated the disjointed mess the Lakers faced with their roster, learning a new system and navigating the toughest part of their schedule. It should hardly prove surprising the Lakers lost that game and started off 0-2.
"I looked a little more frantic in Sacramento than I do now in the course of games," Brown said. "We’ll start with me. Then you go down the line. "
Oh, there's been plenty the Lakers (21-14) have had to handle. That ranges from undergoing roster changes to learning a new system and wondering if more moves await before the March 15 trade deadline.
But there might be one thing that will help things settle this month. An easier schedule. The Lakers host Sacramento Friday at Staples Center, one of 10 contests in their 18-game slate this month against a team that wouldn't make the playoffs if the season ended today.
It was a different story at the beginning of the season. They opened the season playing three consecutive games. They played 11 of their 18 sets of back-to-backs in the first two months. They faced teams with postseason seeds in 18 of their 35 games.
It's possible the Lakers' favorable schedule in March will help boost them higher in the standings. The Lakers (21-14) are ranked fourth in the Western Conference. They also remain half a game behind the Clippers (20-12) for first place in the Pacific Division. Suddenly games next week against Eastern Conference bottom dwellers in Detroit (12-25) and Washington (7-28) sound enticing.
"If we play the right way, we can,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “Obviously, there is a potential in doing so, but there is also a potential of messing up and taking things for granted and being in trouble."
That's because the Lakers say they feel split on what their strong early schedule did for their development. Did those games battle-test the Lakers? Or did it simply make it less possible for the Lakers to grow considering the low margin of error?
The Lakers already eagerly await to host the Miami Heat (27-7) on Sunday. Just last week in the NBA All-Star game, Heat guard Dwyane Wade delivered a hard foul to Kobe Bryant that resulted in a broken nose, a concussion and whiplash in his neck. Even if Bryant hasn't faulted Wade publicly, it's safe to presume he will spark motivation from it.
Who knows if that will make any difference. The Lakers lost three games to the league's top three teams, including the Miami. One of the other losses came last week against Oklahoma City where the Lakers conceded 21 fast-break points. The Lakers remain 21st in total offense, averaging 93.4 points per game. In January, the Lakers failed to scored at least 100 points. in 13 consecutive games. Brown remains more concerned with improving their development than compiling wins.
“If we’re winning games and not playing the right way and I’m not feeling like we’re getting better, it’s all for naught,” Brown said. “Come playoff time, we won’t be where we need to be in order to have success.”