Kobe Bryant's always so conservative with his views. So meek. Timid.
"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will," Bryant told Sports Illustrated. "And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."
He didn't mention the Clippers, but that's another story for another day.
The most repetitive, boring question of the Lakers' season was raised again Thursday: Was their victory Wednesday the start of a trend or a momentary burst before a relapse into the same old stuff?
They clobbered the Boston Celtics, honoring late owner Jerry Buss the best way they could on an emotional, energetic night at Staples Center.
"I don't want to get into, like, 'Reset: Volume 6' or whatever we're on now," Steve Nash said. "But we've just got to keep building."
The top development against Boston was Dwight Howard's openness to working in screen-and-roll sets after cajoling from Nash and Bryant.
"For me, it's been great because he's been hungrier," Nash said. "He's seeking it out, looking to try to find my guy and run up and set good picks."
Howard was a force from the start in the Lakers' 113-99 victory, scoring 12 points in his first 11 minutes. He finished with 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
Howard said his improvement in pick-and-roll plays was as simple as setting more thorough screens.
"The [Lakers] coaches wanted me to set screens that was kind of different from what I did in Orlando ... they were saying you really don't have to hit the guy, just get a piece of him and then get out," Howard said. "The lesson I've been getting back to is really hitting that guard and making him aware of screens. Teams start worrying about the pick-and-roll more."
Won't that aggravate his sore shoulder and back?
"They hit my chest," Howard said.
The pick-and-roll might be the most important offensive set to watch the rest of the Lakers' season.
"It's important for us to develop a real relationship there," Nash said. "I think the pick-and-roll allows us to get penetration, it allows us to get Dwight rolling to the basket. It opens up other guys, so the options out of it are kind of tenfold."
After a flurry of moves last season — Derek Fisher and Luke Walton were out, Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill were in — the Lakers did not make any trades before Thursday's deadline.
They were adamant they would not deal Howard even though he can become a free agent in July.
"Regarding Dwight, it took awhile for the league to understand our position was exactly what we stated it would be," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a phone interview. "But I think they finally got it."
The last opportunity for roster additions are veteran players who receive buyouts from other teams. Such players must be waived by March 1 to be eligible to sign with another team and appear on a playoff roster. Players can sign up until the last day of the season.
This being the Lakers, not everybody is getting all the touches they need.
Nash didn't complain — not even close — but his longtime coaching ally came to his defense after Nash made six of seven shots against Boston.
"We want to play the right way and have the ball move," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "If it doesn't move back, then he's not going to get a lot of shots up. He's probably the best shooter in the NBA, so it's a crime that he doesn't get a lot of shots. But that's a product of our team, not him."