Lakers dealing with a little adversity
Yes, there are chinks in L.A.'s armor, but you'd be hard-pressed to find holes
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The sky is falling in Laker Land.
Or is it?
Yet they have more wins (13) than any team in the East and fewer losses (four) than any team but San Antonio in the West.
The 30-year-old Pau Gasol is playing more minutes per game, 39.1, than he has in any but one other season of his 10-year career (39.2 in 2005-06).
Yet Fisher is averaging more points (7.9, up from 7.5) and shooting a better percentage (40.9, up from 38.0) while playing fewer minutes (27.1, down from 27.2) than he did last season. And Brown is averaging more points (10.9, up from 8.1) and shooting a better percentage (48.6, up from 42.7) while playing fewer minutes (18.9, down from 20.7) than he did last season.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had a brief one-on-one conversation with a player about late-game strategy after a loss.
Injured Lakers center Andrew Bynum went in for a MRI on his right knee last week that showed no abnormalities and was able to continue on his path back to the court, even shortening his expected return date from 3 weeks to 2½ weeks Monday.
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Injured Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden went in for a MRI earlier this month on his left knee that showed he would need another microfracture surgery on the joint, erasing his entire season before it even began much the way his rookie year was swept out from under him.
While the Lakers face three games in four nights against Memphis, Houston and Sacramento, the games come against three teams L.A. has already beaten this season and three teams with a combined record of just 16-33.
"You want to make sure that you understand what you need to do in terms of focusing and remembering where these championships started from and that's the loss in Boston," Bryant said.
It's the same tactic he employed after a loss in Cleveland last January when he questioned his team's desire.
"I think last year we probably were a little hungrier and played a little harder," Bryant said at the time.
How did the Lakers respond to Bryant's diatribe last year?
By winning five of their next six games, that's how.
Sure, there have been some things that haven't gone the Lakers' way so far. Theo Ratliff's surgery was a setback. Lamar Odom's sore right foot and left thumb haven't helped. Bryant's right knee has recovered quicker than expected but is still rounding into form, making Bryant's defense bring up the caboose behind his already assimilated offense.
But things are pretty swell.
Miami and its mighty 10-8 record might not be taking the league by storm, but the threat the Heat presented in the summer is partly the reason the Lakers have looked so good so far.
The Lakers weren't planning on spending their mid-level exception this offseason until Pat Riley parted the free-agent frenzy by seducing LeBron James and Chris Bosh into joining Dwyane Wade in South Beach.
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Next thing you know, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake are having dinner at a Memphis barbecue joint Monday night -- both halves of the Lakers' MLE and two-thirds of L.A.'s "Killer B's" personifying the hunger that new blood can bring to the team over a couple plates of ribs and fried catfish.
It's time for a reality check.
The sky isn't falling in Laker Land.
No, things are actually looking up for the two-time defending champs.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.