Commentary

Lakers really need to talk it up

A lack of communication seems to be one of many reasons why L.A. is in such a slump

Updated: December 29, 2010, 1:14 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

SAN ANTONIO -- As the hopes for a stellar regular season for the Los Angeles Lakers are falling from the sky like a lead zeppelin, the root of their persistent problems can be blamed on a communication breakdown.

The Lakers lost 97-82 to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night. It was a third straight "L" in the right-hand column of the standings, this one standing for "lashing" after these three-peat seekers looked listless against Milwaukee and downright limp against Miami.

Kobe Bryant lit into the team after the Christmas debacle, telling a room full of reporters how he wasn't going to stand for his team's disinterest and to deliver his message he would "beat it in [his teammates'] heads until it gets through."

It was the type of rhetoric that shaped the stories written by national columnists and the scintillating sound bites that led SportsCenter, but all of Bryant's barking fell on deaf ears.

Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant had plenty to say to George Hill, but his teammates are the ones he really should be talking to.

Talk is cheap if no action follows. Talk is even cheaper if the right people don't hear it.

Twice since Bryant's diatribe, Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked about his co-captain's comments, once after practice Monday and once before the game Tuesday. And twice Jackson said he hadn't yet read what Bryant said.

Bryant was asked at the team's morning shootaround Tuesday if he spoke to the team the way he spoke to the media and he replied, "Nope."

Los Angeles has now dropped three straight games by 15-plus points for the first time since March 2007, back before L.A.'s three straight trips to the NBA Finals and two rings. Everyone on the team seems to have their own take to describe what's going wrong, but nobody seems to be sharing their thoughts with one another.

Pau Gasol thought the ball should have ended up in his and Andrew Bynum's hands more often.

"We have to take advantage of our size," Gasol said. "That's one of our main strengths of this team and we go away from it, we don't utilize it. It's again, not being smart."

Gasol and Bynum combined for 7-of-12 shooting, which is one less shot attempt than the 13 misses Bryant had in a row from midway through the first quarter until late in the third, the longest empty streak of his career in a single game.

"I just need to put the ball in the damn hole when I need to," Bryant said. "It's my responsibility. It's my job and I got to do it."

The 13 straight misses eclipsed Bryant's previous record for futility of 11 in a row, done twice, in December 2003 against Boston and November 2004 at Phoenix.

"If I was playing, I probably wouldn't pass him the ball the next time," Jackson said, explaining how he would have handled it as a teammate.

If Ron Artest knew the solution for getting the sputtering offense -- one that shot just 35.4 percent from the field against the Spurs -- back in gear, he wasn't sharing it.

"That's for the coaches," Artest said. "I don't want to answer and be incorrect. I'd rather not answer. I'd rather let the leaders answer that question."

Lamar Odom simply didn't know what to make of it.

"I'm a little confused," Odom said. "I really don't know what to tell you guys."

It's not about telling the media anything, it's about finding a solution with one other.

"As a collective unit out there, we're kind of starting pointing fingers a little bit so we got to really stay inside the system and look to attack teams using mismatches and look to the advantages," Bynum said.

Gasol said the team "maybe" had some discussion at practice Monday to try to get back on the same page, but admitted that it wasn't enough.

"There probably should be a little more talking because we got to figure it out as a group what's going on and what we need to do better," Gasol said. "We need to do that with each other and talking face to face, otherwise it probably will prolong itself."

The only people who were told exactly what certain players on the Lakers were thinking Tuesday were George Hill and Richard Jefferson of the Spurs. They both received technical fouls, drawing tongue lashings from Bryant and Derek Fisher, respectively.

"We're all moody," Bryant said. "Fish got a tech today, and he's the basketball version of Barack Obama."

Fisher can apply his presidential abilities to make sure that when a bunch of moody teammates start speaking about what's going on to one another, everything stays politically correct.

Everyone agreed that Bryant going 8-for-27 from the field and putting so much of the offensive responsibilities on his shoulders alone was not the way the team would turn things around, Bryant included.

When asked if it was the right move for him to be dominating the offense early in the game instead of getting everyone involved he said, "Nope."

Because you weren't hitting shots?

"Yup."

The Lakers play the Hornets in New Orleans on Wednesday -- a tough back-to-back under normal circumstances that's even tougher given the state the team is in. Bryant said he planned to play just as hard and just as determined because, "That's how you win championships, is play with that attitude."

It will be Jackson's job to harness that hard play by Bryant and make sure it doesn't lead to hoisting up a disproportionate amount of shots.

"I'll talk to him about it," Jackson said.

A conversation is the perfect place to start.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Travis Gordon of ESPN Stats & Info contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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