- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif -- After a six-day layoff, the Lakers are finally set to start their series with the Suns.
Coach Phil Jackson said that squaring off against some unfamiliar faces would be a welcome sight after the intense amount of intrasquad scrimmages caused things to "get a little bit feisty" during the time in between series.
"We had some decompression," Jackson said. "We have to build the pressure up again to meet the expectations of an opponent that's geared up and ready to go."
The Lakers have home-court advantage in the series, but just like what happened to Orlando on Sunday, Jackson said that can be a bit of a burden in playing a game after such a long layoff.
"The reality is there's a pressure situation with home court," Jackson said.
Pau Gasol said that the Lakers' losing their rhythm isn't an excuse because the Suns clinched their conference finals berth a day before Los Angeles did.
"Phoenix got an extra day than we did," Gasol said. "So, if somebody is going to be rusty, it's got to be them instead of us."
After answering the same questions all week, there wasn't much left for the Lakers to say before the first game is played.
"I think we feel like we're ready," Jackson said. "We've analyzed as much as we can, we've practiced as well as we can probably do at this time and now it's time to play."
Kobe Bryant did not go through a full practice Sunday, but did take the court.
"He came out today and shot a little bit and tried to get in rhythm," Jackson said. "We hope that he's on board and his game is right at the point where it has to be."
Andrew Bynum, who on Saturday said the condition of his right knee had worsened since closing out the Jazz, did not practice but Jackson remained impressed with how Bynum looked Saturday despite the swelling the 7-footer reported in his knee.
"I think he came through yesterday's practice quite well," Jackson said. "I thought he played well. We're hopeful that he's going to be at that level tomorrow."
Bynum averaged 24.8 minutes per game in the conference semifinals against the Jazz and Jackson thinks his center can reach that amount of playing time per game again against Phoenix.
"The minutes are parsed out in a way that doesn't put any real heavy time on it, like he's not going to play 12-14 minutes in a row," Jackson said, repeating the plan he laid out at the start of the playoffs to play Bynum in six-minute spurts to avoid extended stress on the 22-year-old's body.
Meanwhile, the Suns are expected to welcome back a young center of their own for Game 1. Robin Lopez hasn't played in seven weeks because of a back injury but has been practicing with the team all week in anticipation of the series against L.A.
"He's long, he's got good strength, good mobility, he's a good presence for them as far as defending, rebounding and he's just a big target also for Steve [Nash] when he's driving in the lane," Gasol said. "If he plays, so be it, we'll adjust and hopefully do our job and he's going to have adjust to us."
They said it
"At some point [Lakers assistant coach] Brian Shaw said, 'We're playing him at the wrong position, we should have him out at the 3-point line shooting 3-pointers,' because he hit like three in a row." -- Jackson on Los Angeles backup center D.J. Mbenga impersonating the Suns' smooth-shooting Channing Frye during scrimmages when the Lakers' second unit simulated Phoenix's offense.
They said it, Part II
"A lot of players kind of carry the ball. If all the carries were called, all the travelling was called, it would become a long, boring game. I don't think he carries the ball that excessively or more notably as other players do." -- Lakers forward Pau Gasol, defending the Suns' Steve Nash, who was called out by Jackson on Friday for illegally carrying the ball when he dribbles.
This and that
Usually the term "Goin' Fishin'" has a negative connotation in the postseason because of TNT's Inside the NBA segment, but Jackson used fishing language to describe the way the Suns play: "They're going to cast it out. They're going to shoot 3-pointers." Derek Fisher attributes playing time, not sharper play, as the reason for this increase in production this postseason: "I'm on the floor a lot more. I probably haven't played 40 minutes in 40 years. I don't know when was the last time I played 40 minutes, maybe in my third year or in an overtime game or something like that." Gasol likes the Magic to make it back to the Finals: "I think Orlando has a better matchup against Boston. I think the way they move the ball, Boston's defense doesn't really favor them the way Orlando plays. I would expect Orlando to win, but it wouldn't surprise me if Boston won." Fisher has cut his "playoff beard" but plans to let it grow back: "On the road [the barbers] made it too thin, like the chin strap [look], so I'm starting it
over so that it's full like yours."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
After a six-day layoff the Lakers are finally set to start their series with the Suns.