Lakers can't worry about playoff seeding
SAN ANTONIO -- The Los Angeles Lakers came into Tuesday night's game with San Antonio trailing the Spurs by five games for the No. 1 record in the Western Conference.
A 97-82 loss did nothing to close the gap.
But with just 31 games played in the 2010-11 regular season schedule and the calendar yet to move to the New Year, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said it's too early to fret about postseason seeding.
"I think the players understand that it's a long process and the idea is to come into the playoffs in the best shape you can come in as a team," Jackson said. "Now, maybe we're not capable of coming in as well as we'd like to, but you want to have home-court advantage in the first round and get your game going in a situation that's a playoff for you. We're still 50 games away from that kind of a scenario. It's a long ways to go."
If the playoffs started Tuesday, the Lakers would be the third seed in the West behind San Antonio and the Dallas Mavericks. Los Angeles has made it to three straight NBA Finals, but was the No. 1 seed in the conference in each of those three seasons.
More on the Lakers
For more news, notes and analysis of the Lakers, check out the Lakers Index. Blog
Talk of assuring home court in the first round of the playoffs rather than home court throughout the playoffs was a shift in expectations as Lakers players Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have both stated the team's goal of winning the West at various times so far this season.
"There's nothing I can do about [the record]," Jackson said. "I just have to go out and do the work that we have to do and hope that these guys catch on and work hard and we have some spirited games and play up to the level we're capable of."
When asked if, as the head coach, he should be able to do something about the record, Jackson elaborated.
"The record is what it's going to be," Jackson said. "It's what's going to happen. It's going to boil out the way it's supposed to boil out."
Jackson, who has won an unprecedented 11 championships while manning the sidelines, was asked if his style of never getting too high or too low over the course of a long season was "contagious" and leading to apathy amongst his players.
"The contagion is to be calm under duress, that's what we want them to have," Jackson said. "Excited about a game? Yes, you have to have a lot of energy when you play this game. Anger? Manageable anger is OK. Frustration is going to happen when you don't shoot the ball well and you don't compete."
The Lakers entered Tuesday's game having lost their last two games by a combined 35 points after losing their first seven games of the season by a combined 36 points.
Jackson stayed focused on the future schedule out ahead of the Lakers, calling Wednesday's game against New Orleans and Friday's game against Philadelphia, as well as the Spurs game, "all measuring sticks," but he did have one parting thought about the Christmas Day beatdown by the Heat.
"I'd be upset about paying the prices for those tickets and having a game like that was played," Jackson said, empathizing with fans that paid an average of $507 per ticket according to SeatGeek.com. "That's upsetting not to have a game that you wanted to have played when you anticipated that type of game. I think that's a frustrating thing for our players too."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.