Mitch Kupchak open to trade?
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he would consider making a trade amidst the team's recent struggles, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday night.
"Yes ... I may have to look into a trade, but I'm not saying we have" talked to other teams yet, Kupchak said, according to the newspaper. "We have not been playing up to our level and I don't know why. Maybe it's complacency. I'm not sure."
The Lakers picked up the pieces at practice Monday after the loss to the Celtics left the basketball world wondering if the two-time defending champions have lost a step.
Head coach Phil Jackson was asked what changes his team would make.
"Suicide," Jackson deadpanned. "We'll commit suicide ... mass suicide."
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Lakers forward Lamar Odom assured reporters that nobody was jumping off a ledge.
"No, no, no," Odom said. "There's no coming back from that, that's it. I'm not committing suicide."
Jackson said he did not go over the game tape from the Lakers' 109-96 loss to the Celtics on Sunday with his players, opting to focus his team's energy on its upcoming game against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
"It's Houston right now that we're worried about," Jackson said. "Our practice [Monday] was about Houston. The last time we played Houston, we lost to them so we have something to do about the team coming up."
Still, most of the questions coming at the 11-time championship winning coach were about what happened against Boston when the Celtics outscored the Lakers 59-42 in the second half.
The hot topic of the day was Kobe Bryant taking 10 straight shots in the fourth quarter and not getting his teammates involved as Boston built its lead from nine to 12.
"Kobe ended up taking it on his shoulders to beat the team," Jackson said about Bryant who scored 41 points on 16-of-29 shooting but saw his team fall to 0-2 when he topped the 40-point plateau this year. "There are times it works, there are times it doesn't. [Against Boston] it didn't work out. Our big guys didn't step in and demand the ball and they weren't aggressive about it."
One of those big guys, Pau Gasol, scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting but only had five shot attempts in the second half. On the day Gasol was presented with a plaque to recognize him being named the European Player of 2010 by La Gazzeta dello Sport for the third consecutive year, he said he did not confront his two-time NBA Finals MVP teammate about Sunday's fourth quarter.
"I'm just trying to do the right thing," Gasol said. "It's not the last part of the fourth quarter [that's the problem]. I think that's when [Bryant is] at his best and that's when he can take over, really. But I think earlier during the game, we don't have to rely on that as much and that's something that will help us. We have to figure it out as a coaching staff, as a team and not as individuals. It's definitely something that we need to talk about."
When asked what Jackson expected of Bryant in the fourth quarter, he said simply, "Make the plays."
"You got to make the plays at that time," Jackson said. "That's the credibility you have. You have to make the plays if you're taking that kind of situation on."
The 65-year-old coach said he hasn't talked to Bryant about finding a balance between commandeering the game and relying on the collective efforts of his teammates, but planned to.
"We work on it," Jackson said. "He'll work on it. We'll talk about it together about this thing and we'll work on it."
"There were a couple shots that were out of the sequence with what we do, but for the most part I can't really get into Ron and his offense right now," Jackson said. "I thought that was a bad day for him offensively, no doubt about it."
Artest did not speak to the media Monday but Jackson conceded that the mercurial forward's play could have been hampered from taking an unintentional Shaquille O'Neal knee to his right thigh in the first quarter.
"[He] just wasn't an active defender like he usually is and so I replaced him and got Luke [Walton] out there and playing a bit," Jackson said. "But we have to have him. He's an important cog to our defensive game."
Andrew Bynum, the anchor of the Lakers' defense in the middle, did not practice because of a sore left knee but expects to play against Houston.
Jackson said he doesn't lean on his experiences from any of his three previous three-peat seasons for direction but agreed with an out of town reporter who theorized that the Lakers taking their lumps in January could help them out in June.
"I think there's a certain amount of tension that goes with winning and losing and I think that helps a team be active or more active or play a little bit harder," Jackson said.
Jackson seemed bemused by the extra press attention at practice to find a crack in the defending champs' armor, holding court for more than 12 minutes, twice as long as his media sessions following practice usually last.
"I don't like it, but I don't run away from it," Jackson said. "I kind of embrace it."
Jackson was asked how he maintained his confidence despite his team falling 7½ games behind San Antonio for the top seed in the West and to the fifth overall in the league behind the Spurs, Celtics, Heat and Bulls.
"Well, we have two years of pretty good records in the playoffs, don't we?" Jackson said. "So that's what keeps me optimistic. We have guys that are experienced and know what to do."
Last week, Laker legend Jerry West degraded the team as being too old to play effective defense but Jackson said the aspect of the game in disrepair is L.A.'s offense.
"Our inconsistency offensively I think is the thing that bothers me the most," Jackson said. "We have defensive mistakes, we plotted them out, we talked to them about it [at practice] and what we made mistakes doing. But really, our inconsistency playing offense is really something we have to work on."
Asked when the Lakers would need to show improvements by, Jackson replied, "I would say April 15 or 17, somewhere around there," pointing to the start of the playoffs.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press was used in this report. Follow McMenamin on Twitter.