EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- For a team pursuing its third straight title, it's recently been open season on the Los Angeles Lakers. Former player and general manager Jerry West recently told an audience at a car dealership luncheon he felt the Lakers were getting "long in the tooth" and expressed doubt about their ability to be good for much longer.
"If there's a loose ball now, how often do they get to it? The reason you can't play defense is because you can't," West said.
After back-to-back losses at home, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he'd be open to making a trade, and Magic Johnson seconded both opinions while attending a news conference to announce the naming rights for Farmers Field, the potential downtown football stadium near L.A. Live.
"I think we have to [consider a trade]," Johnson said. "We have to do something. The Lakers are not responding and two things showed me that -- the Miami Heat Christmas game and then the Boston Celtics game [on Sunday]. When you don't get up for your two biggest games during the season and you have flat performances, then you have to start looking at trade possibilities to improve the team and bring some energy to the team and bring some new life to the team."
If these comments were meant to fire up the Lakers, everyone will have to work harder.
"Don't know, don't care," Kobe Bryant said when asked if the team was being criticized too harshly. "People that criticize, they can all kiss my ass. I don't give a s---. I really don't. I keep the train moving. We're gonna keep on moving and in June, they'll say nothing.
"For now, it's good talk."
Or even crazy talk, if you ask fellow five-time champion Derek Fisher. Even while recognizing the need to improve, the guard called for perspective.
"It's borderline ungrateful, in a sense, the way -- not just you guys [in the media], but even ourselves -- to be one of the top three or four teams in the league in terms of best record, and to be second in the Western Conference behind only a team that has played the best of any team in recent memory through 47 games and still kind of feel like we're failures in a sense," Fisher said. "It says a lot about what we want to accomplish.
"No fingers being pointed -- most of it is how we feel about ourselves. Whether it's management, coaches, or players. We don't feel like we're playing at our best level. At the same time, I'm not of the theory that the kitchen sink needs to go in order to get things worked out."
Andy Kamenetzky hosts the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com.