Kobe Bryant: Lakers set for playoff push
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn't watch Kobe Bryant's MVP performance in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game. He became aware of Bryant's stat line only after Bryant told him before Monday's practice but that was about the extent of his knowledge from a game he has never really cared for.
"I can't remember the last All-Star Game I watched if I wasn't coaching in it," Jackson said. "I'm not a big fan of the game. I don't think it contributes to basketball. It's a show."
Jackson wasn't the only one who refused to watch the game, which took place on the Lakers' home court at Staples Center. Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who was hoping to make the first All-Star Game appearance of his 12-year career, didn't watch the game after being snubbed.
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"It was good to be away from the game," Odom said. "I usually watch it but I wanted to be away. Even though I was home I wanted to be away. I turned the phone off, shut the blinds and just chilled out for a little bit."
Bryant, who won his fourth All-Star MVP, was still recuperating from a hectic weekend after the Lakers' first practice at home since Feb. 4. The break, however, didn't mean Bryant had totally forgotten about the Lakers' current three-game losing streak, highlighted by embarrassing losses to Charlotte and Cleveland.
"I'm concerned but it's no different than last season or the season before that," Bryant said. "There's always concern, look at San Antonio, they have the same level of concern we do. Just like things are rolling, things can fall apart. Everybody is concerned at this point."
With 25 games left in the season, the Lakers (38-19) currently have the third best record in the West and the sixth best record in the league. While they might not be able to catch the 46-10 Spurs for the top spot in the league, the Lakers are within four games of claiming the second best record in the league, which would at least give them home court in the Finals if they are able to get past the Spurs.
"There's an excitement to building up to the postseason and getting better each game and we're ready to go," Bryant said. "It makes it a lot easier. [The regular season] is a marathon, when you see the finish line you tend to pick up your speed a little bit."
Jackson said the Lakers' place in the standings and the amount of games left in the season should raise the urgency of a team which has looked bored at times this season waiting for the playoff to come around.
"It's a manageable amount of games to look at," Jackson said. "We're sitting on less than two months [to] play. We're very comfortable with where we're at right now. We're not happy with it but we're going to be in the playoffs and we're going to have a position and we want to make it the best we can have it."
As much as the Lakers have struggled as of late in losing three straight and six of their last 11 games, Odom said the Lakers are looking forward to this stretch run of the season heading into the playoffs and defending their championship.
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be a fight," Odom said. "Other teams are looking to dethrone us and nobody wants to watch us win a third straight championship. It's going to be competitive and I'm looking forward to it. We've become accustomed to play until June and we don't feel like anything should change."
After practice, Bryant was still reflective not only about the twilight of the regular season but also the twilight of his career and the opportunity to pass on what he has learned to younger players at the All-Star Game. When Bryant was asked how he feels about being an elder statesman he simply laughed.
"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "You can't beat me in June. All the other stuff doesn't matter."
Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.