Commentary

Jerry Buss visits Lakers practice

Updated: May 4, 2011, 3:43 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A purple Rolls Royce was parked outside the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility on Tuesday and its license plate, using a shortened amount of characters to convey the Lakers 11 championships under owner Dr. Jerry Buss was far more optimistic than the Lakers current 1-0 deficit in the Western Conference semifinals.

The luxury vehicle belonged to Buss, who stopped by practice to chat with several Lakers players the day after they dropped Game 1 to the Dallas Mavericks and offer words of encouragement.

One player Buss singled out was Lakers forward Ron Artest, who went just 1-for-8 on Monday, scoring two points, after having a strong first round in which he averaged 11.8 points on 50 percent shooting against the New Orleans Hornets. Artest downplayed the exchange, however it is uncommon for Buss to attend practice.

"He came in training camp. He comes in a couple days during the season. Sometimes we go out and eat lunch," Artest said.

Artest will also be ready to see more of Dirk Nowitzki on defense. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said it's possible the physical 6-foot-7, 260-pound Artest will be used more on the 7-foot, 245-pound Nowitzki, who lead the Mavericks with 28 points on 11-for-22 shooting.

"We'll change it up, put as many people on him as possible and just give him different looks throughout the game," Lamar Odom said of the team's plan to stop Nowitzki in Wednesday's Game 2.

While Odom was able to muster 15 points and 12 rebounds to start the series, the Lakers' bench was outscored 40-25 overall by the Mavs' second unit.

L.A.'s bench stayed on the court for extra work after practice. The teaching points emphasized by the Lakers coaching staff were pretty plain and simple.

"If we control the tempo and take good shots, we should be all right," Odom said.

Outside of the Lakers' bench woes, the team concentrated on ways to get Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum going. The big men combined for just 23 points and 16 rebounds on 8-for-18 shooting on Monday after averaging a combined 34 points and 19 rebounds in the last two games of the first round.

"I thought that our focus was so much into the lane and into the inside that Dallas was congregating around our bigs that they didn't get real clean shots," Jackson said. "We had some turnovers down there that we didn't want to have. They did a good job and we didn't really let the ball work for us. … We have to be much more subtle and much more counteractive as a team."

Gasol, who went 5-of-10 from the field in Game 1 compared to Kobe Bryant's 14-of-29, said he would like to handle more of an offensive load in Game 2.

"I'd like to get a few more [shots] up just to make that defense work," he said.

The Lakers had 11 turnovers on Monday, leading to 11 Dallas points. The Mavericks finished with 15 fast-break points as well.

Bryant, who received the news that he finished fourth in voting for league MVP on Tuesday -- "I love it, I'm happy for him," Bryant said of the winner, Chicago's Derrick Rose -- explained the Lakers' analytical approach to cutting down on turnovers and transition opportunities for Dallas.

"What we do is go by how we're taught, and [Phil Jackson's] way is always just look at the game of basketball and mistakes that we make on the court and not so much look at the psyche or emotions that surround it," Bryant said. "Just look at it from an X's and O's standpoint: What do we do?"

Last postseason, the Lakers reeled off eight straight victories after Oklahoma City tied their first-round series at 2-2. In this year's playoffs, it appeared the Lakers were building momentum after winning Games 5 and 6 against New Orleans by an average of 17 points, but they stumbled out of the gates in the second round.

"I don't know if that's going to happen," Jackson said when asked about his team building momentum. "It's been my experience that that doesn't always happen because teams are very good at this point in the playoffs. They can make adjustments. They leapfrog each other from game to game and so the losers sometimes have an advantage."

Said Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher: "We've accepted the fact that it won't be perfect, we're going to lose games, there are going to be times where we're not playing up to our abilities but if it was just as easy as writing the script and then having it go as it is written, then there would be a lot more teams that have done what we're trying to do."

The Lakers are trying to become just the fourth team in NBA history to make four straight NBA Finals appearances, following the lead of the Boston Celtics team that made 10 straight from 1957-66, the 1982-85 Lakers and the 1984-87 Celtics.

"It's not supposed to be easy," Fisher said. "We're not supposed to go through this thing kind of according to plan. We have to just keep battling and figure it out."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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