Jackson addresses Lakers' fragile state

Updated: May 11, 2004, 2:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- On a day when the fractious Lakers received a warning from coach Phil Jackson on their uncertain future, an animated Gary Payton unleashed an emotional torrent, expressing frustration with his teammates, coaches and the media.

Payton has had his problems this season in L.A., most recently in matching up with Tony Parker in this series where the Lakers trail the Spurs 2-0.

Parker has 50 points, 14 assists and two turnovers while Payton has 11 points, five assists and four turnovers.

"Basketball's up and down," Payton told reporters. "It's a wishy-washy thing with y'all, anyway."

That was just the beginning.

"You all can blame me for everything, I don't care," Payton said. "Whatever. Blame me. I could care less. I'm going to go home and play with my kids. Ain't no problem.

"I can't stop Tony Parker, OK? If I keep getting on the pick and roll, anybody can be like that. Anybody will beat you. Let me get in a pick and roll 65 times, and I can beat you, too. You get out here and play pick and roll, see how many times he will beat you.

"This is a team game. If we focus on stopping him, we can do that. You can put it on me, whatever you want to do. I can be the scapegoat. Put it on all five of us, then. Go ahead do what you want to do. It's Gary Payton vs. San Antonio."

Payton went on to say he hasn't gotten the needed help from teammates in defending Parker in pick-and-roll situations, and the Lakers haven't worked enough in that area.

"It's just like they play defense, they help," he said of the Spurs. "That's just the way we have to play basketball, too. If we all work together, if we played the way we're supposed to, we'll win.

"Everybody signed on to see what this team could do. If it doesn't happen, we can't sit here and cry about it. A lot of people might not be here (next year)."

Payton is certainly one of them.

Payton also said the triangle offense the Lakers play makes it difficult for him to use his height advantage to post Parker up on a consistent basis.

"We've got to be within the system, that's just the way it is," he said.

Payton's shots at Jackson and his system are the latest disruption in what has been a contentious season in Los Angeles.

"Rumsfeld thinks he has it tough, I have to do this every day," Jackson said with a smile a day before the Lakers face the Spurs in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

The Spurs won a pair of 10-point decisions in San Antonio for their 2-0 lead. The Lakers realize no NBA team has ever won a best-of-seven series after losing the first three.

"You don't win the game tomorrow and you're down 3-0," Jackson said. "It's pretty much a death knell for a ballclub."

With that in mind, Jackson was asked if he was feeling the pressure.

"No, I'm not, and that's kind of surprising," he replied. "I feel very even about it. ... We know what we've done with this basketball club. Now, they've got to push it to the limit. I'm at peace with that.

"We have a team with a nebulous future. I went down the line with every one of them. It's a team that has to play for the now. It has to play for tomorrow's game."

Eight of the 14 players on the roster including Payton, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Derek Fisher aren't locked in with the team past this season.

Payton and Malone joined the Lakers this season in search of their first championship rings in Hall of Fame-caliber careers.

It hasn't been a match made in heaven. Malone tore a knee ligament in December for the first serious injury of his 19-year career, and while playing every game, Payton has struggled much of the year.

The Spurs also took a 2-0 lead in the conference semifinals last year before the Lakers evened the series with two wins at home. San Antonio then won Games 5 and 6 en route to winning the championship.

"If we get this one, it takes a lot of wind out of their sails," San Antonio's Tim Duncan said of Game 3. "We have to know the crowd is not going to be there for us. The energy is going to be different."

Robert Horry, who helped the Lakers win three championships before joining San Antonio this season, said his team was looking for another fast start.

The Spurs took a 33-17 first-quarter lead in Game 2.

"It'll be up to us to try to jump on them quick and try to keep the crowd out of it," he said. "Right now, they don't know what kind of offense they want to run, so hopefully we can go out and establish our defense so the offense will be splintered."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.