Lakers short on more than talent

first_imgThis isn’t the time for finger-pointing, for whining and acting all weepy. It’s time to buckle down, re-examine and recommit. To lift their flattened chins off the court. Also, for crossing fingers and praying to celestial bodies. Besides, finger-pointing is the columnist’s domain. The Lakers have other things to worry about now, like simply managing to put up some semblance of a fight. So now they don’t snap towels at each other enough? Just never seem to get around to firing up the backyard grill at Kobe’s? Don’t meet for beers in Manhattan Beach? Come on, they don’t need a group hug, they need more talent. They don’t need a weekly board game night, they need the starters they have to get healthy. They certainly had none Tuesday in Phoenix, where the Suns rolled over them like some lost iguana on Interstate 10. Did you hear something? Nah, nary a beep. This is not the moment for alarmists to rule. For Chicken Little to run rampant. There is a simple reality to be acknowledged here, one even Kobe Bryant owned up to after that scintillating 126-98 loss to the Suns in Game 2 on Tuesday in Phoenix. “It’s not like we have the best talent in the league,” he said. “We really have to pride ourselves on playing hard all the time.” Which they absolutely did not do Tuesday. Unlike early in the series opener, they did not play harder than the Suns. They did not play smarter. They were left completely discouraged, which, when you’re taken to the shed for a nationally televised flogging, tends to happen. “We didn’t have it,” said coach Phil Jackson. “We weren’t quick, we weren’t active, we weren’t aggressive. They took it to us. Now let’s go back and play.” See, that’s the thing. The Lakers need to show fire on the court, not in the locker room. Need to stand up and battle with everything they have during the game, not moan “woe is me” after it. Hey, they got crushed. If they don’t get it together for tonight’s Game 3 at Staples Center, they’re going to get crushed again. Then it’s season over, play that fourth one because it’s required. Not close as team Right now they’re understandably embarrassed. After Tuesday’s devastation, Lamar Odom said: “It’s kind of sad but I don’t know that we’re as close as a team right now as far as camaraderie and things like that. “That’s the only way you lose games like this — when you’re not that close.” Guess Odom means close like all those Kobe-Shaquille O’Neal championship teams. This is not a team of yuck-it-up guys. Every single player on the team has a mild personality. OK, every guy except for Ronny Turiaf. But those mellow individual traits cannot manifest themselves into a laid-back team on the court. The Lakers are outmanned. That should be clear to every one, even those who bleed the team colors. Their greatest chance is to be healthy, playing at their best and playing harder than the Suns. They did that last postseason against the Suns and nearly – maybe should have – pulled the upset. This year the Suns have All-Star center Amare Stoudemire back, a player who makes a difference. Worse, Kobe walks on the court with three injured players and a rookie, Jordan Farmar, who started two whole games before the playoffs. Luke Walton and Kwame Brown are still not fully recovered from ankle sprains, which becomes more clear by the playoff minute, and Odom is playing through a shoulder tear that may require offseason surgery. There is only so much Kobe can do. He might as well be playing with Munchkins. Trying to drive through three defenders every night isn’t going to get it done. Not in the playoffs, not against the high-octane Suns. “What we have to do is play a smarter game,” Kobe said. “We have to play hard, we have to get the hustle points and execute well.” That proved difficult for the Lakers in Phoenix. Playing a hustling 48 minutes on the road is no easy task, particularly when the Suns tend to play at warp speed. Returning home But tonight the Lakers return home. Tonight they absolutely must win and need to play like that the entire game. Need to get back on defense, close lanes, make switches and actually attempt to stay in front of the Phoenix guards. They need to catch passes, move the ball, cut down on turnovers and actually hit open jumpers. Mostly they need to come out with some attitude, some intensity. Play like a team willing to do anything it must to defend its home court. Quit moping and start playing. Maybe it still won’t be enough. Probably it won’t, but at least they can feel better about themselves and stop with all the brooding. They’re down 2-0, and there is absolutely no way they come back without a major attitude adjustment. “Not in the mood they were in today,” Jackson said Wednesday. “They’ve got to change their mood around. “They were depressed and humiliated (Tuesday), and they still haven’t gotten over it this morning.” Being upset is one thing. They should be upset. But now it’s about how they respond. “I’m a little bit frustrated, but I’m sure everybody is,” Kobe said. “But you have to put the pedal to the metal now. You have to get after it. “If we can’t put it in second gear, brother, we stink.” Sister, he has that right. Time to be smart, to give it their all, to dig in and play like they understand their season is at stake. Nothing creates camaraderie like winning, but absolute effort is a close second. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. He can be reached at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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