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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
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Breathe easier, Jack
Would you believe it was the Lakers first W since May 18?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington and the lovely and talented Ms. Dyan Cannon can all breathe a little easier on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers won a basketball game. It was a 108-79 drubbing of the Detroit Pistons at the Staples Center.

Why is it newsworthy for a team with 618 regular-season victories and four NBA titles since the turn of the century to get into the win column? Would you believe it was their first W since May 18?

The Lakers dropped the last two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals last season, went 0-8 in the preseason, then lost their first three games this season.

So, rejoice, Tinsel Town, you are now in fourth in the Pacific Division.

Of course, it's preposterously early to genuinely worry about records, but the Lakers left the ranks of the Denver Nuggets (?), Sacramento Kings, Pistons and Washington Wizards as winless NBA teams this season.

"Obviously we needed a win, dropping three in a row, and not winning in the preseason made it a little tough," said Lakers head coach Mike Brown.

A little tough? Algebra is a little tough. Aaron Sorkin dialogue is a little tough. Making a good margarita is tough. What happened with the Lakers the first week of the season turned nasty.

To go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the team acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason and was the only starting lineup in the league with four Hall of Famers and a guy who changed his name to what every beauty pageant contestant wants.

An 0-3 start was unacceptable. What made it even worse was that the three losses weren't terribly close. The Dallas Mavericks won by eight in Los Angeles, the Portland Trailblazers by 10 the next night in Portland, then the Clippers beat the Lakers by 10 in what was technically a Lakers' home game.

All of this prompted a bizarre outburst from Bryant last week. After the Lakers lost to Mavericks and Blazers, Bryant spoke with the media about expectations and critics. He said, "Everybody shut up. Let us work and at the end of the day everyone will be pleased..." Bryant even used the words "dumb," "stupid" and "idiotic" to describe the panic.

No one said expectations were deduced from reason and logic.

A 29-point victory over a winless team when you are one of the favorites for the NBA title may not seem like such an impressive feat, but it's how you do it that counts.

With Nash sidelined with a broken bone in his leg, Steve Blake started in his absence. The other four Lakers starters on Sunday combined for 75 points on 30- for-51 field goal shooting. Bryant had eight assists as well.

"You look at the points some of these guys had, and I'm sure they'll tell you, they scored probably easier than any other time they've played the game because they got it within the system," said Brown, referring to the newly initiated Princeton offense.

If you really think about it, with a new offensive system, two new, high- profile starters, including one who barely played in the preseason (Howard), why would anyone expect the Lakers to start well?

Again, no one said expectations were deduced from reason and logic.

Contrary to what some might think, you can't roll the ball out and say, "Go win, guys." Intertwining these new pieces will take time and the hope for the Lakers is that it will come together for the playoffs. Let's face it, you have to like the Lakers' chances as much as anyone else's out West after the James Harden trade weakened the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And all we've addressed is the on-court tinkering. There are a lot of egos in play with this Lakers team and egos isn't necessarily a dirty word. Each of these four future Hall of Famers have led teams to great prominence. It would be natural for one of them to think he can put the Lakers on his shoulders and lead them to glory.

That stems from the subconscious more or less, but there is one lead dog on this team and that's Bryant. His calculated "blow-up" was perfect for them. He has enough credit in the bank with Lakers faithful that he can say things like that. If Brown had done it, there would be a lot of sandal-wearing liberals bad-mouthing him in Starbucks lines.

(Bryant even addressed as much in his diatribe, saying, "The only thing that changes is now you have Mike Brown telling everybody to be patient. Back then, it was Phil Jackson telling everybody to shut up. The critics are more likely to take runs at him (Brown) than they would at Phil Jackson.")

The Lakers will be just fine. When Nash comes back, it will still take some time to make everything flow. After a while, silly "losing streaks" like this one are more of a nuisance than anything.

"I think it's more of a relief for Mike than it is for anybody else. We're good," Bryant said.

Yes, the Lakers are good.

So breathe easier Jack, Denzel, Ms. Cannon. Three games didn't make a season.