At first glance, it looks like a nightmarish trip.
The Lakers play seven games in 13 days before returning home April 2.
Their lives will be dominated by unfriendly crowds, screaming public address announcers, long flights, unfamiliar hotel rooms and questionable room service.
A closer look at the Lakers' longest trip of the season reveals that the competition is less than grand, however.
As of Friday morning, only one of their seven opponents had a winning record and only three were in a playoff position.
In fact, this could be the Lakers' easiest seven-game trip in recent memory.
After all, the Chicago Bulls, tonight's opponent, are a meager 32-37 while holding down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern
The Oklahoma City Thunder, who play host to the Lakers on Tuesday, were 19-49 going into Friday's game against Utah. They were 36<MD+,%30 1/2 games behind the Lakers.
The Atlanta Hawks are the lone team on the trip with a record better than .500. They are 41-28, fourth in the Eastern Conference.
But get this - the Lakers routed them, 96-83, when they played at Staples Center on Feb. 17.
The Lakers (54-14) visit the Hawks on March 29, the fifth stop on the trip.
Kobe Bryant, for one, said he was looking forward to leaving town.
"It is good that it is coming up at this time of year," he said after scoring 21 points in the Lakers' victory Thursday over the Golden State Warriors. "If you go out on the road,
basically, it is us against the world, so to speak. So we are able to bond and connect. These types of road trips build great momentum."
The Lakers did not practice Friday, spending the day flying from LAX to Chicago. Bryant made a promotional appearance for a shoe company at a Chicago-area school in the afternoon
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Long trip a good chance to bond for Lakers
Reporting from Oklahoma City -- Time for the next installment of "penance," as Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has been calling the team's season-long seven-game trip.
Booted out of Staples Center for nearly two weeks because of the World Figure Skating Championships, the Lakers pulled off a triple salchow in their come-from-behind victory at Chicago on Saturday.
They'll need another victory tonight in Oklahoma City to stay within a game of Cleveland (57-13) for the league's best record.
The Lakers (55-14) have never had a trip this long so late in the season, and they're trying to make the best of it.
Their opponents haven't won many accolades so far -- Atlanta (42-29) is the only team over .500 -- but the Lakers are more interested in one another these days.
Their second unit showed signs of success against Chicago, and the Lakers were the ones coming back against a large lead, not losing one, as they had done in many recent games.
So now instead of scattering to fill their schedules and commitments after home games and practices, they'll all stay in the same hotels until April 1, collect their individual per diem of $114 and see plenty of each other.
"We need this trip, right?" forward Lamar Odom said. "Guys realize that they need each other and the only way to make it happen is to play with each other. Sometimes I think it's a chemistry thing."
Said Kobe Bryant: "It's great for us, especially this time of year. You can build a lot of momentum from these road trips . . . if they go well. There's obviously a flip side to that, but we believe we can play very well on this trip."
Oklahoma City has actually been playing better than its 20-50 record indicates, winning seven of the last 12 games, many of them without leading scorer Kevin Durant, who recently returned from an ankle injury.
After the Thunder's 97-90 victory against Minnesota on Sunday, Coach Scott Brooks told reporters that former UCLA guard Russell Westbrook was "as good as any rookie in the league right now."
Westbrook is averaging 15.8 points, five assists and 4.8 rebounds for the Thunder.
Second-year forwards Durant and Jeff Green are averaging 26 points and 17.1 points, respectively.
"They're a team that has a great future ahead of them," Jackson said. "They lose a lot of their games close."
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Edited by TheAssassin611, March 24, 2009 - 03:21 AM.