Sports Illustraded: His Lakers are “not working hard enough” and trying “to get by without having to exert yourself enough to win games the right way,” Phil Jackson says, even singling out that most passionate of all laborers, Kobe Bryant. The coach allows that maybe the favorites for the Western Conference title are measuring out the final games of the regular season in the name of pacing themselves. That’s what he hopes, at least.
Tracking the Lakers’ mind-set is fair game and very high on the watch list of playoff storylines. The Celtics delivered a hard two-hand shove to the chest last June by showing greater toughness, more heart and better teamwork, and that image gets erased only with a postseason response. Sixty-something victories from late October to mid-April is commendable, but real reputations are forged starting this week.
So good and still so much to prove.
Speaking of Andrew Bynum…
Bynum is starting at center again after missing 32 games with a torn ligament in his right knee, bringing his own set of debate points: whether the Lakers can dare count on him, whether he will hold them back even if he does make it to the end, whether altering the starting lineup in the final full week of the regular season on behalf of a complementary player is ever a good idea. Small issues like that.