Culver City Observer -

Distractions Are Lakers’ Toughest Opponent


October 8, 2009

Something happened a few days ago that happens almost every year at this time.

Lee Hamilton called.

Hamilton is the long-time sports talk guy in San Diego who annually puts me on the air to begin the Lakers’ season. I’m focusing on high school and college football, the Dodgers and my editing duties at The Observer. But when he calls my mind clicks in on the Lakers.

As we talked on and off the air it became clear to me that the Lakers’ toughest opponent in defense of their NBA championship will be the possibility of distractions.

Phil Jackson talked about that in his first media session of the new season.

Everything from the acquisition of controversial Ron Artest to the departure of assistant coach Kurt Rambis to Lamar Odom’s wedding a few days before training camp began to the complication of players revealing information via Twitter causes concern for the coach.

Oh, yeah, there’s also the matter of the 64-year-old Jackson being in the last year of his contract. He has told owner Jerry Buss this puts him in an unenviable lame duck situation, but negotiations continue to drag on.

When Pat Riley coached the Lakers he was firm in telling the players that private matters shouldn’t become public. This made my job as a traveling beat reporter more difficult but I admired Riley for trying his best to minimize distractions. It’s hard enough dealing with opposing teams without controversy arising in the media about internal team matters.

But now there is Twitter, which gives players the opportunity to reveal information without knowledge of even the team’s public relations department.

An example is that when Kevin McHale lost his job as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coach this summer the news was recealed via Twitter by former UCLA player Kevin Love, now a Timberwolves forward.

“It’s a sad day,” Love tweeted.

As for the Lakers, Artest is an avid tweeter, as is Jackson’s girl friend, Jeannie Buss.

With all the interest in the Lakers there’s the potential for big trouble if team secrets are made public.

“There will be restrictions,” said Jackson.

Since Odom married a reality television personality there’s a new batch of media folks around the team, folks not interested in basketball but in gossip.

So, welcome to the Lakers of 2009-1-2010. This promises to be a different season.

For anyone who believes the Lakers will be in the playoff finals again I urge caution. They look good on paper but every season is different.

“We look good on paper but team chemistry must be established as we go along,” said Jackson.

Rambis was not replaced when he became the Timberwolves’ head coach. In this tough economy the Lakers are eliminating an expense by having one less assistant coach. Rambis’ duties will be divided by the other assistants.

That’s different. A lot is different. Thankfully for the Lakers, though, Kobe Bryant is still playing.


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