LAL vs PHO: Coaches Quote Corner

Before and after L.A.’s Friday evening victory over Phoenix, respective head coaches Mike Brown and Alvin Gentry made their usual pre and post game comments. Because the two teams play again on Sunday, this time in the Valley of the Sun, the comments shine a bit of light on what to look for.

We tried to help by bolding some highlights; here you go:

On the game in general:
Brown: We got a lot of production from a lot of guys. For the first time in a while we got some easy baskets. I thought we did a better job in the second half of defending. We did something defensively to get them to drop 7-8 percentage points by the end of the game. On top of that, 26 assists on 44 baskets is playing the right way, moving the ball, moving bodies, trying to get good looks for one another. That’s fun to watch. I thought Matt (Barnes) gave us a huge lift off the bench, also Steve (Blake) with his six assists, but Matt’s activity (was crucial). He had some big defensive plays that led to some easy baskets for us. I thought Derek Fisher was very solid for us. He was pretty efficient shooting the basketball. Kobe’s ability to score is something that can’t be coached. It was good to see him get different looks from different areas on the floor.

On the Lakers learning, growing and gaining confidence:
Brown: I truly believe our guys are getting it a little bit. They’re starting to get to spots and even when we’re kind of in a random offense, our guys understand spacing and the concepts that we’ve been trying to get to them since the beginning of the year. They’re trying to do a nice job of attacking in spots and trying to get into our sets. The reality of it is whether we run a play or not is they’re doing a nice job of moving the ball and moving bodies. The comfort level of starting to understand what we’re trying to accomplish offensively aids their comfort level in their ability to shoot the basketball.

On what needs to improve in advance of Sunday’s rematch:
Brown: We didn’t do a good job of playing the pick and roll. The 2nd half with (Marcin) Gortat rolling down the middle (got better). (Andrew) Bynum has to be up a little bit higher in pick and roll; we have to try and play at our pace. If we’re getting stops and getting out and running like we did tonight, so be it, but we have to keep doing those three things offensively but also understand how to get stops.

On Kobe being able to carry the offense as he did in the third quarter:
Brown: That’s who he is. When times get tough for us, he’s supposed to carry us. That’s his job, that’s what he gets paid to do. The supporting cast around him is pretty good, starting with Drew and Pau. But at the end of the day, you have a guy like Kobe that you can say ‘Hey, go get me a bucket.’

On if the early struggles could be a good thing for his team:
Brown: Yeah. 18-12 is ideal because we need to struggle, to see if we’re tough enough mentally to withstand all the noise that’s outside our locker room… whether from fans, media whatever. Our guys have to ignore the noise. I knew we were going to get socked on the chin because I didn’t have enough time to figure out what I had; to our guys’ credit, they were searching too*.
*Editor’s note: Brown essentially said that his team has not yet fully arrived, but is getting closer, and that he would bet on his team come playoff time. Kobe then backed up those comments, and Alvin Gentry’s (see below, last question) about no one wanting to play the Lakers in the playoffs, from his locker after the game. Bryant expanded on his thought to say that the Lakers would move up in the standings (they are currently fifth behind OKC, S.A., LAC and Dallas) and would be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.

On the difficulty of beating a team twice in a row:
Brown: Those guys are pros and they have pride, so it’s hard to continue to beat a team time after time after time, especially when you’ve beaten them twice already and now you have to come back and play them a third time right away. They’ll be ready for us, the crowd will be ready, and hopefully we can withstand the factors that we’ll face.

On Kobe holding a grudge against Phoenix for the playoff losses in 2005 and 2006:
Gentry: Still trying to figure out why. The only people left from (that time) are me and Steve (Nash), and we’re great guys. I know he doesn’t dislike me, and I know he doesn’t dislike Steve, so maybe it’s the purple? Maybe it’s the jersey’s? But not another coach, not another player, not the general manager, not a president … the owner and us are the only ones that are left.

On defending Kobe:
Gentry: You can’t judge him by looking at the stat sheet and saying, ‘Oh we held him to 15 (points),’ because it’s not going to happen. To me, the thing with Kobe is first of all you have to try and keep him off the (foul) line. If he’s making jump shots, he’s making jump shots and it doesn’t matter who is guarding him. You could have the defense lineman from the (New York) Giants guarding him and it’s not going to matter if he’s making his jump shot, so you try to make him work for his shot and then when it goes up, the most important thing is to let that be the end of the possession. Nobody ever controls him. If they did, he wouldn’t lead the league in scoring. He’s pretty consistent in what he does. The offense they run makes it really difficult to try and keep the ball out of his hands.

On if there’s another team with such a difficult low post combination as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol:
Gentry: I don’t think so, because of the length of both of those guys. There are some teams that may be a little more physical, but as far as the length and then when you take Pau and you add in just the basketball savvy that he has, and that Bynum is still a really young player and has continued to improve, they become very difficult. It’s frightening. These are guys that have been in championship situations and have done extremely well when the ball has come their way.

On Shannon Brown falling out of the regular rotation at times behind Jared Dudley and Michael Redd:
Gentry: It has been (tricky to get him minutes). It becomes extremely tough to play three guys at one position. He’s been unbelievable as a professional about it, and I know he’s not happy about it. Who would be? I as a coach have to be a little bit understanding on his part. We like to try and get him in games, put him in a situation where he can help us with the scoring.

On how he still considers the Lakers a major threat:
Gentry: As long as they have No. 24 they will be thought of that way. Their record doesn’t really matter. They’ll have him, and they have Bynum and Gasol. They haven’t played as well as they have played (in the past), they’ve struggled on the road some, which is a little unusual for them because they’ve always been a really good road team, but at the end of the day, are you telling me that anyone would want to play them in the first round? I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody’s begging to play them in the playoffs in the first round.