Can another round of meditation help the Lakers this time?


— After having four days off to lose themselves in the All-Star Game
festivities and forget about the season’s latest calamity last week,
the Lakers returned to work Monday as only they can.

To make his
various points — that the offense can’t afford turnovers, that the
defense has to pick up and that they’re about to hit the home stretch
of the regular season — coach Phil Jackson turned the lights down low.

This was not to replicate last week’s darkest hour — they’ll always have Cleveland — but to allow time for introspection.

And so the Lakers meditated.

really, who among them couldn’t use some good cleansing breathes, the
better to wash away the residue from a 13-day trip that begin with four
encouraging victories and ended with three increasingly listless losses.

times a year, Jackson encourages the Lakers to meditate — to clear
their minds of clutter and reinvigorate their souls — and it’s hard to
argue that there would be a better time than Monday.

“You just
do it,” said Ron Artest. “It’s not like something where you feel like
Superman right away, it’s something that happens over time. Coach knows
what he wants to get out of it and whatever he wants us to get out of
it, we get out of it.”

If only it were that simple.

Lakers are 38-19, leaving them third in the Western Conference, 2-1/2
games behind Dallas and 8-1/2 behind San Antonio. Right behind them,
1-1/2 games to the rear, is Oklahoma City. That could leave them having
to win two series without home-court advantage, something they haven’t
done since Shaquille O’Neal was around.

Cutting into that
deficit — or holding off Oklahoma City — will not be easy when you
look at their schedule: Over the next three weeks, the Lakers play
Atlanta (twice), San Antonio, Miami, Dallas, Orlando, Oklahoma City and
at Portland (a place they struggle mightily). Six of those eight are on
the road.

And, as a reminder, the Lakers have hardly
distinguished themselves against the NBA’s elite. Against the top four
teams in each conference, the Lakers are 3-7.

“It’s a test,”
forward Lamar Odom said of the schedule, which begins Tuesday night
against Atlanta. “A test that we need — a test that we look forward