The Lakers probably were not going to win 50 games, but Coach Phil Jackson made it semi-official Saturday.
Jackson said after practice that he told his players following a 127-99 win over Denver on Nov. 29 that they were not good enough to win 50 games.
The Lakers will play their 20th game of the season tonight, against Golden State at Staples Center.
As Jackson sees it, that is five games past the fail-safe point for establishing a team's direction for the season.
It is the first 15 games, he said, that set the tone for the season, when teams get into habits that will last for the rest of the season.
That win over the Nuggets came in the Lakers' 15th game and left them with a 9-6 record. They are now 11-8, and have yet to impress anyone, apparently. Certainly not their coach.
"We haven't really started to do some of the other structural things we want to do with the team," said Jackson, who agreed to a two-year contract extension on the day of the Denver game. "We need to open a run again and find a way to win two or three games in a row and get some momentum."
Injuries have been a factor in the team's start. Kwame Brown has missed 12 games, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf four each, Chris Mihm two, Vladimir Radmanovic one and Andrew Bynum one.
Kobe Bryant, Brown and Luke Walton (ankle) all practiced Saturday, but only Bryant -- who injured his left shoulder in the Lakers' last game, a 111-107 win at Denver on Wednesday -- is guaranteed to play.
Walton will be a game-time decision after he injured his ankle in practice Friday. The injury involves ligaments, not muscle, but the team is calling it a sprain.
Brown, also a game-time decision, said he is hopeful he can play. He has missed the last 10 games because of a sprained knee.
Jackson, though, said he is not worried about the team's revolving starting lineup.
Injuries have something to do with it and "some of it is about who we are playing," Jackson said. "A team like Golden State makes you change your lineup a little bit."
Jackson said Bynum, who's averaging 10.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game, had regressed in his fitness.
"He's gone backward since the season started," Jackson said. "He hasn't had consistent playing time and misses a game . . . it's a little bit troubling."
News of Bynum's regression, though, was news to Bynum.
"I haven't taken a step back," Bynum said. "I don't feel that way."
Bynum, the team's leading rebounder in his third NBA season since being drafted out of high school, said he put in a lot of work during the summer to get in shape.
"I've been progressing," he said. "I think I've been doing all right all season, except for the last game -- I was recovering from food poisoning."
The 20-year-old has played in 18 of the team's 19 games, starting eight times. He is fourth on the team in minutes.
Last year the Lakers swept the regular-season series against Golden State. They blew the Warriors out twice in Oakland and won two close ones at Staples.
"We played some consistent games against them," Jackson said. "It's unusual because the Warriors, normally, have always been a problem for the Lakers."
Most of those games, Jackson quickly pointed out, came before the Warriors' midseason trade with Indiana to acquire Stephen Jackson.
With Jackson, the Warriors have been a different team. After upsetting Dallas in the first round of the playoffs last season, Golden State started this season 0-6 but is 11-2 since.
The hot streak has coincided with the return of Jackson, who sat out the first seven games while serving a suspension related to his off-court conduct.
"He gives them an awful good one-on-one player," Phil Jackson said. "He's also an inside-outside guy, he can shoot three-pointers or he can be a post-up threat."
vs. Golden State, 6:30, FSN West
Site -- Staples Center.
Radio -- 570, 1330.
Update -- The teams are tied for second in the Pacific Division. Stephen Jackson is averaging 22.2 points, four assists and nearly two steals in 12 games since returning Nov. 26.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun