Life ain't so bad-- Lakers suck, Knicks suck, now if only Detroit would fall apart!
Atkins Takes His Shot
He derogatorily refers to Bryant as 'GM' before Lakers' eighth straight loss, 96-89 to 76ers.
By Mike Bresnahan, Times Staff Writer
The fissures in the Laker locker room continue to deepen amid an increase in irritated voices, the latest belonging to point guard Chucky Atkins.
Hours before Staples Center was dominated by boos in the final seconds of the Lakers' eighth consecutive loss, 96-89 to the Philadelphia 76ers before 18,347 Sunday, Atkins critically referred to Bryant as the team's general manager.
Two days after Coach Frank Hamblen said the Lakers quit in the second half of a loss to the Denver Nuggets, it was Atkins' turn to grouse.
Atkins, sitting in front of his locker that used to belong to Shaquille O'Neal, was asked by a reporter before the game what moves he would make during the off-season to improve the Lakers.
"I ain't the GM of this team," he said. "Kobe's the GM of this team. Ask Kobe. You've been watching this [stuff] all year. You've been watching it and I've been playing in it."
Pressed further, Atkins said, "I don't want to answer these questions. It's Easter."
Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak, in Indiana to scout a high school all-star game, declined to comment.
Atkins has been bothered by the number of shots Bryant takes and gets irritated when Bryant criticizes him in private for faulty defense, team sources said.
Bryant did not sense a permanent rift with Atkins.
"He'll just work through it," he said. "He'll be fine. That's my boy, so I'll look out for him, make sure he stays confident, make sure he stays aggressive."
Atkins, who has a year left on his contract after this season, said it was "hard to play with anybody that's a star" when asked if it was difficult to play with Bryant.
And to think that 20 minutes earlier, Hamblen had offered partly positive words on team morale, saying "they seem to get along with one another."
Atkins, with his fourth team in six seasons, said he hoped to return to the Lakers next season instead of being traded during the off-season, mindful of a summer that could lead to roster changes.
"I would love to come back," he said. "We're struggling, but it ain't going to be like this forever."
Neither Bryant nor Atkins could stop the Lakers from extending the second-longest losing streak in franchise history. The Lakers, who have 13 games left, are 10th in the Western Conference, 6 1/2 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth playoff spot.
Bryant scored 34 points on 10-for-22 shooting, although he made only four of 11 shots in the fourth quarter. Atkins, scoreless until hitting a three-pointer with 7:17 left in the third quarter, had 10 points on four-for-14 shooting.
The Lakers committed a season-high 27 turnovers, an eyesore that could not be blamed on a team still adjusting to the reintroduction of the triangle offense, Hamblen said.
"Sloppy play, poor decisions, poor passes don't pass to the guy's ankles," said Hamblen, who targeted two reasons for the turnovers. "Concentration and [guys being] mentally down about our situation, losing all these games in a row."
Allen Iverson, who came into the game averaging 30.5 points, 2.5 more than Bryant for the league lead, had a forgettable night, making five of 28 shots and scoring 20 points. Philadelphia forward Chris Webber, who appeared to break through a month-long funk with a 32-point effort Friday against the Toronto Raptors, also had a poor shooting night, making seven of 20 and scoring 14 points.
The unlikely duo of Andre Iguodala (18 points) and Marc Jackson (14) helped carry the 76er offense.
The end all but arrived after Iverson pushed the ball upcourt and flung an alley-oop pass to Iguodala from well above the three-point line. Iguodala's dunk gave the Sixers a 94-87 lead with 1:33 left to play.
Iverson later added a final touch, setting the ball on the floor and walking away from it with about three seconds left.
Afterward, Iverson said he wasn't surprised by the Lakers' struggles.
"There ain't no No. 34 around here no more," he said, referring to O'Neal. "There's no surprise."