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Lakers Play Mind Games to Stay Ready

Jun 9, 2010 – 6:11 PM
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Chris Tomasson

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Pau GasolBOSTON -- The Lakers could have changed hotels to get away from bad memories of their 39-point drubbing by the Celtics in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals. There are ample luxury hotels in Boston.

But the Lakers keep staying at the same hotel near Boston Common. We won't provide the name only because forward Luke Walton said when the Lakers' location in the Detroit area was publicized during the 2004 Finals, phones rang all night in rooms and horns honked outside. The Lakers lost all three games in Detroit to fall 4-1.

But the Lakers are 3-0 in Boston since they have continued to return to the same hotel where they spent the painful night following the 131-92 loss June 17, 2008, which secured the Celtics' 4-2 Finals win. That's two regular-season wins and Tuesday's 91-84 triumph in Game 3 of the Finals, which gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead.

"Every time I stay in that hotel, it reminds me of the last night I slept there after Game 6 and how bad I felt, and how long of a night it was for us,'' Lakers forward Pau Gasol said Wednesday. "The last two regular-season games I had the same feeling as I do every time I'm there. ... To me it (is motivation staying at that hotel). ... It contributes to remind us what we went through.''



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Perhaps it would be giving too much credit to the Zen Master himself, Lakers coach Phil Jackson, for keeping the Lakers in the same hotel. Teams often always stay at the same place in cities regardless of outcomes.

But what the heck. Jackson has 10 rings, and he's the master of mind games. So anything mental going on during these Finals, let's throw him some credit.

That includes Lakers players getting motivation from finding a similar mint on their pillow to the one that arrived the morning of the 2008 Boston massacre. And it includes Lakers center Andrew Bynum using meditation to help him play through a torn meniscus in his right knee that will require surgery after the season.

That's right, meditation. This guy is still a youngster at 22, and he's acting like a seasoned veteran.

"I learned that it's all about how you're looking at it, all about how you think,'' said Bynum, sounding as wise as Jackson and legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a Lakers special assistant who practices meditation himself. "I meditate right before the game and I meditate right after pre-game lunch. So I get time to think and visualize what's going to happen during the course of the game. That's kind of like playing the game before you do."

Andrew BynumPerhaps that's one reason why Bynum, who says he reads books on meditation, has been stellar in the Finals despite his bad knee, averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.67 blocks. And perhaps one reason why Bynum vows the bum knee he tweaked in the third quarter Tuesday, which resulted in him playing just four fourth-quarter minutes, won't keep him out of Thursday's Game 4.

"I will play,'' said Bynum, who said doctors told him he can expect to have such tweaks and is confident he can log 30-plus minutes Thursday. "I did a little shooting early. I think it will be all right.''

With all that meditation, why would anyone doubt Bynum, even if Jackson said he won't know for sure until Thursday whether Bynum will play? But Jackson did say he's "really optimistic'' of having his center available.

While in Zen mediation, the eyes are said to be half open and looking slightly downward, Bynum said he closes his eyes while sitting in a chair. Told of Bynum's meditation, Celtics forward Glen Davis pretty much rolled his eyes.

"Whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote,'' said Davis, borrowing a line from the OutKast song "The Whole World.''

Well, maybe the Lakers are helping get their minds in order by remembering what the remotes look like at that certain Boston hotel.

Walton certainly was focused after he surprisingly was inserted 2:15 into Tuesday's game after Ron Artest picked up his second foul. Walton logged 13 minutes, his most this postseason, being steady on defense, hitting a nifty long jumper for his only two points and grabbing two rebounds.

"It just brought up some real bad memories and some real painful memories,'' Walton said of gaining motivation by staying in the same hotel in Boston. "Personally, it just started getting me in a place of putting everything in the world aside and just focusing on winning these games.''

Perhaps if Lakers players meditate in their rooms, they'll be unbeatable for Games 4 and 5 in Boston.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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