Gadhafi accepts African Union plan to end conflict

04/11/2011
By Luke SHRAGO (video)
News Wires (text)

REUTERS – Muammar Gaddafi has accepted a roadmap for ending the conflict in Libya including an immediate ceasefire, the African Union said on Monday, but an opposition representative said it would only work if Gaddafi left power.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who met Gaddafi at the head of a delegation of African leaders, urged NATO to stop air strikes on government targets to “give ceasefire a chance”.
Earlier truce offers from Gaddafi have come to nothing and rebels, who took up arms across the east and in some towns in the west after he crushed protests in February, have said they will accept nothing less than an end to his 41 year-old rule.
Asked if the issue of Gaddafi stepping down was discussed at his talks with an African Union delegation in Tripoli, Ramtane Lamamra, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, told reporters: “There was some discussion.”
However he added: “I cannot report on confidential discussions because first of all I was not part of them, and I think they have to remain confidential between the parties involved.”
Officials from NATO, which stepped up attacks on Gaddafi’s armour on Sunday to weaken a bitter siege of Misrata in the west and disrupt an advance his troops made in the east, were not immediately available for comment on Zuma’s ceasefire appeal.
The British-based representative of the Libyan opposition leadership, Guma al-Gamaty, said it would look carefully at the AU plan, but would not accept any deal designed to keep Gaddafi or his sons in place, Britain’s BBC reported.
Libyan officials have repeatedly said Gaddafi will not quit.
Asked if he feared rebels might reject the plan, Lamamra said: “We believe what we have proposed is broad enough to launch negotiations … What we need is for them to accept that we are people of good will.”
“It’s not up to any outside force even the African Union itself to decide on the behalf of the Libyan people on who the leader of the country should be,” Lamamra told a news conference in the early hours of Monday morning after the AU talks.
Zuma met Gaddafi for several hours at the Libyan leader’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound with four other African heads of state.
“The brother leader delegation has accepted the roadmap as presented by us. We have to give ceasefire a chance,” Zuma said, adding that the African delegation would now travel to the eastern city of Benghazi for talks with anti-Gaddafi rebels.
Sunday fighting
There was no sign of any let-up in the fighting and the chances of a negotiated settlement looked slim.
NATO said it destroyed 11 tanks on the outskirts of the eastern rebel town of Ajdabiyah, which looked in danger of being overrun on Sunday, and 14 near Misrata, a lone insurgent bastion in the west that has been under siege for six weeks.
Libya A rebel spokesman earlier rejected the idea of a deal with Gaddafi to end the conflict, bloodiest in a series of pro-democracy revolts across the Arab world that have ousted the autocratic leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
“There is no other solution than the military solution, because this dictator’s language is annihilation, and people who speak this language only understand this language,” spokesman Ahmad Bani told al Jazeera television.
NATO intensifies attacks
NATO, mandated by the United Nations to protect civilians in Libya from attacks by Gaddafi’s forces, said it had increased the tempo of its air operations over the weekend, after rebels accused it of responding too slowly to government attacks.
The insurgents hailed the more muscular approach.
The NATO strikes outside Ajdabiyah on Sunday helped break the biggest assault by Gaddafi’s forces on the eastern front for at least a week. The town is the gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi 150 km (90 miles) north up the Mediterranean coast.
A Reuters reporter saw six burning hulks surrounded by 15 charred and dismembered bodies in two sites on Ajdabiyah’s western approaches which rebels said were hit by air strikes. “NATO has to do this to help us every single day. That is the only way we are going to win this war,” said 25-year-old rebel Tarek Obeidy, standing over the bodies.
The government attack, which began on Saturday, included a fierce artillery and rocket bombardment, while some of Gaddafi’s forces, including snipers, penetrated Ajdabiyah. Rebels cowered in alleys for several hours under the bombardment.
The corpses of four rebels were found dumped on a roadside.
“Their throats were slit. They were all shot a few times in the chest as well. I just could not stop crying when I saw them,” said rebel Muhammad Saad. “This is becoming tougher and tougher.”
But by afternoon rebels looked back in control of Ajdabiyah, commanding key intersections, and fighting had died down.
Ajdabiyah had been the launch point for insurgents during a week-long fight for the oil port of Brega 70 km (45 miles) further west, and its fall would be a serious loss.
Gaddafi appears
Gaddafi, making his first appearance in front of the foreign media in weeks, joined the visiting African leaders at his Bab al-Aziziyah compound.
He then climbed into a sports utility vehicle and was driven about 50 metres (yards) where he waved through the sunroof and made the “V” for victory sign to a crowd of cheering supporters.
The appearance, his second in two days, and Gaddafi’s upbeat demeanour, confirmed the impression among analysts that his circle has emerged from a period of paralysis and is preparing for a long campaign, another sign mediation will be difficult.
Analysts predict a drawn-out, low-level conflict possibly leading to partition between east and west in the sprawling North African Arab state, a major oil and natural gas producer.
NATO’s commander of Libyan operations said the alliance, which took over air strikes against Gaddafi from three Western powers on March 31, had destroyed “a significant percentage” of Gaddafi’s armour and ammunition stockpiles east of Tripoli.
Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard said after Sunday’s air attacks: “The situation in Ajdabiyah, and Misrata in particular, is desperate for those Libyans who are being brutally shelled by the (Gaddafi) regime.”
Asked for comment on the ceasefire announcement, a British official repeated a well-worn statement: “We will judge Gaddafi by his actions not his words.”

Classic Hollywood: Glenn Ford, the actor and the man

04/11/2011
By Susan King, Los Angeles Times April 11, 2011 

Glenn Ford as John Parrish in the movie, "The Violent Men" (1955)

The late Glenn Ford‘s 8,800-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion has a curious octagon shape that had just one official bedroom — a huge master bedroom on the main floor.

“There are very few right angles in this house,” said his only child, 66-year-old Peter Ford, who has lived there with his wife, Lynda, for the last 17 years. They moved in 12 years before Ford’s death in 2006 at age 90 to take care of the ailing actor.

“The reason was, he didn’t want to be fenced in. This house is kind of a metaphor for his life. He had wanderlust. He needed to do this thing.”

Peter Ford will appear Saturday at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre to talk about his famous dad, sign copies of his new biography, “Glenn Ford: A Life,” and screen two of the actor’s film noirs: 1947’s “Framed” and 1949’s “Mr. Soft Touch.”

Ford admitted he is a bit concerned how his father’s fan base will react to the autobiography. The book, though not a “Daddy Dearest,” paints a less-than-flattering picture of the legendary actor. Ford discusses with great admiration his father’s film career that included such classics as 1955’s “Blackboard Jungle,” 1946’s “Gilda,” the second of his five films with Rita Hayworth, and Fritz Lang‘s seminal 1953 film noir “The Big Heat.”

But he also doesn’t pull any punches about his father’s chronic womanizing — Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Hope Lange, Geraldine Brooks, Maria Schell, Judy Garland and Brigitte Bardot were among his lovers — his drinking and his distant, often strained relationship with Peter.

Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations is that Ford and Hayworth became lovers during 1948’s “The Loves of Carmen,” and in fact, Hayworth became pregnant with Ford’s child and had an abortion at a hospital in France. “Nobody knows that,” he said. “I have his diaries.”

“The image of my dad is that he is like Jimmy Stewart, an Everyman. He was that on film. He wasn’t that in private life,” said Ford, whose mother was Ford’s first wife, tap-dancing legend Eleanor Powell, whom he describes as a “saint.” Powell was married to the actor for 16 turbulent years. He began the book the year before his father died.

“We worked on it together,” Ford said. After his father’s death he also was able to quote from Glenn Ford’s extensive diaries, which he began writing in 1934, plus many audio tapes he made.

Though being Glenn Ford’s son was difficult, he admires his father’s talent. “To me, he’s one of the greatest actors and one of the most underacknowledged ones.”

Ford believes that his father is underappreciated because he was under contract for years at Columbia Pictures. Two-fisted studio chief Harry Cohn kept putting Ford in “B” pictures early in his career and then promised him such films as Fred Zinnemann‘s 1953 Oscar-winning “From Here to Eternity,” only to renege on his promise.

His father played it safe by staying at Columbia for more than 14 years. “He was very insecure about money,” he said. “He would rather stick with Harry. And in a nutshell, he never had the chance to work with quality directors other than Fritz Lang and Delmar Daves. “There were no Howard Hawks, George Cukors there.”

Of course, Ford made unwise decisions, such as turning down the role of struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis in Billy Wilder‘s 1950 classic “Sunset Blvd.” Peter Ford said his dad was stinging from the failure of “The Loves of Carmen,” in which he felt emasculated wearing tights and having his hair curled; in “Sunset Blvd.” he would be playing a kept man to an aging silent screen star. “So he looks at the role in ‘Sunset Blvd.’ and reads the script and he said, ‘Here I go again. I am going to be an also-ran.'”

Ford’s career changed dramatically when he went to MGM in 1954 and made Richard Brooks‘ hard-hitting “Blackboard Jungle.” Brooks had him cut his wavy, thick hair into a crew cut and elicited a strong, more mature performance from the actor. The late 1950s were golden for Ford — after “Blackboard Jungle,” he earned strong notices for “Trial,” “Jubal,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Teahouse of the August Moon” and “Imitation General.” In 1958, he was the No. 1 box office star in the U.S.

Peter Ford believes that because his father gave himself so much to his craft, “I don’t think he had anything left for his wife and son. He loved acting, and unlike my mom, who stopped, he kept going to the bitter end. The end of his career was like the beginning, doing all of these horrible, less-than-laudatory films. But he loved acting, and they paid him big money. When he came home it was like Jekyll and Hyde.”

susan.king@latimes.com


Reality Rocks Expo: The sad reality of it all

04/11/2011

 

Realityrocks
The inaugural Reality Rocks Expo hardly found its groove the second day.  The crowd was fairly anemic Sunday in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The biggest line of the day wasn’t for meet-and-greets with the likes of Ray J (“For the Love of Ray J”) or Omarosa (“The Apprentice,” “The Surreal Life”), rather it was for a casting call for The Hub’s new music competition series “Majors and Minors.” And panels still drew sparse crowds — only they appeared larger because rows were roped off in the bigger rooms.

A rockin’ hit or not, it gave us these gems:

— During the “Where are They Now? Catching up with Reality TV Stars and Their Lives Today,” Omarosa, who launched her unscripted career after appearing on the first season of “The Apprentice,” touted that she has appeared on more than three dozen reality shows: “I took lemons and made a hell of a glass of lemonade.” And unfortunately, there isn’t likely an end in sight.  She warned/told the sparse crowd: “I believe there are 15 minutes of fame for me in every hour.”  Oy. Can someone take out the battery on that clock?
— It can’t be a good thing when “Hottie” Schatar Sapphira (“Flavor of Love”/”Charm School” alum) can draw a bigger crowd than fellow scheduled performer Blake Lewis (“American Idol”), with a song and performance like this:

— We would like to thank organizers for stationing the WeTV/Wedding Central booth just feet away from the “Cheaters” booth. Also, if there is someone out there that actually purchased one of the hand-painted Joey Greco bobbleheads for $24, please identify yourself.

— ShowTracker loves when TV comes full circle. But for Erin Murphy, who played Tabitha Stephens on “Bewitched,” to find herself at “Reality Rocks” is … strange. Even stranger that it’s in relation to her appearances on “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship” and “RuPaul Drag U.” How did that happen?

— Yvonne Villarreal


Tom Zbikowski still gets his hits in, despite NFL lockout

04/11/2011

By Bill Dwyre

Tom Zbikowski leaves little doubt as to his athletic skill set. He hits people.

He may be the most proficient at that since Gerald Ford took up golf.

Zbikowski’s day job used to be playing safety for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL. For the moment, the NFL has locked out its players in a labor dispute. So now, his day job has become a night job and is in a boxing ring.

His is an unusual story, certainly not the kind a mother would love. As a matter of fact, his mother, Susan, a retired commercial banker in Chicago, hates boxing.

But her son, who will turn 26 in May, could not get enough of it as a youngster and still can’t, even though the lure of stature and riches presented by the more high-profile sport of football has muddied the waters.

Of boxing, he says, “I just love the sport. I love the workouts, the timing, the mental aspects.”

He had 90 amateur fights in and around Chicago. His official amateur record is 75-15.

“By the time I got done, I think I avenged all those losses,” he says, “and I probably had 10 to 20 more fights not listed, in smokers and stuff around the area.”

He also had 50 to 60 college scholarship offers in 2003 as a quarterback out of Buffalo Grove High School in suburban Chicago. Notre Dame won out, as it often does in Chicago-area recruiting, and made him a defensive back. Zbikowski spent five seasons there (including a redshirt year), became team captain, received All-American ratings and was good enough to be chosen in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Ravens.

There, he has mostly settled in behind All-Pro Ed Reed, although he has become a team leader on special teams and started 10 games over three seasons when Reed was injured.

But the pull of pugilism never quite left him.

During one spring practice at Notre Dame, he got permission from coach Charlie Weis to go back and forth from South Bend to Chicago to compete in the Golden Gloves. But he broke a finger in football practice and could not finish the boxing tournament.

On another occasion, this time without Notre Dame’s permission, he was invited to go a few rounds at a suburban Chicago smoker. It was during the week, out of season, but at a time when Notre Dame held early-morning workouts, and Zbikowski could not resist. Neither could a large gathering of his teammates, who went along to watch.

“By the time we got back to campus, it was 2 a.m.,” Zbikowski recalls. “We had to be back up at 5.”

He even talks now about boxing as if it could be a comfortable fallback, almost a soft landing, were his pro football career to end abruptly.

“You never know with football,” he says. “The next play can be your last.”

So can the next left hook, but Zbikowski does not seem to see it that way.

“I’m keeping all my options open,” he says.

His contract with the Ravens ran out March 10. He is a restricted free agent, and most likely is in the team’s plans when the inevitable ending to the inevitable messy labor dispute arrives. He says the Ravens, who really had no official hold on him once the lockout began, seem to be OK with his boxing for now.

That’s probably because his pro career, as promising as it is, has pretty much consisted of a short parade of tomato cans. He made his pro debut, with Notre Dame’s permission, on a Miguel Cotto-Paulie Malignaggi card June 10, 2006, in Madison Square Garden. He is promoted by Bob Arum, who is no dummy when it comes to projecting ringing cash registers when a prominent Notre Dame football player gets into a boxing ring in New York.

Zbikowski’s four-rounder with somebody named Robert Bell, who had been talked into coming into the ring wearing an Ohio State jersey — no USC jerseys around? — lasted 49 seconds.

“Ten of those 49 seconds were to count him out,” Zbikowski says.

After that, it was back to football — until the NFL lockout opened the door again.

Fight No. 2 was March 12 in Las Vegas, again on a Cotto card. That lasted 1:45 of the first round. Then came two weeks ago in Atlantic City, N.J., which went the maximum four rounds and, even though it was a victory by decision, got Zbikowski’s attention.

“I have a lot to learn,” he says.

The four-rounders and tomato cans will continue for a while, including a fight April 23 at Thackerville, Okla.

“Population, 404,” Zbikowski says.

Then, June 4 at Staples Center, he is scheduled to fight another four-rounder against an opponent to be named, on a card headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

So, for Tom Zbikowski, unemployed football player, the beat goes on, so to speak.

He says he is still looking for a catchy boxing nickname. He apparently forgets he lived one for his entire collegiate football career.

Tom (Fighting Irish) Zbikowski.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com


Make peace, federal judge tells NFL players, owners

04/11/2011

By Lance Pugmire

Reporting from St. Paul, Minn.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, in a hearing in St. Paul, Minn., urges NFL players and owners to make labor peace while she decides whether to impose an injunction that would end the lockout of players.

— A federal judge subjected the NFL to a series of difficult questions and maintained a skeptical tone toward its lead lawyer Wednesday as the league tried to defend its current lockout of players that threatens the season.

Inside an expansive federal courtroom that included a handful of players suing the league, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson told attorneys from both sides they are “at risk” and urged them to try to make labor peace at the table of a federal mediator over the next “couple weeks” while she decides whether to impose an injunction that would end the lockout.

Halting the lockout could allow players to sign free-agent contracts, and some legal experts speculate it will hasten cooperation to strike a deal.

NFL attorney David Boies made it clear he won’t give in to the players just because Nelson might rule against the league, saying outside court, “This is the first quarter.”

Asked which side he expects to initiate mediation talks — if there will be any at all — Boies said, “I’ll let someone else answer that.” If Nelson imposes an injunction on the lockout, the NFL is expected to take its case to the federal appeals court in St. Louis.

Players’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler said outside court he will participate in mediation talks only as settlement discussions to the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league — Brady vs. NFL. That case includes star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and Nelson will handle it along with an accompanying retired players’ suit.

Players argue the best way to strike a new collective-bargaining agreement is to settle terms of the antitrust lawsuit that was filed when the players decertified as a union last month. The NFL wants the mediator to oversee plain collective-bargaining talks with the players, but the players fear if they do that, the owners will immediately say the players are unionized after all and that no antitrust violations have been committed.

“Would I do that?” Boies asked sarcastically outside court. “I don’t think that’s something they ought to worry about.”

Nelson too pressed the attorney about the league’s intentions to “lock them out forevermore. … There doesn’t seem to be any ending,” she said, a point players’ attorneys raised in suggesting an unchecked NFL would work to withhold game checks and “punish” the players to induce an agreement more profitable for owners.

Players’ attorney Jim Quinn told Nelson in court that she has the authority to impose the injunction because of “irreparable harm” that more than 800 unsigned players are suffering by not only missing paychecks and health benefits but being deprived of team-organized conditioning.

“It can be decided right here in this courtroom,” Quinn said, rebutting the NFL’s insistence that the union’s questionable decertification should first be reviewed by the slow-moving National Labor Relations Board.

Boies pointed Nelson to a labor act he says bars federal courts from imposing injunctions on lockouts.

Nelson told Boies she has reviewed case precedent that supports her imposing an injunction, and said, “There is some bit of irony the [labor] act used to protect workers from strike-breaking judges should be used to protect the wealthy,” referring to the owners.

Nelson, appointed in 2010 by President Obama, alerted the attorneys at the hearing’s start that she had done extensive research on the case.

“We have a group of players who didn’t want to be a union in 1993,” Nelson said to Boies. “The players wanted to be protected and said [then] if the NFL wouldn’t bargain in good faith, they’d decertify. I don’t think [that] fits the model you’re describing.”

She then asked Boies how the labor act can “insulate a lockout” with no legal precedent to find.

Quinn told the judge the lockout is illegal.

Nelson urged the sides to get past their decertification-lockout stage and negotiate a deal for the sake of the “many people … affected.

“You have to figure out how to get to Plan C or D,” Nelson said to Boies. “I’m just pushing you.”

Afterward, Boies said he wasn’t sure what to make of Nelson’s scrutiny, but Quinn praised Nelson for handling the hearing “forcefully.”

lance.pugmire@latimes.com


Two skilled lawyers ready to square off in NFL labor case

04/11/2011

By Lance Pugmire

Reporting from St. Paul, Minn. — The question of whether labor strife will delay the NFL season lands in federal court Wednesday, in a case that pits two highly skilled attorneys against each other.

To complement its lead attorneys, the NFL has retained David Boies, who has fought in such well-known battles as the Bush-Gore recount, California’s gay rights debate, the U.S. vs. Microsoft antitrust matter and even Frank vs. Jamie McCourt.

He will go up against the players’ lead lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, a New Yorker whose prior legal support of the players helped strike down past free agency restrictions and established the just concluded free-agency/salary cap system.

Boies is expected to present the case before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul that the league has every right to lock out its players until the decertified NFL Players Assn. returns to the bargaining table as the legitimate union the league believes it is.

Kessler will argue with “a number of judicial opinions on his side that says the players can sue the league when they decertify,” said David Scupp, a New York antitrust attorney. “The league can call [decertification] a sham, but other cases imply otherwise.”

Legal experts project Nelson will find the merits of the case a players’ advantage. Nelson on Monday allowed a group of NFL retirees to join in the argument for an injunction to preserve benefits.

If Kessler wins an injunction from Nelson that stands up through appeal, most sports law experts forecast the NFL will have no choice but to bring labor peace in the summer and let the season proceed uninterrupted.

Boies is a Fullerton High School graduate who attended the University of Redlands en route to Yale and New York University. He will work with the NFL’s lead litigators, Jeff Pash and Gregg Levy, along with labor lawyer Bob Batterman and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement.

“David is a freak of nature, and is at least twice as good as any other lawyer I’ve ever seen,” said Thomas Goldstein, who worked alongside Boies in former Vice President Al Gore‘s fight to have Florida’s presidential votes recounted in the bitter 2000 election loss to George W. Bush.

“David can keep details of 20 different relevant cases in his head in a frightening way, and he gets to the heart of a case faster and more clearly than anyone.”

Boies’ opponent in the case, Kessler, is said to have a different style.

“Kessler’s a veteran of these wars, an aggressive attorney who might not be polished by your definition, but sometimes that’s calculated,” said Daniel Lazaroff, a sports law professor at Loyola Marymount.

He is also a key player in the players’ lawsuit against the league, Brady vs. NFL, that is in Nelson’s court.

Also presenting the players’ case will be labor lawyer Jim Quinn, who has paired with Kessler for years on player issues, complementing Kessler’s sometimes more technical arguments with more abrupt, plain-spoken insertions.

The NFL is arguing the federal court shouldn’t rule on the matter until the slow-moving National Labor Relations Board decides whether the decertification was legitimate. Federal judges, including the newcomer Nelson, are not prone to be influenced by star power but in a disputed matter the tiebreaker could be whoever makes the most compelling presentation.

“The strategy is shock and awe; the NFL is sending a message that, ‘We have the best legal talent, and we’ll spend any amount of money it takes to beat you,’ ” Goldstein said.

Nelson will be focused on the merits of the case. Michael Ciresi, a former law partner of Nelson for 16 years, described her as “very smart, savvy, respectful … not afraid to make the tough decisions.”

From that standpoint, the NFL needs Boies to “fight a good fight,” Scupp said, making a compelling case that a continued lockout inflicts no irreparable harm or immediate monetary damages upon the players.

“It’s going to be a hard-fought game,” Scupp said.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com


For Lakers, a lack of urgency that’s all too familiar

04/11/2011

By Mark Heisler

Assuming the sun came up Monday in Lakerdom and there’s anyone out there reading this …

In the good news for the Lakers, they still have their health!

Oh and they’re back in the race!

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong race.

A week after trailing No. 1 San Antonio by one game in the loss column, Sunday’s 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City dropped the Lakers to one game in the loss column ahead of the No. 4 Thunder.

Of course, maintain their legendary cool, even if the Lakers have lost five in a row, what’s the problem?

They’ve already clinched a playoff berth!

What’s losing home-court advantage in a series, or two, or three, or all of them?

Happily for them, nothing ever knocks Coach Phil Jackson off stride …

Well, nothing ever did before this when he opened his pregame news conference, announcing the problem was “a lack of urgency.”

That’s basketball talk for: “We didn’t (yawn) try very hard.”

Let’s just say there aren’t a lot of coaches of two-time defending champions who ever held a session like this.

Q: Do think your team kicked back after losing to Denver and falling off the Spurs’ pace?

Jackson: “Yes.”

Q: That being the case, do you think it’s important to win tonight’s game?

Jackson: “I do. I don’t know if they’re going to do it or not. Yes, I’m encouraging them, very much so.”

Q: So you’re telling them it’s important?

Jackson, beaming: “Yes.”

I’m not kidding. This actually took place with Jackson conducting it like David Letterman, having a good time throwing out zingers.

Of course, everywhere but Lakerdom, the Lakers still look like the Lakers … or they did when the night started.

Assuming the sun came up Monday in Lakerdom and there’s anyone out there reading this …

In the good news for the Lakers, they still have their health!

Oh and they’re back in the race!

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong race.

A week after trailing No. 1 San Antonio by one game in the loss column, Sunday’s 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City dropped the Lakers to one game in the loss column ahead of the No. 4 Thunder.

Of course, maintain their legendary cool, even if the Lakers have lost five in a row, what’s the problem?

They’ve already clinched a playoff berth!

What’s losing home-court advantage in a series, or two, or three, or all of them?

Happily for them, nothing ever knocks Coach Phil Jackson off stride …

Well, nothing ever did before this when he opened his pregame news conference, announcing the problem was “a lack of urgency.”

That’s basketball talk for: “We didn’t (yawn) try very hard.”

Let’s just say there aren’t a lot of coaches of two-time defending champions who ever held a session like this.

Q: Do think your team kicked back after losing to Denver and falling off the Spurs’ pace?

Jackson: “Yes.”

Q: That being the case, do you think it’s important to win tonight’s game?

Jackson: “I do. I don’t know if they’re going to do it or not. Yes, I’m encouraging them, very much so.”

Q: So you’re telling them it’s important?

Jackson, beaming: “Yes.”

I’m not kidding. This actually took place with Jackson conducting it like David Letterman, having a good time throwing out zingers.

Of course, everywhere but Lakerdom, the Lakers still look like the Lakers … or they did when the night started.


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