Like Heroes of Recent Past, Lakers Coming to Terms with Tough, New Realities

LOS ANGELES — They stayed in their separate corners throughout the second half.

Kobe Bryant sat near the end of the Los Angeles Lakers bench, Derek Fisher mostly stood in front of the New York Knicks bench and Phil Jackson chilled out in fiancée and Lakers president Jeanie Buss' usual second-row seating area directly across the court from Bryant.

Connect the dots, and you'd have, yes, a triangle. It would in fact be a right triangle with a 90-degree angle at Bryant's seat—and because of how right things were with the three of them together at Staples Center in the past.

Bryant, Fisher and Jackson were at the heart of all five of the Lakers' last NBA championships, the first one won on this floor the season Staples opened in 1999-2000.

As they went through the motions Thursday night in the equivalent of an exhibition game won by the Knicks, 101-94, one point sunk in: Odds are that none of the three will be involved in the next Lakers championship, whenever that is.

There's an outside chance Bryant extends his playing career with the Lakers until the talent goes from this nadir to crest anew—and Bryant figures to serve as an unofficial ambassador for the organization forever. But he has a post-basketball business plan to make real.

Fisher, as rookie head coach, and Jackson, as rookie team president, have linked arms to rebuild the Knicks, not the Lakers. And if seeing Fisher coaching at Staples against the Lakers for the first time Thursday night wasn't statement enough, there was more change effected inside the Lakers locker room.

Fisher's former locker, kept vacant for years as a show of respect by team captain Bryant and Lakers equipment manager Carlos Maples, had a new nameplate on it: "BROWN."

Rookie guard Jabari Brown, on a 10-day contract with the Lakers, had been given Fisher's old locker and made his NBA debut for the Lake...

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