Back-to-back-to-back-to-Los Angeles


Tonight the Lakers become the laboratory rats of the NBA schedule as they wrap up a three-games-in-three-nights, Achilles-straining stretch at the Staples Center. It’ll be the first back-to-back-to-back test for anyone this season, and by the fourth quarter against Utah we’ll get an idea of how much this hurts.

Are players, teams and media making too big a deal over the “triple?” Is it really asking too much of players to drag their bodies through 144 active minutes in a 72-hour stretch? Should supremely gifted and physically sharp players manage this without a respirator nearby?

And the answer is … maybe.

The Lakers actually get off light, in a way. They don’t have the grind of 10 or 15 or 20 games played on their bodies. They never had to leave the state. They opened Christmas afternoon in L.A., jetted 90 minutes to Sacramento after the game and slept that night near the arena. There was no game-day practice (these are confined to one-hour walk-throughs anyway) and so they didn’t need to arrive at the building until two hours before the tip. Finally, they flew back to L.A. after the game and once again had no game-day practice, which is customary in the NBA, prior to Tuesday’s tip with Utah.

All told, not so bad. But that’s easy for us to say. Our bodies aren’t on the line.

We’ll know more by the fourth quarter. If the Lakers are pulling on their shorts and getting beat down the floor by the sloth-like Jazz, then we’ll know what’s up. Maybe we can measure their late-game performance by the ice bags.

One ice bag: Kobe Bryant is on the bench, enjoying the view of a rout and Luke Walton wrapping up the Lakers’ first win.

Two ice bags: The Lakers sure could’ve used Andrew Bynum down the stretch that was tighter than expected.

Three ice bags: Kobe can’t lift his shooting arm and reluctantly passes up big shots (OK, this isn’t realistic).

Four ice bags: Lakers are helpless to an 0-3 start.

Welcome to what the lockout created.

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