MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the season appears to be painfully slipping out of their fingers, the Lakers suddenly are left without answers on how to fix this mess.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni suddenly suggested the team simply doesn’t have enough horsepower to keep up with dominant teams no matter how hard they try. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gave terse answers expressing optimism the team can turn it around without offering specifics. Lakers center Dwight Howard seemed too occupied posing for endless photos with fans, complaining about the pain in his aggravated right shoulder and disputing Bryant calling him out in the team’s air-it-out meeting to see much of the big picture.
The Lakers (17-25) have been in this situation for a while, a 12th place standing in the Western Conference while playing Russian roulette with the mathematical improbability that they could sneak into the postseason three months from now.
The Lakers’ 106-93 loss Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies marked their third consecutive loss and their seventh straight road loss. But it seemed much more than that. The Lakers had an air-it-out meeting before morning shootaround where they were encouraged to openly air their grievances. But in what marked as a Hail Mary in a possible turning point in the season, the Lakers dropped the long pass.
The fact that details leaked that Bryant confronted Howard about his frustration in deferring to the Lakers’ star goes beyond the inevitable that stories like this become publicized in Los Angeles.
“When we have meetings, we should deal with stuff as a group and our family sould be tight,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “If it’s not tight, then it cracks. The situation keeps getting worse until at some point it’ll explode.”
If it hasn’t exploded already, well the time bomb is ticking pretty closely.
On a day Howard vowed he’ll take more accountability on defense, he aggravated his right shoulder and asked out of the game. The Lakers will assess his degree of pain Thursday, but it wasn’t painful enough for Lakers trainer Gary Vitti to rush into the locker room to check on Howard.
On a day the Lakers vowed they won’t leave any stone unturned, they lost on every hustle point imaginable. That included Memphis destroying the Lakers in the paint (60-34), rebounds (52-24) and second-chance points (27-3).
On a day the Lakers believed their air-it-out meeting would lead to less finger pointing, the same thing happened.
D’Antoni compared to his team to an All-Star team in derogatory terms beforehand.
Have you ever watched an All-Star game? It’s god-awful,” he said. “Everybody gets the ball and goes one on one and then they play no defense. That’s our team. That’s us. We’re an All-Star team.
D’Antoni described his teams as scrubs afterwards.
“I think they played as hard as they can play, and that’s what’s scary,” he said of his players. “I don’t know how we can play harder or blame something else.”
Oh there’s plenty.
Gasol wondered why D’Antoni played a small lineup during Howard’s absence when the Grizzlies boasted Darrell Arthur (20 points), Zach Randolph (12 points) and Marc Gasol (nine points). Nash faulted his own seven point performance on 2 of 6 shooting, while bemoaning Howard’s absence. Earl Clark, the lone bright spot with 11 points and holding Rudy Gay to 3 of 11 shooting, accused his teammates of simply watching Bryant post 29 points on 11 of 23 shooting.
It’s not about talent,” Clark said. “It’s about chemistry. It’s about if the guys out there on the court, if you got each other’s back. Every team in the NBA is talented. It’s about that perfect fit and who plays well together. That’s what a great team’s about.”
That hasn’t happened, leaving Bryant making this revelation on where this season ranks in degree of difficulty in his 17-year NBA career.
“It’s certainly getting there,” Bryant said, tersely. “That Rudy T one was a pretty hard one, too.”
Rudy Tomjanovich coached the Lakers in the 2004-05 season before stepping down in favor of Frank Hamblen. The Lakers missed the playoffs that season for only the second time since 1976. How do the Lakers avoid such a fate this time around?
“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “But I believe we can.”
The Lakers haven’t provided enough assuring signs they will.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at email@example.com