Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard showing frustration on the Lakers’ struggles

CHICAGO – For two players who have stressed patience throughout this long and arduous season, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are recognizing the urgency this needs to end.

The Lakers’ 95-83 loss Monday to the Chicago Bulls didn’t just extend the team’s losing streak (three) or poor road record (5-13). The venue just brought a visible reminder that Bryant’s far from reaching that sixth championship to tie Michael Jordan.

“I am a big history guy,” Bryant said. “Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, you’re in the house [that] M.J., [Scottie] Pippen, P.J. built. To put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable.”

If only Bryant had Phil Jackson to figure things out. Instead, the Lakers chose Mike D’Antoni and his up-tempo offense. It hasn’t worked. The Lakers have gone 12-19 under his watch and are far from matching the 110-115 points he boldly predicted the team would score each game. They’ve only achieved that feat eight times.

“I’ve got it down to about 70 [points], so we’re working on it,” D’Antoni said with a hint of sarcasm. “We’re going the wrong way. There’s just not a lot of flow. It’s just not good movement. Just tough. It’s agonizing to watch.”

Bryant wasn’t the only player upset after shooting seven of 22 from the field and marking his third game that he shot below 50 percent. Howard told reporters to “look at the stat sheet” to explain why he posted only five points on 2 of 5 shooting, nine rebounds and four turnovers.

“It’s simple. Play inside-out,” Howard said. “There’s not nothing I can do. Just continue to play. Not get frustrated. As hard as it is, I can’t get frustrated.”

Yet, the Lakers are continuing to show such signs after falling to 12th place in the Western Conference.

Pau Gasol expressed unhappiness with coming off the bench. Howard looked disengaged on the court. Bryant looked upset after he threw a jump pass that hit Howard in the back.

“It seems like the harder we try, the faster we fall,” Howard said. “We just got to figure out a way to stay strong throughout all the crap that’s keeping us down. It’s tough. It’s tough as a team, it’s tough as individuals because we want to do so good. But, it’s frustrating. The only thing we can do is keep looking up and try to pull ourselves up.”

To do that, Bryant suggests D’Antoni needs to make change parts of his system.

“We’ll really have to self assess and look at what we’re doing,” Bryant said. “We’ll make some adjustments and change some things.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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TNT analysts argue Lakers should trade Pau Gasol

CHICAGO — As he’s often done for the past two years, Pau Gasol reiterated his hope to stay with the Lakers despite a diminished role.

“I’d love to and I want this to work for us,” Gasol said following the Lakers’ 95-83 loss Monday to the Chicago Bulls at United Center. “I feel like I’m a part of this team and part of this franchise. I love to play here for as many years as possible because I identify myself with the team. I want it to work.”

Plenty of the NBA analysts on TNT argued otherwise.
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NBA rescinds Dwight Howard’s second technical foul

CHICAGO – Not that it changes the outcome of the Lakers’ loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors, but the NBA rescinded Dwight Howard’s second technical foul that ultimately resulted in his ejection.

“You can’t replay the game,” Howard said. “It’s over with.”

That’s true. But it at least reduces Howard’s technical foul total to five, meaning he’s now 11 away from receiving a league-mandated one-game suspension. The ruling also took away $3,000 Howard would have had to pay for receiving his sixth technical. He still will owe $2,000 for collecting his fifth.

Howard picked up his first technical with 4:43 left in the first quarter after appearing upset over a no-call over absorbing contact from Raptors center Aaron Gray during a reverse layup attempt. Howard was issued with another technical with 1:18 left in the second quarter after Toronto’s Alan Anderson locked up with him. Howard finished with only five points on 1 of 3 shooting and two rebounds in only 17 minutes in the Lakers’ 108-103 loss Sunday to the Raptors.

“I think we get to play the second half over,” joked Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.” I think that comes with it. It’s one of those things where I think [the officials] forgot he already had one. Then they whistled back and said to settle this down. It happens sometimes.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mgmedin@gmail.com

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Mike D’Antoni plans to keep Pau Gasol as a reserve

CHICAGO — After sending mixed messages the past few days over Pau Gasol’s role, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to feature Gasol off the bench permanently.

That will begin tonight when the Lakers (17-23) visit the Chicago Bulls (23-16) tonight at United Center. Meanwhile, breakout forward Earl Clark will start at power forward. Despite Gaosl posting a season-high 25 points in the Lakers’ loss Sunday against Toronto, D’Antoni believes the Lakers are better with a smaller lineup. Gasol’s resurgence also partly came in part because Dwight Howard was ejected late in the first half, putting Gasol back at center. D’Antoni believes such a switch will result in the same thing.

“It also puts Pau in his natural position,” D’Antoni said. “He’s one of the best centers in the league. We had him out of position. No matter how well he played, it wasn’t producing . You’re also stifling Steve [Nash's] game and it trickles on down. Earl who has played well will play. It gives us a little bit more bounce to our step. We’re a quicker team. Hopefully it will help us.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mgmedin@gmail.com

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Kobe Bryant to live tweet 81-point performance

In what will surprisingly mark the first time he’s ever actually watched the game, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will live tweet Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET when NBA TV rebroadcasts his career-high 81-point game Jan. 22, 2006 against the Toronto Raptors.

Bryant has said in the past he hasn’t watched his career-setting game, in part that he doesn’t want to wallow in his success while still playing. He has also said that he pulled off such a feat despite consuming pepperoni pizza and grape soda as a his pre-game meal.

In this season filled thus far with disappointment, at least there’s one Lakers game fans know will end with both a clutch Bryant performance and a win. Fans can join the conversation by following the hashtag “#COUNTONKOBE.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Jodie Meeks staying professional about reduced minutes

TORONTO — As Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni continues looking for a lineup combination that consistently produces wins, Jodie Meeks has become the latest victim to lose out on the game of musical chairs.

Once prized in D’Antoni’s system for his outside shooting and energy, Meeks has sat out two consecutive games and played garbage minutes in three of the previous four games.

“Obviously it’s frustrating because you want to play,” said Meeks, who’s averaged 7.9 points on 36.2 percent shooting this season. “But at the same time, I force myself not to get too high or too low during the course of a season. It’s a long season and we still have a lot of games to play. I know that eventually I’ll be needed again so I’m not really concerned.”

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Kobe Bryant takes the blame for the Lakers’ struggles

TORONTO — There’s so many fingers to point regarding to the Lakers’ ongoing struggles, but there’s not enough hands.

So in the wake of the Lakers’ 108-103 loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant asked that all the finger wagging aims directly at him.

“This way we don’t have to worry about that as a team,” Bryant said. “It’s my responsibility. I’ll take the arrows. That’s what we do best and playing together and trying to get out of this ditch. I’ve been through the and worse times than that. Let me go out there and focus on playing.”

Bryant tried focusing on that task against the Raptors, but to no avail.

He scored 26 points on only 10 of 32 shooting, including a 5 of 16 clip on jumpers. After his increased on-ball defending role led to quality performances against Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, Bryant allowed Toronto’s Jose Calderon to smoke him on a team-leading 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting.

Bryant attributed his bad game to “heavy legs” after playing 43 minutes, but vowed he will increase his treatment that entail ice baths, massages and elevating his legs. He then offered an unsolicited comment that could be interpreted many ways.

“This team needs me on both ends of the floor,” Bryant said. “So unless they’re going to do something roster wise, I have to continue to push through it.”

So does this mean Bryant believes the front office needs to make a move to help ease his burden?

“No,” Bryant quickly said. “Listen, if this is what we’re rolling with, I can’t make no excuses. I have to go out there and do my job. Tonight wasn’t good enough. I did okay defensively and played very well in pressuring the ball. But my offense was subpar in terms of missing easy shots. I have to do a better job putting that ball in the hole when the opportunities present itself.”

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Dwight Howard: “I didn’t do anything to get ejected”

TORONTO – A quiet Dwight Howard didn’t smile as he walked down a hallway toward the team bus. He was ejected late in the second half of the Lakers’ 108-103 loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Howard said after posting five points on 1 of 3 shooting and two rebounds in only 17 minutes. “Not tonight.”

Howard picked up his first technical with 4:43 left in the first quarter after appearing upset over a no-call over absorbing contact from Raptors center Aaron Gray during a reverse layup attempt. Howard was issued with another technical with 1:18 left in the second quarter after Toronto’s Alan Anderson locked up with him. What did the officials say to Howard about it?

“They didn’t explain,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to get ejected.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni described the incident as a “referee’s call.” But it’s likely the Lakers will petition the NBA to have the technicals rescinded. Howard has six technicals this season, and needs 10 more to draw a league-mandated suspension.
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Lakers struggles continue in 108-103 loss to Toronto Raptors

By Mark Medina

TORONTO – The Lakers couldn’t escape from the problems that have plagued them all season back at home. It also appeared they didn’t bring much energy along with their luggage over here, either.

The Lakers’ 108-103 loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre featured far too many snapshots of another effort gone astray.

Before the Lakers had enough time to realize they switched time zones during an afternoon game, the Raptors stormed out to an 11-2 run. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni called two times outs within the first seven minutes of the game.

But the mess continued.
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Pau Gasol to start against Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — After sending mixed messages the past few games on whether Pau Gasol will play as a starter or reserve, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni offered some clarity.

Gasol will start at power forward while Earl Clark will come off the bench when the Lakers (17-22) visit the Toronto Raptors (14-26) today at Air Canada Centre. Clark’s four-game stint as a starter coincided with Gasol being absent because of a concussion and then coming off the bench to phase in his conditioning.

What led to the change?

“Obviously, I think [Gasol] made it pretty clear he wanted to start,” D’Antoni said with a chuckle. “We’ll start him and see how it goes. That’s fine. I’m good with that. He should start. Hopefully the production from the whole team is good. It never comes down to one guy. But I’m comfortable with it.”
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