Mike D’Antoni on Lakers’ loss to Magic: ‘We screwed up big-time’

Tomorrow’s notebook tonight …

The Lakers’ lack of offensive rhythm and defensive determination still troubled coach Mike D’Antoni one day after their loss to the Orlando Magic. He didn’t like their lack of energy or the way they seemed so overconfident upon taking the court.

“We screwed up last night big-time,” D’Antoni said rather bluntly after Monday’s practice and before leaving with the team on a three-game trip to face the Houston Rockets, the New Orleans Hornets and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“We have to have more of an urgency to our game that we have not demonstrated yet,” he added. “It’s odd, every time we play a team that’s lower than us in the division, like Orlando and Sacramento, we don’t have the same energy we have against a Dallas or a Denver.

“That’s something we’ve got to get over real quick. ”

It hasn’t taken D’Antoni long — only seven games, in fact — to recognize what everyone around the NBA has known for years about the Lakers.

“We’re not real fast as a team structurally,” he said. “That’s not going to change. I can’t come in here and make you faster. But if we play with the right amount of concentration and energy then we’re OK. We have to understand you can’t come out and play half speed. Our half speed is like quarter speed. So far, we’ve had trouble with young athletic teams.”

Effort can make up for a good many of the Lakers’ troubles, D’Antoni insisted.

“I didn’t get here because everything was going so great,” he said. “We realize where we are. We realize what problems we have structurally that we’re not going to solve, like being a little older, a little slower, a little of this and that. We can solve them by being better.

“We’re a better team talent-wise if we play better, if we bring the energy defensively and the mental toughness we need to have.”

Bryant plays no favorites

The chatter about changing systems after the Lakers changed coaches, made superstar guard Kobe Bryant chuckle.

“It’s not about excuses or what we’re used to doing versus what we’re doing now,” Bryant said. “You’ve just got to do it. No meetings. No sitting around the camp fire. None of that (expletive) is going to get it done. Just do your job. It’s as simple as that.

“We’ve got to show up and do our jobs. It’s not rocket science. It’s not solving world hunger. You’ve got to go out there and do your job. It’s as simple as that.”

Pressure’s on road warriors

Seven of the Lakers’ next eight games are on the road, which isn’t a bad thing as far as D’Antoni is concerned. Most teams in the NBA struggle to win away from home, but D’Antoni said upcoming three- and four-game trips could be a make or break stretch.

“You should be more involved when you’re on the road and we can concentrate on the things we need to do,” he said. “We have to take those seven out of eight games and really get better. Whether the record shows it or not, that’s one thing. By the end of our two trips, we’d better be a lot better team.”

Resting Gasol a possiblity

D’Antoni didn’t discount sitting struggling power forward Pau Gasol for a few games in order to give his achy knees a rest. Gasol looked a step slow during the Lakers’ loss Sunday to Orlando. He had only 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting plus seven rebounds.

Sacre rejoins Lakers

The Lakers recalled Robert Sacre, a 7-foot rookie center, from their developmental league team, the D-Fenders. He averaged 7.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 27 minutes over three games in the D-League.

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Steve Blake to undergo abdominal surgery

The hits keep coming for the Lakers, who announced Monday that backup point guard Steve Blake will undergo abdominal surgery Wednesday and will be sidelined from between six to eight weeks. Blake hasn’t played since Nov. 12, and might not be back until early February.

“It’s a big concern for me,” Kobe Bryant said of the prospect of losing Blake for up to two months. “Steve and I have always played extremely well together. He’s a clutch shooter and a tough competitor. That’s one of the things I like about him, is his toughness.

“We’re going to miss him a lot. I’m not sure he’s going to be out, but it could be a while.”

Blake sat out his 10th game because of the injury on Sunday night, when the Lakers lost to the Orlando Magic and fell to 8-9 overall. He played seven games this season, averaging 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 26 minutes.

Meanwhile, starting point guard Steve Nash continued his slow recovery and rehabilitation from a fractured lower leg, performing a series of post-practice drills Monday. He can’t run yet and said Sunday he’s not expecting to play on the Lakers’ three-game trip, which begins Tuesday in Houston.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he might consider starting veteran Chris Duhon at point guard in place of Darius Morris, a second-year player who played only 19 games in the NBA before this season. Duhon played almost 30 minutes Sunday against the Magic.

“A lot,” D’Antoni said when asked how much he was relying on Nash to help the team turn around its lackluster play, which includes a 3-4 mark since he was hired to replace Mike Brown. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t coached him before. He’s done pretty well when we’ve been together.”

Of making a switch at point guard while Nash continues his recovery, D’Antoni said, “There’s a chance. We’ll see. We’ll talk about it tomorrow. That’s nothing against Darius. He’s learning. He’s got to get better. But I could (start Duhon against the Rockets).”

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New-look Lakers drawing rave reviews after Mike D’Antoni’s debut

The Lakers are different under new coach Mike D’Antoni. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what others were saying after the Lakers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 95-90 in D’Antoni’s debut on the bench Tuesday night at Staples Center:

“I would say it’s been weird, but in L.A. there is no such thing. It’s unfortunate anytime you see a coach lose his job. It’s always tough. For us, we just have to put one foot forward and continue to work. Coach D (D’Antoni) has come in here and done a fantastic job.”
–Kobe Bryant, Lakers guard.

“I don’t think they are thinking as much. As an athlete, you want to play the game on instinct. Part of what they were doing (with that Princeton offense) is that no one really knew what they were doing. You can see now the energy and confidence with which they are playing.”
–Greg Anthony, former NBA player on NBA TV Tuesday night.

“The best thing (D’Antoni) does for this team is give them a calming presence. He’s making guys comfortable, letting them know they can trust the process. When you have someone with a good presence inside, it really allows you to relax and focus just on your job. And when you’re in L.A. (with that circus), you need someone to control that because, if not, your attention will be everywhere.”
–Chris Webber, former player on NBA TV.

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