Lakers remain out of balance in latest loss

LOS ANGELES — Bill Parcells, the Super Bowl-winning football coach, thoroughbred horse owner and noted philosopher once uttered, “You are what your record says you are.”

Are you listening, Lakers?

Mike D’Antoni needs to post a sign with that sentence in the team’s locker room, home and road.

“You are what your record says you are.”

After a 112-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers stand at 15-18, losers of three in a row. If Parcell’s theory is right, their record says they’re a bad team — getting worse by the contest.

“This is a little perplexing,” is the best D’Antoni could come up with while evaluating his 13th loss in 23 games as Lakers head coach. “When they take 19 more shots at the basket than we do (101-82), it’s hard to overcome. We (shot a better percentage); turnovers and fast-break points just killed us.”

If you’re thinking you’ve heard this line of reasoning from D’Antoni, you have. After nearly every loss since he took over as head coach, he’s said basically the same thing. It makes you wonder why he and his staff can’t find a way to collect the data and correct the problem. Defense was certainly one of the issues Sunday, but when Kobe Bryant scores 18 of the Lakers’ 22 points in the fourth quarter, it’s another indication of a team very much out of balance.

And all this happened on a night that saw Dwight Howard have the type of defensive performance that should have meant the difference between winning and losing.

Playing with a sore right shoulder that he re-injured — he will have an MRI taken on Monday — D12 grabbed 26 rebounds, tying his career high. He also blocked four shots and scored 14 on six of seven shooting. All it ended up doing, though, was give the big man an impressive line in the box score and another night of frustration to deal with.

“The biggest thing is that we’ve got to stay together,” Howard said. “We can’t let the tough times we’re in right now make us fold, make us start pointing the finger at each other. We just need to stay together.”

Which isn’t quite as simple as you might think.

Howard first told reporters after Saturday’s practice that the Lakers “needed to play like we like each other” — a stunning statement about a team whose coach and players hadn’t ever really hinted at chemistry problems. Sure, there have been on-court glares and arguments, but each one had been played down like it was an isolated incident.

Apparently they weren’t, and that was made clear on a strange play during Friday night’s loss to the Clippers. Forward/Center Jordan Hill fell to the ground after twisting his ankle, grimaced in pain, yet not one of his Laker teammates went over to check on him. D’Antoni, in the usual evasive way he answers questions from the media that he isn’t comfortable with, said, “I think it was a lapse. We addressed it.”

If that’s the case, then why did Howard bring it up again after Sunday night’s defeat?

THREE THOUGHTS

1-D’Antoni, according to the Los Angeles Times, has said that he isn’t too fond of talking to the media all the time, but understands it’s part of the job. He doesn’t hide his displeasure when a reporter asks a tough question and usually tries to brush it off, either with a try-to-be-witty comeback or an answer that really just avoids the question. Asked about the chemistry on the team, he said that it might be out of whack because they didn’t have a training camp together. One problem, coach: they did have a training camp together. It was just under a different coach. Then he went on to say that the relationship between “Steve (Nash) and Dwight’s got to get better. It’s not creating the easy shots we need.” This is what I mean about avoidance. The question was about whether the team had chemistry problems OFF the court, not on the court. They obviously don’t play well together. But if they’re also not getting along well in the locker room and on the team bus, this could end up being one of the most disastrous seasons in Lakers history. I’m not saying D’Antoni has to tell us in the media everything that’s happening away from the games, but when your players are bringing it up day after day, try to give a reasonably believable answer and maybe diffuse the situation before it gets really ugly.

2-In a recent column, I said that Metta World Peace might be the first Laker to blow a gasket about the bad season the Lakers are having. I’m changing my mind on that one. Let’s make it Kobe. In the past, Bryant has never hesitated to drop a verbal bomb on his teammates, management or anyone else he felt needed an attitude adjustment. Just ask Shaquille O’Neal. He’s seemed relaxed all year, but as someone who has covered him since he was an 18-year-old rookie in 1996, I know how much the losing is killing him. And after the game Sunday, he acknowledged that things are starting to get testy in the locker room — and that he’s happy about it. “I think it’s fine for us to boil over a little bit,” Bryant said. “I think it’s fine to get a little chippy. I get the sense in (here) that it’s finally starting to happen.” It will be interesting to wait and see who the first Laker to lose it will be if they don’t turn around their poor play immediately.

3-People ask me every day if I think the Lakers will still make the playoffs, and up until now, I’ve always said, “yes, no doubt. A team that has Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol can’t possibly miss at least getting to the playoffs.”

Can it?