The fact that they are losing games isn't the Lakers' biggest problem. It's how they are losing.
By JOE McDONNELLFS West
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — It rained Thursday in Los Angeles for the first time in many, many months. But the most ominous storm clouds were thought to be hovering over the Lakers' practice facility.
Following another uncompetitive loss — this one to the Jazz in Utah Wednesday night — the Lakers fell to 1-4 and it seems as if things are actually getting worse for the team, rather than better.
They are playing bad basketball most of the time, but the worst thing about it is they're also playing without any apparent passion.
"Mike Brown needs to change his message," said Lakers' Hall of Famer James Worthy, now a television analyst for the team. "Whatever he and his coaches are saying obviously isn't working."
As harsh as that sounds, it might be an understatement.
Brown's job will be on the line during the team's six-game homestand that starts Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, according to an ESPN.com report. Management is reportedly losing patience with Brown and will seriously consider replacing the coach if the Lakers don't start winning and showing improvement quickly.
And then there's the "Kobe Death Stare" video making its way around the internet, showing Bryant looking infuriated last night when Brown came walking by him late in the game. Bryant denied any animosity toward his coach. "God, people must be bored," he said.
Part of the problem is the perception that the Lakers look bored, uninspired and passionless.
Except for their lone win over woefully bad Detroit (0-5) last Sunday, Brown's crew looks like it's still playing exhibition games. For the record, they've lost 14 of their last 15 games going back to Game 2 of the Western Conference semis against OKC. And if you believe much of the speculation, the heat is starting to make Brown's situation very uncomfortable.
Even though he and his team are being piled on from every direction, the second-year Lakers coach says he's not about to give in to the doubters. And his players won't, either.
"I'm not going to walk around here all upset," Brown said. "That doesn't do anybody any good. We have to stay positive. This is a team that's just learning how to play together and we will. I still have confidence in the bench that it will do the job as I envisioned. When we get all our players healthy and everybody is on the same page with what we're trying to do, this team will be very good."
Brown has been saying since training camp opened that the 2012-2013 edition of the Lakers would be a work in progress for quite a while. Reporters have criticized him, wondering why with all the talent on the roster and a supposedly revamped bench, that it would take "until Christmas time, or maybe even around the All Star break" for this squad to start rolling over opponents consistently, as Brown has preached.
And the fans ... well, they're fans. And they're getting more and more upset with each loss. The calls for Brown's firing are nothing new — they're just getting louder and louder.
Each player — to a man — seems to be standing firmly behind his embattled coach.
"We're trying to figure out how to play together," said center Dwight Howard, "trying to figure out where we're going to get our shots. Everybody is just trying to figure out how to put this thing together."
Who's Hot: Kobe Bryant (27.2 ppg, 56 FG%) and Dwight Howard (22.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are playing well. So is Jordan Hill, who is averaging 5.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in just 14.6 minutes per game. He also plays with the intensity others are lacking.
Who's Not: Antawn Jamison (3.8 ppg in 16 minutes), Chris Duhon and Jodie Meeks, who have lost their spots in the rotation — if Duhon ever really had one — because of inconsistent play. And Brown, for not getting this team motivated and ready to play. Most coaches are equal when it comes to knowing the X's and O's. What separates the really good ones from the rest is the ability to get the team ready and willing to bust it every single game. So far, Brown hasn't.
1. It's impossible to overlook the importance of Jamison to the Lakers' chances of turing it around and winning a title. This is a player who used to be able to score inside and outside, nearly unstoppable with the leather in his hand. Something isn't right. Jamison says he's fine, and Brown believes his supposed best scoring option off the bench will eventually become just that. His window for improvement isn't going to stay open forever. And it's tough to watch him go through it, because he's one of the classiest players ever to wear a Laker uniform, and it's killing him to not contribute more.
2. Steve Nash's return to the Lakers needs to happen sooner rather than later. As the man running the show, he's got to get as much time as possible on the court with his new teammates, and they with him. If he misses more than a month, the team will be starting all over — again — when he returns and it will put them under the gun to ramp it up for a playoff run.
3. Despite his words, Brown wasn't his usual ebullient self during and after meeting with the media. He needs to keep his focus on what he can control — having his team mentally and emotionally ready to compete. If he starts to believe the negativity, it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy that could cost him his job. Brown is a good coach — 314 regular-season wins don't lie. He actually has a full season this year to show it. Let him.
Quotes of the Week
"I don't give a (expletive) how it was interpreted. It really doesn't matter to me. I'm too old to deal with that kind of (expletive). I really am."
--Lakers guard Kobe Bryant about the supposed "Death Stare" video
"I've been Mike Brown's biggest supporter."
--Bryant reiterating his feelings about Brown
"Right now it's a lot of noise. Once the noise settles down, we'll be fine."
--Center Dwight Howard on criticism of the Lakers
News and Notes
• No definitive timetable has been set for Nash's return. He's re-evaluated every day and his status could change at any time.
• The Lakers' next six games are at home in Staples Center. If they can't win a big majority of those games, the howls of dissatisfaction will not only get louder, they'll get angrier. Pau Gasol says that this is the time to turn it around, and that it's better to have gone trough the trouble at the beginning of the season rather than in the playoffs.
• Howard seems to be getting better each day, and the little bit of awkwardness that was there in the first couple of games has disappeared. He says his back won't be a factor as long as he does his core-strengthening exercises.
Friday vs. Golden State, Sunday vs Sacramento, Tuesday vs San Antonio, all at home. They really need to sweep these games, but two out of three would be acceptable.