Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
As Losses Mount, Frustration Does Not For Kobe, D’Antoni
By JOSH NEWMAN Special to ZAGSBLOGNEW YORK – A 116-107 loss to the Knicks in Mike D’Antoni‘s return to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night left the Los Angeles Lakers at 4-9, including four straight losses, under D’Antoni.
The losses are mounting, as is the perceived frustration with so much expected of this group this season.
That’s what the surface looks like, but it’s important to remember one thing. This team is not at full strength. Not even close in fact.
Aside from D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offensive system being brand new to everyone, Steve Nash remains out with nerve irritation in his lower left leg, the same leg in which he fractured his fibula in late October.
Additionally, Dwight Howard is not nearly playing at 100 percent after he came back earlier than expected from offseason back surgery, and Pau Gasol missed his sixth straight game Thursday with tendinitis in both knees.
That is two massive, Hall of Fame pieces of the puzzle that are out of the mix, and another future Hall of Famer not at full strength. Until everyone is healthy, no one, specifically D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant, are ready to panic just yet.
“It’s not fair, it’s knowing the situation, it’s tough,” Bryant said when asked about his frustration level during the 4-9 start under D’Antoni. “It’s been a huge adjustment for all of us. We have to figure it out. We have some key pieces out. When they come back, we get this thing loaded and make some adjustments.”
There is hope that Nash, who has been out since Oct. 31, could be back at practice next week, which would alleviate some problems. The Lakers are also without reserve point guard Steve Blake (abdominal surgery) and went with ex-Knick Chris Duhon at the point on Thursday.
As for the two big men, Gasol has been treated on a day-to-day basis, while Howard has acknowledged it might be a while before he gets to 100 percent.
In the middle of a losing streak, Thursday was not a good day for the Lakers. The Knicks ripped off a 41-point first quarter, shot 61.4 percent in the first half and raced out to a 68-49 halftime lead.
Whether it was justified or not, D’Antoni was booed when his name was announced during pregame introductions and the night ended with the sold out crowd mockingly chanting his name inside the final two minutes.
Like Kobe, D’Antoni has never been one to get riled up unless there is a reason to and in his mind, there is no reason to yet.
“Boos are boos, and I didn’t expect anything different,” D’Antoni said. “We tried to fight it, it was a little upsetting that we came out flat for the 10th time in a row, but our guys kept battling and tried to get back in it. Again, we have some problems to solve, obviously we have to get our guys back and be a better team.”
A soft upcoming schedule could help ease some pain as the Lakers play at the Washington Wizards on Friday and the Philaelphia 76ers on Sunday and are back home for the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.
“I wish we had the Washington Generals on our schedule,” Bryant joked.
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