When asked if the Los Angeles Lakers are panicking over their 1-4 start, Kobe Bryant shifted in his locker room chair, scoffed and returned the inquiry.
“Are you serious?”
When asked if the Lakers were frustrated over their latest loss, this one a 95-86 defeat to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena, head coach Mike Brown nodded in the affirmative.
“We’re all frustrated.”
So there you have it. One coach. One superstar. Two different outlooks over the worst start in the Western Conference.
Clearly, Los Angeles isn’t on the same page. Chemistry on the court looks pretty much about the same. The Lakers look disjointed and out of sorts. Offense doesn’t come easy and defense is consistently missing among a star-studded cast featuring Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and the injured Steve Nash.
“A lot of what’s going on is just about getting in sync with each other,” Bryant said. “We’re not reading each other, and we’re turning the ball over. We’re putting teammates in positions to be successful, but we’re just turning it over right now.”
There are 78 games remaining in the regular season for the Lakers, months of basketball left to be played. But this is a team that has one win since training camp started, preseason included. Los Angeles began the schedule running a Princeton-style offense, but has temporarily scrapped that in favor of more isolations for Bryant and Howard.
The real issue, however, is defense. The Lakers haven’t been able to keep point guards out of the lane during any of the five games. Wednesday night proved more of the same, as Utah’s Mo Williams time and again flew past Steve Blake for either layups or easy kick-outs to Randy Foye, which resulted in 3-pointers.
Los Angeles has a big size advantage inside, but the Lakers were consistently outworked by Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. And yes, Bryant scored 16 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter, but he went 7-of-17 from the field and had to rely on getting to the free-throw line most of the game.
“I just didn’t think we played the game the way we talked about going in,” Brown said. “We wanted to be the ones to hit first. We wanted to be the ones to play through their physicality, and I thought we didn’t.”