HOUSTON -- When will it stop for the Los Angeles Lakers this season?
When will they be able to put their foot down without fracturing a fibula or raise their arm up without tearing a labrum? When will the quotes about big-boy pants and being old be replaced by comments on what it's like to win?
Here's where things stand for those new-look Lakers, who spoke openly of championship aspirations just a couple of short months ago:
They arrived in Houston on Monday with zero healthy centers on their roster. Not really the place you want your roster to be when you already have a 5-10 road record and with a back-to-back beginning against a hot Houston Rockets team and continuing against a San Antonio Spurs squad that still has Tim Duncan roaming the paint.
Dwight Howard was with the team but unavailable to play -- for at least a week -- because of a right shoulder injury. Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (torn labrum in his left hip) both stayed back in L.A. for medical attention and continue to be out indefinitely.
So Robert Sacre, the 60th and final pick in June's NBA draft, eventually joined the Lakers to assume his role in the middle in the starting lineup. This was after he played a D-League game in Reno, Nev., at 10 a.m. Monday, flew to L.A., then hopped on another flight to Houston to arrive not long before midnight.
(All for the chance to lose 125-112 to the Rockets and be a part of the Lakers dropping their fourth game in a row and fifth out of their past six to fall to 15-19 overall, mind you.)
"I haven't had one of those since high school," Sacre said before the game. "I've not experienced a 10 a.m. game in a long, long time."
It feels like almost as long ago that the Lakers were actually a team worth believing in.
Consider what happened in the Past three days for this team:
They went 0-2, allowing 237 combined points in the two games.
Three of their big men, who average more than 35 points and 25 rebounds per game between them, were all injured.
A report about Howard and Kobe Bryant nearly coming to blows surfaced. Bryant responded to it by staging a photo of the two fighting to mock the story, then later in the day in a serious, honest tone, tweeted that he respected how Alabama's quarterback A.J. McCarron and center Barrett Jones confronted each other to win.
In Tuesday's loss, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni openly bickered with Antawn Jamison on the sideline as the once-benched player said it was, "Nothing to really talk about. It's one of those things that happened."
Can it actually be as bad as it seems with this Lakers team?
It's hard to say otherwise.
Even Steve Nash becoming just the fifth player in league history to reach 10,000 assists in the Houston game wasn't enough to lift his spirits.
"I think three or four weeks ago people would have said, 'Ah, it will get better,'" Nash said. "Now I definitely don't think there's a guarantee it will, so the only remedy is continue to work hard and give yourself a chance for it to get better. I obviously think with time, and that might mean through the summer, we can get better. But for this season, it's definitely going to be a challenge to turn this around."
Nash saying "that might mean through the summer" could mean he has admitted to himself that he's through with this season.
There are so many problems for the Lakers right now, D'Antoni likened it to a game of Whac-A-Mole on Monday. When they focus on one, like when they had only seven turnovers in the loss against Philadelphia that started this slide, others will still bite them such as a horrendous 3-for-22 shooting mark on 3-pointers. Against Houston, the Lakers solved the problem of climbing back from an early deficit by building a 14-point first-quarter lead and also got the shooting right with a 14-for-31 mark from beyond the arc, but fell back into the rut of giving up a poison-pill quarter (giving up 38 points in the third to Houston) and getting beat on the boards (a 42-37 advantage to the Rockets).
"It's the little things that are correctable and we just got to find out to correct them instead of continuing to go in this lull," Jamison said. "We do have a special group, but it doesn't matter to our opponents, especially when they see us struggling the way we're struggling right now. It has to get fixed amongst the players in house, and the most important thing is there has to be a sense of urgency. It has to get fixed quickly."
The Lakers don't do quick.
They are stuck with the same slow-moving mallet and the moles keep popping up faster than they can spot them.
When will it stop for the Lakers this season? Maybe the better question is, will it ever?