Some wondering who the Lakers are
Someone created a bogus Twitter account Monday, posed as Jordan Farmar and started a not-so-private tête-à-tête (or should I say, "tweet-a-tweet") with Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, tossing grenades to incite the rookie, such as "look at the bling" and "You started with the smack talking, and I ended it with the 2 threes. We even? Cool." In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Farmar texted a Lakers staffer to confirm the account wasn't his.
So, the first thing we learned in San Antonio was @JFarmar1 is a phony. Now, after the Lakers lost to the Spurs 105-85 on Tuesday, we're left wondering if we learned that the Lakers' reputation as the far-and-away best team in the NBA is a farce, too.
The blowout extended the Lakers' slump to three losses in their last four games and four straight losses on the road overall. Even though the Lakers still have the most wins in the Western Conference and the best winning percentage in the league, it's tempting to call this group of players a bunch of championship impostors. Are injuries a valid excuse? They aren't if you listen to Kobe Bryant, who was able to shake the 37-for-111 shooting slump he'd been mired in the previous four games by going 7-for-10, but ended up watching the Spurs' 20-6 run to end the game from the locker room as he received treatment for back spasms that were so bad he was unable to walk, let alone take the court in the fourth quarter.
"It's part of the business," Bryant said when asked if the Lakers could blame their hard times on their health. "I won't allow my guys to even think about that or have that attitude. You got to pull your boots up and get ready to play. Don't give a [darn] who's hurting."
If they did, there'd be plenty to give a darn about.
Pau Gasol has missed five straight games because of a pulled left hamstring, after missing the first 11 games of the season because of a strained right hamstring. Ron Artest missed five games because of a concussion, is dealing with plantar fascia in his right foot, and sprained his right index finger when he got tangled up with George Hill in the second quarter. Sasha Vujacic also left Tuesday's game because of a sprained right hamstring.
The good news is Gasol is targeting a Friday return against the Clippers, Luke Walton is back from a pinched nerve in his lower back (and played on Tuesday for the first since Nov. 13), and Bryant says he's "pretty sure" he'll play on Wednesday when the Lakers continue their Texas two-step back-to-back in Dallas. "I told them they played poorly," coach Phil Jackson said, not reserving judgment or conceding the loss because of more injuries.
The Lakers saw an eight-point first-quarter lead swing to a 22-point third-quarter deficit before clawing back into it with a surge led by Farmar and Shannon Brown to start the fourth.
The Spurs were quickly able to regain control thanks to careless play by the Lakers.
"I thought that when you get [back into it] and turn the ball over twice in situations like that, you're just giving the game away," Jackson said, referring to mistakes by Brown and Artest. "There's no excuse for that."
There's also no excuse for the Lakers to keep losing the circle-it-in-red-on-the-calendar challenge games that they continue to drop this season.
The challenges have come in all sorts.
Tuesday was the first meeting of the new decade with the other team that the Lakers split the vote with for the distinction "Team of the (previous) Decade." And they lost.
Remember those rematches with the three Western Conference teams they eliminated from the playoffs last spring? Loss in Denver. Loss at home against Houston. Loss in Utah.
How about that Christmas Day game against Cleveland, the only team in the league with a better record than the Lakers last season? Foam fingers thrown. Loss. And just last week, L.A. had a chance to end an eight-game losing streak in Portland against a Trail Blazers team that, due to injuries, had as many rotation players in street clothes as in uniform. Another loss.
Right now, the Lakers are like a college team that gets a lower NCAA tournament seeding than everybody expected because the selection committee looked at its record and saw that it only beat up on cupcakes and lost all the games that mattered. The Lakers are 13-8 against teams with better-than-.500 records through Tuesday, with three of those victories coming against a young Oklahoma City team, against Memphis before the Grizzlies started to jell, and against New Orleans with Chris Paul out of the lineup.
There will be plenty more challenges to come, starting with a game Wednesday as the Mavericks look to avenge an embarrassing 35-point loss in their last meeting, and continuing through the rest of January with a rubber match against the Clippers, a Finals rematch with the Orlando Magic and then an eight-game road trip that extends into February and includes stops in Cleveland and Boston.
"It's just a period of the season right now where it's a tough stretch," Bryant said. "But you have one of those every once in a while unless you're the Bulls going 72-10.
"You focus on execution, that's all. A lot of teams are overdramatic about it and want to have team meetings and team bonding and all this other stuff. You focus on execution. That's what it is. We lost because we blew assignments. You focus on those things, you focus on how to minimize your mistakes and get back to basics."
When I asked Farmar, the person, about Farmar, the suspect social-media account, before the game, he just shook his head and said, "The Internet messed the whole world up, man."
That may be true.
Too bad the Lakers can't also blame their current slide on the World Wide Web.
Dave McMenamin is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.