Lakers look grisly in home blowout

LOS ANGELES -- The bad news for the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant showed he still has it. If the situation were different, if the No. 1 question hanging over the team were whether Kobe's best days were long behind him, the Lakers' problems would be easy to resolve: just trust he could find his way. Because if Kobe can't be Kobe they might as well call off the championship quest.

On this Sunday night, though, Kobe reached back into 2006 and produced a 17-point third quarter. Only the Lakers still lost ground to the Grizzlies in the quarter. And they lost to the game to the Grizzlies, 104-85.

Phil Jackson is befuddled. Pau Gasol is looking tired and grouchy. Kobe is so over it that all he could do was laugh, rather than repeat his angry Christmas Day news conference.

"It's being out of sync," Bryant said. "That's kind of what happened."

They're even out of sync on why they're out of sync.

Jackson said the problem is the team always loses focus when it has a day off (as the Lakers did Saturday).
"That's bull----," Bryant said with a laugh.

Bryant, who has always been big on self-motivation, said, "It starts individually. You have to look at some things to try to get you going."

Andrew Bynum said the problem is people looking out for themselves instead of their teammates.

"We're not really playing for each other right now," Bynum said. "We're not playing to set the next man up."

Bynum's view was reflected in the Lakers' low total of 13 assists. You won't find much help defense being played either, which allowed the Grizzlies to score 50 points in the paint.

What else? Twenty turnovers, which helped the Grizzlies to 28 fast-break points.

The Lakers got next-to-nothing from Ron Artest (0 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 3 turnovers) and Steve Blake had as many turnovers as field goals.

Gasol scored six of the Lakers' first nine points, then scored only three more the rest of the way. That was an issue for Jackson and Gasol, even if Jackson was the only one who articulated it.

Gasol was too dumbfounded by the team's overall woes to focus on his own.

"I don't understand it, I don't like it and I have no explanation," he said of this recent slump.

The Lakers have been outscored 396-346 in their past four home games, a stretch that includes losses to the Grizzlies, Heat and Bucks and a narrow victory against the 76ers.

"The big thing about it is we've lost some games at home that are laughers for opponents coming in on our home court," Jackson said. "That's a concern."

Speaking of home court, the Lakers managed to lose ground to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference standings on a night the Mavericks played without Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler.

Sure, the Mavericks played against lowly Cleveland. But the Lakers were home against Memphis, a team that played in Utah the night before. The Lakers are as healthy as they've been this season. There's no excuse for them to be losing these games to these teams at this time.

So the Lakers are currently the No. 4 team in the West. They've stumbled to a 1-1 start in this stretch of facing eight sub-.500 opponents in 10 games (eight of the games are in Staples Center). If they can't start racking up victories now, when is it going to happen?

"We'll be fine," said Bryant, who wound up with 28 points. "I think it's about how do you address these issues. I think it's important to focus on it and try to get this thing corrected instead of just playing it out and seeing what happens."
Letting the players play it out has always been Jackson's M.O. You don't see him pull guys from the game for a blown defensive assignment.

"I've never been a vindictive coach in that regard," Jackson said.

He hinted he might have to hold people more accountable. Of course, Bryant has long had free rein. Bryant took it upon himself in the third quarter, putting up 12 shots in his 10-minute scoring spree.

"Kobe had to screw up the game and start energizing the team by going one-on-one; it takes the rest of guys out," Jackson said. "And as a consequence that didn't bring us back in."

And one possession after Bryant was finished scoring for the quarter, the Lakers were down by eight, essentially where they started at the half, and on their way to trailing by 17.

They ended the night looking farther from their last championship, and no closer to a next one.