Losing Lakers limp into Cleveland
CLEVELAND (AP) - Pau Gasol's got sore knees. Steve Nash's broken leg isn't completely healed. The Lakers' record is hurting.
But Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni, still learning about his disappointing and currently disjointed team, sees bigger issues than key injuries, shaky transition defense and suspect foul shooting.
"Collectively,'' he said, "our spirit is just not there to win and we're going to have to get over that real quick.''
The star-studded-but-struggling Lakers (9-12) have lost seven of 10 as they open a four-game road trip Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will have back star point guard Kyrie Irving after he missed 11 games with a broken left index finger.
The Cavs went just 2-9 without Irving, last season's rookie of the year.
Gasol was not at the Lakers' morning shootaround and will likely miss his fifth straight game with tendinitis in his knees. D'Antoni doesn't know when one of his starters will be back in the lineup. He said Gasol will be evaluated on a daily basis.
As D'Antoni met with reporters, Nash, who has missed 19 games since fracturing his left fibula in a collision with Portland's Damian Lillard on Oct. 31, shot jumpers and worked on his ballhandlng at the far end of Quicken Loans Arena with a member of the Lakers' training staff.
Nash has not yet been cleared to practice and D'Antoni doesn't know when the two-time league MVP will be available.
"When he's ready to go, he's ready to go,'' D'Antoni said, "and I don't think he knows totally. Hopefully, it's sooner than later. I'm like a kid at Christmas, man. I'm trying to get to the presents.''
D'Antoni said Nash will have to play some 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 before he can play in games.
Nash's return may settle things down a bit, but the Lakers, who entered the season expected to waltz toward a title after adding center Dwight Howard and Nash to a lineup featuring Kobe Bryant, have plenty of problems. D'Antoni was brought in after coach Mike Brown was fired after five games to fix them, but to this point the purple and gold remain an enigma.
The Lakers aren't clicking and D'Antoni pointed to his team's inability to slow down opponents as a chief reason.
"We're losing now because we're 30th in fast-break points for the other team,'' he said. "A lot of that is turnovers and a lot of that is not getting back. We've got to be much more aware of boxing out at the foul line, much more aware of getting to our men and our defense right now is compromised a little bit by turnovers and a lot by leak outs and us not getting back.''
D'Antoni believes the Lakers' current woes are correctable.
Bryant, too, said he and his teammates can make things easier by buckling down on defense.
"The thing that's really kicking our butt and that we're extremely weak at is our transition defense,'' Bryant said, sitting on the scorer's table following the morning shootaround. "Physically we're just not a very fast team, so we have to be very smart about our positioning on the floor and get back on defense. Our half-court defense is pretty good.''
Nash won't heal the Lakers on defense, but his presence on the floor can't hurt.
"It will help,'' Bryant said, "because our team is built to have him on the floor with myself and Pau and Dwight and we haven't had that yet.''
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