From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant saw the monster of malaise infiltrating this post-championship camp months ago. He elected not to try and play ghostbuster. He couldn’t, really. Even though he carried the Lakers to a hot start a year ago while Pau Gasol nursed his hamstring, this time Bryant was coming off offseason knee surgery. And in a quiet moment on the road a few weeks ago, Bryant showed even he had become comfortable with the shadow of complacency, saying the Lakers were “not even close” to laser focus and adding: “Nor should we be right now.” This was Bryant’s analysis then: “We’re not playing with the passion that’s needed on a nightly basis. It’s just not there. We went to seven games in the NBA Finals series. That’s looking at the lion the face. So now a game Thursday night in December doesn’t seem like much of nothing.”
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Their 104-85 loss Sunday to the Memphis Grizzlies sparked a spattering of boos that sounded as half-effortless as the team’s performance itself, marked the team’s fourth loss in six games, the first time Memphis has beaten the Lakers at home since March 28, 2008 and resembled the same problems that have plagued them all season. The Lakers ran no semblance of the triangle: The Lakers’ strength involve setting up their big men, as Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined for 16 of the 18 points. They would score seven the rest of the game because the team’s impatience with setting up the offense, poor entry passes from the backcourt and poor post position from the frontline. It’s simply too lazy to chalk this up as the Lakers mailing in another performance. While that complacency is still a factor, it’s the team’s unwillingness to be patient in setting up the offense that’s dooming this team.
From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: The Lakers continued their meandering ways Sunday night at Staples Center, wandering off course far too often to defeat a team, the Memphis Grizzlies, they probably should have dispatched with only a minimum of effort. And perhaps that’s the biggest problem with the Lakers these days. They’re relying too much on reputation and swagger and not enough on the blood, sweat and tears it takes to be a championship-caliber team. They’re not fooling anyone, not their opponents, not their fans and not themselves. The Grizzlies certainly didn’t seem to care about the Lakers’ superior pedigree while running circles around them en route to a 104-85 victory.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: When the dust settled after what can rightly be called the worst of the Lakers’ 11 losses this season, an embarrassing 104-85 debacle on their home floor vs. Memphis, Andrew Bynum summed things up well: “We kind of get into these situations, and put ourselves into these situations where there’s a snowball effect. We’re not playing for each other right now. We’re not playing to set the next man up, and consequently, that’s definitely causing us faults on defense,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got to be concerned. We have to be. Teams coming in here, three straight times we get dropped by 20 at home, good teams are looking at us like, “Oh, they’re soft.” We’re letting everybody come in here and get comfortable. Guys like Darrell Arthur just catching the ball, almost at the three point line, turning around and shooting it like he does it every day. We’ve got to stop that.”
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I realize my fantasy team isn’t a top priority for most Lakers fans, but that Gasol is currently hurting my squad means he’s hurting yours as well. Tonight, save a few plays early in the first quarter, Pau completely lacked any snap. The Lakers rely on him to be not simply a producer of points, but also a pivot point for the offense, helping take the burden off Kobe Bryant. Sunday, in that role, Gasol turned the ball over five times, whether making bad passes or, as it was in the fourth quarter, being physically bullied off his spot and forced into a travel. Defensively, he was often a step slow, or simply slow, as it was on a listless, barely there contest of a critical corner three from Rudy Gay, helping quash what was a solid run for the Lakers. I have no idea if a better close would have prevented the shot, but we’ll never know.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Perhaps the world shouldn’t be overly impressed with the Miami Heat’s blowout victory at Staples Center on Christmas Day. Apparently, hammering the champs in their own building is something anyone can do. Doesn’t matter if it’s a title contender, a sub-0.500 lottery team or a traveling junior-high AAU squad. If you’re in the market for a road win – maybe something with a margin of victory, say, in the high teens? – well, come on down to Figueroa Street and take advantage of our special holiday rates. The Lakers these days are nothing if not hospitable. Tonight’s guests, the perpetually rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies, would no doubt be happy to keep playing in Los Angeles for as long as the Lakers will have them. They humiliated the purp and yellow this evening in a 104 to 85 walkover. It’s their second win over the Lakers this season and the champs’ third home loss by 16 or more points. And the Grizzlies, to put the event in an appropriately embarrassing context, played in Utah and traveled over 600 miles last night, though you’d have no idea from the way this one unfolded.
From Matt McHale, Basketbawful: Remember how hot these guys were to start the season? They broke out of the gates 8-0 and were 13-2 after 15 games. During that opening stretch, they scored 100+ points 14 times and had 12 games in which they scored 110+ points. And there were whispers about whether they might be able to win 70+ games. In the 19 games since then, the Lakers have gone 10-9. They’ve lost four of their last six games, and those four losses have been by 19, 16, 15 and 19 points. Three of the defeats happened on their homecourt. L.A. was outrebounded 44-37, got outscored 50-36 in the paint and 28-5 on the fast break, and gave up 18 points off 20 turnovers. They trailed by as many as 26 points and got rightfully booed by the home crowd in the waning minutes of their 104-85 loss. Huh. I thought Andrew Bynum coming back was supposed to fix everything. Instead, it looks like pretty much everything needs fixing.