Reporting from Houston — As the losses pile up, the Lakers begin to wonder when center Andrew Bynum will return.
"Of course," forward Ron Artest said. "He's one of the top, what, three centers in the NBA, maybe?"
Said forward Lamar Odom: "Of course we miss him."
Bynum is expected to go through a second day of half-court scrimmaging Thursday, and the next step after that will be a full-court scrimmage, probably next week. It's still unclear when he will return to game action this month, but the sooner the better for the Lakers (13-6), losers of four consecutive games for the first time since April 2007.
Bynum has not played since he had surgery on torn cartilage in his right knee in July. He averaged 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in 30.4 minutes a game last season.
The Lakers' need for Bynum increases in step with the excess playing time for Odom and Pau Gasol.
Gasol came away from the Lakers' loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday with a sore left hamstring, and Wednesday he had eight points on two-for-eight shooting in a 109-99 loss to the undersized Houston Rockets.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson called it Gasol's "worst game of the season by far."
Odom, on the other hand, made 11 of 16 shots and had 25 points and 11 rebounds against the Rockets. He said he wasn't feeling fatigued at all.
"It don't matter to me. I'm good," he said. "I could play another game right now."
The Lakers would have liked another shot at their fourth quarter against Houston. They were outscored, 33-21, and made five of 22 shots. Odom also seemed to hit a wall, going scoreless and taking two rebounds while playing the entire quarter.
The Lakers tried to shrug off their first four-game losing streak since they acquired Gasol from Memphis in February 2008.
" Muhammad Ali lost. Mike Tyson. Michael Jordan lost games and so on and so on," Odom said. "The best can lose. The Yankees."
Artest had his own spin, as usual, when asked about the Lakers' recent drought. They broke the 100-point barrier in 13 of their first 14 games but have not done it in their last five.
"When there's a drought, you wait for the monsoons, and then comes the rain," he said.
Until then, they wait for Bynum, hoping he will brighten up their offense or, more likely, their defense.
"That's the stuff that he does instinctively, is block shots and alter shots," Kobe Bryant said. "Absolutely."