Lakers forward Ron Artest tries to steal the ball from Charlotte guard Gerald… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )
Reporting from Charlotte, N.C. — Kobe Bryant woke up with chills and body aches. All of the Lakers looked ill later in the day, and it had nothing to do with the common cold.
They were thumped by the Charlotte Bobcats yet again, a semiannual event that happens over and over, the two-time defending champions losing another one to a franchise that has made the playoffs once.
This time the Lakers were embarrassed by a 109-89 score Monday, another lame effort in Charlotte unfurled in front of a jubilant crowd.
Two teams have winning all-time records against the Lakers, and only one of them makes sense — the Boston Celtics. But there the Lakers were, trailing by 18 going into the fourth quarter and falling to 5-8 against Charlotte since the Bobcats' inception in 2004-05. In fact, the 7-year-old expansion franchise has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the 16-time champions.
Adding insult to irony: The Lakers were pummeled in Time Warmer Cable Arena the same day they announced a 20-year TV broadcast rights deal with a to-be-launched Time Warner Cable regional sports channel in Southern California.
And was that Kwame Brown hitting up the Lakers for six offensive rebounds, not to mention a successful 16-footer and five-foot hook shot on consecutive third-quarter possessions? Why, yes it was.
Few of the Lakers were in a chatty mood.
Bryant left without talking to reporters, scowling while flanked by security guards. Coach Phil Jackson paused long enough to deliver a five-second edict to media members.
"I just have this to say: I'm very disappointed in our performance tonight," he said, his eyes rimmed red with anger. "I'm embarrassed about what we did, and that's it."
He then turned back into the locker room and, after seeing a reporter a few minutes later, asked a security guard to keep him away. He was joking. Maybe.
The Bobcats (24-31) were supposed to be the NBA's third-lowest scoring team, their 93.5 points a game putting them barely ahead of Milwaukee and New Jersey, but they throttled the Lakers, shooting 51.2% and winning points in the paint by a 46-38 margin.
The Bobcats scored on 22 of 25 possessions during a particularly efficient second-half span.
"I don't know what to tell you," said forward Lamar Odom, who had a quiet nine points and four rebounds. "One of our worst games this year."
Bryant skipped the Monday morning shoot-around because of what the team said was an illness. He felt better when he arrived for the game, even managing a smile during a brief TV interview, but his game looked sluggish.
He had nine points in the first half on erratic four-for-13 shooting as the Lakers trailed, 49-43. He was a step slow on defense and was called twice for illegally shoving his way through screens in the second half.
Not even the Bobcats understood what was wrong with the Lakers. Bryant finished with 20 points on eight-for-20 shooting.
"Yeah, he looked frustrated," said forward Gerald Wallace, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds. "They all looked like that. They looked frustrated, they looked confused, they looked like they were forcing things."
What appeared to be a solid trip dissolved in a 36-hour period, the Lakers (38-18) falling to Charlotte a day after being drilled in Orlando, 89-75. They are now 4-2 on a trip that ends Wednesday in Cleveland.
Monday marked the Lakers' largest margin of defeat against the Bobcats, outdoing last season's 98-83 wipeout.
They can't possibly lose to Cleveland, which recently ended a 26-game losing streak. Or can they?
"We can lose to anybody the way we're playing defense right now," Andrew Bynum said.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.