The oddsmakers have turned against the Lakers. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
There's another group of people to feel sorry for besides the Lakers: Everyone who bet on them before this season.
The Lakers have tumbled from co-favorites to win the NBA championship to also-rans in the gambling world, going from 8-to-5 odds to 25-to-1 in some places.
The Lakers, longshots to win it all. Who would have guessed?
"It's a pretty good drop when you consider they're probably the most popular team as far as tickets written," said Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports for MGM Resorts International, which has the Lakers at 9-to-1 to win it all. Sportsbook.com has them at 25-to-1.
The Lakers now play Cleveland (300-to-1), owners of the NBA's second-worst record (9-29) and potential losing-streak busters if not for the fact they actually beat the Lakers last month. Kobe Bryant had a season-high 42 points, making 16 of 28 shots, and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 rebounds, but the Lakers still lost that night in Cleveland, 100-94.
Those seemed like the good old days, when Steve Nash was sidelined by a leg injury and the words "hope" and "patience" often crisscrossed while discussing the Lakers.
Now they're on a six-game losing streak with little to look forward to.
Pau Gasol did not practice Saturday, was not cleared to resume playing and was told to keep avoiding loud noises and bright lights because of a concussion. He surrendered his tickets to see the band Keane in concert Saturday night at the Pantages Theatre and was considered very doubtful for Sunday's game.
Howard continued to work out with a trainer off to the side after Saturday's light Lakers practice and also had only a small chance of playing against Cleveland. He would miss a fourth game because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The Lakers (15-21) are 10-9 in home games, a devastatingly poor stat for a franchise with only one losing record at home since moving from Minneapolis in 1960-61. They went 20-21 in 1992-93.
"It's my job. It's my responsibility," Coach Mike D'Antoni said Saturday. "I don't think at the end of the year if we're bad, I'm going to go, 'They're bad.' No. I'm bad. And we've got to somehow get that turned around.
"Most people are counting us out. We think we can do it, but we know the road is not easy."
Why not start with defense?
The Lakers have given up more than 100 points their last six games, the first time they've done that since 2008. They've given up an average of 111.8 points this month and have fallen to 26th in scoring defense.
Still on Earl time
It won't get easier without Howard and Gasol, but Earl Clark continues to impress Lakers coaches and will get his second start Sunday.
He'll need to work on his clock management, though. When the first quarter ended Friday against Oklahoma City, Clark ran toward the locker room, thinking it was halftime.
Come back, Earl. The Lakers need you.