The Lakers are 5-12 in road games this season. (Pat Sullivan / Associated…)
Staples Center has been bad for the Lakers this season. The road has been even worse.
The Lakers are 5-12 in road games, going nearly a month since their last victory away from Staples Center. Who knew that an overtime victory Dec. 22 at Golden State would become such a standard?
Not a good sign for a team with 24 of its last 43 games (56%) on the road.
It's never easy away from home, of course, but the Lakers haven't been this bad through 17 road games since 2002-03. That team rebounded to finish 50-32 and win the Pacific Division. Nobody's predicting that this season but the Lakers (17-22) need to win now if they want to play beyond April 17. And it will have to be on the road.
The Lakers begin a three-game trip Sunday in Toronto. They play Chicago on Monday and hit their regular-season midpoint Wednesday in Memphis. They need victories in all three cities, and then another two, to even get to .500.
"There's a certain level of confidence and swagger and aggressiveness that is required on the road to be able to be successful. We have to get it," Pau Gasol said. "We have to get ourselves in that mode consistently. Not just for 20 minutes, not just for one game. So far we haven't done it, but it's something that we need to accomplish."
The Lakers have been better in recent games, going 2-1 at home last week after collapsing in the final two minutes against Miami. Home or road shouldn't matter, they say.
"We're 5-12 because we've played awful," Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I don't think they care where they play. They shouldn't. They have enough experience among them that they can play in Chicago as well as they can play in Los Angeles. Sometimes it's even easier to find yourself on the road and come together as a team. There's no other way to look at it."
The next few games are really just a warmup for the mother of all trips — the team's annual two-week exodus because of the Grammy Awards.
It'll be seven games in 12 days and it starts Jan. 30 in Phoenix. It continues through Minnesota, Detroit, Brooklyn, Boston, always-rough Charlotte, where the Lakers are inexplicably 2-5 against the Bobcats, and finally Miami, where the Lakers have won once since 2005.
Not easy. Not fun. Just like the rest of the Lakers' season so far.
D'Antoni has had enough of former Lakers picking on Dwight Howard.
"Don't beat up somebody because he's a fun-loving kind of guy," D'Antoni said. "Beat up on a guy that's snarly and got a bad scowl on his face. [Howard] is who he is and he's a good person."
Shaquille O'Neal and Robert Horry said this week that Howard needed to be more serious on the court. They also want him to ditch the yellow headband he wears during games.
"If you want him to be something else, he's not going to be that," D'Antoni said. "He's productive. He's a three-time defensive player [of the year]. He's been to the Finals. Can he make some more steps? Yeah. He can get better. He's working hard every day."