Lakers guard Kobe Bryant blocks a shot by Thunder forward Kevin Durant. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Week 13 for the Lakers opened with Coach Mike D'Antoni announcing that Pau Gasol would be moved to the bench, despite Gasol's protestations. The change was interesting given that a majority of the Lakers' losses came from an inability to finish games -- regardless of how well (or poorly) the team started.
Initially, the move didn't pay off as the Lakers fell to the Bulls in Chicago 95-83.
Dwight Howard expressed dissatisfaction for lack of shot attempts in the Chicago loss, but later apologized for his comments, calling them "immature."
What the Lakers need to do to climb out from under remains unclear, but Kobe Bryant said, "We're going to have to change something".
ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy chimed in, blasting Howard for his comments and performance.
The players let off some steam in a team meeting on Wednesday before their visit to the Memphis Grizzlies, presenting their grievances with the hope of clearing the air.
Oddly, the Lakers gained ground in the Western Conference but almost exclusively on days off. With teams such as the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves struggling, the Lakers found themselves within reach of the playoffs despite their poor play.
The Lakers went back to work on Wednesday night, but Howard re-aggravated his shoulder in the game and sat out the second half. The Grizzlies took care of the Lakers, winning 106-93.
Players on good teams hide each other's flaws, but the Lakers have exposed each and every individual limitation this season. The details are well illustrated in video form.
Howard was cleared to play on Friday against the Utah Jazz, with no additional damage to his shoulder. The Lakers finally got over the hump against the Jazz, winning handily 102-84.
Bryant finished one rebound short of a triple-double. and his teammates gushed at how much they enjoyed playing with Bryant when he's a willing passer.
Of course, the Lakers still turned the ball over and missed free throws against the Jazz, a recurring problem.
After the game, Steve Nash and Bryant were presented with Italian national team jerseys.
The week ended on a high as the Lakers got their best win of the season, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-96. For the second game in a row, Bryant finished with 14 assists and one rebound short of a triple-double.
After the game, Howard acknowledged that although he might need shoulder surgery to fully recover from a labrum injury, he's more likely to avoid going under the knife.
On an off day, Bryant took time to watch his 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors (January 2006) for the first time. He gave some insightful commentary as he live-tweeted the rebroadcast.
Jordan Hill underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair his injured hip. The prognosis was six months of recovery.
Forbes.com released its annual NBA valuations, placing the Lakers as second in the league (to the New York Knicks) at $1 billion. Also, Tim Leiweke of AEG, the company that owns the Kings, Galaxy and part of the Lakers, was named 2012 sports executive of the year by the Los Angeles Sports Council.
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