LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “How the mighty have fallen” would be a massive understatement for frustrated Los Angeles Lakers fans after their team’s worst start to a National Basketball Association season in nearly 60 years.
A once-proud franchise which can boast 16 NBA championship banners hanging from the rafters at its home venue in downtown Los Angeles lost their first four games to remain rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Not since 1957 has the team launched a season so poorly, and that was when they were based in Minneapolis, Minnesota where their former standout center George Mikan was head coach. The Lakers began that 1957-58 season 0-7.
“No, it doesn’t bother me,” five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant said with heavy sarcasm after he and his team mates were pounded 127-104 by the Golden State Warriors on Saturday to slip to 0-4 for the season. “Festive and jovial about it.”
Bryant, who piled up a team-high 28 points on 12-for-28 shooting, later conceded: ”I‘m not happy about it. Also nothing you can do about it. Gotta move on to the next one.
“Just stay the course. We still have a lot of room for improvement, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Lakers were always likely to struggle this season after assembling a roster that many viewed as inferior to the one that ended 2013-14 well under .500 with a 27-55 record, having never before lost so many games in a single campaign.
Though they acquired Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, plus Julius Randle, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, they lost four-time All-Star Pau Gasol, who opted to leave for the Chicago Bulls.
Injuries, which posed all sorts of problems for the Lakers last season, have once again rocked the team.
Twice NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash, who has battled a bad back for years, was last month ruled out for the entire season after re-injuring his back while carrying his bags.
Rookie Randle broke his right leg in his first game, the Lakers’ 108-90 loss to the Houston Rockets last week, and is expected to miss the rest of the season after having surgery.
The struggling Lakers, who began the season with the most difficult schedule in the league (four games in five days), have also been without Nick Young (right thumb) and Ryan Kelly (sore right hamstring).
Among very few bright spots for the team over those four games have been the sizzling form, in bursts, by guard Bryant, surprising consistency and sharp shooting from forward Jordan Hill and much needed offense off the bench from Ed Davis.
Apart from the early proliferation of injuries, the biggest headaches so far for Lakers head coach Byron Scott, who was appointed in July, have been the poor form shown by point guard Lin and forward Boozer, along with a woeful defense.
Lin has struggled with his shooting and committed far too many turnovers while Boozer has failed to hit double digits in three of the first four games.
The Lakers rank 30th among the 30 teams in the league in both points allowed (118 per game) and fast-break points allowed (21.2).
“Defensively, we’ve just got to get tougher and we’ve got to get a little bit grittier,” said Scott. “Sometimes we lose focus after we score and all of a sudden we relax. Our bigs got to do a better job.”
Editing by Frank Pingue