Things keep getting worse for the Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard is injured again, Kobe Bryant isn’t even getting any respect from the referees anymore and the bottom line, the big picture, is the most depressing thing for Lakers fans. Yes, a fourth straight loss and eight games below .500, not to mention the playoffs looking very far away.

So they had a team meeting and Dwight Howard promised he’ll be a big boy. All that doesn’t matter when he keeps coming back too early from injuries, spending only 14 minutes on the floor before leaving the game for good. The Lakers need wins and fast, but it’s not going to happen if Howard keeps playing injured.

Pau Gasol, the man who should be flourishing without Howard in the lineup, had a very hard time facing his brother and Zach Randolph. The Memphis big men just chewed up anything in their way, as the Grizzlies dominated with 52 rebounds to the Lakers’ 34, including 16 on the offensive glass. Mike Conley was the next point guard to have his way with Steve Nash, scoring 19 points while Nash finished with 8 and 7 assists.

And then there’s the frustrated Kobe Bryant, who doesn’t know what to do anymore. Even getting simple calls from the referees isn’t going his way, as Tony Wroten clipped him in the face, denying Bryant the easy 2. Who got T’d up? That’s right, Kobe Bryant, scoring 29 points on 11-23 from the field, trying to limit his shots from long distance this time (0-1 from beyond the arc) and couldn’t get easy looks as the Grizzlies played some fantastic defense once again.

We make these teams look a lot better offensively than they really are. That’s something that’s pretty negative. Pretty alarming. It’s just the same thing over again. We broke down defensively. They went on a run, and we continue to just go downhill.

Without Dwight Howard, there doesn’t seem to be any hope for this defense which was actually one of the best in the NBA last season, despite having Andrew Bynum on the roster. A year later, Bynum isn’t playing basketball and the Lakers are a one man team with a new excuse each time: Defense, hustle, effort, offense. They went through the entire dictionary of basketball problems, and still haven’t gotten to the root of the problem. Maybe it’s right under their nose.

Pau Gasol got 31 minutes off the bench and will probably get starting minutes if Howard’s injury isn’t a minor thing. Despite big minutes and playing in the position he wants to, he finished with just 13 points and 8 rebounds, bowing down to a superior front court and the better Gasol brother. Memphis were led by Darrell Arthur, scoring 20 points.

This is beginning to look like the 2004-2005 season for the Los Angeles Lakers, who missed the playoffs that year with a 34-48 record. That will be nothing short of disastrous for a team many labeled as the favorites to come out of the West and challenge the Miami Heat for the NBA title. No one except for Kobe Bryant and sometimes Dwight Howard has been playing like the star he has been billed up to be. The Lakers keep losing, as NBA fans ponder whether it’s a sad or funny joke, as the point of no return gets closer and closer after a 2-10 record in January so far.

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