For Kobe Bryant, Lakers' woes are question of characters

Bryant cites Mr. Magoo, Scooby-Doo and Batman in trying to explain what ails his team as they lose again. Bryant's take is far more entertaining than Coach Mike D'Antoni's 'I don't know why' refrain.

CLEVELAND — A rattled and clueless Mike D'Antoni, asked whether this latest Lakers' debacle against a Cleveland team with only four wins was embarrassing, said: "No.

"It's basketball. I hate it. I'm down. But I'm not embarrassed … that's a harsh word. I'm not embarrassed."

A few minutes later the same question was put to Kobe Bryant, and "yes," he said, he was embarrassed.

"This is the toughest stretch, the most challenging stretch in my 17 years for sure," said Bryant while sitting calmly in front of his locker taking on all questions.

"It kind of gets like that Mr. Magoo syndrome (or Joe Btfsplk from Li'l Abner); the clouds just following you around all the time. To break that you have to be extremely determined to change momentum."

Is Kobe upset?

"I'm very upset, and in the past I would blow my top and go crazy," he said. "Then I had a head coach [Phil Jackson] who always kept calm and I learned from that.

"I'm trying to do the same thing here, but I won't lie; they're messing with my Zen stuff."

How low is low, and there the great Lakers franchise sits right now, the coach's most often repeated explanation, "I don't know why."

The Lakers lost to Cleveland, 100-94, and D'Antoni, while mentioning the Lakers might need to search for some heart, said, "We put ourselves in a hole, I thought, by playing very uninspired basketball offensively and defensively."

Why would the Lakers play uninspiring basketball at a time when they should be hopping mad to show they are better?

"I don't know why, that's a good question," said D'Antoni. And when advised the Lakers were paying him to have those answers, he said, "Obviously not enough."

I'm not sure the headline "D'Antoni Seeks Raise" is going to play well right now.

Does he have any words for disappointed Lakers fans?

"You tell them, or you write for Cleveland so you don't count," said D'Antoni, and while that might be wishful thinking on his part, he was obviously rattled.

"It's the medication," he said, but then he would become angry.

When I suggested the Lakers have defensive woes and yet they only watched video and horsed around on the court in a 35-minute morning shoot-around, D'Antoni disagreed. And strongly.

"That's not true," said D'Antoni. "Hell yeah, we worked on [defense] for a half hour. You're starting to piss me off because you say something that isn't factually correct. We work on defense all the time."

Kobe said later, "I'll give the calmer response. Our defense wasn't bad. We talked about it [at the shoot-around] and we knew the rotations we wanted to make."

But in so many other ways they appeared clueless. The great waste here was Bryant playing as well as ever at a time when you would expect him to slow down.