Oh, rats! Lakers have some big injury issues

There's Pau Gasol's foot, Dwight Howard's shoulder and Kobe Bryant's elbow. And Mike D'Antoni still isn't quite the great communicator.

NEW YORK — The Lakers have won six of their last seven, but they leave here big losers.

Pau Gasol has been dealing with a sore foot for some time, tweaked it in the first half, heard a pop in the fourth quarter and left the arena on crutches.

Gasol would make no guesses, but his concern suggested he won't be back in a Lakers uniform any time soon.

Kobe Bryant told everyone he's hurting, and he almost never does that unless he's really hurting.

The last thing he did before taking the court against the Nets on Tuesday night was remove an ice bag from his elbow.

"All the shots I take, I start dishing and my elbow starts yelling at me, 'What are you doing?'" he joked.

Dwight Howard, meanwhile, sat on the bench in a suit.

There already have been questions raised by the Lakers' coaching staff about Howard's toughness, and they will surely get louder with the loss of Gasol.

But the Lakers risk hurting Howard's feelings, and if that sounds like a boo-hoo, the Lakers' future prospects for success are tied to keeping Howard happy.

Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni began the day wanting to know who was the "sniveling little rat" who told the media he had been miffed with Howard when he sat out the Detroit game.

For the record, D'Antoni said, he was not upset with Howard. He also said three days earlier, "If my lips are moving there's also a good chance I'm not telling the truth."

I suggested to D'Antoni that we have some kind of signal between us so I might know when he's really telling the truth.

"You've got to believe me," said D'Antoni, who has said repeatedly not to believe anything he has to say.

"You can go to some sniveling little rat, then, and ask them what I'm thinking and that's fine," D'Antoni said. "Somebody is going to you guys and saying things."

Advised that the sniveling little rat was on his coaching staff, D'Antoni said: "Well then, you got one, and I don't care. I really don't care."

It sounded like he did, so maybe it was a little white lie.

But what about it, I asked, as he seemed to be dodging the question. Does D'Antoni think Howard is a baby, like several others inside the Lakers' locker room have been saying the past 48 hours?

"I said no 10 times," said D'Antoni, who said it twice. He really does struggle with the truth.

D'Antoni didn't find out Howard wasn't going to play before the Detroit game until the bus ride to the arena. And according to folks inside the Lakers' locker room D'Antoni didn't hide his unhappiness with Howard.

"Oh God, no," D'Antoni said. "You should all talk to me; you shouldn't go to a rat."