A team still in search of an identity

Times Staff Writer

So, exactly who are the Lakers?

With victories over Houston, Phoenix, Detroit and Utah, they’ve shown they can turn it up against anybody.

But jagged outings against New Jersey, Utah and Orlando demonstrated they can give it all back with ill-timed losses.

The feeling isn’t quite the same with the team’s record at 9-8 after a 7-3 start. They could try to begin a turnaround tonight against the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves, although there are a few trouble spots to sift through.


The Lakers can’t give up 70 first-half points as they did against Utah. They can’t have 22 turnovers as they had Sunday against Orlando. Lamar Odom needs to stay on track after a 19-point, 17-rebound effort Sunday against the Magic, and Kobe Bryant needs to get back on track after a 10-for-26 shooting effort the same night.

“You’re not a good team until you can play the same way all the time,” Odom said. “Even when you’re not scoring the ball, you still have to play defense. . . . We’ve yet to have that throughout the whole game.”

The second unit has been up and down since center Andrew Bynum was promoted to start in place of injured Kwame Brown. The second-unit chemistry also seems askew since Brian Cook and Maurice Evans were sent to Orlando for forward Trevor Ariza two weeks ago.

Evans and Cook combined for 12 points in Orlando’s 104-97 victory over the Lakers. Ariza did not play.

It’s way too early for the Lakers to panic, but it makes sense to see a few shoulder shrugs.

“That’s what’s so frustrating,” forward Luke Walton said. “I wish it was something we could just go to practice and fix, but I can’t put my finger on it. We’re showing that we can play. It’s just that we’re not doing it all the time. If we want to be a good team, we have to do that.”


Bryant was held to nine points in the final three quarters against Orlando, but Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t about to say Keith Bogans was the new Kobe-stopper.

“Sometimes, like anybody, [Bryant] could have a bad night . . . but I don’t have any answer how to stop him,” Van Gundy said. “He could very well come back the very next time we play, or if we played him tomorrow, and get 50, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’ve got the scheme to stop him.”

One last visit to Sunday’s Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum matchup, courtesy of Jackson: “[Bynum] struggled on the inside with his shot in getting the shot up and getting power, but I thought he did a good job defensively. Seven blocks is a big part of the game. He was able to contain Howard.

“That’s a subpar game, I would guess, for Howard.”



at Minnesota, 5 PST, Channel 9

Site -- Target Center.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 9-8, Timberwolves 2-13.

Record vs. Timberwolves -- 1-0.

Update -- The Lakers had no problem with the Timberwolves in a 107-93 victory Nov. 9 at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant had 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.