And you thought the Lakers had problems.
Whatever issues filtered in and out of their first 16 games -- Pau Gasol’s hamstring, Sasha Vujacic’s shooting slump, Ron Artest’s free-throw woes -- didn’t come close to the jumbled mess that rolled into Staples Center on Sunday.
The New Jersey Nets tied the worst start in NBA history with their 17th consecutive loss, which happened to come against the Lakers, 106-87, and added a measure of perspective to the word “problems.”
The Lakers have three potential All-Stars. The Nets haven’t won a game since April 13.
The Lakers have Phil Jackson. The Nets fired Coach Lawrence Frank earlier Sunday.
The Lakers are 13-3, with an armload of home games before finally hitting the road again in mid-December. The Nets can’t win anywhere, home or away.
Kobe Bryant had 30 points and Gasol had 20, only the beginning of the differences between the defending champions and the team with the league’s worst record.
The Nets trailed by 25 at the half and were down 34 midway through the third quarter. They ultimately matched the futility record held by the expansion Miami Heat to start the 1988-89 season and the Clippers to start the lockout-shortened 1999 season.
Tough times for the Nets. Not so for the Lakers, who have won six straight, including all five games in which Gasol has played.
“I don’t think you can script it any better,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Before the game, the Lakers weren’t all on the same page.
Vujacic and Lamar Odom had an animated, uh, misunderstanding in the locker room while Odom was trying to prove a point that he would gladly feed fellow reserves the ball and let them do all the shooting.
So he asked them individually in an impromptu poll to describe their “nature as a player” -- would they shoot or pass instinctively when getting the ball?
DJ Mbenga said he would shoot first. So did Adam Morrison. When Odom asked Vujacic, he wasn’t satisfied with a diplomatic answer that it depended on the game situation.
“Listen to the question. Don’t add to it,” said Odom, who also told Vujacic to “stop taking it personally.”
As both players grew increasingly testy, Vujacic eventually said, “If I’m open, I will shoot it.”
None of it carried over to the game, the Lakers’ second lopsided victory in as many days.
Afterward, they were even joking around, Artest draping a towel over Jordan Farmar’s head while the reserve guard was being interviewed on live TV.
The Lakers dominated the entire way, save for a brief 8-5 deficit in the first few minutes.
Bryant made 11 of 17 shots and had eight rebounds and seven assists. Gasol made eight of 13 shots to go with nine rebounds and seven assists.
The Lakers’ bench was also dependable, an important piece of the equation for a team with 20 back-to-back situations this season, its most since 1999-2000.
Farmar had 15 points on six-for-nine shooting and also had the defensive play of the night, catching up to Rafer Alston on an apparent breakaway layup, timing his jump perfectly and blocking Alston’s shot as time expired in the first quarter.
It was 27-12 at the time, the Lakers ahead, obviously.
Mark Heisler The champion Lakers and winless Nets live and play not just in different worlds but in separate universes. C4