Lakers are a team on edge, with Kobe Bryant setting the tone

Share via

The Lakers were already sporting a different look Monday, with Sasha Vujacic back on the court and Ron Artest unveiling his second hairdo in two days.

Even cosmetic changes were welcome for a team returning home following its first three-game losing streak in more than two years.

Kobe Bryant described the Lakers as “upset” and “a little edgy,” supporting his descriptors with a series of curt answers to reporters’ questions. Asked if he was feeling better a day after stomach issues forced him to miss the team bus to Amway Arena in Orlando, Bryant said, “I’m getting a stomach virus now with all these questions.”

The Lakers all seemed a bit queasy after losing three consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 23-27, 2008. Coach Phil Jackson lamented his team’s lack of execution, and forward Pau Gasol said the Lakers needed to improve their ball movement.

Gasol had not previously experienced a losing streak this long since joining the Lakers in February 2008, but he said their recent defeats weren’t as vexing as the defending NBA champions’ inability to play to their potential.

“That’s what’s disappointing and frustrating,” Gasol said. “That’s why I want us to get ourselves going and playing well and being confident and having that swagger of the best team in the league, and lately we haven’t been carrying that with us.”

Bryant had a more succinct explanation for his team’s recent struggles.

“The game in Miami, the game in Charlotte, we didn’t play hard,” he said. “Against Orlando, we just lost to a good ballclub. It’s as simple as that.”

Veteran guard Derek Fisher said injuries have also contributed to the Lakers’ woes, and that’s one area where the team could see immediate improvement.

Vujacic, who has been sidelined since Feb. 18 because of a sprained right shoulder, practiced and could play Tuesday night at Staples Center against the Toronto Raptors.

“He looks OK,” Jackson said. “His shot’s a little short still and he’s still working through that. I think he’s ready to play.”

Although a loss Tuesday would give the Lakers their first four-game losing streak since April 2007, Fisher forecast brighter days ahead.

“I know there’s been a lot of rain in L.A., but it’s not our fault,” he said. “The sky is not falling.”

Road worriers

Ten of the Lakers’ remaining 18 regular-season games are away from Staples Center, a worrisome proposition for a team that has dropped four consecutive road games.

“As I told the players, we’ve entertained a lot of fans this season,” Jackson said. “A lot of home teams have a wonderful victory over the champions, and I think that’s the fifth or sixth one I’ve seen in the last month and it’s not a good deal for us. It’s the difference between what we’ve done in the past and this season.”

Head games

Artest shaved his blond hair, but the dark dye with the word “defense” inscribed in three languages remained visible after seeping into his scalp. “The dye doesn’t go away right away,” he said.

Asked what made him change his look, Artest said he wanted to “just switch it up a little bit. . . . There’s nothing really exciting about it right now.”