SAN DIEGO -- This wasn’t quite the history-making the Lakers envisioned when they signed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
They concluded exhibition play with an 0-8 record, by far their worst preseason ever, after a 94-82 loss Thursday to the Sacramento Kings.
Dwight Howard played, Kobe Bryant did not, and the result was just like all the rest this month.
These are only exhibition games, the real stuff starting next Tuesday against Dallas, but shouldn’t the Lakers have won at least one? Maybe two?
What about those wildly high expectations of Lakers followers?
“I’m trying to trick them,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said before the game. “I don’t know if it’s working, though.”
Nothing has worked for the Lakers.
Howard had nine points and eight rebounds but also five turnovers and five fouls in 24 minutes. Pau Gasol was whisper-quiet with seven points, four rebounds and four turnovers in 29 minutes.
Steve Nash had six points and three assists before being told to sit out the second half. Somehow, he didn’t yawn on the Lakers’ bench.
Fittingly, the shot clock died in the third quarter at decrepit San Diego Sports Arena (now called Valley View Casino Center). Longtime Lakers public-address announcer Lawrence Tanter provided frequent shot-clock updates to try to help the teams: “Ten seconds five seconds, four, three”
It didn’t assist the Lakers, destroyed in fastbreak points, 24-2, and, inexplicably, points in the paint, 44-26.
Help might be on the way. But maybe not.
Bryant was still bothered by a strained right foot Thursday so he stayed home, 60 miles north of the game. It was unclear whether he would play in the regular-season opener.
“I don’t know if he will or not,” Brown said.
Bryant was injured when he tripped over Kings forward Thomas Robinson on Sunday while cutting through the lane to receive a pass from Gasol. Bryant stayed in the game, but the foot ballooned on him overnight. He hasn’t touched a ball since then.
This month was only a partial indictment of the Lakers’ starting five, who played together once, a 99-92 loss to Sacramento Sunday. Even in that game, though, the Lakers were outscored down the stretch and evoked shades of last season when Bryant missed an off-balance three-point attempt with 11.9 seconds left.
This month has really shown more about the Lakers’ bench. Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, hailed as solid off-season additions, have been off the mark. Jamison averaged 4.4 points and shot 28.9% in exhibition play. Meeks was right next to him, averaging 5.9 points and shooting 26.7%.
The Lakers’ average margin of loss in exhibition play was 15.3 points. Not everybody thought they played like losers.
“It feels like we’re 7-0,” Metta World Peace said beforehand. “It really does.”
To be fair, the Lakers were short-handed almost every game. Howard played only twice and Bryant missed three of eight games.
“Despite our record, I think we’re a little ahead of schedule, especially with some of the injuries,” Brown said. “I’m OK where we are.”
Brown prodded the team to improve in three areas: more defensive rebounds, fewer turnovers and better transition defense.
“We’ve been together enough to where I can start putting some pressure on them to do that right,” Brown said.
No time like the present.