Lakers hope ‘nightmare’ run has an ending

Kobe Bryant was in an unbelievably clipped mood. Or maybe it was fully believable, given the circumstances.

He’s under contract for one more season after this. He’s still one championship behind Michael Jordan. It’s almost impossible to get there when your team is 12th in the Western Conference in the final week of January.

Ever the optimist, perhaps to a fault at times, he’s refusing to cave in despite the walls of a $100-million payroll crumbling around him.

He was asked Wednesday if this Lakers thing could still be turned around.

“I believe it can,” he said in a low monotone voice that seemed entirely befitting after the Lakers lost to Memphis, 106-93.

OK. How?

“Not sure. I don’t know. But I believe it can,” he said.

Before he walked toward the team bus at FedEx Forum and out of the visitors’ locker room that hosted so much drama earlier that day, Bryant was asked a simple question.

Is the chemistry just not there this year?

“That’s one of the things, yeah,” he said, his approving nod suggesting it was a big, gigantic thing.

Another 17-year veteran, Steve Nash has been close to a championship. Not as fortuitous as Bryant, obviously, but his Phoenix Suns made it to the Western Conference finals three times, twice under current Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni.

Maybe Nash would have made it to the NBA Finals, if not for Joe Johnson’s facial fracture in 2005 or Amare Stoudemire’s knee surgery in 2006 or Jason Richardson’s failure to box out the former Ron Artest in 2010, the latter helping the Lakers avoid a 3-2 series deficit going back to Phoenix.

Nash didn’t come here to be thrown into the most chaotic backroom scenes of his career. He turned down a more lucrative contract from Toronto, which offered the charm of retiring in his native Canada, to win a championship in Los Angeles.

It wasn’t easy to persuade Suns management to strike a deal with a division rival, but Nash became Lakers property on July 4.

The real fireworks have taken place this month.

“It’s been a nightmare the last three weeks,” said Nash, who turns 39 next month.

The only speck of good news that fell upon the Lakers after they returned from an 0-3 trip was medically related. Dwight Howard saw a shoulder specialist Thursday in Los Angeles and was cleared to resume playing again.

He left Wednesday’s game for good in the second quarter after aggravating a torn labrum in his right shoulder while trying to get around a screen by Memphis forward Rudy Gay, he said.

The shoulder sidelined him for three games this month. He’s expected to play Friday against Utah, the Lakers desperately hoping to get out of a 2-10 spin.

They were run over by an offensively challenged Memphis team Wednesday that had sniffed the 100-point mark only one other time since Dec. 4. They even failed to hit the 90s for six consecutive games until the Lakers stumbled into town.

D’Antoni ran out of words to describe the latest meltdown. He could speak only the truth about the Lakers.

“I do think they played as hard as they can play. And that’s what’s scary,” he said.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan