- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Kobe Bryant didn’t waste any time leaving the court after the Los Angeles Lakers lost 95-86 to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. Bryant made a beeline to the locker room with a scowl on his face as the Lakers fell to 1-4 to start a season for the first time in his 17-year career.
Dwight Howard, meanwhile, was the last Lakers player to make his way through the tunnel, lingering on the court to hug a fan and toss each of his arm sleeves, as well as his uniform, into the crowd.
Bryant’s frustration was apparent long before his final exit: He got into it with referee Ed Malloy after being called for a charge in the second quarter; he punched the ball inbounds rather than passed it when there was less than a second left in the third quarter; and he was caught on camera staring down coach Mike Brown when he was sitting on the bench during a timeout in the waning moments of the fourth.
Howard said after the game the Lakers would be better off bottling up those negative emotions.
“I think sometimes as a team we got to be able to not really show our frustrations that much,” Howard said after L.A. fell to 1-12 with their preseason record included. “A lot of the guys look at me and Kobe and they feed off us, so we have to do a better job of keeping our frustrations on the inside and just playing through it so our teammates won’t get down on themselves. So, we just got to do a better job at that.
“I know [Kobe] was a little frustrated tonight. He wants to win just as bad as all of us do, but we just got to stay together, remember it’s a process, and stay focused.”
When asked about his frustration level after the game, Bryant deadpanned it was, “just a little bit.”
And what were the reasons that caused that frustration?
“None that I care to share,” Bryant said.
There was plenty of material from which to pick. The Lakers shot just 33.8 percent from the field as a team (and an even more troubling, only 17.4 percent from 3-point range). They had 19 turnovers leading to 19 points for the Jazz. And despite having a 46-18 advantage in free throws attempted, L.A. didn’t capitalize at the line, going just 32-of-46 (69.6 percent).
“I think we’re all frustrated,” said Brown. “I’m pretty frustrated, too, from the simple fact that I just didn’t think that we played the game like we talked about going into the game. We wanted to be the ones that hit first. We wanted to be the ones to play through their physicality, and I thought we didn’t.”
Brown added that the team did not do a good job moving onto the next play and giving maximum effort regardless when a call did not go their way. Howard was culpable of it, too. He apologized to his teammates for not getting back on defense while looking for a foul call after a collision with Utah’s Enes Kanter.
While several members of the team acknowledged the frustration that the Lakers’ first 1-4 start since 1993-94 has caused them, they continued to remain patient, for the most part.
“There’s no need for us to panic or put extra pressure on ourselves this early in the season,” Howard said. “We know that everybody expects great things out of us, but greatness takes time. Instead of us panicking, we have to just play through it, find ways to win our games, and we’ll find our niche. Right now we’re searching for it, but once we get it we’ll be fine.”
Lakers co-captain Pau Gasol, another player the team looks to as an emotional barometer, offered up the bigger picture.
“It’s not a good feeling to have such a good roster and as many good players as we have here and not be able to capitalize and transform that quality into wins,” Gasol said. “But I know and we know we’re going to get there sooner or later. Hopefully sooner.”
Bryant echoed Gasol’s statement, saying that “everything is correctable.” But he got out a final bit of frustration when a reporter asked if the Lakers were “worried” by the slow start.
“I’m terrified. Are you serious with that?” Bryant said. “I’m shaking in my Nikes.”
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne