OKLAHOMA CITY -- As a team that had healthy players at only four of the five positions and entered Friday facing four games in five days, things could have gone one of two ways for the Lakers.
They could coalesce, rally behind a repaired superstar as role players continued carry the weight.
Or, a more likely scenario: With no true point guard, but with a limited Kobe Bryant and a frustrated Pau Gasol, the Lakers' struggles would continue and worsen.
Introducing a 122-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder as Exhibit A.
The result Friday in front of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena was so thorough, Bryant didn't even play in the fourth quarter.
"I think that our heart is in the right place," Bryant said. "I think I saw a lot of positive things tonight, we've just got to put it together for longer stretches."
Nick Young led the Lakers with 19 points, while Kevin Durant scored 31 points for the Thunder.
The Lakers (10-12) led, 13-7, before allowing 66 first-half points to the Thunder (18-4). The Lakers are 0-3 in games with Bryant.
"We've seen worse," said Bryant, who scored just four points on 2-of-6 shooting. "We forget kind of what we had to go through last year. I'm not really too concerned about it."
By that standard, the Lakers season, which continues Saturday in Charlotte, already is a success. Players aren't bickering with one another, although Gasol has begun to question Coach Mike D'Antoni's offense.
But when it comes to stemming the tide of playing without any of three point guards -- all injured -- things look shakier. For the foreseeable future, Bryant is the Lakers' primary playmaker. He had 13 assists, but he also committed seven turnovers. He has turned the ball over 18 times in three games.
"You just can't make bad passes," D'Antoni said. "There's no secret formula that you can sprinkle out there."
GASOL HAS QUESTIONS
Pau Gasol really stepped in it this time.
The "it" was a blue goo in front of his locker, maybe gum, maybe candy, that ended up on the brown leather of his left Oxford and distracted him during postgame interviews following the Lakers 122-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As for comments he made a day earlier about feeling misused in Mike D'Antoni's system, he stuck by those.
In comments he made to the L.A. Times on Thursday, Gasol lamented not receiving the ball deep in the post, which, he said, affects his "aggressiveness and overall intensity." It serves as a tidy explanation for a season of frustration, in which he has needed to take more shots than a year ago -- at a lower percentage -- for similar numbers.
D'Antoni called criticizing an offensive system "a nice excuse not to play hard."
"That's a classic, 'Well, I don't know what I'm supposed to do,'" he said after Friday's shootaround. "Well, you know, you don't have trouble getting up to the pay stub line, they know what to do there to get the check, so obviously you know what to do."
Even after shooting 6 of 10 for 14 points in a seemingly more aggressive outing, Gasol remained steadfast, taking responsibility but also poking at D'Antoni's system.
"You have to put yourself in positions and have a better understanding of how to get to the spots you can really produce," he said. "Whichever that is, you have to make it happen for yourself. If the plays don't help you get there, you have to do it yourself. That's the struggle."
A year ago, Gasol expressed similar concerns, particularly with Dwight Howard taking up so much space in the paint.
"I want to find myself closer to the basket more often instead of always starting 20 to 30 feet away from it," Gasol said. "You can get there. It's a matter of doing it within the system and not doing it in the conventional way that you used to your entire career."
Kobe Bryant, who has weathered plenty of locker room controversies, shrugged off any concerns about Gasol and D'Antoni bickering over the offense.
"That's every year, though," he said. "They're like an old couple. It's every year, it's not really anything new, it's just not a big deal."
When it comes to point guards, D'Antoni seems to think the Lakers are cursed. After injuries to Steve Blake and Steve Nash last season, then those two again plus Jordan Farmar this season, maybe he has good reason.
"It's weird," he said. "We had two points guards last year and they both got hurt, we added depth this year to not have that happen, we got all three hurt. If we got another one we'd get another one hurt."
But good news finally came Friday, when Farmar revealed he might be ahead of schedule in his rehab from a tear in his left hamstring suffered Dec. 1 against Portland.
"The little light work that I do, I haven't done anything to really test it, but that's part of the healing process," Farmar said. "If I strained it any more it goes backwards."
He said an ultrasound Monday showed that an injection of platelet rich plasma facilitated a "tremendous amount of healing, more than he (Dr. Luga Podesta) thought was there."
Farmar said he still will not play in three games remaining on the trip, and will have another ultrasound when the team returns home. His return, however, might not come long after.
The best-case scenario Farmar could see is getting a positive evaluation Wednesday, practicing Thursday, and playing Dec. 20 against Minnesota or the next night at Golden State.
Before suffering the injury, Farmar averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game, and had emerged as one of the team's reliable 3-point shooters.
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