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Basketball / Sports

How hard will road hit the Lakers?

BOSTON -- Not everything was drab and gray for the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, despite the NBA suspending Nick Young for one game.

They headed east for six games, an itinerary of optimism for Western Conference teams this season, even heavily damaged ones.

The East has rarely been more least than now, broken down into heavyweights Miami, Indiana and a bunch of willy-nilly teams under .500. Toronto (19-18) recently squirted just above .500, though nobody knew it, even in Toronto, because the Maple Leafs were playing well.

The Lakers, though, will face Boston on Friday without Young, suspended for punching Phoenix guard Goran Dragic in the face during the Lakers' 121-114 loss Wednesday.

Of equal concern for the Lakers is the possible rift between the affable Young and his teammates, whom he blamed for not backing him up after he was fouled hard by Alex Len on a fastbreak layup attempt.

Young said he felt as if he was fighting "one on five," and replays showed that none of his teammates on the court -- Chris Kaman, Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks and Ryan Kelly -- moved to step between him and Phoenix's agitated players.

Young found an apparent ally in Pau Gasol.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get a guy between Nick and the three or four guys that were going at him," said Gasol, who was on the bench at the time. "We should have protected Nick there because he had a couple of guys just pushing and shoving him."

The one-game absence will cost Young about $10,000 in salary. Len was fined $15,000 on top of being ejected for a flagrant foul, and Suns forward Marcus Morris was fined $25,000 for escalating the conflict by shoving Young.

The Lakers feared that Jordan Hill would be suspended for leaving the bench, but the NBA did not penalize him.

So the already short-handed Lakers (14-25) trudged along to start their six-game Eastern trek against the Celtics, their longtime rival and modern-day partner in punch lines.

The Celtics (14-26) are a silhouette of the team that played the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010, but wouldn't you know it, they get back star point guard Rajon Rondo on Friday after a year's absence from a torn knee ligament. Sorry, Lakers.

Then it's off to Toronto, where the Lakers lost last season, 108-103, and that was with a starting lineup of Gasol, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. This one won't be much of a Sunday fun day -- the game tips off at the bleary-eyed time of 10 a.m. PST.

Chicago is almost as messy as the Lakers. The Bulls salary-dumped Luol Deng last week, can't keep Derrick Rose healthy and are a prime tanking candidate even though they are currently a playoff team in the East with an 18-19 record.

The Lakers haven't won in Miami since 2005, so go ahead and mark that one as a big loss next week.

Then there's Orlando. There was plenty of intrigue for this game last season with Howard's return to the team that traded him. This year, though, there's only two terrible teams.

At least nobody will be subjected to Howard shooting 39 free throws, part of Orlando's plan to beat the Lakers last season. (It failed: Howard made 25, a bad percentage for pretty much everybody but him, and the Lakers won, 106-97.)

Finally, it's off to play the Knicks (15-24), who are actually more troubling than the Lakers because A) Carmelo Anthony is healthy and B) they are still pretty bad. This is usually Bryant's personal Garden, the place he loves to play and the team he often beats, but he's not expected back from a fractured knee until after the trip.

"It would be nice to start (winning) on the road," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Then by the time the road trip's over, you start getting guys back and that'll help."

Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar are expected to return within a week or two of the New York game. Xavier Henry could be back sooner than that.

Until then, the Lakers -- 6-14 on the road -- could drop a lot more games. Unless the East is as awful as advertised.

Lakers sign Harris

The Lakers signed shooting guard Manny Harris to a 10-day contract Thursday. He led the Development League with a 30.6-point scoring average while playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Harris averaged 6.2 points in 80 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers over two seasons, most recently 2011-12. He will suit up for the Lakers against Boston.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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