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Coach: Lakers looking for identity

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Nearly six weeks after officially opening training camp and two months since the Los Angeles Lakers began voluntary team workouts, coach Mike D'Antoni says the team is still trying to figure itself out.

"We got to find our identity," D'Antoni said after practice Monday, a day after giving up 47 first-quarter points to the Minnesota Timberwolves en route to a 113-90 loss. "We don't play slow or fast. We don't do anything with a purpose. We're trying to get that."

The Lakers spent the day examining the loss to the Wolves in a film session -- "More cerebral than physical," D'Antoni said -- as they continue to search for something consistent to rely on with Kobe Bryant sidelined and Steve Nash in and out of the lineup during their 3-5 start to the season.

"We're trying to clarify what playing hard means because sometimes I think it's misconstrued in the press by me, not by you guys," D'Antoni said. "But being able to anticipate what's happening, being mentally alert, they're all trying, but a lot of times, we're like one or two steps behind because we didn't anticipate or get to a spot we needed to to be able to benefit from playing hard, if that makes sense. So, it's not a character issue. It's just a matter of execution."

It's also a matter of who plays. D'Antoni said a lineup change for Tuesday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans is "definitely a possibility." D'Antoni said Jodie Meeks would be the logical choice for the starting backcourt if Nash was unable to play. Nash was ruled out later Monday with nerve root irritation in his back and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks.

Pau Gasol said "some issues" during training camp slowed the Lakers' development -- presumably referring to injuries and an exhausting eight-day trip to China -- but did not think D'Antoni's revolving door of rotations has done the team any favors since then.

"We have to figure out our identity and how we want to play, and be consistent with it," Gasol said. "Stick with it, hopefully it works and we stick with it more because when things don't work is when you start wondering and 'maybe I should go this way, I should go the other way.' You can't second-guess yourself.

"You got to make up your mind now and go with what you think is best and stick with it and work from it and build on what we have. Otherwise, if we continue to go back and forth, back and forth, we're never really going to establish it and develop it at the full potential. That's something that the coaching staff also needs to be aware of."

The Lakers have used five starting lineups through their first eight games.

Part of the shuffling has been trying to determine whether to go big with the first five by starting both Gasol and Chris Kaman or to spread the floor with a smaller lineup.

Of the big lineup, D'Antoni said: "We're a little slow."

When asked about the alternative, he sounded more optimistic: "We're quicker, we're faster, we can open the floor up for guys like Pau, [Steve] Blake and Jodie. It just seems to be a better flow."

D'Antoni said he does not want to determine his starters on a night-to-night basis to match up to what the opposition is doing.

"I don't want to do that," D'Antoni said. "I want to get set starters and set rotation and everybody feel comfortable with their roles."

Gasol put in his vote for the team to stay with the twin towers between himself and Kaman or Jordan Hill.

"I think there's a time in the lineup for going big and going small," Gasol said. "I've always preferred to [go] a little bigger. I know the game is developing towards going smaller, but I still like the way we start with a bigger lineup and then adjust as we go along if we need to speed up the tempo, if we fall behind."

Hill, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar all have had some bright moments as reserves so far, prompting D'Antoni to consider them for promotions to the starting unit as well, but the coach would like to preserve the one advantage L.A. has shown so far this season in leading the league with 51.5 bench points per game.

"That's the problem," D'Antoni said. "We're leading the league with bench points. Well, that will go down if we start all [of] the bench [players]."

D'Antoni, who joked that, "Mathematically, we're still in the race," with 74 games left in the regular season, remained confident in the team the Lakers can become.

"We can play better," he said. "We can do better than what we're doing. We can win a lot of games. We have to try to get this settled as soon as we can."