Lakers threaten to go from bad to toxic

LOS ANGELES -- They were never supposed to have much of a season -- just one, long, loss-filled trudge to the lottery. But just 10 games in, it's starting to turn toxic.

They were never expected to have much of a team -- just an aging superstar and a patchwork crew. But just a few weeks in, it's starting to unravel at the seams.

The Los Angeles Lakers' defense is on pace to be one of the worst in history. Kobe Bryant is on pace to miss shots at a faster rate than anyone in history. And the team is on track to have its worst season in franchise history.

Who knows? If this keeps up, maybe the Lakers -- they of the 16 NBA championships -- will have to start trying to win more than the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73 just to avoid having the most single-season losses in NBA history.

For now, after an embarrassing 136-115 loss the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at Staples Center, the Lakers sit at 1-9, their worst 10-game start in franchise history.

That score isn't at all indicative of just how lopsided the evening really was. The Warriors had 115 points at the end of the third quarter and mercifully let up from there.

The Lakers' defense was laughable. It gave up numerous wide-open looks to Stephen Curry (30 points, 15 assists) and Klay Thompson. It didn't get back in transition defense against a team that's one of the best in the NBA at scoring in transition.

Afterward, Lakers coach Byron Scott was fuming and said he's "getting close" to scrapping his defensive scheme, one that he said the team hasn't been able to execute yet this season.

"Patience is running thin," he added.

Scott lambasted his team's effort, saying that he showed video to his players at halftime of them jogging when they should've been running. They didn't change.

"I can fix that, basically, and [I] will starting Tuesday," Scott said.

That's when the Lakers will play the Hawks in Atlanta.

"It's just going to be a very short leash," Scott said. "If I see, in my eyes, that you're not giving that effort, then I'll just pull guys out."

He added, "I think we have some guys right now, because of some of the injuries that we have, that feel that they're almost entitled because they've got to play. Well, we're losing anyway, so I ain't got to play you."

Then there was Bryant, who scored 44 points on 15-of-34 shooting from the field in 31 minutes. It was his most points since he tore his Achilles in 2013, and it came on a night when he wasn't sure if he'd play with a viral infection anyway.

But Bryant shot the ball like it was a hot potato, launching it almost the second he caught it, no matter where he was, no matter how contested the shot was.

He shot 13 field goals in the first quarter; the rest of the Lakers shot 15.

He had 24 shots at halftime; the rest of the Lakers shot 32.

At intermission, he was on pace to set a new career-high for field-goal attempts in a game, besting the 47 he shot in November 2002 against Boston.

But for as much as he shot, and for as much as he scored, the Lakers kept falling further and further behind, eventually by as much as 38.

"We look up there, and we see that we're winning by 30, 40 points, that 44 is really irrelevant," Warriors backup center Marreese Speights said.

All the while, the Lakers looked far less like a team and more like one player.

In their locker room after, frustration boiled over more than at any point this season -- and it was quite clear which direction most of it was aimed.

Said Carlos Boozer: "A lot of times we run a set, but Kobe is extremely aggressive. And then we try to hit the glass, get it off the glass. We've got to find a balance. It can't be lopsided. We've got to find a balance."

Said Jeremy Lin: "The game of basketball is ... we've got to do it together. It can't be ... if I go into a game concerned about myself, then in some ways that's detrimental to the team."

Lin later added, "There's so many things wrong right now. At the top of the list, I would say communication, trust and effort."

Bryant defended his volume shooting, using metaphors about crime.

"Obviously I'd rather get guys involved early, but if a purse gets stolen in front of you, how many blocks are you going to let the guy run?" he asked.

"You going to chase him down and keep him in sight yourself or just wait for the authorities to get there, or decide to let him run and wait for the authorities to get there? It's a tough thing."

The Lakers' backcourt scored 44 points -- that's 44 for Bryant and zero for Lin, who went 0-for-2 from the field in 23 minutes.

"I'd always rather get guys involved and play," Bryant said. "That's always the intent at the start of the ball game. But [when] you're 10, 12 points in the hole, I've got to try to keep us in the ball game at some point. But it's tough. It's tough.

"This responsibility, it's on me. When things go good, it's us. When things go bad, it's me."

He has new teammates who are learning a new system, so it's easy for Bryant to feel like it's all on him to do all the scoring. It has certainly seemed that way since the season began.

"I'd rather not have to do that," Bryant said, "but you can't just sit back and watch crime happen in front of you."

Scott described the Lakers' Bryant-heavy offense as a "double-edged sword."

"We've got to find that happy medium," he added.

Practically speaking, can a team function when one player is taking so many shots?

"We can function," Scott said. "I don't know how well we'll function. Like I said, it's a happy medium between that and we've just got to find a happy medium."

On Time Warner Cable's postgame show, former Lakers Robert Horry and James Worthy, both analysts, questioned Bryant's shooting.

"I listen to, really, what Jeremy Lin says," Worthy said. "I know Kobe is frustrated, and I know Kobe is going to do what he has to do in his own mind -- as he said, keep the team involved.

"But when I hear 'lack of communication and trust' from Jeremy Lin, that makes me wonder if everyone is in sync. It doesn't seem to be because the defense is not showing us that they're connected."

Horry agreed.

"Right now, there is no flow with this team," Horry said. "It's Kobe this, Kobe that, and you can see the frustration in the other guys. Jeremy Lin stated it. Boozer stated it in the interviews that there's some lack of trust going on and they want to be more involved in the team effort to win ballgames."

The team has looked good in spots, coming close to winning some games.

"There have been times," Horry said. "And if you go back and look at those times, you look at the shots taken -- the ball was shared. And then you look at when they're frustrated, and there's one individual with more shots than the others."

It's only mid-November, but everything is happening at an historic rate, and not in a good way for these Lakers. And at some point, perhaps soon, that's all these Lakers may have to play for -- not being on the wrong side of history, in the worst section of the record books.