Kobe Bryant called Thursday night's his best game of the preseason. The other members of the Los Angeles Lakers, however, could not make the same claim.
"I told them I'm going to find seven or eight guys," Lakers coach Byron Scott started his post-game press conference on Thursday night. He sounded as upset as he has since taking the post.
"That's all I need to play the way we need to play, play hard every single night and compete," Scott relayed his expectations for his team.
Veteran point guard Ronnie Price, who started on Thursday night, understood the concern and did not take the tone lightly.
"Everyone should be upset," Price spoke at his locker. "Everyone should be a little bit frustrated. I understand (that) it's preseason. I understand that we do have injuries. I get it. But if we played a little harder and a little bit smarter by sticking to our principles, I don't think coach would be upset."
One of the most serious personalities in the Lakers' locker room, Price did not have one of his best games against his former team, the Utah Jazz. The final scoreboard read 119-86 with Price and the Lakers on the losing side, and Price finished with more turnovers, five, than assists, two.
Still, he wasn't making excuses.
"If we got beat and we were doing everything we were supposed to be doing with a sense of urgency, I don't think he would be upset," Price questioned his teammates. "I think he would be happy with our effort, and we would live with the consequences."
Trailing by as many as 36 points and losing by 33 points did not reflect a team that was taking the floor with urgency.
"It's tough to really assess and evaluate anything until we get the guys out on the floor and have the regular season rotation a little bit," Bryant said after the game.
Bryant poured in 27 points to go along with four assists and five rebounds in a performance he considered his best of the preseason. However, the Lakers' guard hoisted 23 shot attempts in 28 minutes, and that quick trigger had a great deal to do with the lack of available talent on the court.
Jeremy Lin, Nick Young, Jordan Clarkson, Ryan Kelly and Xavier Henry were all unavailable Thursday. Steve Nash attempted to go through his warm ups but ultimately thought better of it and sat out.
"I'm very concerned," Bryant said about Nash's inability to get healthy. "It just seems like he can't get going on a consistent basis. I know how frustrating that is."
Carlos Boozer, another veteran voice, said the injuries were a "huge" factor in the Lakers' three blowout losses in a row.
"You got to have all that talent out there, but if I had to pick a choice, I'd rather have our talent in the regular season," Boozer attempted to keep perspective.
Although the schedule may still read preseason, November is fast approaching, and the Lakers are running out of time to get bodies healthy. The Lakers' hope is to get Clarkson and Lin back on Sunday with Kelly and Henry not too far away either. The question mark over Nash's head, however, is more prominent than ever.
Even with all that, the Lakers' effort needs to greatly improve if this team wants any hope of competing for a playoff spot in the cutthroat Western Conference. If the lack of effort persists, however, even Bryant can't save the Lakers.
Quote of the Night:
"I've known for a long time that they're a bunch of idiots...honestly, all jokes aside, it really doesn't bother me too much. I'm going to do what I do regardless. God willing, I can stay healthy, and if I wind up proving a lot of people wrong in the process that will just wind up being collateral damage."
-Kobe Bryant on being ranked as the 40th best player in the NBA by ESPN