The Los Angeles Lakers have had to adjust to huge changes since the end of last season. Now they’ve got yet another one to overcome.
A day after the resignation of coach Rudy Tomjanovich, the Lakers will take on the league-best San Antonio Spurs under interim coach Frank Hamblen.
As expected, Tomjanovich stepped aside Wednesday because of health problems, his tenure as coach of the Lakers lasting barely half a season.
“I think this is the best decision for me and the Lakers,” Tomjanovich said. “A month ago, I became conscious of not feeling good. As the time went by, I started to feel my resistance going down. I went from this energetic, pumped-up guy to all of a sudden being sapped of a lot of energy.”
Tomjanovich, who led the Houston Rockets to NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, returned to coaching after recovering from bladder cancer. He also at one time had a bout with alcoholism and received a life-threatening punch from Kermit Washington as a player in 1977.
He said he began wearing down mentally and physically about a month ago.
“It just seems like I got deeper into not feeling good,” Tomjanovich said. “Why this happened now and why my body couldn’t take it, I do not have the answer.”
Tomjanovich, 56, said he’ll never coach again.
After cutting ties with coach Phil Jackson and trading Shaquille O’Neal during the off-season, the Lakers haven’t been close to the elite team they were the previous eight years, when O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led the way.
Injuries have played a big role in the Lakers’ demise. Bryant has missed the last nine games after spraining his right ankle on Jan. 13. Offseason acquisition Vlade Divac has missed 35 games with a bad back, and small forward Devean George has missed the entire season following ankle surgery.
The spotlight is now on former assistant Hamblen, who led the Lakers to a win over Charlotte on Sunday and a win over Portland on Tuesday while Tomjanovich missed time because of a stomach virus and a sinus infection.
General manager Mitch Kupchak said Hamblen would stay on indefinitely as interim coach.
Addressing reports that Jackson might consider returning as coach, Kupchak said he hadn’t spoken to Jackson in months.
Looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season, the Lakers are coming off a 92-72 win over the Trail Blazers.
The Spurs, meanwhile, have won three straight, including Monday’s 103-84 victory over first-place Seattle.
Tony Parker had 17 points and a season-high 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who have the NBA’s best record at 37-10.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 1): Spurs - 1st place (tied), Southwest Division. Lakers - 3rd place, 10 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Spurs - Duncan, 21.4 ppg and 11.9 rpg; Parker, 6.1 apg. Lakers - Bryant, 27.5 ppg and 6.6 apg; Odom, 10.1 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Spurs, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 4; Spurs, 100-83. At San Antonio, Bowen scored a career-high 24 points and helped limit Bryant to 17. San Antonio matched a franchise record by making 15 3-pointers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Spurs - 14-9 on the road; Lakers - 17-9 at home.