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Kings-Lakers Preview

AP - Sports

While rumors continue to swirl about the possible return of Phil Jackson to the bench, the Los Angeles Lakers are keeping their focus on trying to move past their slow start.

The Lakers will attempt to move one step closer to the .500 mark when they welcome the short-handed Sacramento Kings to Staples Center on Sunday night.

With the additions of superstars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, expectations were sky high for Los Angeles to contend for another NBA title, but a 1-4 start cost coach Mike Brown his job. The Lakers made the move only several hours before facing Golden State on Friday but produced an inspired 101-77 rout with interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff guiding the team.

"It was sad to see Mike go, but we just got to keep moving forward. We have to stay together," Howard said. "It's early in the season, and we're still trying to learn each other's game.

"Expectations are very high for this team. Management did what it had to do. It's on us to try to get better every day and continue to play hard and string some wins together."

Bickerstaff's tenure could be short as Jackson, who won five of his 11 NBA titles with the Lakers, spoke with the team about returning for a third stint Saturday. He claimed two of those championships in 2009 and 2010 before stepping down the next season.

''Knowing him the way I do, I think it's really just a matter of health, if he feels physically up to doing it,'' Kobe Bryant said Friday night. ''He's a perfectionist. We all know he's a perfectionist. If he feels like he can come in here and give what he demands from himself, then I think he would be interested.''

Bickerstaff, though, is expected to lead the Lakers (2-4) as they seek their first win streak of the season in Sunday's game against the Kings (2-4), who opened the season with three consecutive road losses.

Sacramento bounced back with two victories to open a homestand but couldn't finish that off with another win Friday as it shot a season-low 35.2 percent in a 97-86 loss to San Antonio.

"I think we have to focus more on just seeing the ball go through the net and stop rushing things," said guard Marcus Thornton, who tied Jason Thompson for the scoring lead with 17 points. "I know I'm rushing a lot of shots. We have to hold ourselves accountable on the offensive end and make it happen."

The NBA on Sunday made Kings center DeMarcus Cousins accountable for confronting San Antonio announcer Sean Elliott in a hostile manner after Friday's loss. Cousins will miss the contest against the Lakers along with Sacramento's home game Tuesday against Portland.

Top draft pick Thomas Robinson, meanwhile, will complete his two-game ban for elbowing Detroit's Jonas Jerebko during a 105-103 victory Wednesday.

The Kings have made enough happen to win three of the past five matchups with the Lakers after losing eight in a row and they've scored 100 or more points in all five of those games.

Thornton has appeared in three of those games and averaged 25.0 points on 56.0 percent shooting.

Bryant has scored 38 points in each of his last two home games against Sacramento and has averaged 33.3 in his past nine overall matchups. The Lakers have won seven of the past eight meetings at Staples Center, taking last season's only matchup there 115-107 on March 2.

They'll have to try to earn another win without Nash, who is expected to miss another week due to a small fracture in his leg.

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