| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES As if a sixth defeat on the bounce was not bad enough, the injury-hit Los Angeles Lakers faced further gloom on Friday with the news that back-up forward Jordan Hill will likely miss the rest of the season.
Hill, the most impressive bench player for the Lakers in a surprisingly below-par campaign, sat out the 116-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with a left hip injury.
The six-foot 10-inch forward, who is averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, had an arthrogram test earlier on Friday which revealed loose fragments along with a possible labral tear.
He has been advised to have season-ending surgery, although is expected to seek a second opinion before scheduling surgery.
Hill's absence further depletes a Lakers line-up already missing their top two big men -- Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Center Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year, is out indefinitely after aggravating a right shoulder injury while Spanish forward Gasol is sidelined with concussion.
Their absence comes as the Lakers desperately try to climb out of a 15-21 hole, having started the season with heightened NBA title hopes after acquiring All-Stars Howard and Steve Nash during the off-season.
"We just have to have guys step up and play well," Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant told reporters after scoring 28 points in a losing effort against Oklahoma.
"You just have to step in and contribute. I'm more disappointed for Jordan. He's really worked hard. He played well for us last year, and he's been playing well for us this year."
Asked if the Lakers could reignite their fading playoff hopes after falling to 10-9 on their home court, Bryant replied: "Yes, I absolutely do. I'm just very frustrated and upset about what we're going through right now and how we are playing.
"We're going to have to make some big adjustments if we want to be successful. But yes, I do."
While the return of veteran point guard Nash from a leg fracture for the last 10 games certainly gave the team a much needed lift, the Lakers' ageing line-up has not been helped by a spate of injuries this season and three different head coaches.
Five-time NBA champion Bryant has been their only consistent player and Los Angeles have gone 10-16 since head coach Mike D'Antoni took over from interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
"It has got to turn around," 'D'Antoni said of his team's poor season. "We have to make a stand and do it.
"I am an optimist and I think it can happen. We are going to get some guys back but we can play well enough."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Alastair Himmer)