ATLANTA — When Jodie Meeks signed with the Los Angeles Lakers before last season, it looked like the former Norcross standout was headed to a long playoff run, if not an NBA championship.
It didn’t happen, though.
Dwight Howard didn’t mesh with the team, Kobe Bryant got hurt in the playoffs and the Lakers were a dysfunctional disaster.
With Bryant coming back from a serious injury, the expectations were much lower this season. The Lakers, however, aren’t even meeting them.
With the 114-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks thanks to a second-half meltdown on Monday at Philips Arena, Los Angeles fell to 11-13 with their fourth loss in five games since Bryant returned from his torn Achilles tendon.
It was yet another low point for the Lakers and hardly the homecoming that Meeks would have liked.
For the second game in a row, the starting guard scored just two points and it came on a second-quarter follow after a missed dunk.
“Now that Kobe is back we’ve kind of got to adapt to the offense, which is fine,” Meeks said. “But it’s taking some time.”
By the time Bryant returned, the Lakers were missing point guards Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar.
Meeks has been one of the few Lakers guards healthy all season and, for the most part, the former Kentucky scoring sensation has played well.
For a while, Meeks was leading the Lakers in scoring and he was averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting 43 percent from 3-point range despite going 1-for-8 overall from the floor against the Hawks.
“I’m getting more of an opportunity to score and play a lot of minutes,” said the 26-year-old, who made his 17th start in 24 games when he faced the Hawks. “I’ve always been a scorer, and now I’ve got an opportunity to do it.”
Meeks was drafted by Milwaukee in 2009 and traded from the Bucks to Philadelphia during his rookie season, joining fellow Gwinnett County product Lou Williams.
Both left the 76ers as free agents after the 2011-12 season, with Williams returning home to play for the Hawks and Meeks heading to the West Coast.
It didn’t work out as well as either had hoped, with Williams tearing his ACL in January and the Lakers going through a tumultuous season.
“Last year was kind of tough, but this year is more relaxed,” Meeks said.
Right now, though, almost as disappointing.
“We definitely need to get our point guards back, but we don’t really make excuses,” Meeks said. “We have to work with what we have.”
Bryant is definitely feeling his way back, as shown by his 4-for-14 shooting and eight points against the Hawks. He had six assists as the temporary point guard, but also five turnovers.
“He’s trying to feel his way into the offense,” Meeks said.
Meeks, meanwhile, has seen his scoring averaging jump about five points to a career best as he gets more and more familiar with coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
“I’ve had a year in his system, so I kind of know where my shots are going to come from … and he’s instilled a lot of confidence in me,” Meeks said. “He’s told me not to worry about mistakes.”
Although the game against the Hawks was disappointing for both the Lakers and Meeks, at least the extra day at home was appreciated. The Lakers played at Charlotte on Saturday and spent Sunday in Atlanta.
Did Meeks get to sleep in his own bed?
“No, but I went home and saw my family,” he said.
Unlike when he played for Philadelphia, he now has just one game in Atlanta each season.
Meeks said he might get back to see his family once prior to the All-Star break, “but it’s a long flight.”