Before tonight’s game against the Blazers, Coach Jackson said that the team was still unsure when injured forward Vladimir Radmanovic would return from injury. “Given his history, he hasn’t returned quickly from injuries,” said Jackson. “But, we hope that he’s back within five games.”
Jackson spoke at length about the heated race taking place in the Western Conference as teams enter the final quarter of the season. “Out of these teams, it’s probably going to be an injury that is the deciding factor for who will make the playoffs,” Jackson said. One major injury that could shake up the standings has already occurred with today’s announcement that Houston Rockets center Yau Ming will miss the rest of the season to a broken foot.
With twenty-five games remaining in the season after tonight, Jackson said that there are several viable recipients for the MVP award, noting that the Lakers’ own Kobe Bryant is one of the strongest candidates. “I think LeBron is another candidate. Kevin Garnett is obviously another candidate,” said Jackson. “Definitely, Kobe is having an MVP season. “The real value of a super player is that he makes other players better,” said Jackson, in regards to Bryant’s improved team play this season.
Jackson also addressed the increased role that Luke Walton will have to play in wake of Radmanovic’s injury. The Lakers coach said that despite Luke’s likely increase in playing time, there was no guarantee that it would continue after Vlade and Ariza return. According to Jackson, Walton is not a player that can be expected to contribute 30 plus minutes on the court due to his injury history.