2011-12 Games Lost to Injuries
- Steve Blake (13): costochaondral fracture (ribs)
- Kobe Bryant (7): tenosynovitis, left shin
- Josh McRoberts (6): sprained left big toe/left thumb
- Darius Morris (2): bruised left wrist
- Matt Barnes (1): sprained right ankle
- Andrew Bynum (1): sprained left ankle
Starters Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher/Ramon Sessions missed no action in the campaign, far fewer than L.A. lost in the previous season (142). Bynum’s missing one game – and not because of his knees – was the best (lack of) news on L.A.’s injury front.
“While the shortened season was a lot harder on the body and not having time to recover, it also kind of keeps you in rhythm,” Bynum summarized. He heads into the summer healthy, with plans to go to Germany to explore the same treatment Bryant underwent last offseason. Bynum had missed 25 games in the previous season.
2010-11 Games Lost to Injuries
- Theo Ratliff (64) – left knee surgery
- Barnes (28) – torn lateral meniscus, right knee
- Bynum (25) – right knee surgery (24), bone bruise in right knee (1)
- Devin Ebanks (20) – stress fracture, left tibia
- Luke Walton (5) – strained right hamstring
And while the 142 games missed is significant, neither Ratliff, Ebanks nor Walton were regular rotation players, so the Bynum and Barnes injuries were of greater consequence. Meanwhile, starters Fisher, Bryant, Ron Artest (pre name change) and Gasol each played all 82.
A terrific Lakers training staff played a critical role in keeping the players healthy, with a few changes being made to head athletic trainer Gary Vitti’s team between the past two seasons. Joining the team full time were physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto and strength/conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, both of whom Vitti described in detail in “The Trainer’s Take.”
Also proving fruitful for the Lakers was Vitti’s relationship with new coach Mike Brown. That trainer-coach partnership is one of the most significant within an NBA franchise, one that requires constant communication to ensure that players spend more time on the court than they do in the training room.
Vitti has been running the show in Los Angeles since “Amadeus” won Best Picture and the Soviet Union announced it would boycott the summer Olympics in L.A., and after years with both Pat Riley, myriad coaches in the 1990′s and 12 seasons with Phil Jackson, Brown entered the mix.
Here’s how Vitti described what it was like working with Brown:
Mike and I hit it off right off the bat. I can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t get along with Mike, so I don’t think it was something special I did. He’s a special guy, an open guy, and if you sound like you know what you’re talking about, he will listen to you. You’d have to ask Mike, but I think from his standpoint, the success of the franchise as a whole gave those of us that have been here a level of credibility. I think that helped. But he’s a great guy, a visionary in many ways, and he and I talked a lot about numerous things. He has an open door policy, which is important because he works a lot. He is often bunkered in with his assistant coaches in what I refer to as summit meetings, like for world peace or something – not Metta – but when I’d come to see him he stopped everything, and was very attentive. He never gave me the feeling I was bugging him. That trust level really worked out, and while as a team we didn’t get where we wanted to go, it wasn’t because players were on the sideline injured.
Vitti and his staff will keep in constant touch with the players during the summer, discussing offseason training plans leading into everyone’s return in September, when they’ll collectively knock on wood for a coming season as relatively healthy as the one just completed.