It’s not often that a team loses not just its first, but also second string point guard at the same time.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, that’s been the case since backup Steve Blake aggravated a strained abdominal injury on Nov. 11 against Sacramento that he said he originally injured against Detroit on Nov. 4, one that will keep him out for at least two more weeks, per a team press release:
Lakers guard Steve Blake was examined today by Dr. Steven Yoon and had an MRI exam. The exam confirmed that Blake still has an abdominal strain. As a result, he will be out at least another two weeks. Blake was originally diagnosed with the abdominal strain on November 12 and has missed the last eight games with the injury.
Blake’s injury came on top of the loss of starter Steve Nash, who suffered a non-displaced fracture to his lower left leg on Halloween night at Portland. Team spokesman John Black said that Nash would be out at least for the team’s games against Denver (Friday) and Orlando (Sunday).
Nash has already be sidelined for L.A.’s last 13 games, and Blake eight. It’s the most games Nash has missed since the 1999-2000 season, when he played in 56 of 82. While Nash and Blake recover, 2011 second round pick Darius Morris getting the starts and Chris Duhon – who came over from Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade – are getting the backup to the backup minutes.
The Lakers have played .500 basketball since (4-4) with Morris and Duhon playing well in certain aspects and struggling in others. They deserve some credit for holding down the fort, the youngster using his bigger body to play solid defense and finish through traffic at the rim, and the veteran hitting 39 percent of his three-pointers. Morris is averaging 6.4 poings, 2.4 assists and 1.77 turnovers in 23 minutes per game, and Duhon 2.8, 2.3 and 0.55 in his 16.9 minutes.
But Morris doesn’t have the play making experience at the NBA level to really get the Lakers rolling in an offense most of the team is still learning, leaving much of that responsibility to Kobe Bryant. That takes its toll on Bryant, who’s been brilliant at times (see: at Dallas) doing so but focused on his primary strength in others (see: vs. Indiana).
All the while, Nash and Blake are watching in street clothes.
Nash is the guy who has literally run coach Mike D’Antoni’s system better than anybody in the world, and a guy whose teams have really struggled to win when he’s been out. In fact: Nash missed only four games last season, Phoenix going 1-3; in 2010-11, Phoenix went 1-6 without him. D’Antoni recalled that, when he was in Phoenix, “we never won without him.”
Indeed, D’Antoni hasn’t tried to hide the fact that he absolutely thinks things will change with his former Suns captain taking the court. After a loss at the buzzer to Indiana, D’Antoni said he’s “banking on it,” referencing both Nash and Blake. He’s a bigger fan of Blake’s than you might have known.
“I’ve been trying to get him for 10 years,” said D’Antoni at his introductory press conference. “We always tried to get him I think he’s perfect for our system.”
The Lakers can’t complain too much, not with Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on the floor. But if you believe D’Antoni, there’s no question that it’s going to be a different looking team when Nash and Blake return, especially on the offensive end.