As if a three-game losing streak and 15-18 record in advance of a tough trip to face Houston and San Antonio back to back weren’t looming enough with a healthy roster, the Lakers learned they’d be without their top three big men at least for the trip to Texas.
Dwight Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) were all declared out for at least those two games, and Howard will certainly be out of Friday and Sunday games against Oklahoma City and Cleveland as well.
“It shouldn’t keep me out for awhile,” said Howard, emphasizing that he does not need surgery. “But (I need to) make sure I’m cautious and make sure I get healthy. That’s the most important thing.”
Gasol will undergo daily concussion testing as put in place by the NBA to determine when he can return, while Hill will be examined by team doctor Steve Lombardo later this afternoon. The three bigs combined for 37 points, 36 rebounds, six blocks and three assists in Sunday’s loss to Denver.
“Obviously, it got a little bit more difficult, but this is an opportunity for guys to step up,” said Mike D’Antoni, opting for optimism. “We have guys on the bench that want to show what they can do, and they’ll have that opportunity.”
Robert Sacre will get the call up from the D-League’s D-Fenders and immediately start at center, while we could see Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark or Devin Ebanks at power forward. Metta World Peace may also see some time at the 4, D’Antoni said, where he started for a few games when Gasol was out with knee tendinitis.
“We’ll go small a lot and we just have to spread the floor and get things going,” D’Antoni explained. “Like I said, some guys are going to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We’ll have little guys guarding big guys and we’ll have to be quick and take advantage of the situation.”
As Kobe Bryant explained, the searching-for-wins Lakers have no time to complain.
“When it rains, it pours,” he acknowledged, a night after he played at least 40 minutes for the 14th time in 15 games. “You just try to get through it … we pull our boots up and get to work. Tighten the belt. You don’t worry about making excuses or complaining. You go out there and do your job.”
Steve Nash agreed, and offered some further perspective regarding the season as a whole, his explanation so thorough that block quotes are necessary:
We’re down, we’re wounded, we’re struggling. In many ways, we should be in the second week of the season considering we got healthy bodies, a new coach, a new offense. I understand why expectations are high. At the same time, if you look at what has actually transpired with the change of coaches, very little practice time, no major learning time as far as training camp, we’ve been trying to pick it up on the fly on both ends of the floor. We’ve struggled and we’ve had injuries. Not to make excuses, but we have to stay realistic. We’re still in a process and we can’t (make excuses) because we’re in a funk, because we’re losing games, having balls bounce the wrong way and we’re having breakdowns. We can’t get down, we can’t quit, we can’t point fingers. We have to keep fighting, stay with and realize if we do that, we have a chance. We have a chance to come back, get in the playoffs and be a really good team.
And so, starting on Tuesday in Houston, Nash and Bryant will try to lead the way … with the help of whomever D’Antoni calls upon in the frontcourt.