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Injury Update: Gasol, Hill and Howard

The Lakers went through a tough Texas two-step without their top three big men, as Dwight Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) could only watch losses to Houston and San Antonio.

When will they respectively return?

Gasol saw Dr. Vern Williams on Thursday, and while the Spaniard showed improvement, he is still not cleared to play basketball. Gasol will be examined once again on Friday morning, in advance of the team’s Friday evening home game against Oklahoma City.

Howard told reporters before Tuesday’s game in Houston that he’s hoping to return soon, and will not need surgery, for his shoulder injury. However, the team does not want him to rush back and risk further injury.

“(The doctor) doesn’t want me to continue to aggravate it every night, because that could cause problems later on in the season,” Howard said. “Or it could come to the point where somebody fouled me hard enough and it could (further injure the shoulder), so (we don’t) want that to happen.”

Howard will be re-evaluated next week, but he’s definitely out for Friday’s game against the Thunder.

Jordan Hill will also be re-evaluated early next week after an MRI earlier this week revealed a small tear to the labrum of his left hip. He’ll be treated conservatively, according to the team.

In the meantime, we’ll see more Robert Sacre and Earl Clark, who both offered bright spots on the two-game trip in relief duty. Clark, with his career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds, may have just played his way into the rotation even when all three bigs return.

Injury Update: Jordan Hill

After being examined by team physician Dr. Lombardo and undergoing an MRI, the Lakers learned on Monday evening that Jordan Hill has a small tear of the labrum in his left hip.

Hill will be treated conservatively, and re-evaluated in one week.

L.A.’s first big man off the bench of late had been very effective, averaging 10.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in about 18 minutes per contest in L.A.’s last five games.

Quote Round Up: Saturday Practice

Here’s a transcription of interviews from Jordan Hill*, Dwight Howard, Mike Brown and Steve Nash from Saturday’s Lakers practice. The team faces the Sacramento Kings at STAPLES Center tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.

*Click on each name to watch the video.

JORDAN HILL
Q: On what he did in practice today:
Hill: I did everything – a full practice, stretched and did everything the team did. We’re still trying to watch out for the back, get my core stronger and see how it goes.

Q: On how the back feels:
Hill: It’s gotten lot better. Still trying to watch out for it, but it feels good right now. (I’ll) see what the trainer thinks, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll go from there.

Q: On if he’ll be ready for the opener:
Hill: There’s a possibility. Like I said, it’s up to the trainers – whatever they feel, however they think – but just got to keep working.

DWIGHT HOWARD
Q: On the team’s fourth preseason game:
Dwight: Everybody looked good in that last game and everybody played hard. It almost felt like a playoff game – the atmosphere was crazy in Vegas. Devin Ebanks came in and he had an excellent game. Pau (Gasol) did a great job all around. The game was pretty good. Our defense picked up, our offense picked up and I’m looking forward to the next couple games.

Q: On his excitement level to be playing soon:
Dwight: I’m very excited. I think everybody is excited just to see me play, which is a great honor. I just want to make sure I’m able to sustain everything that I do so I don’t have to play one game, sit out the next 20 (games) or something like that. I want to make sure that I’m being consistent with this team.

MIKE BROWN
Q: On Steve Blake’s play in the fourth quarter last night:
Brown: Steve Blake did some nice things; he did some nice things for us yesterday. I’m looking for a guy that’s going to keep us organized out there offensively that, at times, can put some pressure on the ball full court, make them work bringing the ball up the floor and be different than what the starters are bringing to the table. The biggest thing is I’m hoping to have a backup that doesn’t turn the ball over.

Q: On what Devin Ebanks needs to do to get more playing time:
Brown: He’s got to defend and defend consistently on a high level. Offensively, he’s got to be quick but not be in a hurry. Sometimes, you have a player a little out of sorts and you can start dribbling all over the place. When that happens, it gets everybody out of sync or out of rhythm. When you’re out of rhythm or our of sync like that, it can have a ripple down effect and affect the entire second unit for a few trips down the floor. So he has to stay composed offensively and play within the system and figure out how he’s going to get his looks within the system.

STEVE NASH
Q: On what Dwight will bring to the team:
Nash: Dwight is going to bring a lot to our team. He’s going to make the game a lot easier for all of us. Hopefully I can make the game easier for him, but he’s definitely going to make the game a lot easier for me. He’s going to draw a lot of attention; his roll to the basket gives me a great target, but he also is going to draw a lot of attention and open up a lot of teammates for open shots.

Q: On how he feels about playing with Dwight soon in a game situation:
Nash: I’m happy that we can get to another stage of development for our team. We’re learning the offense without Dwight and now we get to learn with him in a game situation. It’s just breaking down these barriers that’s important for us.

Injury Update: Jordan Hill

Lakers backup power forward Jordan Hill, who was diagnosed with a herniated disc on Monday, sat out of Tuesday’s practice. A timetable for his return is uncertain.

“It’s not too bad, but definitely unfortunate that it happened,” he said. “Just got to take it one day (at a time), rehab it and get better.”

Hill said he is not sure exactly when he first suffered the injury, though he still managed to finish L.A.’s opening preseason game at Fresno on Sunday with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes of first half action.

Nonetheless, the Arizona product maintains his injury is not too serious.

“It wasn’t really that much pain, but it was just the feeling I had never had before, so I just wanted to check it and make sure to see if it was OK,” he said. “The MRI showed something was wrong with it, but not too serious.”

Despite no estimated timetable on his return, Lakers coach Mike Brown remains optimistic that the team will be fine without Hill.

“We can slide Antawn  (Jamison) to the four, obviously Pau (Gasol) will start at the four and Earl Clark can play the four, too, so we have plenty of bodies we can play there.”

Jordan Hill: 2012 Exit Interview

Jordan Hill, acquired at the trade deadline from Houston in the Derek Fisher deal, played in only seven regular season games for the Lakers while battling a sprained knee, but came on so strong against Oklahoma City in the second-to-last contest that he earned a spot as the third big in Mike Brown’s rotation behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

In the playoffs, Hill averaged 4.8 points and 6.3 rebounds (third on the team) in 18.1 minutes per game.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

On what Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown had to say about the free-agent-to-be big man: “My productivity and how I changed the game when I’m in the game. Good things. They just want me to continue to do what I’m doing … obviously I’m a free agent right now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just have to keep working.”

On if he’d like to come back? “Yeah, I mean it’s one of if not the best organizations in the league and I had a great time in the short time I was here. The staff, the players, everybody … I enjoyed it.” Hill said the Lakers were definitely a good fit for him, but implied that what he’s especially good at – like rebounding – can be used on any team.

- When asked about Mike Brown, Hill said it was clear that the coach “Just wanted to win.” He also recalled the time that Brown called him at 2 a.m. after the team was blown out in San Antonio on April 20: “I was definitely surprised. We talked a little bit, and he said we need more rebounding and energy, and I just stayed ready. The next game against Oklahoma City I just did what I had to do, and kept going with it.” Hill grabbed 15 rebounds with his 14 points in that double OT Lakers victory, delivering what Brown asked for and more.

- On playing with Bynum and Gasol: “They’re definitely hard workers, man. Like me they want to win and get better. Definitely two great All-Stars, it was a blast playing along with them. That’s why I definitely didn’t try to concentrate on scoring, because that’s what they do, so I tried to get an offensive rebound and pass out so they’d get a chance to score. I love offensive rebounding, that’s one way to get my points. But I just want to do things to help my team win, work hard on the floor and hopefully get a championship one day.”

On playing with Kobe: “I never thought that would happen to me, playing alongside one of the greatest. People would think he’d be a different guy because of who he is, but Kobe’s just like one of us. Have fun, smile, laugh, jokes – it was crazy seeing all that. But when it’s time for the game, that’s what he’s about.”

- Hill let out a deep sigh when thinking about all the struggles he’s been through in his life, overcoming the odds by making NBA roster. “I just have to keep my head up high.” Hill’s done a lot of moving, has had to learn a lot of systems, but he understand that things happen in the business. He wants to “find a home.”

Jordan Hill Statement


Lakers forward Jordan Hill issued a statement through the team’s staff on Monday afternoon:

“I’m saddened to learn of the accusations that were filed against me today. At this time I cannot comment further other than to say that my attorneys are working to gather all the facts and evidence and I plan to cooperate completely with the authorities.

“I’d like to apologize to the Lakers organization and to all of their fans for the untimeliness of these accusations. I promise to keep my focus and attention on the playoffs during this time and to helping my team with another championship.”

Injury Update: Jordan Hill

Recently acquired backup power forward/center Jordan Hill is currently dealing with a sprained knee, and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Hill has played a total of three minutes in brief appearances at both Houston and Dallas, totaling two points and three rebounds, and is currently working to rehabilitate the knee with the team’s training staff.

Trade Deadline Day Wrap Up

A flurry of activity on trade deadline day in the NBA brought a new look to the Lakers heading into the final 23 games of the season, with the acquisition of point guard Ramon Sessions from Cleveland and departure of Derek Fisher to Houston headlining two moves directed by general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Joining Sessions from the Cavs is forward Christian Eyenga, in exchange for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, a protected 2012 first round draft pick and other considerations. To get Fisher and the 2012 first pick L.A. received from Dallas in the Lamar Odom trade, the Rockets sent big man Jordan Hill to Los Angeles.

Financial considerations were certainly kept in mind, as Kupchak explained, given the increasing luxury tax penalties negotiated into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the GM was very pleased to keep the team’s three stars – Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – in tact while still addressing a primary need.

Sessions and Hill will take physicals on Friday morning, and are expected to be available to Mike Brown should he choose to use either against the Timberwolves on Friday night.

Sessions excelled as the backup to the leading Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving, averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists in just 24.5 minutes per game this season. The Nevada product was even more productive in four starts, averaging 17.8 points and 11.0 assists, and has career averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 89 starts.

“We think Ramon (will) make a more immediate impact (than Eyenga or Hill),” said Kupchak. “Despite Derek’s presence, we felt we needed more speed and quickness in the backcourt. There’s nobody we’d trust with an open shot (more) than Derek Fisher, but we felt from a defensive point of view and giving us some speed and quickness (the move fit).”

The 6-3 guard spent his first three seasons in Milwaukee and Minnesota before being traded to the Cavs prior to the 2010-11 season. A second round pick, Sessions didn’t appear in a game for Milwaukee in the first five months of his rookie year, but immediately showed his value while averaging 11.5 points and 11.3 assists in April of 2008, including a 20-point, 24-assist effort against Chicago.

Sessions gives the Lakers something they did not have on the roster, much coveted by Kupchak and executive VP, player personnel Jim Buss: a slashing point guard adept at penetrating and creating offense either for himself or for teammates. Sessions has also improved his three-point shooting markedly this season, hitting 41.9 percent from behind the arc to bump his career average up to 29.3 percent.

Kupchak thinks that the moves put the Lakers in a better position to make a run at another championship despite losing Fisher’s leadership and experience.

“If we can get over the emotional toll, which I believe we will, we have the potential to be a better team,” he said.

Since Sessions is a bigger point guard, Kupchak acknowledged that he can also be used at the two-guard spot if Mike Brown would like, as both he and Steve Blake can defend most NBA shooting guards. It will be up to Brown to decide who starts, though it’s presumed that Blake will do so on Friday.

Hill, a 6-10 forward/center in his third year out of Arizona, was originally selected by New York with the eighth overall pick in 2009. Acquired by Houston as part of a three-team, nine-player trade midway through his rookie season, Hill has averaged 5.4 points and 4.2 boards in 151 career NBA games (18 starts) in 14.7 minutes. He averaged 18.3 points and 11.0 boards in three college seasons, and in games this year in which he’s played at least 15 minutes, he’s produced 7.9 points and 7.5 boards.

Eyenga was nabbed with the 30th pick by Cleveland in the 2009 Draft, and has played in six games this season with an average of 13.8 minutes per contest towards 1.5 points and 2.0 rebounds. The 6-7 forward played in 44 games as a rookie with the Cavaliers, averaging 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 21.5 minutes.

While the Lakers are excited about what Sessions in particular might add, the organization expressed how much it will miss Fisher, the team’s emotional leader that came up huge so many times throughout his 13 seasons wearing Purple and Gold.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Derek for everything he has meant to this organization over the years,” said Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. “Few who have worn the Lakers uniform have done so with as much class as Derek, both on the court and in the community. From his famous 0.4 shot in San Antonio to his clutch performances in the Finals against Orlando and Boston when it mattered most, Derek will always hold a special place not only in my heart, but in the heart of Lakers fans everywhere.”

Kupchak addressed the difficulty of trading Fisher, with whom he hopes to speak on Friday after an attempt on Thursday morning got Fisher’s voicemail, and also took care to thank Walton for his years of service to the Lakers, highlighted by his contributions to the back-to-back championships and consistently positive presence in the locker room.

Kupchak said it’s up to the remaining players and Brown to fill the leadership position Fisher so adeptly held. He added that giving up the two draft picks was less of a concern since such a player was unlikely to be better than Sessions.

DRAFT PICK DETAILS

The pick L.A. sent to Cleveland is lottery protected for the 2012 draft; in other words, if the Lakers miss the playoffs this season, they’d keep their pick in 2012, and Cleveland would get L.A.’s 2014 pick. Furthermore, the Lakers agreed to swap a lottery protected first round pick in 2013 with Cleveland for either the Cavs’ pick, Miami’s 2013 pick or Sacramento’s 2013 pick, all owned by the Cavs, at Cleveland’s discretion. In short, if L.A.’s pick is better (lower) than that of any of those three teams, the Cavs can swap with the Lakers.

The first rounder the Lakers sent to Houston came from Dallas in the preseason Lamar Odom trade, and is protected through 20 picks for six years.