Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill all will miss the Los Angeles Lakers’ upcoming trip with injuries, leaving the struggling club without its top 3 big men indefinitely.
Howard has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Gasol has a concussion after taking an elbow in the face late in Sun. night’s loss to Denver Nuggets. Hill, a key backup to both starting big men, has a right hip injury.
The 3 injuries are the latest blows for the Lakers (15-18), who still haven’t meshed despite a star-rich roster, a bulging payroll and an early-season coaching change. Los Angeles has lost 3 straight and 4 of 5 since thrashing the Knicks on Christmas, falling to 11th place in the Western Conference.
”The NBA is unforgiving, and nobody is feeling sorry for us,” L.A coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”There’s 29 other teams that are happy, and we’ve got to do the best we can do. It is a bit weird coming to work thinking you have 3 centers, and all 3 of them are hurt on the same day.”
The Lakers’ biggest concern is Howard, who hurt his shoulder in last Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and aggravated it in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets while grabbing a career high-tying 26 rebounds. The six-time All-Star center asserted he won’t need surgery, but he’ll sit out for at least a week before his injury is re- evaluated.
”It is dependent upon how fast I heal up,” said Howard, who had a bulky wrap on his shoulder at the Lakers’ training complex. ”I was in pain (Sunday night), and the biggest thing at this time is I have to make sure I’m 100%. I don’t want to play with my shoulder weak. I’d have a chance for more injuries. I’ve got to let it heal up.”
After canceling practice Monday, the Lakers announced Gasol and Howard are both out indefinitely. Hill will be examined by team doctors later Monday before getting a diagnosis.
When the Lakers open a stretch of 4 games in 6 days starting Tuesday in Houston, rookie Robert Sacre is likely to be their starting center. The final pick in last June’s draft has been playing for the Lakers’ affiliate in the D-League.
D’Antoni will be forced to improvise with his 3 best post players sidelined from an already top-heavy registry. The coach recounted 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace could play center at times as part of the small lineups he is going to be forced to use.
”We’ll go small a lot, and we’ll just have to spread the floor and get things done,” D’Antoni said. ”Some guys are going to have to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We’ll have some little guys guarding big guys, and we’ll have to be quick. We will have to take advantage of other situations.”
He will not have much choice: The 7-foot Sacre and 6-foot-9 Antawn Jamison are his only players taller than World Peace, unless the Lakers sign a temporary big man. Los Angeles cleared a roster spot by waiving rookie Darius Johnson-Odom, 3 days before his contract would have been guaranteed for the season. Betting lines