Lakers 104, Sixers 94

If there’s one injury we didn’t need a primer on, it’s a severely sprained ankle. Kobe Bryant suffered one in the 2004-05 season and Chris Mihm suffered one last season. Bryant missed a month exactly and Mihm five-plus weeks, although Mihm would later admit that he came back too quickly trying to get ready for the playoffs.

Bryant described the rehab process as being “hell” when he talked about the injury last season. He also was asked where he was when he came back after a month. If you remember that game in Cleveland, Bryant’s ankle was still so bad that he played with the straps on his shoes unfastened.

“I was not even close to 100 percent. Nowhere close,” Bryant said in March. “It almost becomes your life. You just have to rehabilitate it every single day, all day.”

So that’s what Kwame Brown is facing after Sunday’s game. I would guess that he’ll be out between five and eight weeks. The Lakers are going to have to consider adding a big man to the roster, although they’ll have to get in line behind both Houston and New Jersey, who are trying to replace Yao Ming and Nenad Krstic, respectively. The Lakers always can buy out Mihm’s final season if they need to acquire a player.

“Kwame, hes built like a horse,” Luke Walton said. “Hopefully, hell be able to get back quicker than most people. Hes a strong guy, so hopefully hell be able to stay healthy once he gets back.”

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Shammond Williams had played in only five games all season and none since Nov. 19 when Jackson called on him in the second quarter Sunday. The Lakers had come up empty on a couple of possessions with Bryant on the bench and the Sixers playing a zone defense. Jackson brought Walton, Brown and Williams into the game together.

Williams connected on a 3-pointer and the Lakers were able to survive from there until Bryant checked back in. I don’t know if Williams will play more or not with Brown out, but at least he and Aaron McKie will be on the active roster most nights. McKie hasn’t played a minute this season.

* * *

Jackson couldn’t resist taking a swipe at Brown, his favorite punching bag. He revealed in his post-game session with reporters that the Lakers training staff has a medical skeleton and they take turns guessing what body part Brown will hurt next. He has been battling knee and wrist injuries recently and a shoulder injury all season.

“Nobody picked an ankle yesterday or today,” Jackson said.

* * *

Every player scored for the Lakers in Sunday’s game. Brown had six points and eight rebounds in 17:18 before he was injured.

The Lakers are now 14-4 at home and finished 10-6 in December. That’s two games better in December than I expected. They will head into January on a 50-win pace, but that’s all a question mark if Brown is out for an extended period.

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It would be interesting to look at players who are at the extreme end of not being prone to injuries. They are a huge benefit to their teams. Bruce Bowen came into Sunday as the NBA’s leader in consecutive games played (383) followed by Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince and Damon Jones.

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

The clock hadnt even hit midnight before the Lakers hopes for good health in the New Year were dashed Sunday night. Now they must wait to learn just how long starting center Kwame Brown will be out with a severely sprained left ankle.

Already playing without injured forward Lamar Odom, the Lakers lost Brown in the third quarter of their 104-94 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown went up and blocked Andre Millers shot in the lane only to roll his ankle coming down on Millers foot.

He collapsed to the floor immediately, clutching the ankle, and had to be helped to the locker room. The Lakers said X-rays of the ankle were inconclusive and that Brown will undergo further tests today, including a CT scan.

It was reminiscent of the severe ankle sprain center Chris Mihm suffered in a game in March. Mihm returned in 38 days for the Lakers final regular season game but his ankle never was right and he has had to undergo two surgeries since.

The Lakers were down a big man to begin with in Mihm, who is out for the season. Now they will have to make due with 19-year-old Andrew Bynum – – who started earlier this season while Brown nursed a shoulder injury – – and Ronny Turiaf.

“Thats all we have left out there, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “(Brian Cook) can play that center role, too, but we are getting to the position where were going to have to be bucking up and taking care of some business inside.

Brown was on crutches in the locker room after the game, with a walking boot on his foot. His New Years Eve plans would consist of a sleepless night keeping the ankle wrapped and elevated and contemplating an uncertain future.

Asked if he heard something in the ankle pop, Brown said, “Yes, I did. Man, it hurt. Its killing me right now.

Kobe Bryant could relate after missing exactly a month with a severely sprained ankle in January 2005. Bryant told Brown that the difference between missing weeks and months could come down to how aggressively he treated the ankle in the first 48 hours.

“Ankle injuries are the worst, Bryant added. “Theyre just the worst. They take the longest to heal. When they heal, it takes a couple weeks just to get your ankle underneath you again, to cut like you normally would cut. Its a tough injury to deal with.

Brown compared the injury to a sprained right ankle he suffered in his first NBA game with Washington in October 2001. He missed four games then but a severe sprain involves one or more ligaments that are 50 percent to fully torn.

The story of the Lakers season once again returned to injuries. They started the season with almost as many injured players as healthy ones in training camp, while Bryant recovered from knee surgery and Jackson from hip-replacement surgery.

Then they lost Odom to a sprained knee ligament on Dec. 12. He said before Sundays game that his recovery is taking longer than expected; the Lakers initial timetable for Odom had him missing a minimum of four weeks.

If Brown is out for several weeks, the Lakers might have to play without two starters for most of January.

“It sucks but the one thing its taught us is that we can still win, Luke Walton said. “Its obviously going to hurt us because Kwames our best post defender and our best rebounder right now. Were just going to have to all step up our games again and keep moving on.

Jackson said he had not decided about starting Bynum – – who has averaged 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in 14 games as a starter – – or Turiaf. Bynum started when Brown was out with a shoulder injury; Turiaf played 11 minutes in the fourth quarter Sunday.

“Im not sure Andrews quite ready to step into that role at a full-time level, Jackson said. “I wont make that decision till I kind of check out how I feel about that. I may keep Andrew (coming) off the bench and use Ronny as a starter.

The Lakers didnt need Brown to beat the Sixers, an 8-22 team that traded Allen Iverson on Dec. 19. It took a half for the Lakers to adjust to being back at Staples Center after their six-game Christmas trip, but Bryant delivered 20 points in the third quarter.

Bryant put on a show in hitting 8 of 9 shots in the quarter. He drilled three jumpers as the Lakers went ahead 74-60, then drove the lane and wrapped a pass to Bynum for a dunk. He followed by stealing a Kevin Ollie pass and pushing in a shot at the other end.

But Bryant committed an embarrassing mistake after a Walton steal with a minute left in the third. He led the fastbreak and tossed an underhanded pass to Walton, expecting him to rise for an alley-oop dunk.

Walton thought the pass was meant for Maurice Evans and stayed bound to the floor. Ollie came up with the ball as the crowd groaned. Bryant buried a 3-pointer moments later and motioned with his hands for the fans to calm down.

“I was trying to get (Walton) the first lob of his NBA career, said Bryant, who finished with 35 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

It was the only lighthearted moment the Lakers could enjoy on a night their inury woes deepened.

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