What a difference a year makes for the Lakers in the injury department. Their opening night starters last season – - Smush Parker, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm – - combined to miss a total of 37 games.
Parker played all 82 games, Bryant missed two due to a suspension, Odom missed two with a rib injury, Brown missed 10 with a hamstring strain and Mihm missed six with a shoulder injury and 17 after severely spraining his right ankle.
If you take the projected starting five this season – - Parker, Bryant, Luke Walton, Odom and Brown – - they already have missed 56 games. That’s before factoring in the 49 games Mihm has missed since having a second surgery on the ankle he injured last season.
So the Lakers have lost more than 100 games to injury already this season. They got the news Wednesday that Brown will be out another four to six weeks as he continues to recover from a severe ankle sprain. He would miss between 13 and 20 games based on that timetable.
Unless the Lakers are confident Mihm will be back in March – - and Phil Jackson said he is not putting any expectations on Mihm, who was supposed to miss the entire season – - then it probably makes sense for the Lakers to consider adding a big man.
That’s easier said than done, although there will be centers available as the Feb. 22 trade deadline approaches. Right now, the Lakers are making do with Andrew Bynum starting and Ronny Turiaf getting minutes as a backup center. Brian Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic are the emergency centers in case of foul trouble.
You also have to wonder if Bynum is going to be the starter from here on out. If Brown returns in the middle of March, Bynum will have logged 2 1-2 months as the full-time center since Brown went down with the ankle injury Dec. 31. Would Bynum be best served by going back to the bench? Would the team be best served by that move?
* * *
Back when the Lakers opened the season by playing 15 of their first 20 games at home, many people deferred judgment until the schedule balanced out. Well, after Thursday’s game at Detroit, the Lakers finally will be back to even. They have played 25 home games and will play their 25th road game against the Pistons.
If anyone has any thoughts about the Lakers at the 50-game mark, I’ll post them here if you send them.
* * *
What do you do on a 15-degree night in Detroit? You see what this Hockeytown thing is all about. I hadn’t been to an NHL game since the lockout but bought a ticket and beer and took in the Red Wings-Coyotes game at Joe Louis Arena, where the Stanley Cup banners go back to 1935-36.
Detroit won 4-2 and Henrik Zetterberg – - who I couldn’t have named before Wednesday – - had one of the goals of the season. At least that’s what they said on the postgame radio show. He had a breakaway in the second period, wrapped around the goal and deftly flipped in a backhand shot instead of trying to cram the puck in the net.
Another highlight: Somebody had the brilliant marketing idea of driving a Toyota Tundra on the ice during the first intermission. You couldn’t even hear the sales pitch for the truck because of the fans who were alternately booing and shouting obscenities. This city feels the pain of the American automaker like no other.
For what it’s worth, Phil Jackson is a hockey fan. There was a Thrashers-Sabres game being played on Tuesday in Atlanta. “Those are two good teams,” Jackson informed us. Of course, it’s probably a good idea that Jackson – - who starred in a recent series of Toyota commercials – - didn’t head to Joe Louis on Wednesday.