HOUSTON – The Lakers are about to field a starting lineup most suited for training camp.
With Dwight Howard out for at least a week because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder, second-round draft pick Robert Sacre will start at center. With Pau Gasol missing at least two games because of a concussion, a number of scenarios could happen. Antawn Jamison may start at power forward. Darius Morris may start at shooting guard, moving Kobe Bryant to small forward and Metta World Peace to power forward. And with Lakers reserve Jordan Hill remaining sidelined for at least a week because of a torn labrum in his left hip, World Peace may guard both the power forward and center spot.
Too bad the Lakers (15-18) are playing though in early January in a regular-season game against the Houston Rockets (20-14). The Lakers have also struggled matching up with prolific defenses because of their lack of speed and discipline.
“We still got two Hall of Fame guys out on the floor,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said, referring to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. “We’re still a pretty good team, we just don’t have a lot of size.”
Meanwhile, the Rockets have won nine of their last 11 games. They lead the league in scoring (106.24). They boast the fifth highest scorer in James Harden (26.4 points per game). The Lakers lost to Houston last month with a fuller lineup, though without Nash.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale believes the lack of bigs will actually make it easier for the Lakers to run his offense. But D’Antoni provided good perspective: “”It does, but I’m sure he’s pretty happy Dwight Howard is out”
Taking his place will be a player most known for his dances from the bench.
“Thank God Robert was in the D-League or he may be hurt too,” D’Antoni said, jokingly. “It happens. It gives other guys opportunities to step up and have great games.”
Sacre was recently assigned to the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ Development league. The Lakers did so because Sacre’s $474,000 salary becomes guaranteed if he is still with the Lakers on Jan. 10. The Lakers would’ve had to request waivers on him by 2 p.m. PST Monday. But with the Lakers’ depleting lineup, Sacre is here to stay.
He flew on a commercial flight Monday evening, but D’Antoni said he lengthened shootaround time this morning so he could catch up on the game’s preparation.
“I hope Morris sanity or Sacre sanity happens,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll see. Maybe. There couldnt’ be a better guy who deserves it. He’s over there and is the most energetic best guy on the bench that you can have. It couldn’t happen to a better person as it did to Lin. We’ll see. We have an opportunity. We’ll see if it strikes twice.”
Incidentally, enough, “Linsanity” happened around this same time last year when D’Antoni coached the Knicks.
With Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony out of the lineup because of injuries, Jeremy Lin quickly became a household name as the unknown guard sparked the Knicks turnaround after a 8-15 record. The Knicks then went on a 9-3 tear, including Lin’s 38 point outburst against the Lakers loss Feb. 10 against New York.
“There’s always a potential for that happening,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “That’s one of the weird things about sports. You see that happen a lot. Guys tend to come together and rally around one another.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org