The wait continues.
Pau Gasol will miss his fourth consecutive game when the Lakers (15-21) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (9-29) tonight at Staples Center ever since suffering a concussion in last week’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. Although he performed shooting and elliptical exercises, Gasol hasn’t proven symptom free enough to receive medical clearance. Gasol will visit neurologist Dr. Vern Williams again on Monday, which would mark his fifth visit since suffering a concussion after Nuggets center JavAle McGee accidentally elbowed him.
Meanwhile, the Lakers plan to evaluate the separated labrum in Dwight Howard’s shoulder shortly before tipoff. Howard has performed conditioning exercises with for the past week with strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, but he’s maintained he doesn’t want to return until he’s fully healthy. Howard fears that any excessive contact could lead to a tear in his shoulder and require surgery.
The Lakers have gone 0-3 since losing their frontcourt. Those absences coupled with Jordan Hill’s season-ending hip injury that will require surgery has resulted in seldom-used reserve Earl Clark having an elevated role. Clark, who will start at power forward for the second consecutive game, has averaged 12.3 points and 10.6 rebounds in 28.66 minutes per game in the past three contests.
Despite Clark’s pleasant surprise, the Lakers (15-21) enter tonight’s game against the Cavaliers (9-20) with little else working for them. They’ve lost six consecutive games for the first time since March 2007. In their losses, the Lakers have allowed an average of 111.83 points per game.
In hopes to shore up some of that defense, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will guard Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. That opens up a whole other storyline considering the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year honors approached Bryant this summer at the U.S. Olympic training camp about going one-on-one, an exchange that instantly went viral. Though Irving scored 28 points in the Lakers’ 100-94 loss Dec. 5 against Cleveland, Bryant blocked him on an isolation play. He’s proven more dependable as an on-ball defender than on team defense, where Bryant often roams in the centerfield position and consistently arrives late on rotations.
But first things first.
The Lakers just hope they can avoid their first seven-game losing streak since March 2007.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org