Tis the season to be jolly…..unless you’re the Lakers and dealing with every negative scenario imaginable.
Kobe Bryant will stay sidelined for about six weeks because of a fracture in the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. Steve Nash remains sidelined for at least four more weeks because of persisting nerve issues in his back. There’s also injuries to Steve Blake (torn ligament in right elbow) and Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring). Oh yeah, the Lakers (12-13) also enter tonight’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13) at Staples Center ranked 11th in the Western Conference.
Yet, the Lakers say they’re still showing a holiday spirit.
“I don’t think anybody is too bummed,” said Farmar, who remains sidelined for at least another week. “We’re just bummed for Kobe because he worked his butt off to get in his position and we were looking on building together on the team. It’s part of the game. He’s tough and we’ll work through it while he’s out.”
It appears Bryant has adopted that attitude too after averaging 13.8 points on 42.5 percent shooting, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 turnovers in only six games since returning from a left Achilles tendon injury that kept him sidelined for the past eight months.
“I talked to him yesterday when I first heard the news and I saw him in there. I told him I was praying for him and that I hoped he got better fast,” Lakers forward Xavier Henry said. “He seemed fine. He didn’t seem anything out of the normal.”
Bryant injured his knee after colliding with Memphis guard Tony Allen midway through the third quarter of the Lakers’ win Tuesday over the Grizzlies. Yet, the injury didn’t appear serious. Bryant stood up and stretched it out. He finished with 21 points on 9 of 18 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in 33 minutes. The Lakers believed Bryant just hyperextended his knee. And D’Antoni said Bryant reported feeling fine on the Lakers’ offday on Wednesday. But an MRI taken on Thursday showed otherwise.
“That’s pretty cool,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said about Bryant playing through the pain. “If he walks up and shoots free throws with a torn Achilles, you figured he can play on a broken leg.”
But can the Lakers play with what they have?
Their starting lineup tonight will feature their 11th different combination of the season through 25 games featuring a roster normally full of reserves. That includes Henry (point guard), Jodie Meeks (shooting guard), Wesley Johnson (small forward), Jordan Hill (power forward) and Pau Gasol (center), the lone healthy Hall of Fame caliber player on the team. The Lakers are also suiting up recently signed point guard Kendall Marshall, who had a limited run with the Phoenix Suns despite being selected 13th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Yet, D’Antoni maintains, “We have enough to get it done.”
“It throws some challenge. But at the same time, this is a great job. We have great players. I’m looking forward to see what we can do,” D’Antoni said. “Emotionally, I think we’re good in the sense that I think we’re looking forward to a challenge. The guys say that’s more playing time for me. For their career, it’s good for them. They’re up. They’re ready to roll.”
The Lakers appear used to this by now.
They suffered overlapping injuries last year to Nash (fractured left leg, hamstring), Gasol (concussion, knees, plantar fascia in right foot), Blake (abdominal, groin and hamstring issues) and season-long limitations to Dwight Howard (surgically repaired back, torn labrum in right shoulder). Bryant’s season-ending Achilles injury in mid-April then put a strong damper on the Lakers’ playoff hopes.
Yet, D’Antoni downplayed if the obstacles seem too overwhelming.
“It’s basketball. It’s not like we’re trying to solve world peace,” D’Antoni said. “Let’s go after it and let’s play and let’s go after it and have a good time and play hard. We’ll have a good time. It’s a little tough. We can move over. We have players who are versatile and can play different positions and more time. The biggest thing is we look forward toward playing.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org