The Lakers are continuing to lose players in their lineup, but for once it doesn’t involve their point guards.
The Lakers don’t have much clarity on how they will fill replace forward Pau Gasol, who will stay sidelined for at least a week because of a strained left groin. But the Lakers still hold out hope they can field out a rash of healthy point guards Tuesday in Minnesota.
Lakers guards Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all participated in Sunday’s practice without any setbacks, but Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said all of their availability will hinge on how their body responds both before and after Monday’s session.
“My understanding is the two Steves are closer than Farmar,” D’Antoni said.
Farmar has nursed a torn left hamstring for the past month, and the Lakers have encouraged him to stay patient considering he strained a different part of his left hamstring before his recent injury. He has averaged 8.7 points and 4.7 assists. Nash hasn’t played since Nov. 10 because of persisting nerve issues in his back and hamstrings. Blake has stayed sidelined since Dec. 10 because of a torn ligament in his right elbow, an injury the Lakers say happens more frequently to baseball players.
D’Antoni reported Nash showing rustiness with both his conditioning and shooting after appearing in only six games this season, averaging 6.7 points on 26.1 percent shooting and 4.8 assists. That makes it appear Blake will become most suitable among the returning guards, though he’s still reporting pain in his right elbow.
“My arm is not as strong,” said Blake, who averaged 9.8 points and 7.7 assists through 21 games this season. “There is pain when I snap back my arms. Instinctually, it’s trying not to shorten my follow through. I try to block it out and shoot the ball. It’s more of a mental thing and strength as well. It’ll come with time. I’m not at my best, but I think I can still contribute.”
The Lakers didn’t open Sunday’s practice to the media. But Blake looked comfortable shooting 3-pointers with dependable accuracy during a workout prior to the Lakers’ loss Friday to Charlotte in Staples Center.
“It’s just repetition and understanding I’ve been shooting the same way my whole life,” Blake said. “It’s just a matter of getting the timing and getting in extra shots and that muscle memory back. It’ll be a little tougher in game situations shooting the ball. I’ll have to get used to shooting again. That’ll come and I’ll work as hard as I can to get it back.”
Blake has managed to compensate elsewhere because of the nature of his injury.
He still participated in individual conditioning drills throughout his six-week absence. Blake also eventually progressed toward ball handling and shooting drills solely with his left hand, while nursing a brace to protect his left elbow. During several practices and pre-game warmups, Blake would perform a series of pick-and-roll drills, elbow and baseline jumpers, hook shots and layups as a southpaw.
“It’s not like I’ll be using my left any differently than when I left,” Blake said. “I might be able to finish better around the basket and make a couple of extra passes. I’ll play the way I’ll always play. I’ve always been able to use both hands and I’ll try to do that. It’s not like I’ll pull jump shots form my left hand. But if you see me finish a layup with my left hand, I’ll probably have a smile on my face.”
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