Finally, the Lakers’ injury report involves players returning to the court instead of leaving it.
In what will mark his first game in just over two months because of an injured right knee, Xavier Henry will suit up when the Lakers (20-39) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (41-18) Monday at the Rose Garden. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Henry will come off the bench considering his likely rustiness and both Henry and D’Antoni admitting he needs to shed a few pounds stemmed from a lack of substantial exercise during his injury.
Nick Young will miss his fourth consecutive game in Portland because of continued soreness in his left knee. But Henry’s return could cause a logjam at the Lakers’ wing position, which already features newcomers Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. But D’Antoni still suggested Henry has the potential to play a large role.
“The biggest thing X does is he gives energy, stuff defensively, he gets after it,” D’Antoni said. “Then he can get to the basket. Now, MarShon can do it, but he [Xavier] is one of the few guys that can really create off the dribble and get to the foul line a lot and that will be a welcome back if we can get him back ready to go, he’s still going to be rusty and we’re going to have to slog through a couple of games while he gets ready.”
Henry, who has missed the past 42 games, had become a pleasant surprise morphing from a training camp invitee to a dependable wing player, averaging 10.4 points. But he experienced plenty of setbacks surrounding his knee. He advanced toward weight-bearing exercises in mid-January, but soon scaled back over concerns surrounding persisting soreness. Henry then received a cortisone shot and drained his knee in hopes to reduce the swelling. That’s why Henry’s two D-League appearances where he posted 15 and 19 points, respectively and Sunday’s practice proved notable in his progress.
“I just wanted to get out there and play and know if I can make it through a game without it getting stiff,” Henry said. “It responded well in both games and practice. Right now, I feel pretty good and just want to feel good about my shape.”
Henry doesn’t believe that process will take long.
“It’s not a lot of pounds,” said Henry, who’s listed at 6-foot-6 and weighing 220 pounds. “But there’s a difference from my legs being strong and carrying my body and my legs being off two months. I have to get my legs strong to carry everything I do. I’m pretty aggressive. I cut and run real hard. With things like that, my legs have to be strong to do that. I haven’t been able to do that. Now I have to get my legs back.”
Henry’s injury traces back to Dec. 29 against Philadelphia where he landed awkwardly on a drive, prompting some concerns on whether Henry needs to dial back his aggressiveness driving toward the basket. But D’Antoni said he doesn’t want Henry to scale back his aggressiveness even considering the dicey nature of his knee injury.
“You worry about it a little bit just because you don’t want anything to happen to it,” D’Antoni said. “But at the same time if it acts up, you get the meniscus clipped at the end of the year and it will be fine. So it’s not a big deal in the sense of future. But he wants to play and he feels like he can. He’ll play after he gets in shape and gets ready.”
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