Nothing pushed Xavier Henry ever to quit even amid the never-ending injuries and persistent losing.
So the Lakers forced him to do so. They ruled Henry out for the season after nursing persistent pain in a bone bruise in his right knee and a torn ligament in his left wrist that kept him sidelined for a combined 32 games.
“It hurts,” Henry said. “They think it’s taken a toll on me.”
Henry had shown some valiant performances despite the pain, including a 22-point effort last week against New York and a 24-point effort two weeks ago against San Antonio. But he had sat out three of the previous four games because of persisting damage. Henry also went scoreless on four missed field goal attempts in 18 minutes in the Lakers’ loss Tuesday to Portland.
“He was disappointed. He didn’t want that,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The last game showed it where the pain was on his face. I felt for him. Why put him through that. He’s battling all he can to do it. He’s very disappointed he won’t be playing anymore. The guy has a lot of heart.”
So much that D’Antoni argued “without a doubt” Henry proved he belongs on an NBA roster after morphing from a training camp invitee to an athletic wing player that averaged 10 points per game this season, occasionally played point guard and showed a strong knack toward attacking the basket. D’Antoni believes Henry needs to improve this offseason on knowing how to balance his tendency to drive both to preserve his health and diversify his game, but he predicted that will happen with more playing time.
Henry received that chance with the Lakers.
“I showed I can compete and play in this league, help my team, contribute and make impact plays,” Henry said. “I just showed I can play hard. I bring a different kind of intensity to the game and aggressiveness. That’s what I’m hoping to bring.”
Before he can focus on that, Henry plans to have offseason surgery at some point soon on his left wrist that he currently does not know how long it will take to recover. He also believes he will have a procedure on his right knee that will take six to eight weeks of recovery.
“My body will continually hurt as much as you keep pounding it and keep pounding it,” Henry said. “It’s going to get worse. I’ve been playing on it since a while now. It’s tough to play with.”
Henry, 23, will become a free agent in July after the 12th pick in the 2010 NBA draft will struggled finding his niche with Memphis (2010-11) and New Orleans (2011-13) amid various injuries and a diminished role.
“I’m hoping it goes well. I hope to be here. I hope they want me. You never know. It’s a business. They’re going to do what they want. I’m just here supposed to do my job. That’s all I can control. Hopefully they want me back and I’ll go at it again next year,” Henry said. “I feel like I’ve shown what I want to do. I can go out there and play and be aggressive and compete with all the guys. I always knew I could. I just needed the opportunity to go out there and play. I got that opportunity this year and I had fun doing it.”