The hits keep coming for the Lakers, who announced Monday that Dwight Howard suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team also said Pau Gasol has a concussion and also will be out indefinitely. Jordan Hill has a right hip injury and won’t travel with the team to Houston for Tuesday’s game.
When the doors to the Lakers’ practice facility opened Thursday afternoon and reporters were granted access to the gym, they were treated to the sight of Steve Nash working his magic with the basketball in his hands during the team’s scrimmage.
Nash ran away from Darius Morris’ defensive pressure and darted into the paint before passing to an open Metta World Peace for a jump shot that hit nothing but net. A few moments later, Nash set up Jodie Meeks for a 3-pointer that also was good.
Lakers center Dwight Howard either gave a thoughtful answer or a silly one when a reporter asked Monday if the worst was over for the team. Said Howard:
“Some of our players, we watch ‘Batman’ a lot. ‘The Dark Knight.’ There’s a point in the movie where he says, ‘The night is the darkest right before the dawn.’ Which basically means right now this is probably the darkest moment for our team. It’s not going to last forever. The sun’s going to come up. I think we’re going to be where we need to be. … We’re not playing our best brand of basketball right now. We’d love to be 20-0 or whatever it may be right now. Sometimes being 20-0 could put you in a position where you feel like you’re already there. We know we have to work out of this and we will. We can continue to get better at it and we won’t lose faith.”
So, wait, the guy known as Superman watches “Batman” movies?
Pau Gasol and Steve Nash practiced with their Lakers teammates Monday, with Gasol saying he might play Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats and Nash saying he might be ready to play on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks.
Gasol said the tendinitis in his knee wasn’t as painful as it was and as if to show off his newfound health he ran a series of post-practice sprints before shooting a number of free throws. He said a decision about his participation will be made just before the tip.
“I’m happy with the practice and how I felt,” Gasol said. “We don’t want to make the decision quite yet. So, we’ll see how tomorrow in the morning how I feel. … It (a two-week layoff) helped, not just the rest but the work we did to strengthen the knees.
“I can move around much better.”
Nash ran without pain in his fractured left leg during what could only be described as a light practice, devoid of any contact. The Lakers went through a number of drills, but didn’t scrimmage as they prepared for Tuesday’s game against the Bobcats.
“We’ll see,” Nash said. “Hopefully, I can play by Christmas. We’ll see how it responds this week. Today we didn’t do anything 5-on-5 or with any contact, so it was just running and cutting. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.”
The Lakers returned home Monday to practice at their El Segundo HQ and prepare for the arrival of the dreaded Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday at Staples Center. The Lakers have winning records against all but two NBA franchises. The Boston Celtics are one, of course. The Lakers are 123-153 all-time against Boston. Amazingly, incredibly, the Bobcats are the other. The Lakers are only 7-8 against the Bobcats, who began play in the NBA in the 2004-05 season. The good news is the Lakers get the Bobcats at home, where they are 5-3 all-time against Charlotte. They’re only 2-5 against the Bobcats at Charlotte, however.
Mike Brown (you remember him, don’t you?) went on SiriusXM’s NBA show “Off the Dribble” Thursday and had a few things to say about his former employer and a few of his former players. Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s still fairly interesting stuff.
Among the highlights, Brown said of coaching Kobe Bryant: “I had a good time working with Kobe. I really felt like I learned a lot. He’s a guy that is extremely intelligent and extremely intense. In my opinion, when you’re around people like that, they only push you to get better and so being around him I really felt like he made me a better coach.”
Dwight Howard isn’t Shaquille O’Neal’s favorite center in the NBA, this much we know, but from one Superman to another Superman, O’Neal offered a few helpful hints to the Lakers’ big fella during TNT’s doubleheader telecast Thursday night.
Said O’Neal: “We all think he’s a dominant center. To me, a dominant center should be averaging 28 and 15. You look at his stats in Orlando and he was averaging 18.4 and 13 rebounds. In L.A., this year, he’s averaging 18.5 and 11.2 rebounds. I actually broke down how he can get 28 and 10. The first thing is to get three shots a quarter. What I mean by three shots a quarter … that means run your big ass down (the court). We’re coming to you right now. We need you to score. Three times four is 12. You’re not going to make all of ‘em, shoot 50 percent. That’s six makes that’s 12 points right there.
“You’re the highest jumper in the league … Anyway, Dwight, four offensive rebounds, you need to score on all of those. You’re the highest jumper in the league, that’s eight points. Twelve plus eight is, what, Chuck? Too late. Twenty. You get three drop-offs from (Steve) Nash coming off the pick-and-roll, from Kobe (Bryant) coming off the pick-and-roll, and from (Pau) Gasol on the drop-down pass, that’s six points. Twenty plus six is, what, Chuck? Too late. Twenty-six points. Now, you need to get to the free-throw line 10 times a game. I know you’re not going to make all of them, but at least make 50 percent. That’s five. Twenty-six and five is 31.
“We know you’re not going to make 31, but to be a dominant center, you should be 28 and 10. If you’re a dominating center and you play like that, the Hack-A-Howard won’t work. Trust me. I know this for a fact.”
Chuck, of course, is Charles Barkley, one of O’Neal’s TNT sidekicks.
Jerry West, The Logo, went on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio program today and called Kobe Bryant the most talented player in the Lakers’ history. West, a former Lakers player, coach and executive, qualified his remarks by saying:
“Well, it is difficult (to judge the greatest Laker ever) when you have probably the greatest center to ever play the game playing for your team in (Kareem) Abdul-Jabbar (and) Magic Johnson, who was an absolutely incredible player. I played with one — Elgin Baylor — incredible player. Wilt Chamberlain (also).
“But if you look at what (Kobe’s) accomplished solely as a Laker, becasue the other players, except for a couple of them, were acquired through trades. He was drafted here and he’s played his whole career here. To me, I don’t see why you couldn’t say he is the greatest Laker player in terms of talent. In terms of the talent, the Lakers have never had a better player than him. Never.”
Of reaching the 30,000-point milestone for his career during the Lakers’ victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets, West said of Bryant:
“Obviously, it speaks to his greatness as a player and also to his longevity as a player. If you play 10 or 12 years, you’re not going to get there. I think this year, just watching him play, to me he looks a lot more efficient than he was a year ago, shooting the ball a lot better. He seems to have geared his game down a little bit and his skill level is just so darn high that regardless of his age — he’s not old in age, but in minutes played and number of games played, he’s played a lot.
“I just think it is a remarkable achieivement. You know something, things with him don’t surprise me — his willingness to compete every night, again, his incredible ability. And you’ve seen him change. He used to be kind of a high-flying act. That’s really not what defines him today. I think finally people, in saying this guy’s a great dunker and a great scorer, they recognize him for what he is. He is not only a great scorer and a great athlete, but there’s someting inside him that sets him apart from most players. It’s just a remarkable achievement. … If he plays at this level, which is amazing to me because of all the minutes he’s played, I just think he can play a lot longer and equally as effective.”
Tomorrow’s notebook tonight …
The Lakers’ lack of offensive rhythm and defensive determination still troubled coach Mike D’Antoni one day after their loss to the Orlando Magic. He didn’t like their lack of energy or the way they seemed so overconfident upon taking the court.
“We screwed up last night big-time,” D’Antoni said rather bluntly after Monday’s practice and before leaving with the team on a three-game trip to face the Houston Rockets, the New Orleans Hornets and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We have to have more of an urgency to our game that we have not demonstrated yet,” he added. “It’s odd, every time we play a team that’s lower than us in the division, like Orlando and Sacramento, we don’t have the same energy we have against a Dallas or a Denver.
“That’s something we’ve got to get over real quick. ”
It hasn’t taken D’Antoni long — only seven games, in fact — to recognize what everyone around the NBA has known for years about the Lakers.
“We’re not real fast as a team structurally,” he said. “That’s not going to change. I can’t come in here and make you faster. But if we play with the right amount of concentration and energy then we’re OK. We have to understand you can’t come out and play half speed. Our half speed is like quarter speed. So far, we’ve had trouble with young athletic teams.”
Effort can make up for a good many of the Lakers’ troubles, D’Antoni insisted.
“I didn’t get here because everything was going so great,” he said. “We realize where we are. We realize what problems we have structurally that we’re not going to solve, like being a little older, a little slower, a little of this and that. We can solve them by being better.
“We’re a better team talent-wise if we play better, if we bring the energy defensively and the mental toughness we need to have.”
Bryant plays no favorites
The chatter about changing systems after the Lakers changed coaches, made superstar guard Kobe Bryant chuckle.
“It’s not about excuses or what we’re used to doing versus what we’re doing now,” Bryant said. “You’ve just got to do it. No meetings. No sitting around the camp fire. None of that (expletive) is going to get it done. Just do your job. It’s as simple as that.
“We’ve got to show up and do our jobs. It’s not rocket science. It’s not solving world hunger. You’ve got to go out there and do your job. It’s as simple as that.”
Pressure’s on road warriors
Seven of the Lakers’ next eight games are on the road, which isn’t a bad thing as far as D’Antoni is concerned. Most teams in the NBA struggle to win away from home, but D’Antoni said upcoming three- and four-game trips could be a make or break stretch.
“You should be more involved when you’re on the road and we can concentrate on the things we need to do,” he said. “We have to take those seven out of eight games and really get better. Whether the record shows it or not, that’s one thing. By the end of our two trips, we’d better be a lot better team.”
Resting Gasol a possiblity
D’Antoni didn’t discount sitting struggling power forward Pau Gasol for a few games in order to give his achy knees a rest. Gasol looked a step slow during the Lakers’ loss Sunday to Orlando. He had only 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting plus seven rebounds.
Sacre rejoins Lakers
The Lakers recalled Robert Sacre, a 7-foot rookie center, from their developmental league team, the D-Fenders. He averaged 7.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 27 minutes over three games in the D-League.
The hits keep coming for the Lakers, who announced Monday that backup point guard Steve Blake will undergo abdominal surgery Wednesday and will be sidelined from between six to eight weeks. Blake hasn’t played since Nov. 12, and might not be back until early February.
“It’s a big concern for me,” Kobe Bryant said of the prospect of losing Blake for up to two months. “Steve and I have always played extremely well together. He’s a clutch shooter and a tough competitor. That’s one of the things I like about him, is his toughness.
“We’re going to miss him a lot. I’m not sure he’s going to be out, but it could be a while.”
Blake sat out his 10th game because of the injury on Sunday night, when the Lakers lost to the Orlando Magic and fell to 8-9 overall. He played seven games this season, averaging 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 26 minutes.
Meanwhile, starting point guard Steve Nash continued his slow recovery and rehabilitation from a fractured lower leg, performing a series of post-practice drills Monday. He can’t run yet and said Sunday he’s not expecting to play on the Lakers’ three-game trip, which begins Tuesday in Houston.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he might consider starting veteran Chris Duhon at point guard in place of Darius Morris, a second-year player who played only 19 games in the NBA before this season. Duhon played almost 30 minutes Sunday against the Magic.
“A lot,” D’Antoni said when asked how much he was relying on Nash to help the team turn around its lackluster play, which includes a 3-4 mark since he was hired to replace Mike Brown. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t coached him before. He’s done pretty well when we’ve been together.”
Of making a switch at point guard while Nash continues his recovery, D’Antoni said, “There’s a chance. We’ll see. We’ll talk about it tomorrow. That’s nothing against Darius. He’s learning. He’s got to get better. But I could (start Duhon against the Rockets).”