It is pretty well established at this point in the NBA season that the Los Angeles Lakers have been a disappointment. After entering this season with massive expectations, they've gone 15-18 and currently sit at 11th in the West. The worst part might be that, any time they seem to be making progress, they quickly regress shortly thereafter.
And it just keeps getting worse. As announced by the Lakers on Monday afternoon, all three of their primary big men are out with injury. From Lakers.com:
Lakers players Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill were injured in last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets and were examined by team doctors today.
Howard, who originally injured his right shoulder Friday night against the Clippers and re-aggravated his shoulder last night, was examined today by team doctor Steve Lombardo. An MRI exam revealed that he has a torn labrum and will be out indefinitely; he will travel with the team this week to Houston and San Antonio and will receive treatment from the team’s training staff. He will be re-examined in a week.
Gasol, who suffered a blow to the face in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, was examined by neurologist Dr. Vern Williams. Tests determined that he has a concussion. He will not travel with the team, and will be out indefinitely.
Hill suffered an injury to his right hip in last night’s game and suffered a small tear in his hip, reports Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Celebrating center Robert Sacre will be recalled from the team's D-League affiliate and likely start Tuesday night's game in Houston against the Rockets. According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, head coach Mike D'Antoni also suggested that Metta World Peace — typically a small forward, albeit a big one — could also get minutes at center. Clearly, whatever solution the Lakers come up with will be less than ideal.
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It's not yet known how long each player will be out. Bresnahan cites a source claiming that Howard will miss about a week, which is in line with the most optimistic estimates on recovery from labrum tears (the most severe tears require surgery and months on the sidelines). When he returns, Howard will have yet another nagging injury to deal with in addition to his surgically repaired back, which has limited his effectiveness this season. The effects of concussions can linger for weeks, and the NBA's recently adopted policy on head injuries ensures that Gasol won't return to the court until he passes a number of predetermined tests. Hill, for his part, should miss about two games, but he's obviously not considered to be on the same level as Howard and Gasol.
To make matters even worse, the Lakers have a pretty difficult schedule this week with road games against the Rockets and San Antonio Spurs and a home game against the West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. Next week gets a bit easier, but they also face the Miami Heat next Thursday. Plus, every game they play with temporary solutions in the paint will be a challenge, particularly for a team that hasn't impressed defensively this season.
The silver lining, if you're looking for one, is that Mike D'Antoni can now run the small-ball system on which he built his reputation. Something tells me he wishes it were happening under better circumstances.
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