The Lakers have just 13 games left in the regular season which basically means they’re well into the fourth quarter. They remain in eighth place in the west and are one game back from Houston. At the top of the bracket, San Antonio is a game ahead of OKC. You can work the math however you want, I personally wouldn’t want to face either of those teams in the first round.
The Lakers still have a slim shot at catching the Golden State Warriors for sixth place and that opens up some possibilities – a seven-game showdown against the Clippers perhaps, a team who just dropped a stunner to the Sacramento Kings. Or, Memphis or Denver – the latter just became the first team to beat the Thunder three times this year, extending their win streak to 13. So maybe that’s not an optimal match-up, Denver has only lost three games at home all season.
Is there the possibility of a Staples Center hallway series and how would we get there from here? Golden State faces San Antonio tonight and the Wizards on Saturday. The Lakers face the Wizards on Friday and Golden State on Monday. In other words, there’s a serpentine path toward getting a little closer in the next few days. Are you clear yet? Did you ever go clear? Maybe it’s better that I don’t start quoting Leonard Cohen songs. Or maybe I should, this whole numbers game confuses me and all I really care about is when Kobe and Pau are coming back.
The Lakers are in the middle of a three-day rest period. The time off has given some pause for reflections on various subjects, including questions about Mike D’Antoni’s seven-man rotation against the Suns on the back end of a back-to-back. There’s also been news about the severing of a longtime relationship. Dwight Howard has parted ways with his business manager of nine years, a guy who also happens to be his first cousin. The move is seen as another step along the path to becoming his own man. And finally, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol have expressed their best wishes, for Andrew Bynum’s speedy recovery. Their former teammate had arthroscopic surgery on both knees Tuesday, cleaning out loose debris.
The news about Bynum’s surgery has been met wit everything from scorn to sympathy in the press and social media. It’s a matter of timing in many ways and the debate isn’t apt to die down any time soon. Throughout the season, his hairstyles became a framing device, a convenient way to make haha jokes before segueing into the real meat of the matter – the dawning realization that a guy who was supposed to be the 76ers’ cornerstone might never actually suit up for them. Both Philadelphia and the rest of the league will have to decide what move to make next – the 25 year-old seven-footer is soon to be an unrestricted free agent.
I feel badly for any athlete whose career is compromised by injury. Bynum’s knee issues are well-known in these parts, the guy was never a fast healer and that monstrosity of a knee brace was a constant reminder of his frailty. On the other hand, can you imagine local sentiments if he had kept the Lakers on hold for an entire season? Shaquille O’Neal was the center of attention when he delayed toe surgery until the eve of training camp in 2002. The Spurs won the championship that season. Shaq played 67 games and averaged 27.5 points-per-game. It wasn’t the happy ending fans wanted but it’s more than Philadelphia got after trading away Andre Iguodala.
Andrew Bynum represents one of the Catch-22s of basketball – there aren’t enough truly talented big men in the league and guys that big probably shouldn’t be pounding up and down a hard wood court. It wrecks their backs, their hips, their knees and their feet. On the other hand, he’s not the only one who deals with hurt and not everybody deals with it the same way. He’ll head into free agency with a year off and hopefully, some extra life in his knees.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have had their own maladies to deal with. Dwight Howard worked hard to get back to form after back surgery. Steve Nash dealt with a fractured leg. Steve Blake had abdominal surgery, Jordan Hill had hip surgery and Pau Gasol ruptured his plantar fascia. And then there’s Kobe Bryant and his disdain for injuries, the man has always been a cold-blooded assassin. And so a team that has toiled through an improbable chaos theory season will be back in action soon. Everybody knows that it’s now or never, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.