Injury Bug Bites Again, Metta World Peace Out with Torn Meniscus

Darius Soriano —  March 26, 2013

UPDATE: The Lakers released more information about Ron’s injury and recovery timetable and it’s not good:

This, of course, was always a possibility but now that it’s official it is dispiriting. Barring what would right now look to be an unlikely run in the playoffs, Ron’s season is over.

The hits keep on coming. This time, it’s the player I still affectionately call Ron who has been bit by the injury bug. As we mentioned in our game recap, Ron sat out the 2nd half of Monday’s game against the Warriors with what was being called a strained knee. Today he received and MRI in Minnesota and the news was not good:

Another in a long line of injuries this season. This one, just like the others, poses a real problem for the Lakers in both the short an the long term.

As we’ve discussed several times before, the Lakers are already thin on the wing. While the Lakers have several guards who can play on the wing (Kobe, Meeks, Blake), Ron is the only true small forward who has played any substantial role this season. He’s a vital rotation player if only because of the position he plays and the minutes he soaks up as a viable two way player. For a team that’s as top heavy and as shallow at certain positions as the Lakers, these middle tier role players who’ve earned minutes are nearly as indispensable as the big four.

Beyond the minutes, though, Ron’s also been an underrated performer in terms of how his on court performance has translated to team success. When Ron is on the floor, the Lakers’ offensive efficiency is 5.1 points better than when he’s on the bench. On defense, he has a similar impact as the team’s defensive efficiency is 4.8 points better when he’s on the floor than when he’s on the bench. These splits — especially on defense — are some of the best on the team and represent a player who clearly impacts team performance even if he’s had his ups and downs as an individual performer.

Where the team goes from here is an open question but my instinct says that we’ll see a combination of three “solutions”:

  1. More Kobe at SF in lineups that feature Meeks or Blake at shooting guard. These lineups have already been a staple this season and more of them isn’t a disruption.
  2. Earl Clark’s return to the rotation. When Clark was at his best, he was playing PF on defense and SF on defense with Ron guarding opposing bigs like Boozer, Ibaka, Al Horford, etc. Moving Clark back into the fold is also a move that does little to disrupt what the team has done in the past and would allow guys like Meeks and Blake to continue in roles most familiar to them.
  3. More Jamison at SF playing in lineups that feature the other core four. Jamison offers the weakest defense of the group but he’s also a player who has been guarding more wings lately while offering the type of offensive game D’Antoni would prefer from a “wing”.

What I don’t expect is for Ebanks or any of the other players who have been out of the rotation to suddenly be thrust into action. Whether you think those players deserve a shot or not, the Lakers are in the stretch run and fighting for their playoff lives. Asking players to jump into the most pressure packed games of the season and play contributing roles as a rotation player is a lot to ask. I’d add that every player on the bench, but especially *Ebanks and Morris, have had opportunities to play good minutes this year and didn’t do a lot to show they would be long term rotation players.

Nor do I expect the Lakers to sign a street free agent (Chris Douglas-Roberts and Donte Green come to mind right away) to try and fill this void. My position is that if the Lakers aren’t going to use guys on their own roster, they’re definitely not going to use guys off the street who don’t know the team’s system nor earned the trust of the coaching staff to become even a spot rotation player. A free agent could serve as a practice body, however, and a 10-day contract could be handed out for that purpose. But I certainly don’t envision any player coming off the street and playing minutes. Not for a coach who played a 7 man rotation on back to back nights just a week ago.

So, here the Lakers are. Without their starting SF who doubles as one of their most competitive players and best all around defenders. In a year that’s seen all but two of the Lakers’ top 10 rotation players miss time (Meeks and Clark are all that’s left after Ron’s gone down) it’s par for the course. But that doesn’t make it any easier and, considering all that the team is playing for down the stretch, the timing couldn’t be worse. Get well soon, Ron. The team will miss you sorely.

*Ebanks is a tricky player to discuss because he’s flashed solid skills in some of the games he’s played. His performance against the Knicks on Christmas comes to mind as does his performance against the Thunder last season where he flashed good defense against Kevin Durant. That said, he’s also not shown any sort of consistency in his game and has had the types of mental lapses on both sides of the ball that drive coaches crazy. He’s also had some off the court issues that, while not acknowledged officially by the team, likely play into the perception internally that he’s not yet a mature enough player to handle a full time role. I understand that fans have had high hopes for Ebanks, but the fact is that his performance to this point in his career doesn’t warrant a larger commitment to him. Especially considering what he’s actually done with minutes he’s gotten this year. 

Darius Soriano

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19 responses to Injury Bug Bites Again, Metta World Peace Out with Torn Meniscus

  1. I heard that early today on Ron.

    Watching Dallas with a OLDER team then the Lakers playing great defense aganist Clippers. What is the difference? Coaching for sure and heart for sure. No Nash getting beat or Kobe loafing on defense. Lakers have better players. Dallas a better team and coach. Clips score 20 more point aganist Lakers then Dallas.

    Now with one of only two defensive player gone for season it’s looks almost like it was meant to be a lost season. Might me end of Ron as a Laker. There were good times and bad but seldom boring.

  2. As has been said repeatedly this year, if Ebanks wasn’t going to play he should’ve been removed from the roster to make room for a wing who CAN contribute. The stubborn refusal to acknowledge this fact is about to bite the Lakers in the butt. Again. The hits just keep on comIng.

  3. Funky,

    So very true. The guy is hogging a space on the bench that could go to a contributing player. Him, Duhon, and Morris are useless at this point.

  4. Really bad news about Metta. Guy hustles.

  5. Air ball Barnes. Dallas now game behind Lakers.

    As for stiffs on the bench. Team made no movies at deadline and dumped no players or guaranteed contracts. Perhaps it’s more about the money with Jimmy as opposed to WINNING under Jerry. Every team picked up players like Martin for Knicks, Anderson for Miami, James for Dallas. Nothing for the new Jimmy Ball. Something needs to change in this organization and soon.

  6. I’ll always remember MWP manhandling Pierce in games 1 and 7 of The Finals and him playing terrific in game 7 when his team needed him.

  7. Hello Darius,

    I’m a new commenter and big Laker fan, having followed FB&G for several years. I absolutely love this blog and your fine work. My present comment focuses on Devin Ebanks. Everyone seems to be down on him. So…I may be the contrarian of the group. I admit that he’s had a disastrous season–both on and off the court. But his career, brief and spotty though it’s been, is not without some encouraging signs. I distinctly recall Kobe singing his praises early in the season last year. And, of course, Mike Brown actually started him for several games if memory serves me correctly. His baseline jumper from 12-18 feet was starting to look pretty decent at one time. His offensive rebounding has always been a strength. And his real strong suit, defense, was superb against OKC last year…even memorable. This is not to say that he hasn’t had some rough patches. Obviously he has. But I just think that MDA could have done a little more to work with him. If he had, Devin might be ready to step into the breech. I think it might be wrong to write off Ebanks completely. But then again, I sense I may be the only one who feels that way.

  8. The theme has been and will be that this Laker season was lost due to injury. Management is going to sing that tune at every opportunity. Losing MWP only helps make their case, and for a team that was going nowhere anyway. Too bad it won’t tell the whole story.

  9. I feel an amnesty coming on . . .

  10. Ron out with injury? Hmmm, somehow I am not surprised.

  11. Is it possible to amnesty an entire team, coach, front office, TV announcer, ball boy and beer vendors?

  12. Maybe if they’d been given even a few minutes here and there, benchwarmers like Ebanks would now be able to step into a slightly bigger role. But because of MDA’s decision to give these guys dozens of DNPs, we’re left w/ fewer options. What happens if another guy goes down? Are we gonna play everyone 45 min/game? We’re too old, slow, tired already. Your reasoning for not playing them now is valid, Darius, but MDA’s job as coach should’ve been to look ahead and prepare these guys earlier when there was less pressure. Goodness knows we’ve lost enough regular season games. He should’ve at least spent some of them getting guys 9, 10, 11, 12 ready for situations just like this.

  13. the Lakers drafted a lower tiered player in Ebanks that was once touted as a Trevor Ariza type player, until he fell into disfavor. No player gets better by sitting on the bench, NONE. He could have been given a few minutes here and there to get his NBA legs under him and to learn how to play at this level (remember, we just found Earl Clark whom recently went through a similar situation.) So, if Ebanks wasn’t ready, why hasn’t he been sent to the D-league to gain experience like Morris and Sacre? There appears to be some sort of stalwart vendetta type of scenario going on with Devin, he can’t even get in the game when the Lakers clear the bench during blowouts. Granted some players gladly lock the door to their own prison by loafing in practice and making comments under their breath to their own detriment. We may never know why the Lakers have not played him thus far.

  14. The ESPN playoff odds had the Lakers at 47% prior to the Metta injury.

    Notes: Minnesota has pretty much everybody except Love back, is playing better, and will want to break the streak of losses. Milwaukee has a shot at catching Boston, and thereby avoiding Miami. Sacto always plays the Lakers hard.

    Dallas has a really hard schedule.

  15. Look I love Kobe, and have followed his career every step of the way… but he is a huge part of the problem, and this article over at Silverscreenandroll points it out very convincingly: http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2013/3/26/4149732/kobe-bryants-defensive-hypocrisy-knows-no-bounds

    Kobe points to defensive schemes, while he is a plain defensive sieve himself… not OK. He is a very close second worst defensive players according to 82games adjusted +- defensive efficiency. Ouch… more that twice as bad as Steve Nash.

  16. Chearn,

    You could be right. Something could be going on behind the scenes with Devin Ebanks. He’s completely off D’Antoni’s radar. Foolishly, I actually thought that Devin was even on the verge of a break-out year this season. But he rarely gets his name called even in blow-outs. Something must be going on that we’re not aware of. That’s a pity. Because I actually think Ebanks has the potential to contribute (although it’s probably too late for him to make a splash this season).

  17. we could probably see Devin play in the next games. since our SF position will be limited to Kobe and Jamison.
    what is the timetable for MWP injury? I think he said less than 2weeks in his twitter account?

  18. While I’ve taken my fair share of shots @ my NYC Brethren Ron-Ron (to the point of stating, within this community, that this should be his last campaign as a Laker) this season, it’s unfortunate to see him go out THIS way. Especially if one is to take into account that Monday night’s loss in Oakland might have been his last game as a member of the FB&G. However it ends up playing out, get well soon Ron and come back stronger than ever (whenever that may be).

    As for the foreseeable future, the pressure is off of D’Antoni because now, unless he plans on brushing the dust off of (a chubby) Ebanks, he has no choice but to shorten his rotation; which is his custom. Also, as Rfen52 mentioned, it strengthens the narrative that the reason why the team couldn’t prosper is because of all the injuries that transpired, and therefore, he (D’Antoni) should be granted another term to see if he can, so call, right the ship. Especially if we don’t qualify for the ..offs. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  19. Gasol goes out, and they win…Metta goes out, and they win big…it seems like one of the problems facing the Lakers all season has been D’Antoni’s inability to find a lineup, or group of players, that can play well together. Jamison has really stepped up so maybe they DON”T need these big-name guys in order to succeed. Kobe is crucial of course, but he should experiment with other guys to find a winning combination. I caught the second half of this game after my shift at DISH ended, riding the bus home. I got the DISH Anywhere app that lets me take my live TV and DVR with me wherever I go, and that’s a cool thing for me, being a Lakers fan in Denver!