Archives For injury

The Lakers announced today that Jordan Farmar will miss at least 4 weeks with a torn hamstring. The reserve point guard commented after the game that he’d experienced tightness in the muscle the last few days and knew he had a problem when he pulled up lame in the 2nd quarter. Well, Farmar’s problem is now the Lakers’ as the point guard is on the shelf and the team is left scrambling for answers.

Before we explore those, however, it’s important to note that losing Farmar is quite the blow to the Lakers. As I mentioned on twitter the other night, Farmar has been one of the Lakers’ better performers recently, putting up some staggeringly good shooting numbers while being a catalyst for some of their best performing lineups. On the season, Farmar is posting a very good PER of 17.8 (good for 2nd on the team) and, after a negative blip in his production a couple of weeks ago, has probably been the team’s best and most consistent performer offensively.

Farmar has also had a very good impact on the defensive side of the ball, holding opposing PG’s to a PER of 8.2 when he’s on the floor. Not to mention, as a team the Lakers boast a defensive efficiency of 96.7 when Farmar is in the game versus a 106.6 when he’s on the bench. This net defensive rating of 9.9 is the best of any of the team’s main rotation players and speaks to the fact that when he is on the floor, the Lakers simply perform better.

Of course these stats don’t tell the entire story, but they do pretty much verify what our eyes tell us. One of the major keys to the Lakers’ success this season is that their bench consistently outperforms their opponents’ on a nightly basis. Farmar may not be the flashiest player on that unit and may not have the name recognition around the league as an important player, but he is the driver behind its success. A big night from Nick Young or a highlight drive and dunk from Xavier Henry may get the air time, but it is Farmar’s ability to score from all over the floor combined with an improved ability to set up his teammates for easy shots that sustain the offense when he’s on the floor. Add that to his improved (at least since his last stint with the Lakers) defense and it’s not a stretch to say the team just lost one of its best players.

Strictly speaking from a statistical and production standpoint, replacing Farmar is near impossible. Scanning the roster, however, makes doing so even harder. You see, besides Steve Blake and Steve Nash, Farmar is the only other true point guard on the roster. In the 2nd half against the Blazers, the Lakers went on a run using a backcourt of Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry to good success, but down the stretch both made questionable plays against a dialed in defense who forced them to initiate and execute the offense. Moving forward, those two may be able to provide spot minutes as ball handlers, but neither are an actual solution as a point guard for any extended period of time, and especially not for 4 weeks.

If there is any good news to be had at this point it is that both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are likely to test their injuries this week in practice, potentially even returning to the lineup soon if things go well. The Lakers don’t play again until this Friday and that should give both the Lakers’ graybeards a good streak of practices to really see if they’re ready to lace up their sneakers and see some game action. Historically, both Kobe and Nash thrive with the ball in their hands and both have proven more than capable of steering an offense in a positive direction. Whether or not they are still able to do so coming off their respective injuries is another question that can’t be answered right now, but, at least in Nash’s case, it’s easy to have doubts. (In terms of Kobe, I have neither doubts nor expectations. What I have is a curiosity to see what he can do. As, I think, does everyone else.)

The flip-side to the potential returns of Kobe and Nash is that the team seems to be in a position where they now desperately need production from them sooner rather than later. For me, at least, the hope was that both could be eased back into the lineup in a way where they were only asked to provide what they were capable of. Now, however, there is more of an impetus for them to perform to a standard that that they may not be capable of reaching right away. Farmar provided a buffer between hoped for production and actual production. With him out, those two potentially return to a lineup in which the need for them just went up. That’s not exactly the best formula considering all the question marks both face. And that’s if they even come back soon — which still isn’t exactly a guarantee.

In summary, what was already a difficult season with real obstacles to overcome just got harder with Farmar going down with injury. How much more this team can take of having their best players on the sideline is not clear, but it looks like we are about to find out.

*Statistical support for this post from NBA.com and 82games.com

Steve Nash couldn’t finish Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves after experiencing pain in his back. When the 2nd half started, Nash remained in the locker room and after the game he said he would see a back specialist to get more information.

Well, the news is back and it doesn’t sound promising:

As Dave McMenamin mentions, Nash treated his back issues with an epidural during last year’s playoffs and it really didn’t help. It relieved his pain in the short term, but did not allow him to get on the floor to play in the games.

The fact that Nash is still experiencing issues with his back is a major concern. The fact that it’s nerve “irritation” is even more concerning since the timeline given comes along with the caveat of “a minimum of” and “will be reevaluated in 10 days” rather than a standard timetable of “out X days/weeks” and that’s that. The fact is the Lakers went through a similar issue with Nash last season when he broke his leg only to have nerve irritation throw his recovery timeline into a permanent fog.

If you recall, after Nash broke his leg, he was listed as being out for roughly two weeks, then was listed as day to day, only to have that regress to out indefinitely as the nerve problems kept bothering him. When Nash finally was cleared to play he clearly was not 100% and seemed to only come back to try and help the team when they were making their push for the playoffs.

That strategy did little for his long term health, however, as the rest of his body started to cause him problems as he (likely) had to overcompensate for his bad leg. Hip and hamstring issues developed and ultimately that caused his back to flare up. Back issues that, apparently, remain today even after a summer of rest and then training to build up his strength.

At this point, I wouldn’t bet on Nash being back in two weeks. Kevin Ding tweeted that these nerve irritation issues can last up to two months and considering Nash’s age and the fact that these issues have been persisting for some time doesn’t make for an ideal healing situation. And while I don’t want to speculate, it wouldn’t surprise me if Nash is out for a long time or that he ends up coming back on a timeline that’s relatively short (say 2-4 weeks) only to end up having more issues that put him on the injured list later in the season for the same reason.

In any event, the Lakers must now move on without Nash and that will mean more time for Steve Blake at point guard, more time for Jodie Meeks at shooting guard, and more time for Jordan Farmar since he’ll move to the primary back up for Blake as the lead guard. In a normal year this would be seen as a disaster as Nash would be considered the best of those four players. This year, however, Nash has been the least productive of the foursome and his absence should allow the Lakers to find more stability in their backcourt while also putting the team’s most productive guards on the floor for longer stretches.

As an aside, typing that paragraph is probably one of the saddest things I’ve ever written. The Lakers traded for Nash two summers ago and saw him as a player who could elevate the point guard position while helping the team contend for a title. After all, Nash was (is, actually) a hall of fame player who was still putting up very good numbers in Phoenix. What’s transpired, though, is Nash dealing with injury after injury and falling to a level that is unrecognizable for any fan who’s watched his career to this point. You always want players to age gracefully and to be able to go out on their own terms. Instead, Nash seems to be falling apart before our eyes. And, really, there’s nothing sadder than that.

If you were looking for good news, you came to the wrong place. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com has an injury update and it’s not a good one.

After having his knee drained before game three and still trying to give it a go, though not playing at all in the 2nd half, Ron has been ruled out of game 4. He joins Nash, Blake, and Meeks who have also been ruled out.

If you’re counting at home, those four players plus Kobe Bryant make up five of the Lakers top nine players and nearly their entire wing rotation. Say that out loud a couple of times to let it sink in. If you’re looking for an equivalent on the Spurs, from a strict position standpoint, imagine of Parker, Ginobili, Neal, Leonard, and Green were all ruled out. That’s a sobering thought (that will likely lead you to knock back a couple of drinks to make you less sober).

The Lakers will only have 10 players available for the game and will be starting two 2nd year players who were both taken in the 2nd round. Yep, this is where the team is at.

The Lakers won a game but lost their leader.

In a cruel twist to an already unbelievably hard season, Kobe Bryant made a move he’s made a million other times in his career but collapsed to the ground in the process. The news of of the injury is not good:

If true — and based off Kobe’s comments after the game, it seems like the MRI will only confirm what he knows to be true — this news is simply crushing. As a fan of the game of basketball I’m extremely saddened to see such a great player go down with this type of injury. As a fan of the Lakers, I’m devastated.

I’ll have more on thoughts on Kobe later, but for now I can only say it’s somewhat fitting that the greatest warrior I’ve ever seen play this game went out on his shield in a game against the team called the Warriors.

That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. I will have more at some point tomorrow.

So, just when you thought this season couldn’t have any more twists and turns, I see this on twitter:

Okay, then.

Ron potentially coming back this early is pretty much shocking to me. While he originally tweeted that he’d be back in a little over two weeks, he deleted that tweet only for the team to announce that his recovery timeline was around six weeks. Today marks the 18th 10th day since his surgery and, as reported above, if he doesn’t experience any swelling he could be back in the lineup tomorrow when the Lakers host the Hornets. From now on, I’m calling him Ronstradamus.

Getting Ron back will surely help with the Lakers’ rotations and should allow the team to put better defensive lineups on the floor for longer stretches. Ron, even at less than 100%, is a crafty wing defender and at least has the size to switch on screens and not get buried in the post or be completely overmatched in a matchup. Plus, when Ron and Clark share the wing, the Lakers have a lot of defensive versatility on the floor, allowing  them to mix their matchups in a way that maximizes their effectiveness. I wouldn’t be surprised to see lineups with Kobe, Clark, Ron, Pau, and Howard with the team doing a lot of switching funneling everything to the paint where multiple guys can protect the rim.

The news wasn’t all good from practice, however. Steve Nash continues to struggle with his hamstring and hip issues and missed practice again. As for his status tomorrow, it doesn’t look good:

Nash being out is probably a bigger deal than potentially getting Ron back. Having Ron around to bolster the wing rotation is fantastic and his defensive effort and smarts can only help a team that’s struggled on that end since he went out with his injury. But missing Nash means that Kobe is still likely to play heavy minutes as long as the games are reasonably close (or in some cases unreasonably, since every win matters so much). With Nash out, the only two ball handlers Mike D’Antoni seems to trust are Steve Blake and Kobe. Blake is already starting but it’s unlikely he’s going to be the player who goes really heavy minutes in order to keep Kobe fresh. If anything, it will be the opposite in that Kobe will need to be on the floor for almost the entire game as he’s so important to the overall flow of the offense.

This isn’t just me speculating, either. Mike D’Antoni said so himself today:

“We’re playing a little bit with fire,” D’Antoni said of Bryant, who has played 46 minutes a game the past four games. “We wouldn’t like to but we put ourselves in the position we have to. We’re short-handed right now and we’re playing it very tight. Normally this wouldn’t happen but we put ourselves in a hole and Kobe is our best bet going forward to win games. He said he’s going to retire after a year so we’re going to get our money’s worth for two years. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Would the Lakers’ be better off getting Kobe more rest? Yes and no. No because they’ve not clinched anything and don’t have the luxury of losing games. Do you rest Kobe more now and hope it pays off for a playoffs you’ve not qualified for? A tired Kobe in the post season is a “cross  that bridge when we come to it” situation, only you need to replace “when” with “if”.

That said, there’s a strong case to be made that a tired Kobe isn’t much good to the Lakers in games either. If he’s too tired to make the right defensive rotation or to close out games with the correct play on offense, the team isn’t really getting Kobe Bryant. They’re getting a tired player who’s wearing his jersey. Granted, Kobe can still make plays (like he’s done countless times), but where is the line of diminishing returns? Is it at 40 minutes? 42? 46? It surely shifts depending on opponent and the circumstances of the game up to that point, but no player is able to fully fight through fatigue. Not even the best players in the world.

This is where developing the end of the bench to be more than mere spectators would have been helpful, but that’s a discussion for another day. D’Antoni had to fight for every win he could get all season and that meant approaching games in a way that doesn’t always take the big picture into account. The alignment of short and long term goals was approached through the prism of getting victories, not player development and roster sustainability. Maybe the latter should have been taken into account more and it’s also probably fair to point out that D’Antoni has typically played a shorter rotation so this isn’t anything that’s really new for him. However, this is a complicated situation with too many variables to simply say “he should have done X” and there’s no gray area.

The Lakers are where they are now because they’ve dealt with too much uncertainty — some from their own doing, some from bad luck — and have struggled to get wins in the process of working through it. The odds say they need to win out to get into the playoffs and the players seem to understand that. For what it’s worth, Kobe thinks they can and his approach is pretty simple: