The Lakers lost more than a game against the Nuggets last night. Apparently, they’ve also lost their best three big men to injury as well. Mike Trudell has the news via his @LakersReporter twitter account:
Let’s take these one by one, shall we?
Trudell later emphasized, again, that Howard is out at least one week. It certainly could be longer. He’ll be reevaluated next week and depending on how things look we’ll get a new timeline. That could mean he’s out a little bit longer. It could also mean we play the waiting game on Howard like we did with Steve Nash (though, lets hope not). Only time will tell.
Gasol’s situation is a bit trickier. He’s out at least two games but it’s not just a matter of him feeling better. As you remember from last season when Kobe came back from being concussed in the All-Star Game by Dwyane Wade, the NBA has instituted a strict policy to establish a protocol that dictates a player’s return to action after a concussion. Gasol will need to clear every hurdle in this process before he’s able to play again.
Hill’s injury seems to be the most straight forward of the bunch, though he will be reexamined later today. The tenor of the news seems to imply that Hill will be back to action before the others, but as I mentioned with Howard, only time will tell. Hip injuries can be pretty serious in their own right and no player should be rushed back from injury, especially to a crucial part of his body (hard to do any of the essential functions of a basketball player with a bad hip).
Taken individually, these injuries could be accounted for. It’d be hard as all three are vital parts to the rotation, but the next player in line would have to step up. It’s how teams work.
However, taken together and all at the same time is another story. These are the Lakers three best big men and two of their presumed best four players on the entire team. Much like with Nash and Gasol were both sidelined earlier in the year, this Laker team doesn’t have the depth to compensate for missing these caliber of players. No team does, actually.
Logistically speaking, Robert Sacre will be called up from the D-League to play (and likely start at) Center. Jamison will be back in the rotation too, likely starting at power forward. Also expect Earl Clark to see minutes at PF to go along with multiple small ball lineups that see Devin Ebanks and Ron as PF’s (or, as D’Antoni hinted with Ron, even at Center). These aren’t necessarily desirable answers, but they’re the only answers available to the team at this time.
Almost every optimistic prediction about the Lakers for this season was tied, first and foremost, to health. Today, like it’s been for nearly the entire season, the Lakers took another hit in this area. I know it’s simple to say they need to play through it, but at some point you have to wonder if there’s simply too many instances of key rotation players going down to injury for the Lakers to come close to being the group we thought they could be. The rest of the season will tell us if that’s true or not, but news like today’s isn’t encouraging on that front.