HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A small fracture to his left leg will force us to admire more of Steve Nash‘s colorful wardrobe than is necessary. But with the Los Angeles Lakers announcing that there will be no rush on Nash’s return (which makes their timetable of him missing for a week seem a bit sketchy), we’ll spend the next few games familiarizing ourselves with Steve Blake and Darius Morris.
With those two backups playing the bulk of the minutes at point guard, the Lakers’ already questionable depth will be tested ever more. For a team that doesn’t need any more hurdles to clear to start the season, this might be the one that gives us the best gauge of their championship timber.
Surviving the preseason with both Dwight Howard (recovering from back surgery) and Kobe Bryant (nursing a sore foot) at less than full strength is one thing. But an extended period without Nash in the lineup at all … that’s the one injury hiccup the Lakers weren’t exactly prepared for.
“You obviously hope he’s back as soon as possible,” Lakers coach Mike Brown told reporters Sunday before the Lakers trounced the Detroit Pistons Sunday. “But the one thing you don’t want to do, you don’t want to compromise his long-term health for him coming back quicker than he should. So, (trainer) Gary Vitti and the staff are on top of it. We’ll just wait and play it out from there.”
We knew it would take them a while to get it together. But spending the next four weeks without Nash in the mix as they try and perfect their Princeton offense (and doing so seemingly against the wishes of anyone that knows anything about the Lakers’ personnel) is a challenge they didn’t need.
While Blake and Morris do their best to fill in for Nash, the Lakers will have to tend to their other bench issues that have plagued them in the opening stage of this season.
The two guys they brought in to transform their bench from a weakness to a strength haven’t done that yet. Both Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks have had uneven starts, putting even more pressure on the starters.
More from Mark Medina of The Times:
Little has gone as planned for the Lakers or their top two new reserves, who have struggled to make much of an impact in the season’s early going.
Jamison and Meeks were supposed to bolster a bench that ranked last in the NBA last season in points scored.
Perhaps the best reflection of their play is that the Lakers now rank No. 29 in the league in bench scoring with 18.8 points per game, ahead of only Portland.
Hey, it’s progress, though not exactly the kind the Lakers had envisioned. Their reserves have been outscored, 148-75, by their counterparts.
Jamison has averaged 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game, far off his career averages of 19.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. The 15-year veteran wasn’t expected to replicate the production from earlier in his career when he was a mainstay in the starting lineup, but the Lakers certainly would like him to boost his scoring output closer to double figures.
“You know, I’ve been hearing it. ‘You gotta be aggressive. You gotta be aggressive,'” Jamison said after scoring six points Sunday during the Lakers’ 108-79 victory over the Detroit Pistons, “but I’m just going to stay within the flow of the offense.”
So the coaching staff has been pushing him to be more assertive?
“It’s my kids, my mom,” Jamison said. “Nah, the coaches, they know what they want me to do. Coach has tried to get me on the box a little bit more in the past game or two. It’s going to take time.”
When the Lakers’ marketing crew was cooking up slogans for this season, we’re sure they didn’t have “It’s going to take time” on the conference room’s white board. But time is the only ally they have right now.
Nash needs time to heal, his backups need time to get more comfortable, the other reserves need more time to gel. In short, the Lakers need all the time they can get …