HANG TIME WEST – And now comes word the Lakers will be without pretty much anyone tall for at least the next couple games, with Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) scheduled to miss the quick Texas back-to-back and Dwight Howard expected to be sidelined at least the next because of a torn shoulder muscle.
Good, because life had been much too dull around the Lakers this season. Now, they are down to rookie Robert Sacre, the No. 60 pick in the draft, as the probable starting center Tuesday in Houston and, depending on his level of success, or survival, Wednesday in San Antonio. Coach Mike D’Antoni said after practice Monday that 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace might play there as well in a small lineup, which, come to think of it, is about all they have anyway.
These are strange days, indeed, for the Lakers, with desperation not far in the distance.
They’re not there yet, with the Trail Blazers a very-reachable three games ahead for the eighth and final playoff spot, but the view over the falls is becoming clearer. It’s the continued losing, especially when the return of Steve Nash didn’t cure everything as Los Angeles fanatics had hoped while heading to the basement with canned goods and water, plus the new developments of the injuries just as the Lakers head into a difficult stretch of schedule.
Of the next 11 games, two are against the Thunder with one each against the Rockets, Spurs, Cavaliers, Bucks, Heat, Raptors, Bulls, Grizzlies and Jazz. Good luck with that at full strength. The Lakers get the obstacle course with Howard out indefinitely, the only timeline being that he will be re-examined in a week, and needing time to work his way back once he does return to the lineup, in addition to still trying to work his way back from April back surgery.
If the problems were about health, that would be one thing. But they are not, of course, leaving the Lakers with a series of issues to sort through when/if they ever get close to 100 percent. They can work on the sorting out during all their free time as the opponent pushes the ball to the rim, since the energy obviously isn’t being spent on transition defense.
The longer the Lakers stay in the haze, the greater the chances of reaching for a trade they wouldn’t ordinarily make. They wanted to see the preferred lineup in action for an extended stretch before making any bold decisions – you know, the one without Sacre or World Peace at center – and now just got another setback in that plan as the volume increases on the ticking clock. They simply may not be able to wait another several weeks, which is what it could be given the uncertainty on the Howard injury calendar.
Just being upright after the 11 games, before the schedule turns more favorable at the end of the month and toward the All-Star break, will be an accomplishment. Here’s looking forward, then.
The win totals of the last five No. 8s in the Western Conference in seasons with an 82-game schedule: 46 (Grizzlies in 2010-11), 50 (Thunder in 2009-10), 48 (Jazz in 2008-09), 50 (Nuggets in 2007-08) and 42 (Warriors in 2006-07). The Jazz had 36 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12, which projects to 45 victories in a full schedule.
The Trail Blazers of 2012-13, at 18-15 as the midpoint of the season approaches, are on pace for 45.
The Lakers, at 15-18 after four losses in the last five games, are on pace for 37, with another update due in late-January. Maybe on Howard’s condition as well.
L..A. has 49 games remaining against 27 opponents with a combined winning percentage of .497 heading into Monday’s games. It needs to go 30-19 (.612) to get to 45 wins, 33-16 (.673) to reach 48 and 35-14 (.714) for what seems like the impossible dream of seeing 50, especially now, with more injury problems and the schedule turning ugly.