HANG TIME, Texas – There had already been plenty of unfathomable events in the Lakers’ season:
• Firing head coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start.
• Collapsing down the stretch in a pair of horrible losses at home to Indiana and Orlando.
• Getting whipped in Cleveland.
• Any time that Dwight Howard steps to the free-throw line.
But then came Friday night and the height of absurdity when the announcement informed fans at Staples Center that they’d all get a free taco “if the Lakers win and hold their opponent under 100 points.”
At that moment, 2:05 left in the third quarter, the Lakers were trailing the Thunder 90-68.
So maybe it was just hunger pangs gnawing away inside Magic Johnson when he blurted out on ESPN:
“It’s over for my Lakers — no playoffs, no nothing.”
It seems the Earl Clark Era had a short shelf life and the news keeps going from bad to worse for the would-be challengers to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the real deal from OKC.
The Lakers announced that Jordan Hill will miss the rest of the season with a hip injury.
While Hill was averaging just 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, the bedraggled Lakers, who are also playing without Howard (shoulder) and Pau Gasol (concussion), can hardly afford to be without any of their parts as they continue their heavy lifting job — or fantasy quest — of trying to get back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Hill told our man Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times that he took the news personally:
“I feel like I let down the team,” said Hill. “I let down the fans.”
According to the Lakers, Hill was examined by team doctor Steve Lombardo and hip specialist Dr. Jason Snibbe Friday and underwent an anthrogram test. The test revealed “loose fragments in addition to a possible labral tear” in the hip, which will require surgery, the team said.
Hill was hurt Sunday against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.
“Andre Miller drove baseline and Kobe [Bryant], trying to go back and guard him, he accidentally stepped on my foot,” he said. “Like, I stayed in one spot but my hip kept going. It kind of pulled the joint out.”
Hill will get a second opinion before setting a date for the procedure but he noted it’s inevitable.
“I definitely need surgery. It’s definitely mandatory,” said the Lakers forward/center. “I have fragments floating around that need to be out.”
The recovery period should take all the way through to the summer.
The question is whether that’s enough time for the entire Lakers organization to recover from their troubles.
Of course, Lakers owner Jim Buss had a slightly different view, as expressed this week during a radio interview. “How can you not believe in this team?” he said.
Well, six losses in a row, seven in eight games and the No. 8 spot in the West standings fading quickly in the rearview mirror.
There wouldn’t seem to be much help coming from over the horizon, even with a team that has only 14 players — one under the maximum on its roster. The Lakers already have a payroll of roughly $100 million and a luxury tax bill of $30 million.
The Lakers have not been this bad (15-21) since the 1993-94 season when a 15-year-old Bryant was still playing at Lower Merion (Pa.) High.
Next up are home games with the Cavs, Bucks and then a Thursday night showdown against the Heat that was supposed to be a preview of the The Finals.
“I don’t have to look to know we’re in a heap of …” coach Mike D’Antoni said before Friday night’s game. “Not a good place. As long as mathematically it can be done and it’s in our hands, then I’m good.”
At least nobody will starve with all those tacos still on their hands.