L.A. Pressure Falls On Howard, Gasol

 

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Dwight Howard believes.

No Kobe Bryant. No Steve Blake. Almost assuredly no Jodie Meeks. And most likely no Steve Nash.

No matter. Howard says he still believes.

“We have total confidence that we can come back and win this series, and we believe in each other,” Howard said following Friday’s workout when the Los Angeles Lakers learned of their worsening injury woes. “We worked too hard to get in the playoffs. We had to fight to get in and we’re not going to give up just because we’re down and have a lot of guys that are injured.”

The Lakers’ rickety season is once again on the brink Friday night as their first-round playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs moves to the Staples Center. With the Spurs up 2-0, it’s do-or-die for a limping Lakers team that could be forced to start a backcourt of two third-team, 2011 second-round draft picks in Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

While Nash told reporters Thursday that his fingers are crossed that two epidural shots to his back will work in time to allow him to play in Game 3 (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Howard was working overtime with assistant coach Chuck Person with a helping hand from general manager Mitch Kupchak, a pretty good post player in his day with the Showtime Lakers.

It’ll be curtains for these slow-time Lakers unless the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard, once upon a time referred to as Superman, and his 7-foot frontcourt mate Pau Gasol, can assert their will on the Spurs and lift their less well-known teammates back into the series.

“Again, it is what it is,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of the bleak injury situation. “It’s not what anybody wishes for, but at the same time we need to dominate inside and that’s Pau and Dwight. So it’s a big load for Pau and Dwight. At the same time, that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”

Howard, praised for his dominant play in the final two games of the regular season after Kobe went down to get the Lakers in the playoffs, has taken critical shots for not getting it done in the opening two games in San Antonio. He’s averaged 18.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and five fouls per game.

Everybody wants to see Howard rise to the occasion, to be a force that takes games away from the opponent. He took criticism for not being that dominant force in Game 2, scoring 16 points — same as Blake as well as the Spurs’ Kahwi Leonard and Tim Duncan — with nine rebounds, four blocks and five fouls when the Lakers had chances to keep the game close.

For Gasol, just 5-for-14 from the floor in Game 2, these could be his final games as a Laker. Well into the luxury tax next season, the organization will have to decide what to do with the player who is due $19.3 million next season and was all but traded to New Orleans last offseason before the blockbuster deal for Chris Paul was vetoed by commissioner David Stern.

Of course, Howard’s future is just as unsettled, although his future is at least in his own hands. The Lakers are desperate to sign him to a max deal this summer and make him the cornerstone of the franchise upon Bryant’s eventual retirement.

For now, it’s all about Game 3 and if Howard, reduced to 14th in this season’s voting for Defensive Player of the Year, and Gasol can play like the superstars their salaries say they are, and get L.A. a win.

“We just got to play,” Howard said. “We can’t control anybody’s injuries. We can’t control nothing but how hard we go out there and play. Me and Pau are going to do the best we can for this team.”

15 Comments

  1. Anthony says:

    I am a die hard laker fan, I too see the hand writing on the wall however we will be back next season bigger and better lol

  2. Max says:

    D.Howard, has to work on offensive. H

  3. theholyspectator says:

    lakers are done man…even if kobe was still here they wouldnt beat the spurs in a 7 game series, cmon now…and you expect him to be the same when hes back next season? seems dwight will be one of those players who will never get a ring..unless he sacrifices money, tag teams with some elites, and drops his ego…lol who am i kidding, dwight is never gonna get a ring..

  4. heat_champs says:

    lakers should have start preparing their hooks because very soon they will be gone fishing.

  5. DUNCAN on THE FAKERS says:

    Man oh man.. I love seeing the Lakers fall apart like this..
    Get out the brooms.. Spurs in 4.
    GSG!

  6. rabags says:

    Morris and Goudelock are the missing link that Howard and Gasol needs. With their young legs, they are the energy that the Lakers are looking for. Actors always get beaten in the first half of the movie but at the end, they always win, same goes for the Lakers! Go Lakers!

  7. laker nation says:

    line up

    PG-D.MORRIS

    SG-GOUDELOCK

    SF-ANTAWN JAMISON

    PF- PAU GASOL

    CENTER-DWIGHT HOWARD

    LISTEN PLEASE M. DANTONI I PROMISE YOU LAKERS WILL WINT THIS WAY

  8. laker nation says:

    kobe is coming back

  9. Chris says:

    Who the hell is Jamie Meeks?

  10. Hoopzaah says:

    It’s Jodie Meeks, not Jamie.

  11. Chris says:

    So basically the Lakers are going to attempt to go twin towers on the Spurs. Perhaps they need to watch some film of Robinson and Duncan, lol

  12. Bermir says:

    Is that Jodie´s brother?

  13. EAT ME says:

    who’s Jamie Meeks? lol

  14. lakersfan4ever says:

    We should try this starting Line up.

    PG- D Morris
    S G – Ebanks I Know he is a Forward but we can try Nothing to lose right. Plus we can see if he can play a multiple possitions or star Duhon .
    PF- Gasol.
    C – DH12
    F – Jamison. or Ebanks.

    and we can play all the bench, Plus It might take the Spurs by surprise with this crazy line up, but hey we got to try something different right, that way we can give some rest to our Main Guys at least the 1st half. I know some might be saying that am crazy but we got to do something Different it might work. GO LAKERS.