HANG TIME WEST – The Lakers’ move toward improved health, with Kobe Bryant back and Steve Nash expressing optimism about his recovery, suffered another setback Thursday with the news that Steve Blake is expected to miss at least six weeks with a torn ligament in his right elbow.
The Lakers have quickly gone from starting the season feeling good about their depth at point guard to not having a single true point guard on the roster, with projected starter Nash sidelined by nerve damage in his back, Jordan Farmar out with a torn left hamstring and now Blake pushed to the sideline.
The immediate response, coach Mike D’Antoni indicated after practice in El Segundo, Calif., will be Bryant at the point and Jodie Meeks at shooting guard when a four-game trip begins Friday in Oklahoma City. One of the worst places possible, in other words, with Russell Westbrook waiting, before the Lakers continue to Charlotte (with Kemba Walker as the leading scorer, though a volume shooter), Atlanta (Jeff Teague) and Memphis (Mike Conley). And when that swing ends, the next three opponents are Minnesota (Ricky Rubio), Golden State (Stephen Curry) and Phoenix (Eric Bledsoe/Goran Dragic).
The bigger picture is that outside reinforcements capable of making an impact are unlikely. While it is easy to suggest making a trade, and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has become the name de jour in trade rumors, the Lakers won’t give up much for relief help if indications are that at least two of the three veterans at the position are working toward returning soon. In a related development, the Lakers don’t have much to give up.
Adding a free agent at the position, for practice and limited game duty, seems a more-reasonable expectation. Mike Trudell, the beat writer for Lakers.com and sideline reporter on TV and radio, quoted general manager Mitch Kupchak that finding someone who can play ahead of Bryant, Meeks and Xavier Henry is “unlikely.” Leandro Barbosa and a pair former Lakers, Darius Morris and Chris Duhon are “on the list” of candidates, Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com quoted Kupchak as saying.
Otherwise, it’s a waiting game on the point guards already in house. Nash said last week he has been encouraged by his body’s response to increased workouts, but no timetable has been set for a return and he is not expected to accompany the Lakers on the four-game trip. Farmar has also given positive reports on his recovery, but likewise is staying away from a target date for playing again.
Blake is averaging 9.8 points, 7.7 assists and 31.8 minutes while shooting 39.8 percent in starting all 21 games. He was hurt in the second half Nov. 26 at Washington, but continued to play with the injury to his shooting arm.