Sitting with a sub-.500 record, the Lakers are beginning a stretch that includes 8 of 10 games on the road. The team has been highly critical of themselves as of late, causing some disruption in the locker room. It even went a bit too far when Kobe Bryant called out Pau Gasol after Sunday’s loss saying, “put your big-boy pants on.”
Today, however, it seems there may have been a little more to Gasol’s struggles. He will be out tonight against the Houston Rockets and indefinitely due to tendinitis in both knees. Now, the new offensive system may be to blame for Gasol’s ineffectiveness in the early season, but it’s never easy to adjust when you’re dealing with an injury affecting your mobility. Today’s NBA revolves heavily around a fast paced offense and D’Antoni’s offensive scheme is no different. Hopefully this period of rest will help rejuvenate the Spanish big man so he can keep up. That is, if he isn’t traded before getting a chance.
Speculative reports have indicated the Lakers have been in talks with other teams on swapping the Spaniard. Personally, I’d like to see the Lakers give Pau a chance to play in the offense. If they could make things work on the offensive end, who wouldn’t want a 7-footer guarding the paint with Dwight Howard?
This new injury leaves the Lakers depth somewhat lacking. With Steve Blake out 6-8 weeks getting surgery on his torn abdominal muscle and Steve Nash still out, big-man Robert Sacre has been called up from their D-league affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders. This move is more of an insurance plan than anything, but it does reveal that the Lakers don’t trust the three-man rotation involving Howard, Antawn Jamison, and Jordan Hill. The injury will give more time to veteran Jamison, but Laker personnel would love to see an increase in production from Hill. Hill and D’Antoni don’t have great history, dating back to his rookie season on the Knicks. Hopefully things will be different this time around, but Hill is going to have to provide a different type of scoring than he’s used to if he wants to get minutes alongside Howard. To play in the new offense, the Lakers are looking for someone to spread the floor. Thus, giving Howard room to dominate inside. In his brief stint, Pau wasn’t able to take advantage; hopefully Jamison or Hill will provide the spark necessary to thrive.
Tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets won’t be an easy one. Since their last matchup when the Rockets were 3-6, Houston has been on a surge as of late, coming in at 8-8. Houston, like Los Angeles, has a completely new face this year, relying heavily on ex-Thunder guard James Harden to take charge and lead the offense. He is joined in the backcourt with basketball’s biggest sports sensation, Jeremy Lin. The two have found a way to work together to make the offense work and will provide a good test for the Lakers amidst their early season crisis.
Tonight, Jamison will get the start at the four spot, but it’ll be interesting to see how things play out. With so many early injuries, roster spots are available and this is the time to prove you deserve the minutes on the court. We’ll see who shows up to play and steps up to claim what’s theirs.