How bad have things become for L.A.? They”re now down 0-2 to the Spurs after , and compared to the aftermath, that”s the good news.
Lakers injuries are piling up like cars on the 110 during rush hour. Thursday, they announced an in-game hamstring pull suffered by Steve Blake will leave him indefinitely sidelined. Additionally, Steve Nash, after re-aggravating his recent hamstring problem is doubtful for Friday”s Game 3. Ditto Jodie Meeks, whose Game 1 ankle sprain prevented him from participating Wednesday. As we joked in a previous podcast, this is been the basketball version of ”Final Destination.” Scarily — or perhaps mercifully — we”re running out of characters to maim.
But even with bodies dropping left and right, the show must go on. Among the talking points:
With the guard tandem now down to Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and perhaps a converted-on-the-fly Robert Sacre, is there any possible way for the Lakers to remain competitive?
As bad as things have gotten, can the season at least be appreciated for the team-wide grit displayed down the stretch?
Armed with new information, we revisit a subjectbandied about before: Would it have been better to simply miss the playoffs altogether?
The Lakers are making a playoff push. Will they get there? One of the many questions we answer in the first Land O’Lakers mailbag! We try to be as responsive as possible, so if you didn’t get your question answered below, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.
Here we go…
Mickey O’Connor: Will DH continue the high level of play he’s shown since the All-Star break?
Dwight didn’t leap off the television screen Monday in Denver, but still finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocked shots. And while he’s partially responsible for four zillion points allowed by the Lakers in the paint, he certainly wasn’t the lone culprit. The Nuggets did a heap of damage on the break, the weakside help was nonexistent, and so on.
But there’s no question Howard’s form is improving, averaging 17 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks while shooting over 61 percent. His bad games — take Dallas for example, when Howard was saddled with foul trouble and didn’t score much, but still influenced the game defensively and on the glass — are improving.
He’s been mopey and slow to embrace the role asked of him, but Howard’s biggest problem has always been health. He may be reaching a point where the back is coming around and the shoulder problem is either lessening or (more likely) he’s learning to play with it. Now add in a dose of buy-in and acceptance, and you get much more consistency. I don’t think Howard will taper off, assuming his body holds.
Hugo Morales: Do you guys think when Pau gets back it will disrupt the nice flow of the current offense?? Personally I think he can only help.
LOL: The bigger problem with the Howard/Gasol combination wasn’t with offense, but on the other end. The Lakers had a ton of trouble getting stops with both on the floor. While he’s been underrated as a defender throughout his career, at this point Gasol struggles guarding opposing power forwards who drag him out to the perimeter, whether on the pick-and-roll or in isolation. Obviously his lack of health influenced his results (which, at least according to Synergy aren’t bad), but it’s not like he’ll be returning to the lineup in peak physical condition. So while most of the media focus has been on how he and Howard fit offensively, and Gasol’s uncomfortable role, the biggest reason D’Antoni chafed at putting them on the floor together was due to what his defensive stats were showing him. In the end, though, he may not have much of a choice. Gasol, if he’s able to play at something approximating his level, is still too good to leave on the bench for huge stretches of games, though if the Lakers are truly rolling, expect D’Antoni to ration out Pau’s minutes more than the Spaniard would like.
Nathan Mark: Do the lakers have enough money to resign earl clark next season??? We neeeeed him!
LOL: On a technical level, they absolutely do. High payroll teams aren’t limited by the new CBA in signing their own free agents by anything other than a willingness to spend more in luxury taxes. (Obviously not a problem, here.) So if the Lakers want to spend the money and Clark wants to stay, it’s go time. In reality, the Lakers have real choices to make about next season, and the future of players like Clark. Assuming his solid play continues through the rest of the season, the template for L.A. could be Jordan Hill, last season’s version of Easy Earl.
Last summer, the Lakers faced major cap and tax questions, and didn’t have a lot of cash available. Still, they managed to re-sign Hill for two years, and around eight million. Until getting hurt, Hill certainly lived up to the contract. So there are two issues. 1) What is the market? The Lakers will be interested to a point, but if some team tosses a really big number at Clark, the Lakers aren’t likely to match even though they can. B) Contract length is a question. The Lakers have only one contract — Steve Nash — on the books after next season, and are trying very hard to keep it that way. Obviously Clark will want, and can probably get, more than a one-year deal. So again, we’re back to talking about money.
The Lakers won’t have any flexibility to go out and sign free agents this summer, so keeping their own will be important. Given his name was practically changed to Earl Thrown In The Howard Trade last summer, it’s fair to say nobody anticipated the Lakers having this problem, including the Lakers. Still, for a team that doesn’t have access to many young athletes, it’s a good problem to have. If I had to guess — and I suppose that’s the point of all this — I think they’ll keep him.
Andy and Brian Kamenetzky are writers and radio hosts in Los Angeles, and have covered local and national sports for over a decade with the Los Angeles Times and ESPN. This is their ninth season covering the Lakers and the NBA.