Did someone set the time machine back to 2012-13? Last season was simply injury plagued throughout the whole year for the Los Angeles Lakers, which impeded their progress at pushing towards a top-five seed in the Western Conference. Dwight Howard wasn’t 100 percent, Pau Gasol didn’t play half the season and we all know of Steve Nash‘s inability to walk because he’s the grandpa of the NBA.
Now, early in December of what Lakers fans hoped would be an overall healthier run, the injuries (major and minor) are making their way back to Hollywood.
Perhaps the most important player off the bench this season (some would argue over Xavier Henry), Farmar has returned to Los Angeles in great form after playing overseas when his first stint with the Lakers ended in 2010. With Steve Nash’s health problems appearing they are going to be ongoing throughout the season, the short term point guard depth seemed to be under control with Farmar giving the Lakers 18.9 minutes per game behind 33-year-old starter Steve Blake.
Well, it’ll be a while before we see him in action.
In Sunday’s matchup vs. Portland, Farmar suffered a left hamstring injury. He immediately grabbed the hamstring in pain while running down the court during the first quarter and had to be taken out of the game. On Monday morning, Farmar had an ultrasound that revealed he had a tear in his hamstring, a part of the body athletes absolutely hate having problems with.
Doctors estimated the time-table for Farmar’s absence as “approximately four weeks,” which was disheartening to the team for one important reason. Behind starter Steve Blake (who has also experienced a hyper-extended right elbow), the Lakers do not currently have a healthy, injury-free point guard available right now. Farmar has averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the 3-point line, an area the Lakers have lived and died from this season. There’s no doubt that after the impressive stretch Farmar was on in the three games prior to Sunday (at Washington, Brooklyn, Detroit), he was going to receive a huge boost in trust from coach Mike D’Antoni.
In those three road games, Farmar shot 10-of-16 from 3-point land and averaged 16.6 points per game. Against Brooklyn, Farmar put on a second quarter that looked as if he was turning into the Black Mamba by drilling three straight 3-pointers in a game where Los Angeles showed their ability to finish a close fourth quarter battle without Kobe Bryant.
For the past week, it has been known that Gasol has been having problems with his right ankle. The 7’0″ Spaniard had a rough performance on Sunday against Portland by going just 3-of-15 from the field, scoring only six points. His five rebounds were also a season-low in the 18 games the Lakers have played. Defensively, there was nothing Gasol could do on one healthy ankle, as he allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to own the power forward matchup. Aldridge torched Los Angeles for 27 points on 11-of-19 efficiency and grabbed nine boards in the loss at Staples Center.
Sitting out the entire fourth quarter, Gasol obviously looked bothered and was set to receive an MRI the following morning. The feedback revealed a mild right ankle sprain, which was a sigh of relief. Losing Gasol to any serious ligament damage would have left the Lakers short in the backcourt AND frontcourt, equaling a recipe for disaster in the Western Conference.
Instead, Gasol isn’t planning on missing any time at all, as he has utilized the inactive week to gain strength in the ankle before the team makes their trip up to Sacramento to take on the Kings:
MRI revealed a mild sprain, so good news. I will work in these next days in order to be ready to play for Friday’s game in Sacramento.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) December 3, 2013
Gasol’s injury should NOT be a concern for any fans considering the team took Monday off to rest, and he has been on the practice floor the last couple days with a positive attitude.
The key, however, will be for the big man to have another strong night against Sacramento on Friday, seeing as in the first matchup (Nov. 24 at Staples Center), Gasol posted 20 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-16 shooting while making things rather difficult for DeMarcus Cousins. Returning to the effective, versatile scorer from 2009 and 2010 is not something Gasol may have to do for this Lakers team to snag a playoff spot in April, its something he MUST do. With power forward/center Jordan Hill serving as an energetic asset rather than a reliable offensive piece, frontcourt production isn’t something Los Angeles can have on selective nights. It needs to be every game, for the longevity of the season.
Kobe Bryant — Return of The Mamba
The “return” saga continues. To make a quick point, this return countdown/watch for Kobe Bryant is much greater than Adidas’ marketing plan for Derrick Rose ACL rehab. This is due to obvious reasons, such as Bryant actually being a first ballot Hall of Famer one day in the near future and arguably the second greatest player of all time when the final chapter is written. The Achilles tear is the single worst injury a professional athlete can go through, considering their bodies are asked to withstand so much during a six- to seven-month span that a team’s journey lasts. Bryant will be returning, reportedly very soon, from Achilles reattachment at 35 years of age. The odds of him once again being the cold-blooded scorer aren’t fantastic, but odds don’t apply to a man that works harder than anyone and has had so much success.
The idea of not putting a time-table for his return date was actually a smart move, as it gave Bryant time to get the tendon stronger on his own watch and the flexibility to rehab in the manner and pace that he wanted. Bryant would scale back the intensity for a week, then push extremely hard a week later to evaluate how it feels. Luckily, throughout the whole offseason and first month of the regular season, there has been no pain.
When the news escaped that Bryant could return as early as Friday, Dec. 6 at Sacramento, the reactions were mixed. Of course, you had the ones anxious to see him back on the court with the Lakers at .500 (9-9), but you also had people like myself that thought he should hold off, at least for one more game.
CNN’s Rachel Nichols reported that Bryant is inching closer to lacing them up and coming to the aid of his team, but he will NOT play vs. Sacramento on Friday:
Kobe tells me he’s getting closer to returning but that he’s not planning on playing Friday (Lakers’ next game)
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 5, 2013
By no means are there setbacks with Bryant and his Achilles. He isn’t experiencing pain that will push back his return to Christmas. According to teammates, he’s looking extremely solid in practice and they are fully confident we won’t see a regression in his game upon his return.
The Mamba on the practice floor. pic.twitter.com/NOVRAIGayh
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 3, 2013
The fact that Bryant threw down a fastbreak dunk excited the media, for whatever reason. Did the concern really reach the level of him not being able to dunk? That’s laughable itself.
Either way, the five-time NBA champion looks fresh, rejuvenated, and most importantly, determined. Sitting at 9-9, that’s really all Bryant could have asked from a Lakers team without Dwight Howard there for defensive support. A huge smile has to be on his face knowing that his team has stayed competitive and won marquee games against the Clippers, Rockets, Nets, and Warriors while he’s been on the bench.
Bryant also has another reason to be smiling.
Pushing back his return brings up the possibility of a Sunday, Dec. 8 return at Staples Center, against the Toronto Raptors. Just ask Chris Bosh what happened on a memorable Sunday meeting between these two teams: