(My latest from Silver Screen & Roll. Check it!)
In a season that’s becoming progressively bleaker by the day, could today be the death blow to a prospective championship season on life support?
All within the last 24 hours, three Lakers big men toppled towards the hardwood, as if they were gigantic dominoes being flicked by the oversized pincer of the injury bug. Following yesterday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, reserve forward-center Jordan Hill added to his already thick medical folder with a torn hip muscle that will cause him to miss at least a week of action.
That wasn’t all: more apparent in Sunday’s contest was the bloody injury to Pau Gasol. At the time, announcers Bill McDonald and Stu Lantz postulated he had suffered a broken nose from a flailing JaVale McGee elbow (is there any other kind?). Today, news came down that Gasol’s nose was merely lacerated, but the real damage came from within–the Spaniard had been concussed, and would miss at least the next two games.
Surprisingly, the most devastating news of the day was yet to come. Dwight Howard, who sprained his shoulder on Friday in a loss against the Clippers, had re-aggravated the injury against the Nuggs and was noticeably wincing during the game. An examination afterwards revealed that Howard was playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which led the team to list the center out “indefinitely”. Later in the day, Dwight was adamant that he wouldn’t need surgery to correct the injury, but rather just rehabilitation. Either way, the Lakers’ starting center would be out at least one week, if not more if surgery is deemed necessary. It seems impossible, but Howard’s cartoonishly gigantic shoulders weren’t even exempt from a storm of health problems for the Lakers’ frontline.
It’s not that all of these injuries are that devastating in the short-term–all of them call for the Lakers’ bigs to miss no more than two to five games. However, it’s the nature of the injuries that could prolong the players’ absences for a serious stretch of time. Hill’s latest boo-boo is the nineteenth of the season, seemingly. So far, the former Wildcat has been sidelined with a herniated disc and a sprained ankle. Though a hip injury is another short-term problem, it’s obvious at this point that Hill is just an injury-prone player. Gasol’s concussion calls for just a two-game leave, but concussions can range from temporary setbacks to lifelong disabilities. It’s improbable that Pau could be done for the season or anything close to that, but there’s no telling how he’ll respond in the coming days. Howard’s shoulder is another wild card–though he’s insisted that surgery isn’t an option, labrum tears can be assuaged by anything ranging from rehabilitation to invasive surgery, depending on how large the tear. For now, he’s saying that this is just a rest and strengthening process, but again, the pervasive cloud of uncertainty rolls over the Lakers.