With five straight losses and injuries to their top stars, the Los Angeles Lakers' 2012-13 season may be in a bigger downward spiral than ever before.
The most recent losses came partially as a result of those injuries, as the absences of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill leave the team completely bereft of depth in the middle. After not even catching a whiff of the regular rotation for the first third of the season, Robert Sacre has become the Lakers' most integral interior force.
Though he's a fine bench player, Sacre won't exactly be giving Lakers fans memories of Shaq or Kareem. When will the cavalry be coming back to the lineup to save the Lakers from the Sacre era? Here is a complete look at the latest news on return dates for Howard and Gasol, along with everything else you need to know from Lakerland.
Dwight Howard Out Indefinitely, To Be Looked at Next Week
Just when things didn't seem like they could get any worse, Howard went down with a torn labrum. The All-Star center had been having one of his best stretches with the Lakers before injuring the shoulder and seemed to be picking up his form on the defensive end as well.
Luckily, Howard's labrum tear isn't serious, relatively speaking. According to the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding, Howard won't require surgery and could return as early as next week:
Lakers center Dwight Howard was diagnosed Monday with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and is out indefinitely, set to be re-evaluated in a week. His injury is not severe enough to necessitate surgery to repair the tear, which is the process that usually forces athletes to be sidelined for months, not a week.
A week is certainly optimistic on the Lakers' part. Even with rest, Howard's injury isn't going to fully heal in that time frame and it's wholly possible that he'll be playing below 100 percent for the remainder of the season.
In a campaign filled with frustrations for Howard, this is yet another setback. At this point, it's truly hard not to wonder whether the center's season has been snakebitten.
Nonetheless, his presence is desperately needed in the interior. Even at a reduced effectiveness, he's still one of the seven best players in the NBA and the Lakers' playoff hopes may disappear with an extended absence.
Gasol To Be Reexamined on Thursday
Gasol's 2012-13 season hasn't been anything to write home about, but his presence may be more vital than ever for the Lakers. Howard's shoulder injury isn't something that will heal overnight, and the team would be best-served to keep him out long enough for the injury to properly heal.
However, Gasol's concussion doesn't exactly seem to be healing rapidly either. According to the Press-Telegram's Mark Medina, Gasol isn't yet cleared to resume basketball activities and his status will be up in the air until Thursday:
He saw neurologist Dr. Vern Williams in Los Angeles Tuesday and will have a another exam Thursday. Gasol will miss at least tonight's game against the Spurs. It's possible he will play Friday against Oklahoma City should he satisfy the NBA's concussion policy.
With a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs coming on Friday, the Lakers will desperately hope Gasol gets cleared. They will need his interior presence against Tim Duncan, and it's become clear at this point that every game matters.
What's more, Howard's absence could ultimately be a good thing for Gasol. He could slide over to his natural center position and work on getting some much-needed confidence.
I mean, at the very least, an ascent from Gasol would help his trade value.
Lakers Have Not Reached Out to Kenyon Martin
With roster room to spare and injuries across their front line, many expected the Lakers to consider bringing in a big-name free agent. In particular, some have clamored for the addition of Kenyon Martin, who is far and away the most talented player on the open market.
The 35-year-old forward, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, has been patiently waiting to hear his phone ring all year long. Well, according to USA Today's Sam Amick, Martin will have to wait longer, as the Lakers haven't contacted his representatives:
The Lakers-who cut Johnson-Odom & lost bigs D. Howard & P. Gasol today-have not reached out to free agent F Kenyon Martin,USAT has learned— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 7, 2013
Whether they plan to ultimately sign Martin remains to be seen, but the Lakers would be remiss to not give it a shot. Though Martin's reputation as a malcontent precedes him, D'Antoni has a reputation of being a solid player-relations coach.
More importantly, Martin can help defensively—which is no small fact for the Lakers at the moment. They weren't exactly lighting the word on fire with Howard and Hill in the lineup and their absences were felt instantaneously.
He may not be the perfect fit personality-wise, but the Lakers should be long past the point of caring about that.