The Los Angeles Lakers remain one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA as they continue their quest to get above .500, make the postseason and contend for a championship—all this despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them.
As of late, there have been quite a few injuries to key players, at least one disgruntled superstar unhappy with his role in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system and some potential tension in the locker room.
Let’s take a look at the latest buzz and most up to date reports on some of the biggest stars in Los Angeles.
Pau Gasol Not Being Replaced
The Los Angeles Lakers applied for (and received) a $1.7 million disabled player exception when backup big man Jordan Hill was lost for the season.
However, GM Mitch Kupchak is reportedly reluctant to use the exception to find a fill-in for Pau Gasol, even though the veteran forward is out at least six weeks (as per Ken Berger of CBS Sports) upon suffering a foot injury.
According to Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld, the Lakers brass isn’t in a hurry to bring in a new PF/C while the Spaniard rehabilitates, considering D’Antoni doesn’t want to play post-style basketball.
What is concerning is that the Lakers are down to Robert Sacre (more known for his wild celebrations) and undersized, aging vet Antawn Jamison to soak a majority of minutes in the frontcourt for as long as Dwight Howard is sidelined.
Speaking of D12…
Kobe Bryant Urging Dwight Howard to Play
The Black Mamba realizes that the Lakers don’t have any time to spare or games to squander if they are going to make a serious playoff run in 2013.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Howard realizes this, and the superstar shooting guard is doing his best to help him see the light.
According to ESPN’s staff, Bryant believes that D12 must find a way to fight through the pain of a torn labrum in his right shoulder in order to get back on the floor and help the team win.
What should Howard do?
On Wednesday, Kobe said (as per ESPN): “We don't have time for (Howard's shoulder) to heal. We need some urgency… We don't have three years. We've got this year.”
As a 17-year veteran, Bryant is keenly aware that these Lakers don’t have a shot with Sacre manning the center position for more than ten minutes a contest. They need a dominant post player to work D’Antoni’s offense, and D12 is the only reasonable option on the roster.
It’ll be interesting to see if Bryant’s public needling will persuade Howard to return to the lineup soon.
Lakers Confident They Will Retain Howard
While Bryant is adamant that the Lakers don’t have a three-year window, Kupchak and the Lakers brass are convinced that Howard will remain in L.A. for that 2015-16 season and beyond.
As per ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne, insider sources are “very confident” that D12 will remain with the Purple and Gold for the long haul.
Dwight hasn’t had the best season statistically (averaging 16.5 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks in 34.7 minutes over 43 games) or personally (with plenty of rumored clashes and meetings with other players, notably Bryant), but he has to know that L.A. offers the best chance to win a title.
There will certainly be a number of suitors trying to pry Howard away from Los Angeles come July, so this situation will be worth monitoring closely in a few months.