Lakers News: Frontcourt Injuries Come at Worst Possible Time for Los Angeles

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 04:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers leaves the court as his team trails the Los Angeles Clippers late in the fourth quarter at Staples Center on January 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers loss 107-102.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets last night, their third consecutive loss, and yet another pitiful nadir for a season gone awry.

After the game, rumblings of a riff between Kobe Bryant an Dwight Howard were bandied about the internet. There were unfounded rumors of a "heated exchange," and a more important dissonance in their postgame comments.

Kobe said, "I think it's fine for us to boil over a little bit .. it's fine to get a little chippy," while the more jovial Howard said, "Sometimes when you try too hard, you mess up ... we're just trying to put it all together, just quiet our spirits and play."

But those reports are conjectural, abstract, easily assuaged by a puckish twitpic. The issues the Lakers are facing—the real ones—are far more tangible and far more lethal.

Over the course of 15 minutes on Monday, news broke on the injuries of Dwight HowardPau Gasol and Jordan Hill. The Lakers three best big men, arguably their only three NBA-caliber big men, will all be sidelined for the upcoming games—at the least. Which means Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark and Robert Sacre will be forced into extensive playing time.

It doesn't get much more threadbare than that.

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And while neither Howard, Hill nor Gasol are in serious jeopardy of missing EXTENDED time, even their short absence could put the Lakers in jeopardy of missing the postseason.

The Lakers next three games are against Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Here's the most productive player in each of those front courts:

Omer Asik (HOU) 10.6 11.4  1.1 .525  14.93
Tim Duncan (SA)  17.7 9.6  2.5 .513  25.55
Serge Ibaka (OKC) 14.4 8.5  2.9 .565  19.99

For comparison sake, here's how Jamison, Sacre and Clark stack up:

Antawn Jamison (LAL) 6.7  4.2  .3  .440  13.32 
Robert Sacre (LAL) 0.5  0.8  0.3  .333  0.47 
Earl Clark (LAL) 0.9  0.7  0.4  .333  5.68 

Even with Howard, Gasol and Hill in tow, the Lakers would have been hard-pressed to beat Houston, San Antonio or Oklahoma City. But now? Extending the losing streak to six doesn't just seem plausible—it seems downright inevitable.

Now, I would never deign to posit that there's a GOOD time to go on a losing streak. There isn't. But right now is a particularly bad time, as detailed by's J.A. Adande, who writes:

If the top eight teams in the Western Conference maintain their current pace, the Lakers must go 31-18 in their remaining 49 games to get the 46 victories it would likely take to make the playoffs.

As in, if they lose three straight, they would need to go 31-15 to make the playoffs. That's a 67.4-percent clip; only six teams in the league have won at that rate this season.

Let's just say Kobe better have some Mamba in reserve for the upcoming week.