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Lakers' past two performances against San Antonio reveal split in how team absorbed injuries

The Lakers couldn't have presented the contrast any more clearer.

They already knew they'd be entering their matchup Jan. 12 at San Antonio shorthanded with forward Pau Gasol missing his fifth consecutive game because of a left hamstring injury. Ron Artest (right index finger) and Sasha Vujacic (right hamstring) suffered injuries during those contests, though they remained on the active roster. Meanwhile, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wasn't so lucky. He missed the entire fourth quarter because of flaring back spasms.

The result: The Lakers lost 105-85, as the team committed 14 turnovers, allowed the Spurs to shoot 57.3% and yielded at least 100 points for the ninth time in 12 games. Fast forward to the Lakers' next contest with the Spurs on Feb. 9 and you see a team showcasing the ability to withstand injuries. Despite Bryant missing his second game because of a sprained left ankle and center Andrew Bynum missing his first complete game because of a right hip injury, the Lakers prevailed 101-89 because of team balance. That featured Gasol directing the offense with 21 points, 19 rebounds, a season-high eight assists and five blocked shots. There were forwards Artest and Lamar Odom combining for 34 points because of constant drives to the basket. Derek Fisher (13 points) provided stability as a starter, while Jordan Farmar (13 points) brought energy off the bench.

It appeared the Lakers had improving during that timespan in absorbing injuries. I looked over the season results wondering if the Lakers are enter their third meeting tonight against San Antonio as a team better prepared to handle injuries. Yet, I couldn't find a definitive pattern that actually suggested that was the case. That's why I posed the question to the team at Tuesday's practice for some insight.

When you sort out the cliches, it becomes apparent that the Lakers also don't see a definitive pattern with how they've tackled injuries. The approach has perhaps been as fleeting as numerous injuries that have popped up during the season. And it's an issue that still affects the team, ranging from Bryant's four-month long fractured index finger, Artest's left thumb, Shannon Brown's right thumb, Jordan Farmar's left pinkie and lately, Bynum's strained left Achilles' tendon Odom's injured left shoulder. Bynum travelled with the team as it begins a five-game trip today against San Antonio, but he is not expected to play. Meanwhile, Odom has played 15 games with lesion on the labrum in his left shoulder, something that wasn't publicly divulged until after the Lakers' 104-96 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Surely, these injuries aren't a legitimate excuse for Lakers' inconsistency in effort and execution. Even with the Lakers (52-18) owning the Western Conference's best record, the team has a mixed bag in overcoming the assorted injuries and preventing them from disrupting its continuity. That seemed to be the sentiment Odom shared Tuesday when he declined to go into much detail about how the shoulder has limited his play, though he did provide some light after Saturday's practice and after Sunday's game against Washington.

It's an issue the Lakers dealt with right from the beginning of the season, with Gasol missing the first 11 games because of a strained right hamstring. During his absence, the Lakers went 8-3, something that's pass-worthy but not entirely acceptable among the organization. The same issues propped up when he missed six games in January because of a strained left hamstring, with the team going 3-3 during his absence.

It wasn't just Gasol's injury in January that disrupted the continuity. Include Bryant, who aggravated in early January a month-long avulsion fracture to his right index finger. Though he shot only 41.2% that month, he increased the amount of shots, making it harder for the rest of the team to get involved while also exposing more vulnerability to his finger. There were games he played a distributing role in the team's trip in January against New York, Toronto, Washington and Indiana, but the large volume of shots that month often came at the expense of on-court chemistry.

Gasol enjoyed good health while Bryant played through his finger injury with relative ease a month before, but issues were present among some of their teammates. Bynum went through a December slump that featured 23 consecutive games where he didn't record a double double. Part of that had to do with his difficulty playing alongside Gasol, but part of it also had to do with sinus, asthma and knee issues.

Later in the month, Artest's Christmas night concussion, reduced his defensive presence, limited his court awareness and made the process to learn the triangle offense an even more time-consuming process. Before his injury, Artest had earned the league's second-highest plus/minus rating. During his five-game absence, the Lakers yielded more than 100 points in the four of those five contests.

It appeared the Lakers improved in their ability to absorb injuries most notably during Bryant's five-game absence in February. The Lakers held opponents during Bryant's five-game absence to 86.6 points, a mark that ranked second-best in the league and was a near 10-point improvement from their regular season average in yielding 96.2 points per game at the time. The team's individual performances also improved during Bryant's absence. Just look at the averages during those games compared to the regular season averages beforehand: Gasol (18.4 points and 13.4 rebounds, 17.2 points and 11 rebounds), Artest (14.4 points, 11.7 points), Odom (14.6 points and a league-leading 15 rebounds, 10.2 points and 10.1 rebounds), Brown (14.6 points in 37.7 minutes, 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes per game), Farmar (11 points in 21.5 minutes per game, 7.6 points in 18.4 minutes per game) Fisher (9.4 points, 7.3 points) and Sasha Vujacic (4.4 points in 14 minutes, 2.5 points in 7.9 minutes per game). Bynum (17.5 points and 8 rebounds, 15.2 points and 8.2 boards) also saw an increase, but it was in only two games since he was sidelined because of an injured right hip.

But other improvements appeared to have been disrupted by other injuries. Before Bynum strained his left Achilles' tendon last week against Minnesota, he had averaged 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8% shooting this month. His scoring wasn't among his season averages in November (18) and January (16.9), but it still marked an improvement from his performances in February (12.1). Something similar happened to Sasha Vujacic, whose minutes had increased during Bryant's five-game absence. There was also a clear increase in production in the last five games during Bryant's absence compared to his season average, including points (2.5, 4.4), rebounds (1.1, 2.0) and assists (.6, 1.8). But that progress was offset after colliding with Boston center Kendrick Perkins and suffering a sprained right shoulder, which forced him to miss eight games.

Though Farmar and Brown hasn't missed games because of their injuries, there's no question Farmar's hurt left pinky and Brown's sprained right thumb have contributed to their worst month in 2010. And say what you will about forward Luke Walton, but Laker Noise's Roland Lazenby recently made a strong case for why Walton's 46-game absence because of a pinched nerve in his lower back has further hurt Artest's mastery in the triangle offense.

It's painfully clear these aforementioned injuries have ultimately disrupted the team's continuity. Nonetheless, the Lakers' standing in the West shows all these issues haven't become as detrimental as they could have been. Nor should they. With the talent and experience the Lakers have, they should be able to absorb most absences.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
Comments () | Archives (13)

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It's painfully clear these aforementioned injuries have ultimately disrupted the team's continuity. Nonetheless, the Lakers' standing in the West shows all these issues haven't become as detrimental as they could have been. Nor should they. With the talent and experience the Lakers have, they should be able to absorb most absences.

--Mark Medina
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I agree, the injuries have somewhat impacted the team but, not enough to use as an excuse for the inconsistent play. I would like to see much better focus and intensity from the team, in general, and the bench, in particular, starting tonight against the Spurs, especially on defense. I would also like to see better boxing out...let's put a body on someone...at all times!!!!

Anyhoo, I've a new slogan for the team...DOMINATE DAMMIT!!!!

See y'all on the livechat.

Go Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow. The Lakers are great...and...another human-like species discovered, thought to have lived about 35,000 years ago. This brings the count to 4 living at that time: early Humans, Neanderthals, the Pigmy people down around Burma, and now this new species found in Siberia.


http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1974903,00.html?hpt=T2


My hope is that if enough human-like species are discovered, maybe we can find someone to hit a three point shot.


Wes

Yes the injuries cause lack of cohesion but now is the time to put up or shut up. Play through the pain and gain the rings.
About 16 games in season left and 16 wins to get rings. So 32-0 works best. Lets get serious and do this!

Guys, I don't think the post is intended to make excuses for the team. And I make that pretty clear at the bottom. I just thought it'd be good to document how the Lakers haven't been able to absorb the injuries as best as they should have.

MM

Guys, I don't think the post is intended to make excuses for the team. And I make that pretty clear at the bottom. I just thought it'd be good to document how the Lakers haven't been able to absorb the injuries as best as they should have.

MM

Posted by: Mark Medina | March 24, 2010 at 04:29 PM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Didn't mean to imply any such thing. I'm just stating what I feel about others who may want to use the injuries as an excuse for the lackluster play that I've seen from the team lately. The injuries have been a minor factor at best, imo.


Mamba- man, it’s just nice to read all that. You do good work.

Justa- Yeah to all that. I had an ‘scope done on my shoulder, it was beautiful how easy it was, in and out, lots of vicoden, feels better than the other shoulder now. Good luck, and I will be doing for you whatever it is I do instead of praying, for sure.

Also, yeah, insurance companies will do that. Mine was work related, and I still had to wait a couple of months because the specialist took that long worth of phone calls before they figured out that the nice folks at Labor and Industries were paying for it.

PS to Larry- just put the first paragraph on the bandwagon, if it's not too late. The second one is less important.

Ouch- aw, you spoiled it. I was expected you to amp it up, and then I was going to be nice about it and say I forgave you because I know how easy it is to sound like an *&*@)#^ on the internet. nyuck nyuck.

Damn you for beating me to the being nice tactic! I own that tactic!

Wesjoe—I might never forgive you for that image. Nah, I like velveeta cheese, so obviously I don’t possess the capacity for disgust.

THE LOVE HAS A GOOD FEELING ABOUT US AND THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR

THE LOVE IS NOT ALWAYS ENTIRELY CLEAR ON HOW INJURIES CAN AFFECT PERFORMANCE, THOUGH. SOMETHING ABOUT BEING AN ALL POWERFUL FORCE INTERFERES WITH ITS UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN LIMITATIONS.

BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE LOVE

GO LAKERS!

Phred, we were raised on Velveta. I owe that cheese a few pay backs. And you can have my serving of Velveta on national cheese day.


Wes

WEST CONFERENCE FINALS ---- LAKERS VS. DALLAS, LAKERS IN 7 - STEP IT UP LAKE SHOW
CARON BUTLER VS. RON ARTEST -- TIE
SHAWN MARION VS. LAMAR ODOM -- TIE
JASON KIDD VS. FISHER/BROWN/FARMAR -- DALLAS
JASON TERRY VS. KOBE BRYANT --- LAKERS
BYNUM/GASOL VS. DAMPIER/HAYWOOD – LAKERS
LAKERS BENCH VS. DALLAS BENCH – DALLAS


Posted by: MAMBA24


Mamba,
Great analysis...didn't you forget a little guy named Dirk Nowitski ?

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS US VS THEM

US VS THEM- US

wesjoe- thanks, but i bought a block only a few short decades ago, so i'm pretty sure i will still have plenty around for the foreseeable future.

phred - you didn't get the government cheese? The kind in the tin?

@DFISH, YOU diabolical genius you. In that case...Oh my GOD!!! Good catch my brother. So I guess we better avoid Dallas huh!
Mamba24

*****
GOOD LUCK ON THE OPERATION JUSTAMAMBAFAN – BANDWAGON
****
Regarding the State of the Knee - specialist says I've gotta get it scoped. Apparently there's a lot of arthritic damage.... Next up is the wait for the authorization - probably *going under the knife next Wed or the one after that. As long as they're done with me and I'm back home by game time, it's all good.
EVERYONE : THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for your concern and well wishes - you don't know how much I appreciate it. And my very own BANDWAGON????? wow - thank you - I'm humbled and honored to have such a great Laker family. Ok - first thing's first. I want to thank everyone for their continued support regarding The State of the Knee. The specialist is still waiting for authorization from my insurance company, so I'm still waiting... and hobbling around like a really old broke-down bum. Looks like it will be this upcoming Wednesday. As long as I'm home in time for the Atlanta game, it's all good lol! I can't promise I'll be coherent on the chat, but I'll be there cheering on our beloved team! I'll keep y'all posted, but again - THANK YOU EVERYONE!! Laker Nation is truly an unbelievable community.
****
(01) MARK MEDINA – BLOG GOD - Justa - hope your knee is holding up well
(02) MAMBA24 – OWNER – Good Luck to the head of the Mamba Blog Family. I know you’ll come thru like a champ. “It’s all good “ and you are all good JUSTA! The family is channeling THE FORCE to you!
(03) JAYDEN24 – DRIVER - Justanothamambafan, I got the same thing to do with my knee and I've just been puttin it off. God bless.
(04) JEANETTE – RIDING SHOTGUN - My husband had problems with the knee as well, he stopped playing basketball. He said it is really painful but he is postponing surgery. You will be in my prayers.
(05) # 4 - Best wishes my friend from the old chat days!
(06 JON K – BIO-CHRONOLOGIST - "Regarding the State of the Knee - specialist says I've gotta get it scoped. Apparently there's a lot of arthritic damage.... " Brother, what are you taking for it? I mean, in terms of supplements & such? I've got plenty of suggestions. You basically want to take nutrients that reduce inflammation &d rebuild joint tissue. I suggest a combination of MSM, glucosamine, chondroitin, essential liquid sea minerals, omega-fatty acids (macadamnia nut oil), a systemic enzyme complex (to help eliminate scar tissue, etc.), a potent anti-oxidant (reservatrol is good), vitamin D, & a quality multi-vitamin, of course. You probably should also go to a Chinese herbalist & get some quality Dit Da Jow to put on your knee on a daily basis. If you want to narrow your list: Glucosamine, essential liquid sea minerals, omega-fatty acids, multi-vitamin & Dit Da Jow.
(07) MARK G - JAMF, that's too bad about the knee, I'm sorry to hear it has to be scoped. The good news is that arthroscopic surgery is pretty slick. Considering it's surgery, it's about as noninvasive as you can get. (Whoever that Arthur dude is that invented it, he has to be pretty smart.) And of course you deserve your own get well bandwagon! WTF? Justa, save your liquor. You might need it if you have to rehab that knee. You will if you get my physical therapist anyways, ouch.
(08) RICK FRIEDMAN - By all means, add me.
(09) EDWIN GUECO - Justa, After the surgery, you need sunlight as your natural Vitamin D. Try to live chat under the sun during noon games it is good for your health. Godspeed for recovery.
(10) LAKERTOM - … Please add me to the Good Luck to Justanothermambafan bandwagon. He has had my back so many times I have to show my love & support. Mrs. LakerTom tore her MCL a couple of weekends ago taking the grandkids sledding. She is getting an MRI tomorrow but we don’t think they will have to scope her. Anyway, keep up the good karma, Justa. Your recovery will be in our prayers.
(11) CHICNSTU - I hope you get well soon, we need your knee slappin humor on the live chat!!!
(12) JOLLY RANCHER - On the bright side for the blog, you'll be off your feet, but your fingers will still work fine. Justa - I bow before superior resources
(13) OUCHH - hey, JUSTA. we need you with good knees & good lateral movement. don't do an AB on us. also u won't be able to take the "streetcar" named DESIRE. get well soon. JUSTA - we all hope that u don't pull a Bynum next year & have more problems with the other knee. Watch out for kobe's landing or your favorite, LO. LOL!
(14) NEMAIA FALETOGO - Justa. I hope and pray that all goes well with his surgery because he's one of the many good guys on this blog and an important part of the Laker family. Justaaaaaaaaa!!!
(15) FANOFTHEMAMBA - Justa head of the mamba clan, we send positive energy your way.
(16) DAVE M. – Justa, stitches, beer and dit da jow, buddy!"
(17) G IN DC - justanothermambafan, hope the surgical procedure is a resounding success followed by a speedy recovery.
(18) CALIPHILOSOPHER - I hope that everything turns out ok Justa. You are in my thoughts.
(19) WESJOENIXON – JUSTA, No pain medication, please. My mother used to put a giant slice of velveta cheese on our wounds to soothe any broken bones we'd get along the way. Of course we were poor, so we'd have to eat the velveta afterwards. Oh well. Get well soon.
(20) LADYJEM24 - Please add me to Get well Justa and support to Utzworld Family *
(21)phred - Justa- Yeah to all that. I had an ‘scope done on my shoulder, it was beautiful how easy it was, in and out, lots of vicoden, feels better than the other shoulder now. Good luck, and I will be doing for you whatever it is I do instead of praying, for sure.Also, yeah, insurance companies will do that. Mine was work related, and I still had to wait a couple of months because the specialist took that long worth of phone calls before they figured out that the nice folks at Labor and Industries were paying for i


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