It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, have had numerous challenges this season.
Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Steve Blake have missed a combined 96 games in 2012-13. Backup center Jordan Hill is also out indefinitely with a hip injury, although recent reports havesuggested that his rehab is going better than anyone would have expected and that he could return to action as soon as April.
His return becomes even more of a possibility the longer the Lakers’ season lasts, and that means that if the they do hold on to at least the eighth seed and make the playoffs, they will likely be playing with a full complement of players, something that hasn’t happened since the first game of the season.
It didn’t take long for the injury bug to strike early on.
Nash went down in the second game, a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. He would go on to miss seven weeks of action, which amounted to 24 games missed. L.A. floundered in his absence and at one point, found themselves eight games under the . 500 mark. As of Sunday, they are 36-32
More importantly, a healthy Howard and stellar play from Bryant have sparked a turnaround, but the climb back into the postseason race has not been easy. Blowout losses at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics showed the Lakers that they still had a long way to go in order to round into playoff shape. A week after being dismantled in Boston, the Lakers exacted a measure of revenge against the hated Celtics with a blowout win of their own. They won the game without Gasol, who has missed the past six weeks of action with plantar fasciitis. Gasol’s absence has not only forced Howard to play heavier minutes, but it also proved to be a blessing in disguise as forward Earl Clark earned more minutes and played well in spots while being an energetic, athletic force on the court, something the Lakers have lacked.
Another bright spot for the team has been Bryant’s streak of 40-point games. Just when he was playing his best, he suffered a severely sprained ankle against the Atlanta Hawks and managed only 12 minutes in the Lakers’ next outing against the Indiana Pacers on the road.
The Lakers continue to shine in the absence of their best players. On Sunday, they defeated the Sacramento Kings without Bryant and Gasol, and the rest of the squad seemed to grow in the process. They’ve shown that they may be able to get over giant hurdles in front of them and that the team is becoming a more cohesive unit.
Though they only defeated the lowly Sacramento Kings, and by a final score of 113- 102 nonetheless, they still press on. In a season full of injuries, coach firings and alleged feuds, a win against Sacramento without a star player who has seemingly bailed out this team might be something that propels this talented group to a championship run.
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