LOS ANGELES — It has been nothing short of a difficult season filled with an array of injuries for the Los Angeles Lakers. Just ask forward Xavier Henry.
The 23-year-old forward in first season with the Lakers has been hit with the injury bug as he has missed 27 games due to a bone bruise in his right knee that he suffered on December 29 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Since returning to the court on March 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers, Henry has had a hard time sustaining any consistency as he is working his way back from his injury.
But in the Lakers’ 125-109 loss on Wednesday to the San Antonio Spurs, Henry had his best performance since his 27-point output against the Trail Blazers on December 1. He scored 24 points and looked much like himself prior to the injury as he made several drives to the basket that finished with layups in traffic and also attempted a dunk that was blocked by Spurs center Tiago Splitter.
“My knee is starting to feel better,” Henry said. “It’s obviously not 100 percent, but I am going to push the most out of it that I can for these last (few) games and try to help the team win. All I can do is try my best and that’s all I am going to do.”
It has been a hard and arduous road to recovery for Henry as he had to deal with two separate setbacks in his rehabilitation from injury. The first occurred on January 12 after a individual workout as he experienced swelling in his right knee that forced him to scale back his workload to just non-weight-bearing exercises for the following few days afterward.
The second setback happened just a day prior to the Lakers’ game on January 26 against the New York Knicks, as the team determined that he would miss at least the next 10-14 days because of the persistent swelling that was occurring in his right knee and would need to undergo go an MRI the following day.
It has been a rollercoaster ride for Henry that will likely continue through the remainder of the season, as he is still experiencing pain in his right knee that he wants to play throughout without the use of another cortisone shot or having his knee drained again.
“I just try to block it out or I compensate with my other legs as I try to use it more and that is only thing that I can do,” Henry said. “I am not going to be a guy where it hurts a little bit and be like ‘hey I can’t do it.’ I just got to fight through it. It will make me better in the end, so I got to keep pushing.”
“I don’t want to put a number on (the pain) because I don’t want people to feel sorry. I just want to play hard and make it through these games and help my team win.”
Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni also sees the persistent health issues that Henry that has dealt for much of the season, and he is hopeful that the three-year veteran can work through the pain and finish out the season strong.
“Xavier has battled through a lot of stuff and he could call it quits (this season) as he has a little of a problems here and there (with his knee)” D’Antoni said. “He is playing with some pain and he wants to play which is up to him. It’s good for him that he is trying to do it and he looked good tonight. Hopefully he can manage his pain, play the rest of the season and keep getting better.”
This upcoming offseason Henry is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but that is not what drives him to continue to play through the pain; It is his teammates’ hard work that pushes him to give it his all each and every night.
“I don’t think that it is my free agency that is pushing me at all,” Henry said. ” I think it’s just wanting to be here for my guys. They fight hard and I fight hard. If we can make it through these last 15 (games), and play strong and physical then I think we have a good shot at winning a lot of them.”
“All I can do is take care of my part and hopefully my guys can take care of theirs. We have been doing a great job of just continuing (on) and not getting discouraged through these games. Hopefully through these next few weeks I can get (my knee) as right as I possibly can so I can perform (at my) best for my teammates.”
So as the Lakers play through this last stretch of the season, one thing is for certain: Henry is going to continue to work hard and give it all he can every night for his teammates despite the physical limitations of his knee.
Watch Xavier Henry’s nice drive to the basket and finish in Wednesday’s game against the Spurs:
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images