Last week, Pau Gasol’s early-season absence wasn’t exactly an immediate cause for concern.
After all, the Lakers dismantled the upstart Phoenix Suns on Thursday night en route to their 7-1 start and sixth straight win, Andrew Bynum returned from a minor injury to tie his then-season highs in points (26) and blocks (3) during that game, and the bench mob supplemented the starting five with an average of 42 points in each of the previous three contests, including the aforementioned.
Also last week, Phil Jackson joked that Gasol could be out until Christmas.
While it may have been funny then, Lakerland certainly isn’t getting the last laugh now.
On Friday the Lakers were walloped in Denver, only to come home two days later for an upset special courtesy of the Houston Rockets. In those two embarrassments they were outscored by a combined 46 points in the second half alone.
(Let that marinate for a second.)
Then tonight, it appeared as though the Lakers’ championship form had resurfaced. Instead, they let their 28-point stranglehold slip to seven, gave the fans a reason to stay for the remainder of the game and realized that there are still plenty of wrinkles to iron out.
Like Derek Fisher’s age, which is becoming more apparent than Rush Limbaugh’s political party affiliation. On Sunday Rockets’ point guard Aaron Brooks lit up the Lakers for 33 points, his new regular-season career high. (Last season he stung the Lakers for his playoff career high of 34 points.) Simply stated: Brooks made Fisher look like he was about ready to enlist in an old-age home.
The rotation also is a glaring weakness. With the injury bug continuing to prey on Purple and Gold (the latest: Luke Walton’s pinched nerve will sideline him for at least six weeks), Jackson’s second unit has to shoulder more of a load – a load it has struggled to carry time and again.
Now 8-3, the Lakers will welcome the Chicago Bulls to Staples Center on Thursday night, a game that may feature Gasol’s regular-season debut. But we’ve been hearing that from Lakers camp for some time now – that the he may lace them up next game. If he doesn’t, the Lakers will be without the Spaniard for a 19th consecutive game, counting the preseason.
In that case, the Lakers – as they say in Spanish – “a falta de pan, buenas son (las) tortas” (will just have to make due).
Josh Hoffman is a college junior working to become a sports journalist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Written by Josh Hoffman