Where do you even begin with what happened after the Lakers held on to beat the Nets in Brooklyn last night? There was probably as much drama as you can possibly have after getting a W.
First up, news of Pau Gasol’s significant injury. He had been battling ultra-painful plantar fasciitis in his right foot all season, but felt a pop in the fourth quarter and limped into the locker room. There will be an MRI today, but is suspected that Gasol has torn the plantar fascia tissue under the foot. If that is indeed the case, he’s looking at a recovery time of several weeks at least. It’s a shame; Gasol was just really starting to get into a groove and had just started playing really well. Whatever momentum he and Mike D’Antoni and his Lakers teammates had started to build together is now gone.
The loss of Gasol brings us to drama point No. 2: Dwight Howard and his lingering shoulder labrum injury. Howard sat out last night’s game (his third in a row), and Kobe made it clear after the game that he thinks Dwight needs to man up and play through the pain.
After the game, he challenged Howard to play through the shoulder injury that’s caused him to miss the past three games on this Lakers road trip. With Gasol likely on the shelf again, Bryant knows the Lakers need Howard. He made it clear he thinks Howard could be and maybe should be playing through the pain in his shoulder.
The Lakers and Howard didn’t seem to be on the same page Tuesday about his status. In the morning, coach Mike D’Antoni hoped Howard would be recovered enough from platelet-rich plasma therapy he got last week to play. But Howard, his shoulder encased in ice after shootaround, said he was most definitely out.
“He’s probably worried about the damage in his shoulder,” Bryant said. “I don’t think he’s ever had to play through injuries in his career. I think it’s a new experience for him.”
Howard tore his right labrum last month. He will probably need surgery to fix it after the season. In the meantime, he has twice aggravated the injury and gone to see doctors to make sure there hasn’t been more damage. The doctors can treat it, such as the blooding-spinning procedure he had, but they can’t make it pain-free.
But Howard can play, even though he’ll have to deal with setbacks, as long as he’s up to it. For the last few games, he hasn’t been.
Bryant, who has an extensive résumé of putting off surgeries until offseasons and playing through daily discomfort, is putting the public pressure squarely on Howard to do the same. Gasol limped out of the Barclays Center on crutches Tuesday night. Bryant, talking about reality, gave Howard his preferred dose of it.
“When I was growing up, going through high school and middle school, unfortunately but fortunately I dealt with injuries,” Bryant said. “Not injuries that were debilitating but injuries you have to play through where you have to manage the pain. When you go through those things you learn your body and what you can push through.
“But Dwight has never been hurt. The [back injury last season] was debilitating and he couldn’t play. When you have an injury that hurts you but you can play through it that’s something you have to balance out and manage and he’s never really had to do that.”
The message was blunt: suck it up.
That should go over well.
And finally, you know how everyone’s been all about Kobe’s recent pass-first mentality? The other day I wrote about how it’s likely that Kobe himself doesn’t believe that he can keep up the role of “facilitator,” even at the expense of wins and a longer career. This is how Kobe described this massive, clutch dunk after the game:
“I think everyone has been drinking the Kobe pass Kool-Aid so they kind of stayed on the perimeter like the Red Sea. I felt a little like Moses.”
“The Kobe pass Kool-Aid.” Doesn’t sound like something that’s going to be around for a while, especially if the team is missing Dwight and Pau.
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