The news is, Pau Gasol is out. This means there’s no more questions regarding Dwight Howard, trades, and Mike D’Antoni benching the Spaniard. It’s all about the man usually referred to as the best center in the NBA, who needs to prove he’s worth re-signing and becoming the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dwight Howard is still a day to day decision, but it’s going to be harder and harder to keep him out of the lineup. The Lakers can win games with just one of their two primary big men in the roster, but it’s hard to believe they can come out of the next six weeks with enough wins to overtake the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers (8th and 9th in the West) without Howard coming back very quickly.
A tear in the plantar fascia of his right foot, that’s the bad news for Gasol. It does help the Lakers with one thing – no more trade rumors regarding both players, not for this season at least. Instead of constantly denying their looking for shoppers, the fact is that Howard is the only real center the Lakers have left. Earl Clark isn’t a real big man, at least not in his ability on defense, despite all the recent double doubles.
Robert Sacre, a rookie who has played in 22 games this season, is averaging 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. He got more time on the floor in the three games both Gasol and Howard were out (all losses) but didn’t show he can become a force in the paint right away, or at all.
Howard is averaging 16.5 points and 11.9 rebounds this season. It seems the recent mental and offensive shift the Lakers have done is working, winning three consecutive games on the road after losing all their away trips in January. Kobe Bryant is suddenly passing the ball instead of focusing on shooting and being the savior on his own. The recent win against the Nets showed that if Gasol and Howard aren’t on the floor, Bryant has no choice but to revert to his Xbox mode, which doesn’t bode well for the Lakers.
The road trip still isn’t over, but the Lakers haven’t left themselves a huge margin for error, three games behind the Rockets with just over 30 games left to play this season. Leaving Howard out of the game against the Celtics, maybe the Bobcats as well sounds slightly reasonable. But then there are the Heat, and a home-stand the Lakers can’t afford to lose games in. Unless something unique happens in the next couple of games without Howard, there’s no other choice but to throw him back in there, and hope he isn’t the next big man to go down with an injury that will truly end their season.