"I'm finally going to get my shot," said Bill Bertka, the 67-year-old assistant coach.
No, it means the Lakers are more concerned than ever with health-care reform, not to mention the availability of small forwards. They've gone through three starters there now after tests Monday showed that Lynch will miss four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot at the same time they learned that Bowie, the backup center/power forward, is out at least a week because of a fractured rib.
The fitting end came later Monday at the Forum: Utah Jazz 101, Lakers 95, before 14,230 as Karl Malone had 32 points and 10 rebounds and John Stockton went for 19 points and 14 assists. Have a nice day.
"It's a tough loss for us," Coach Del Harris said. "We didn't play quite as well as we are capable of playing, I think. Of course, we played against a very good basketball team.
"One thing I don't want our players to get is the feeling of just playing a good game or that staying close is satisfying or moral victories. Our one objective when we go out on the court is still to win the game. I don't want us to get into the mode where we're forfeiting anything."
So what now? Probably another dip into the CBA, some five days after signing Lloyd Daniels out of Ft. Wayne. Among the likely candidates this time are Randolph Keys, a former No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Tony Dawson.
Soon, they'll be giving combat pay to Laker small forwards. Three up, three out--Cedric Ceballos for roughly three to five more weeks after thumb surgery; Ceballos' replacement, Eddie Jones, on about the same timeline because of a sprained shoulder; and now Jones' replacement, Lynch.
Daniels, three games into his Laker career after arriving on a 10-day contract, draws the short straw, though he undoubtedly doesn't see it that way after spending most of the season in the CBA. The options from there are true guards--Tony Smith, probably the best qualified if he weren't hobbled by a strained calf, and Anthony Peeler--or true power forwards--Antonio Harvey and Kurt Rambis.
Getting into the proper mood, somebody put on a sign on the door leading to the trainer's room, welcoming the inhabitants to M*A*S*H 4077. And then: "ENTER AT OWN RISK!" The Lakers left the locker room and went to the court for the annual team picture, which went very well.
"Nobody got hurt," trainer Gary Vitti said.
It was early, but the Lakers were taking their good news on that front where they could find it. Then things started to go bad--Ceballos, Bowie and Jones got out of uniform.
Still, even without them, the Lakers stayed close through the end of the third quarter, trailing only 72-69 with 18 seconds left. But the Jazz pulled away from there, using a 21-7 run for a commanding 93-76 lead with 5:05 to go. Malone had nine of the points in that charge, pushing him beyond 30 for the seventh time in the last 10 games.
Elden Campbell led the Lakers with 25 points, while Vlade Divac added 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Daniels, meanwhile, was off to a slow start, playing 37 minutes but making just two of seven shots to go with seven assists.
It is not possible to say when George Lynch suffered his injury because stress fractures develop over time, but he finally spoke up when the pain became too much during Saturday's game at the Sports Arena. Tests then showed the injury, which put an end to his seven-game run as a starter. "It was really upsetting to me," Lynch said. "It was the first time this season I had gotten the opportunity to play a lot of minutes."
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The Hurting Game
A look at some of the significant injuries to Laker players this season.
PLAYER INJURY HOW LONG OUT Sedale Threatt Stress fracture, right foot Jan. 3-28 (13 games) Cedric Ceballos Back spasms Jan. 6-8 (2 games) Sam Bowie Sprained right thumb Jan. 31-Feb. 8 (6 games) Cedric Ceballos Torn ligament, right thumb Feb. 4-now (11 games) Elden Campbell Sprained left ankle Feb. 1-8 (5 games) Eddie Jones Sprained right shoulder Feb. 20-now (4 games) Sam Bowie Separated rib Feb. 25-now (2 games) George Lynch Stress fracture, right foot Feb. 27-now (1 game)
Note: Ceballos and Jones are on the injured list and scheduled to be out at least three more weeks. Lynch will go on the injured list any day and is expected to sit out four to six weeks. Bowie will be out a minimum of a week.