Hand injuries are taking a toll on Lakers

Ask Phil Jackson about it and he’ll give you a verbal thumbs-down.

The Lakers coach says he has never seen anything like it, this rash of hand and finger injuries on the Lakers.

Five players are dealing with them this season, the Lakers using enough adhesive tape and pre-wrap on fingers and thumbs to stock a small sporting goods store.

“It takes quite a while for a hand injury to heal,” Jackson said ominously. “It’ll take a while for all these guys to get over it, maybe a summer. Some of these guys may need an operation in the off-season.”

Jackson did not elaborate on which players might need surgery, but the list of injured digits is lengthy.

The most highly publicized would be Kobe Bryant’s broken right index finger, sustained when he reached out to grab an off-target pass from Jordan Farmar on Dec. 11. Bryant was back to wearing a protective wrap on the finger after getting hit there again Friday against Phoenix.

Lamar Odom sprained the middle and index fingers on his right hand when Phoenix guard Leandro Barbosa abruptly backed into him while trying to draw a foul in late December. Odom still tapes the two fingers together.

Shannon Brown has a sprained right thumb and Ron Artest a sprained left thumb, both of which are taped up for games. Farmar has a sprained ligament in his left pinkie.

“You never really notice how many times your hands are hit or grabbed until you’re hurt there,” Odom said. “It’s tough because we do so much with our hands when you’re out there, getting through a pick, picking a guy, going to get a rebound, going to the hole. You get smacked on it.”

The Lakers’ injury issues could be worse.

“Some teams are talking about knees,” Odom said. “Or backs.”

Possible opponent?

The Portland Trail Blazers have been sitting in eighth place for a while and could be the Lakers’ first-round playoff matchup.

“We have a lot of admiration for what Portland has gone through this year,” Jackson said. “They’ve gone through a number of injuries … they stayed stable. Looks like they’re going to come into that eighth spot.”

The Lakers broke a nine-game losing streak in Portland by winning there last month, 99-82.

Tournament time

All four Lakers coaches have an interest in the NCAA basketball tournament: Jackson is from Montana and his three assistants played at schools that received bids: Jim Cleamons ( Ohio State), Brian Shaw ( UC Santa Barbara) and Frank Hamblen (Syracuse).

UC Santa Barbara and Ohio State face each other in the first round.

“We meet for breakfast every morning as a staff, but if Ohio State wins, I’ll get [Cleamons] breakfast one morning,” Shaw said.

Ohio State is favored by 17 points over the Gauchos.

“We’re going to play them straight up,” Shaw said. “We’re not looking for a handout. We’ll just see how the chips fall.”

Foul upgrade

The NBA upgraded Pau Gasol’s foul Friday in Phoenix to a flagrant foul Type I. Gasol was trying to block the shot of reserve Suns forward Louis Amundson but instead hit him in the head.