The Lakers are no strangers to playoff uncertainties, and another has appeared in their domain.
Reserve power forward Jordan Hill, accused of choking a girlfriend, was charged with a third-degree felony Monday and was expected to appear soon in a Houston court.
It was unclear when he would have to answer in person to the charges. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
A spokeswoman for the Harris County district attorney said Hill needed to be present Tuesday in Houston for a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Central time, but Hill’s agent said a court appearance wasn’t mandated yet.
“Jordan will spend [Monday] night in his bed in L.A. preparing for the game,” agent Kevin Bradbury said.
The Lakers continue their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at 7:30 at Staples Center. Even if Hill has to appear in Houston at some point, the team does not expect him to miss any games.
Hill, 24, had become an increasingly important backup for the Lakers, scoring 10 points and taking 10 rebounds in their 103-88 victory Sunday in Game 1.
He was with the Houston Rockets at the time of the alleged assault and was acquired by the Lakers on March 15 for Derek Fisher and a first-round pick.
Hill got into the dispute with his girlfriend, Darlene Luna, on Feb. 29 while they discussed their plans at his apartment in Houston, according to court documents.
Luna threw his two cellphones to the floor and was hit in the legs by Hill, who pulled her off a sofa and dragged her toward the phones before throwing her against a wall. Then Hill put her in a chokehold, which caused her to gasp for air, according to the complaint.
Luna flew back to her residence in Orlando, Fla., and called police in Houston about four weeks later. She e-mailed pictures of bruises on her legs and upper body and also copies of plane tickets to and from Houston. She had been in a relationship with Hill for about two years.
On his Twitter account Monday morning, Hill posted “Unbelievable!!!!!!” and “Wowwwww,” apparently in response to the breaking news of the alleged dispute.
He talked to reporters later in the day after practicing with the Lakers at their training facility in El Segundo.
“I just want to apologize to fans, to the Lakers organization, to everyone,” Hill said. “I can’t speak on [the charges] right now. I’ll let my attorney and my agents take care of it. Unfortunately, it happened at this time, but I’m going to continue to keep my head up and keep working and keep playing.”
The Lakers are already without Metta World Peace, who must sit five more games before ending an NBA-imposed ban for elbowing Oklahoma City guard James Harden last week.
If nothing else, the Lakers always have their height. In a vastly unpredictable season, one thing remains the same — Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are both 7 feet tall.
The Nuggets presumably know that by now.
Bynum had only the second triple-double in NBA playoff history with blocked shots as a category, totaling 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in Game 1.
“We’ve just got to keep attacking him,” Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried said. “Guys have to float it over him or try to dunk on him. You can’t just go in there with the flimsy underhand layups and try to go under him.”
Gasol came close to a triple-double as well with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Lakers couldn’t possibly hold the Nuggets to 36% shooting again … or could they?
“When we defend, we’re a very, very good team,” Bynum said. “If we try to outscore teams, it’s a tossup.”
Mike Brown is in his sixth season as an NBA coach but isn’t above leaning on the job.
“In Cleveland, I had the most experience on the team. Here, I don’t,” said Brown, in his first season with the Lakers. “So this team, with the experiences that they have, there might be some things that I learn from them like I have all year.”
Such as …?
“It was a certain patience that you need to have especially at different times throughout the year,” he said.
Brown and his assistant coaches changed their animated on-court demeanor about a month into the season and were now more reserved as a group. Brown also shortened practices and video sessions as the season progressed.