Pau Gasol keeping Lakers on track until Kobe Bryant returns from injury
Pau Gasol walked slowly from the locker room to his car Friday night, clutching a small bag from a health-food store as the overhead fluorescent lights formed his shadow in front of him.
He spoke quietly to a reporter in Spanish after the Lakers settled to 1-2 in an already injury-marred season. Kobe Bryant isn’t back from a torn Achilles’ tendon, Steve Nash is averaging four points and five assists when he does play, and Gasol is trying to hold everything together until further notice.
This isn’t the way the Lakers envisioned things when they signed Gasol and Kobe Bryant to contract extensions through the 2013-14 season.
But the team showed almost nothing in a 91-85 loss Friday, shooting 37% against a cold-shooting San Antonio team without Tim Duncan in front of a bored Staples Center crowd.
What more can Gasol do besides be the glue?
“I don’t know about the glue, but I’m definitely the reference, I guess, until everybody’s healthy,” he said. “I’m just trying to establish myself and make sure we get through a pattern out there where everybody feels comfortable and I can be more productive.”
Gasol is the Lakers’ only reliable player so far, averaging 15.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
It could be worse. They beat the Clippers in the season opener. And at least Gasol’s healthy.
“We’re not really healthy, but last year was the most unhealthy season that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a healthy season after we get Kobe back, whenever that happens, and see what happens with him all year long.”
Power forward problems
Shawne Williams is averaging two points in three games as the starting power forward. Backup big man Chris Kaman had four points Friday against San Antonio.
The Lakers need a big man to help Gasol. Badly.
Jordan Hill didn’t enter Friday’s loss until the start of the fourth quarter. He then had five points, four rebounds and drew a loose-ball foul thanks to solid boxing out.
A day later, Coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that Hill would get more time after showing pretty good energy.
“Great energy, not pretty good,” D’Antoni said. “That would be obvious, yeah.”
Young struggling, Henry fine
Nick Young’s first few games with the Lakers have been anything but sharp.
He is averaging 8.3 points and shooting 27% as the starting small forward.
Meanwhile, his backup, Xavier Henry, practiced Saturday after needing nine stitches to close a wound in his forehead from Friday’s game.
“He should have an ‘X,’ but he’s got an ‘I,’” D’Antoni quipped.
Henry was the team’s leading scorer before scoring only three points Friday. He’s averaging 13 points and shooting 40%.
Gasol was not at Saturday’s practice so he could attend memorial services for Lakers luminary Bill Sharman.
A Hall of Fame inductee, Sharman was 87 when he died last week. He helped shape the Lakers into an elite franchise, coaching them to a historic 33-game winning streak in 1971-72 en route to their first NBA championship in Los Angeles.
He held many titles in his 35 years with the Lakers, also serving as general manager, president and special consultant. Sharman made the trade that eventually led to the selection of Magic Johnson in the 1979 NBA draft.
Bryant, assistant coach Kurt Rambis and trainer Gary Vitti were also excused from practice to attend the services.
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