With Andrew Bynum sitting the third game of a league-mandated four-game suspension and the franchise facing its first 0-3 start since disco ruled the world, the Lakers can't afford to go down another big heading into tonight's game against Utah.
Fortunately, they should take the floor reasonably whole.
Forward Josh McRoberts, nursing a sprain to his left thumb suffered on Christmas against Chicago, left Monday's loss in Sacramento at the 8:15 mark of the third quarter with a sprained left big toe and didn't return, but is expected to suit up against the Jazz. Starting at center in Bynum's absence, Pau Gasol wore a large pad on his right shoulder Monday protecting his own Christmas sprain, but suffered no additional damage and is also expected to play.
At Tuesday's shootaround, Mike Brown explained how losing McRoberts on Monday night put the team in a bind, forcing him to play Metta World Peace at power forward after Luke Walton was, in Brown's estimation, "laboring a little."
It was hardly an ideal setup.
"Metta has not had an opportunity to get a rep at the four in over 2 1/2 weeks. The first day or two, we started to give him some reps at the power forward spot, but I didn't like it at the time," he said. "I didn’t want him trying to learn two positions. He did not have another opportunity since about the first or second day of training camp to get reps at that power forward position."
With McRoberts available, World Peace can try to build on a strong performance against Sacramento from his reserve small forward spot. Gasol, meanwhile, is still looking for a true breakout game, though upon further review Brown had good things to say about his performance last night.
"He did a terrific job, going back and watching the tape, of facilitating. We played through him a lot, especially in the second half on the post, where he might not have scored, but man he made some very good passes to his teammates from that post up position," he said.
I asked if, with Bynum still out, Brown wants Gasol to be more "selfish," calling his own number more. “If he was I’d be OK with it, because he’s very skilled. But because he’s playing the way that he is, a lot of the passes that he made were set-up passes. Guys got some very easy looks from it, so I’m OK with that," he said.
"When I was in Cleveland, people asked me that about LeBron all the time. But when a guy is making the game easier for his teammates, you’ve got to be OK with that. Other guys will step up."