Lakers player reviews: Xavier Henry
May, 20, 2014
By Dave McMenamin
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesXavier Henry expanded his game this season, but injuries slowed down his progress for the Lakers.
Season recap: Henry landed with the Lakers as a former lottery pick playing for his third team in his short four-year career and quickly reminded the L.A. brass why he was selected so high to begin with. Henry brought a unique brand of physicality, skill and determination to the court, and while he was selfish enough to average career highs across the board -- points (10.0), rebounds (2.7), assists (1.2), steals (1.0) and minutes (21.1) per game while also shooting a career-best 41.7 percent from the field in 43 games (making five starts) -- he was also one of the most well-liked teammates in the locker room. If it wasn't for persistent injuries -- a bone bruise and abnormality of the meniscus in his right knee that caused him to miss 28 game as well as a torn ligament in his left wrist late in the season -- he might have ended up being the brightest spot on the Lakers' roster.
Jeff Withey with one of the best dunks the league ended up seeing all season back in November. As far as one game, Henry had a few that stood out, from his 29 points and seven rebounds in the preseason opener against Golden State, to his 22 points and six rebounds (and stare down of Chris Paul) in the season opener against the Clippers. But his best game considering all the context had to be his 22 points and two-steal night in 23 minutes against the New York Knicks in late March. Not only was it significant because it came after he missed all that time dealing with his right knee injury, but the Lakers also got to play spoilers to the Knicks' postseason chances, beating Phil Jackson's new team when New York had come into the game having won eight out of its past nine.
Season lowlight: Statistically speaking, Henry's 3-for-12 shooting night from the field (not to mention a 7-for-14 night from the foul line) in a loss to Phoenix back in December was pretty rough, but the real basement came for him in Milwaukee in March when he reaggravated his right knee that he fought so hard to rehab through. He only appeared in one more game after that before shutting his season down prematurely with eight games left on the Lakers' schedule.
Final grade: B+
Notes: While Henry was one of the players who contributed a significant chunk to the Lakers' league-leading total of 319 games missed because of injury, there were times when he was healthy when much of the rest of the guards on the roster weren't, and he ended up getting a go at point guard for L.A. While the results were never spectacular (his season high in assists was only four), he was more than willing to take on the challenge and got a chance to expand his game, and it should make him a better player in the long run.
Quotable: "I wasn't going to quit on my guys. I love playing in this system, with this team, with our coaches, so I'm going to make it last as long as I can. I'm having fun and I'm going to continue to have fun. And as long as the pain is bearable, I'm out there." -- Henry said late in the season while he was laboring through wrist and knee injuries that would both ultimately require surgery.
What's next?: Henry has got to get healthy, as he has dealt with knee injuries ever since he was in college. And he also has to make sure he doesn't balloon during the offseason, as the Lakers' coaching staff was concerned about him putting on weight while he was sidelined this season. Still, he's young enough at 23 to have a future in the league. It's just hard to see a team offering him guaranteed money this summer with the health concerns. He will probably be looking at another make-good contract, like the Lakers signed him to this past season, and there will certainly be some interest from L.A. to bring him back.