I realize Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton haven't exactly set the world aflame with intensely good play this year, but it's become fairly clear over the last few weeks the Lakers officially need all hands on deck. Even those hands spending much of the game shoved deep into the pockets of a warm up suit.
Along those lines, I caught up with both Monday afternoon in El Segundo.
For Sasha, the news is good. He practiced in full for the first time since running his right shoulder into Kendrick Perkins on February 18, missing eight games in the process. And while he isn't completely pain free, Vujacic is, as they say, good (enough) to go.
"I'm ready," he said. "I had a good practice. At this point, they've been on the road and I've been working really hard just to try and get get back. Rehabbing, and then conditioning, trying to get some shots up, trying to see how I'm going to feel with that stuff I have underneath. Mentally, I'm ready. I want to play and help the team."
"That stuff," by the way, would be a t-shirt containing a small, solid pad to protect the AC joint from impact.
Phil Jackson said the team held practice today in part to give Sasha a chance to run, and deemed it a success. While the shoulder might still be a question, everything else is in working order. "I think he's ready to play. His mind, his body, his legs are all ready to play," Jackson said. "We'll see how he's feeling tomorrow, and go from there."
For Walton, the timeline on his wonky lower back is a little longer. The goal is to return from his second long stretch in street clothes by the beginning of next month, in time to get in the flow of things before the playoffs.
"It's definitely going to be attempted. I'm hoping (I can do it.) I'm feeling really good again right now, with these last couple weeks off," Walton said. "In the last week or so we've stepped up the workout, what we've been doing in the weight room, I've been on the court with (Athletic Performance Coordinator) Alex (McKechnie), and then I got on the treadmill for the first time today. So over the next three weeks we're going to gradually push it up higher and higher, and hopefully be ready to start going by the first of April."
I asked if he needed to be back by a certain time in order to be effective. "I think as long as I'm playing by April, I should be fine," he replied. "I've been playing this game forever. It's more just getting timing and my feet back than figuring out the offense."
Thankfully, Walton didn't refer to re-entering the offense as "like riding a bicycle." I hate that expression, because anyone who has gone a long time between rides knows "riding a bicycle" is in fact not as easy as riding a bicycle, so to speak. "I probably haven't been on a bicycle in probably over five years, and if I got on one right now it probably wouldn't be that easy," he admitted. "But I've only been out for a couple weeks, so hopefully (playing ball) is not the same thing."
More from practice to come...