Lakers eyeing Kobe Bryant's return

Updated: January 11, 2014, 5:46 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- With 10 of the team's 15 games coming on the road, January figures to be difficult for the Los Angeles Lakers. But there might be a silver lining at the end of the month in the form of a future Hall of Fame backcourt returning to the fold.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said after shootaround in preparation for Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers that Kobe Bryant (fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee) and Steve Nash (nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings) will be re-evaluated Jan. 27, when the Lakers return to L.A. after an upcoming 12-day, seven-game trip.

[+] EnlargeBryant
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant, who's been out since Dec. 17, played in six games after making his season debut Dec. 8.

If they are cleared, the veteran guards could play shortly thereafter. Nash has been out since Nov. 10, and Bryant has been sidelined since Dec. 17.

D'Antoni recently joked that a bus will show up at the team's practice facility in February and drop off the five currently injured Lakers players, all healthy and ready to contribute. But it turns out the players' returns will be staggered.

D'Antoni said that, on Monday, Xavier Henry (bone bruise in his right knee) will be the first of the group to be examined.

"He could possibly play on this road trip or he could be out the rest of the season," D'Antoni told ESPNLA 710 radio Friday. "So, it's like one or the other."

Steve Blake (torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow) will be re-evaluated around the same time as Bryant and Nash, according to D'Antoni. Before returning to game action, Blake would need seven to 10 days to rehabilitate and strengthen his elbow, which has been stabilized in a protective brace.

Jordan Farmar (left hamstring tear) practiced form shooting this week but won't be back until "sometime in February," according to D'Antoni.

"I think a lot of the injuries, we had them all the time, except with MRIs they diagnose them a little bit better [now]," D'Antoni told reporters Friday. "You played with them [in the past] and you didn't know you had them. But now you got them and you're out four weeks." 

D'Antoni You played with them [in the past] and you didn't know you had them. But now you got them and you're out four weeks.

-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni,
on players and injuries

Injuries have taken their toll on the Lakers, who are 14-23 and losers of 10 of their past 11 games after Friday night's 123-87 defeat by the Clippers. But the team has stood behind D'Antoni, with general manager Mitch Kupchak expressing confidence in the coach to several media outlets this week, including ESPNLosAngeles.com.

"I don't think it changes the reality of anything," D'Antoni told ESPNLA 710 radio when asked about Kupchak's endorsement. "It's nice. The front office has been great to work with. They're great, everything is good. But you got to do your job.

"Things happen and we all know the risk of being a head coach. You just put your head down and keep going forward. I don't think it's something you sit around and contemplate or talk about or worry about, you just try to get the job done."

D'Antoni said he will continue to promote a free-flowing style of offense that does not rely heavily on post-up possessions, something that has created a divide between the coach and big men Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman at times this season.

"That's not your best shot," D'Antoni told ESPNLA 710 radio. "Stats show in the NBA that you're only averaging about 0.8 [points] for post shots. That's just not good enough."

D'Antoni, however, said that Gasol will continue to have opportunities.

"We try to get it [to him]," D'Antoni said. "If he has an advantage, we try to get it there. But you also can't go exclusive there. Your rhythm gets off. Your speed getting up and down the floor -- when you start posting guys up, they start running to the blocks, you close the floor up so now you're not getting layups, you're not getting kick-outs. I mean, a lot of things go into it. And a lot of teams are going away from it. ...  

"But at the same time, we want [Gasol] to be aggressive. If it works, we'll keep going back. If it doesn't work, we got to go someplace else. I think every game is kind of a journey into, 'Let's see what's working tonight.'"

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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