Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol goes down after being hit in the face during Sunday’s game in Los Angeles.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill all will miss the Los Angeles Lakers’ upcoming road trip with injuries, leaving the struggling club without its top three big men.
Howard has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Gasol has a concussion after taking an elbow in the face late in Sunday night’s loss to Denver. Hill, a key backup to both starting big men, has a right hip injury.
The three injuries are the latest blows for the Lakers (15-18), who still haven’t meshed despite a star-studded roster, a bulging payroll and an early-season coaching change. Los Angeles has lost three straight and four of five since beating the Knicks on Christmas, falling to 11th place in the Western Conference.
The Lakers’ biggest concern is Howard, who hurt his shoulder in last Friday’s loss to the Clippers and aggravated it in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets while grabbing a career-high 26 rebounds. The six-time All-Star center said he won’t need surgery, but he’ll sit out for at least a week before his injury is re-evaluated.
“It depends on how fast I heal up,” Howard said.
He added, “I was in pain (Sunday night), and the biggest thing right now is I have to make sure I’m 100 percent. I don’t want to play with my shoulder weak. I’d have a chance for more injuries. I’ve got to let it heal up.”
The Lakers said Gasol and Howard are both out indefinitely. Hill will be examined by team doctors later Monday before getting a prognosis.
When the Lakers open a stretch of four games in six days starting Tuesday in Houston, Robert Sacre is likely to be their starting center. The final pick in last June’s draft has been playing for the Lakers’ affiliate in the D-League.
D’Antoni will be forced to improvise with his top three post players sidelined from an already top-heavy roster. The coach said 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace could play center at times as part of a small lineup he’ll be forced to use.
“We’ll have little guys guarding big guys who will have to be quick,” D’Antoni said.
The Lakers haven’t been fully healthy for any significant stretch of the season. After Howard missed their first five preseason games while recovering from offseason back surgery, new point guard Steve Nash got a small fracture in his leg in their second game of the season, keeping the two-time NBA MVP out for seven weeks.
NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant also has struggled through a foot injury and other minor problems.
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