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How the Lakers must survive without Pau Gasol

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
More bad news for Gasol and the Lakers. (Getty Images)

In a season full of disasters, the Lakers have suffered yet another one. Pau Gasol will miss up to six weeks or more with a torn plantar fascia. The loss of Gasol comes just as the Lakers appear to have turned a corner, but still with enough challenges in front of them.

Gasol was already in a less-than-optimal position. He has been unhappy with his role, his position, and especially being forced to come off the bench. He has protested the hire of Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson and expressed unhappiness in his relationship with the head coach.

None of this makes the loss of Gasol any easier.

In another universe, one in which Dwight Howard was fully healthy and the Lakers' role players were a little better, then maybe Gasol would be expendable. Gasol has not played well. His defensive rotations are a mess, he's routinely bullied inside despite critics' pleas to give him the ball down low. He's been placed on the perimeter in part because putting him inside only exposes him to more physical damage.

Prior to the injury, Gasol was suffering physically. But having him on the floor still provided the Lakers with a player with exceptional shooting and basketball abilities, who also happens to be seven feet tall. Gasol provided the center the Lakers needed when Howard was either in foul trouble or injured.

Without him, the Lakers will turn to Robert Sacre. Sacre has busted his tail for the team, but it's like replacing Voltron with the thing from "Lost in Space." It's a downgrade.

But it does help D'Antoni's quest to make the team smaller and more versatile. Earl Clark will get more minutes, particularly at power forward, and Metta World Peace will likely slide down as well.

This could open the door for more minutes from Antawn Jamison as well. Clark's played well. World Peace has shot well from the corner. Jamison has done little well.

Of course, the biggest impact will involve Howard, who wil have to pick up the slack. Kind of a problem when Howard has admitted he's only 75 percent and his legs go numb when he sits.

The long-term plan is simple. Survive for the next two months, closing the three-game gap between them and .500. Postion themselves for a late run when Gasol gets back. Close April strong, sneaking into the eighth spot, and then ... let the chips fall. And hope for once this season, they don't rain down on the Lakers' heads.

There is, of course, an alternative. Sit Gasol down for the remainder of the season, regardless of his diagnosis, and let him heal. Let the season play out and try to calm the waters between D'Antoni and Gasol.

If their relationship can't be resolved, then a deal has to be made. Enough time will have lapsed for Gasol to rehab and get in good shape and his trade value might ever rise.

But as long as the Lakers want to hold onto the dream they built this offseason, of a star-studded championship with the Big Four, they'll have to figure out a way to make the playoffs without Gasol. All they need to do that is to play to their potential, and have a little luck.

You know, luck.

That thing they've been hammered by all season.

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