A clearly dejected and frustrated Nick Van Exel, now nursing two injuries, gave indications Thursday that he is planning to withdraw from the All-Star game in the name of rest, recovery and the second half of the Laker season.
He had already been contemplating the move because of his sore left knee, and then Wednesday he suffered a strained hip in the fourth quarter against the New Jersey Nets. He didn't practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves and day-to-day beyond that.
"That won't be hard," he said of missing the All-Star game. "The hardest part is missing [Laker] games. The all-star is individual. The games are team."
As happy as he was at being selected by Western Conference coaches as a reserve, the first such honor of his five-year career, the point guard nodded when asked if he has pretty much made up his mind on whether to play, offering unspoken emotions in the process that showed the pain was not merely physical. He might wait another couple of days, hoping his body will offer an encouraging signal, before making a final decision.
But it doesn't look good. Asked if that was an accurate assessment, Van Exel's head tilted downward in dejection and he shrugged, saying nothing but not really needing to.
Robert Horry also did not practice Thursday, also is questionable for tonight and also is day-to-day. He suffered a strained abdominal muscle against the Nets.
Coach Del Harris said "it's not likely" either starter will play against the Timberwolves.
* Fox Sports West
Site--Great Western Forum.
Radio--KLAC (570), KWKW (1330).
Records--Lakers 31-11, Timberwolves 25-17.
Record vs. Timberwolves--2-0.
Update--Laker Coach Del Harris would not say Thursday who will start at point guard if Nick Van Exel does not, leaving open the possibility that he will go with Kobe Bryant there. In the one game Van Exel has sat out this season, Jan. 14 against the Denver Nuggets, Derek Fisher went into the opening lineup and responded with 13 assists, and Bryant got 13 minutes of backup duty there. The Lakers have lost two in a row for only the second time this season.