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With George Hurt, L.A. Will Be Put to the Test

Forward's status is in doubt after he sprains left ankle. Shaw figures to see more playing time.

May 06, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — Now what?

Where do the Lakers go from here? How do they replace their backup small forward, who was replacing their starting small forward, who will be sidelined up to nine months because of a torn tendon in his left foot?

With Rick Fox already sitting on the bench in fashionable street clothes instead of wearing his Laker uniform and chasing San Antonio Spurs around the court, Devean George hit the court with a thud Monday at the SBC Center.

Fifteen seconds into the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 87-82 loss to the Spurs in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series, George bellowed in agony. He had sprained his left ankle and wasn't getting up again to play.

George had chased Manu Ginobili after the San Antonio guard had swiped the ball from Brian Shaw near midcourt. George leaped in an attempt to block Ginobili's driving layup, the players colliding awkwardly in midair. George's left foot came to rest on Ginobili's foot, rolling over.

X-rays were negative and the Lakers' medical staff called the injury a bad sprain. The team hopes to know more about George's status for the rest of the best-of-seven series today, after George was scheduled to spend a restless night getting treatment for his ankle.

"When I landed on his foot, I rolled off his foot and onto the ground," George said. "It's different [than a November sprain to his right ankle]. It's a different kind of pain. This is just like a basic ankle injury. When I went down, it felt like it turned three times, like if you crack your knuckles. That's exactly what it sounded like.

"I'm not sure how quickly I can come back. It's serious because of the swelling, but it's nothing compared to how serious my other one was [when he sat out three weeks in November]."

Asked if he believed he could play Wednesday in Game 2, George said, "It's too soon to say. I'll get treatment and wrap it up."

George hopped to his postgame shower on his right foot. A Laker staff member followed closely behind with a pair of crutches to aid George.

The Lakers put on a brave face at game's end, insisting it was too early to know the severity of George's injury or how it might impact the team. But Shaw blamed himself for putting him in a position to get hurt.

Shaw figures to play a good deal if George cannot go Wednesday.

"I feel really bad," Shaw said. "I feel personally responsible. Ginobili stole the ball from me. If I didn't turn the ball over, Devean wouldn't have gotten injured."

Without Fox, injured fighting through a pick in Game 4 of the Lakers' opening-round series victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and George, Coach Phil Jackson moved Kobe Bryant to small forward late in Monday's game. Shaw and Derek Fisher teamed in the backcourt for the final 11:45.

"We've been fortunate the last few seasons to avoid injuries at this time of year," Shaw said. "It's way too early to feel it's slipping away."

Still, the Lakers are down a game to the Spurs, who won for the fifth consecutive time this season against them. They also could be down two men, leaving them wafer thin in their quest for a fourth consecutive NBA championship.

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