YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Plenty of Pain and No Gain for Grant

Watching his teammates struggle against Pistons has been a strain for the injured Laker forward.

June 15, 2004|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — If it's painful for their fans to watch the Lakers stumble in the NBA Finals, it's excruciating for Horace Grant.

"One of the toughest, toughest things I have ever, ever gone through in my basketball career," Grant said Monday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where on Sunday the Detroit Pistons again defeated the Lakers, opening a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the championship series. "It's like somebody sticking a knife in me and turning it every time I see one of their guys get an offensive rebound and knowing that, if healthy, I could be out there helping this team.

"It's very, very personally frustrating for me."

A veteran of the triangle offense and of four NBA championship teams, Grant has played in 170 playoff games. He was a valuable defender and backup to center Shaquille O'Neal and power forward Karl Malone this season.

But he was left off the playoff roster, which had to be set before the opening round, because of a hip injury that will require surgery this summer.

And so he has taken a seat on the bench and watched while the Pistons have consistently outrebounded the Lakers, the Pistons' average of 13 offensive rebounds a game leading to numerous second-chance points.

That Malone also is injured makes it all the more frustrating.

"He's giving a valiant effort," Grant said of his teammate, who is playing despite a damaged right knee. "But he's on one leg.

"He's doing whatever he can, but right now you've got a very young, athletic team in Detroit that's really giving him a lot of trouble."

At this point, the Lakers could use a sound Grant.

"It would make a lot of difference, not only rebounding but his screening-off and his defending," assistant coach Tex Winter said. "Horace is one of the top post defenders -- when he's right, when he's in shape -- in the game, so it would make a lot of difference.

"But we don't have him, so ..."

So they carry on.

Grant, who will turn 39 on July 4, wouldn't be much help in his present condition. He played only 10 minutes in the last six weeks of the regular season, finally surrendering to the sidelines about a week before the playoffs.

"Right now, I feel like I could play," he said, noting that the pain in his right hip had subsided over the last two months. "It hurts some days, but a lot of time I feel pretty good. But in the heat of the battle, twisting and turning, I would be on one leg out there also. That would be kind of hard against a team like this."

Surgery to repair the torn cartilage in Grant's hip will be followed by eight weeks of rehabilitation, after which surgeons say he'll be back to 100%.

For the sinking Lakers, that might be eight weeks too late.

Los Angeles Times Articles