Shannon Brown would probably give the last month a big thumbs down . . . if he could.
The Lakers' reserve guard has seen his scoring and shooting percentage drop since sustaining a bone bruise and torn ligament in his right thumb, an injury that could require surgery during the off-season, he said.
Brown was injured while blocking the shot of Indiana's Dahntay Jones on March 2. His is averaging 6.6 points and shooting only 35.5% since the injury, down from eight points a game and 46% shooting before getting hurt.
"Every block, every steal, every dunk, it's painful. I just try to lose myself in a game when I'm out there playing," he said. "I can't worry about it. Hopefully, when it does get a chance to heal, it heals up well and I won't have to have surgery."
For now, he tapes up his thumb on game days, grits his teeth and tries to rediscover the high-flying game that earned him a spot in the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.
He has had to adjust his shot, putting more pressure on his fingers to ease the discomfort in his thumb. He consulted Kobe Bryant about it, knowing that Bryant had to change his shot after sustaining a broken index finger on his shooting hand in December.
"I try to get up extra shots in practice to get used to it," Brown said. "I had to change my grip and needed to get reps to feel comfortable."
Brown, 24, is expected to become a free agent after the season, opting out of a contract that would pay him $2.1 million next season. The Lakers like his potential and own his "Early Bird rights," meaning they can pay him up to about $5.5 million in the first season of a new contract.
Brown is one of three ballhandling guards on the Lakers' roster expected to become free agents July 1. Derek Fisher will be an unrestricted free agent and Jordan Farmar will be a restricted free agent, though the Lakers can match any offer sheet he signs.
It is unclear what type of interest Brown will generate in the free-agent market. He had a burst to the basket before getting hurt but it's obvious his injury has affected his play.
He had two points and made one of five shots Sunday against San Antonio in the Lakers' 100-81 loss.
Adding some depth
Reserve forward Luke Walton was scoreless in eight minutes against San Antonio, his first game since Feb. 10.
Walton, 30, has played only 25 games this season because of persistent pain caused by a pinched nerve in his lower back.
"I just told him it was good to get his feet wet, go out there and get in the rhythm of playing a little bit," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "He still looks like he's a step behind but he made some passes that led to assists and that's something we need."
Bryant picked up his 13th technical foul this season and would be suspended for a game if he picked up three more in the Lakers' last five games, an unlikely event.
Players are given a clean slate when the playoffs begin and are suspended for a game after their seventh technical foul.