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Steve Blake's extended absence points out Lakers' lack of depth

Lakers probably will stick with Darius Morris and Chris Duhon as they await return of Steve Nash, as Blake sets surgery and may not play again until February. Nash won't be back during three-game trip.

December 04, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Lakers point guard Steve Blake made only two of 10 shots against the Jazz on Wednesday night in Utah.
Lakers point guard Steve Blake made only two of 10 shots against the Jazz… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Once thought to have too many point guards, the Lakers suddenly could use at least one high-quality backup.

They aren't expected to add any to their holiday shopping list, despite announcing Monday that Steve Blake would require surgery to repair his torn abdominal muscle and miss a minimum of six to eight more weeks, the latest tumultuous turn in a season of upheaval.

There are a few reasons the Lakers will probably go forward with Darius Morris and Chris Duhon, who started the season as third- and fourth-stringers but have become the starter and primary backup. Those reasons include that Steve Nash could return from a small fracture in his fibula in a week or so, the Lakers already have an NBA-high $100-million payroll and the list of free-agent point guards isn't a particularly attractive one, with Delonte West, Mike Bibby and Jordan Farmar among the options.

The Lakers had hoped Blake could return this month from the abdominal injury that has sidelined him since Nov. 12, but instead he is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday and may not play again before February.

"It's a big concern for me," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "Steve and I have always played extremely well together and he's a clutch shooter and he's a tough competitor. We're going to be missing a lot with him being out."

Nash is not expected to return during the Lakers' three-game trip that starts Tuesday in Houston, though he continues to slowly progress in his recovery. He has resumed running and completed dribbling drills after his teammates practiced Monday.

As much as D'Antoni has touted the Lakers' potential with Nash in the lineup — "If anybody can solve a lot of our problems, he can," the coach said — it's clear that their issues go beyond point guard.

D'Antoni continued to acknowledge his team's speed limitations, and the Lakers' listless play during a 10-point loss to Orlando on Sunday was a constant talking point during meetings at their practice facility Monday.

"They have to understand we can't come out playing like we did [Sunday] night playing half-speed," D'Antoni said. "Our half-speed is like quarter-speed and so far we've had trouble with young, athletic teams, because you don't get the right amount of energy in your game and they get away from you."

D'Antoni praised Duhon for the way he ran the offense for stretches against the Magic and intimated the veteran could supplant Morris as the starter Tuesday against the Rockets as the Lakers enter a potentially problematic pocket of their schedule. Seven of their next eight games are on the road, where they are 1-4 this season.

Won't playing away from home make finding the consistency the up-and-down Lakers (8-9) seek even harder?

"It should be easier," D'Antoni said, "because you should be more on guard when you're away from home. We can concentrate on the things we need to do. We're either in meetings or practices and we should be able to hone in a little bit better on the road. We have to take those seven out of eight games and really get better."

The Lakers can't wait for Nash to start piling up victories, D'Antoni said.

"They've got to come now," he said. "We need to start winning, definitely."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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