GUESS WHO: Knicks big man Amare Stoudemire will be back in action soon and… (Yuezi Karen Wu / Associated…)
'Tis the season for giving . . . injured superstars back to their forlorn fan bases.
Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Eric Gordon were among the A-list players who appeared to be closing in on a return before the end of the year.
The Lakers announced Saturday afternoon that Nash would play in that night's game at Golden State after being sidelined for 24 games, since the season's second game, by a small fracture in his lower left leg. The Lakers tumbled in the Western Conference standings without their point guard; they were 12-14 and 11th in the West before Saturday.
Dallas has seemed similarly lost without Nowitzki, who has been out all season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Nowitzki has resumed practicing, though no target date has been set for the power forward to make his season debut.
New York has been one of the league's top teams even without Stoudemire, who had surgery on his left knee before the season. The power forward prepared for his return by practicing with the Knicks' Development League team and could play in his first game Sunday against Chicago or on Christmas at Staples Center against the Lakers.
Gordon said he expected to play before Jan. 1, ending a sad stretch in which the shooting guard has played in only nine games in more than a year since being acquired from the Clippers.
Still a Lakers town?
The long-lost Kings have won a championship more recently than the Lakers have.
So has the Galaxy.
Now the Clippers look like more realistic contenders to hoist a trophy than their hallway rivals, whose two-year championship drought feels like eons to a legion of fans spoiled by parades down Figueroa Street.
Is the Lakers' popularity starting to ebb in a city known for being fickle?
"No, the Lakers are still the most popular team in L.A.," former Lakers great Magic Johnson, now part owner of the Dodgers, said this week in a conference call with reporters. "I think that those other teams' winning [is] great, but they won't take over L.A. I mean, the tradition, people love the Lakers, everybody."
As usual, Johnson wasn't done.
"You know how many championships the Clippers would have to win to take over the town?" he asked. "It would have to be probably 10, and the Lakers not winning one before that."
Making a point
Kobe Bryant entered the Lakers' game Saturday with 30,252 career points, 8,135 behind the NBA's all-time leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Bryant, 34, has averaged 2,143 points over his last four full seasons, meaning if he maintained his recent scoring pace he could break Abdul-Jabbar's record early in the 2016-17 season, which would be his 21st professional season.
Can Bryant do it?
"That's conditional on his ability to put the miles in and does the team want to make him the go-to guy for that period of time," Abdul-Jabbar said in a recent interview with The Times. "They might get another athlete who can score and it would change how they play. So if that happens, it might not work.
"But if he continues to be the primary focus of the offense, he certainly has a shot at it."