Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, bringing the ball up court during his season debut… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
If the Lakers continue to founder this season, many will ask, "What's the point?" Lose enough games, fail to make the playoffs and drop into one of the richest draft lotteries talent-wise in years.
For now, though, the question is: Who's the point?
The Lakers, struggling with a 10-11 record and still trying to figure out what Kobe Bryant can give them, on Thursday also lost point guard Steve Blake for at least six weeks because of a torn ligament in his right elbow.
All three Lakers point guards are now injured. Steve Nash is out indefinitely because of nerve damage in his back and Jordan Farmar is sidelined because of a torn hamstring, though Farmar said Thursday he was "just around the corner" from returning.
The Lakers have an open roster spot but won't immediately add any free-agent point guards, a group that includes Darius Morris, Leandro Barbosa and Chris Duhon. They'll see how they fare on their upcoming four-game trip with Bryant at the point.
"Unfortunately, yes," Bryant said with a dry smile. "I don't really have much of a choice right now. I've got to do a lot more than expected in terms of handling the ball and doing significantly more running."
In his third game back from a torn Achilles' tendon, Bryant could defend Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook on Friday. Xavier Henry will be their backup point guard, and Jodie Meeks and Nick Young could also play at the point. Meeks will start at shooting guard Friday and might also guard Westbrook.
"We'll go bigger, slower ... well, not slower, but we won't go as fast," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We'll just try to pound it in and try to play a different way."
After Oklahoma City, the Lakers go to Charlotte (point guard: Kemba Walker), Atlanta (Jeff Teague) and Memphis (Mike Conley). They will have four games in five nights.
"For the time being, we're going to roll with what we've got," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said, adding that none of the free-agent point guards would be as good as Bryant, Henry or Meeks, who are all shooting guards.
Blake was injured while stepping in front of a pass intended for Washington's John Wall on Nov. 26. He pushed through the discomfort for another six games and sometimes shot left-handed. An MRI exam Thursday showed the extent of the damage.
Blake, 33, was having one of his best seasons, averaging 9.8 points and 7.7 assists in a team-high 31.9 minutes. His injury, a torn ulnar collateral ligament, is more prevalent in baseball players, specifically pitchers.
"I'm still a little bit in shock right now that I'm having another injury and have to sit out. I was really enjoying the way things were going," he said.
Blake missed 37 games last season because of an abdominal tear and ensuing surgery. He will not need surgery on his elbow but will get a platelet-rich plasma injection.
Bryant vs. Brown
Pro football legend Jim Brown pitched an unusual battle by saying on the "Arsenio" show that Bryant was "somewhat confused about [black] culture" because he was brought up in Italy.
Bryant was surprised by Brown's comments.
"I've never even met him," he said. "But I do think it's a great opportunity to have this conversation, to have this discussion. No matter where you come from, whether you come from Italy, whether you come from Inglewood or whether you come from London, it doesn't matter."
Bryant said there was "no reason" to talk privately with Brown.
"We're completely on opposite sides of the spectrum," he said. "I'm an old dog, but he's a much older dog so he's probably a lot more set in his ways than I am."
Despite missing 19 games, Bryant leads all Western Conference guards in the All-Star voting. He has 501,215 votes and is on pace to start for the West alongside the Clippers' Chris Paul (393,313).
The All-Star game is Feb. 16 in New Orleans.
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.
Pincus contributed to this report.