Howard sat out against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday after aggravating his torn labrum against Phoenix Suns Wednesday. Howard returned to Los Angeles to undergo platelet-rich plasma therapy, but is expected to rejoin the team in Detroit, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles.
But even though Howard is getting treatment, it’s unknown as to when he’ll be able to take the floor for the 21-26 Lakers.
“He said there was pain in there, so he’ll play when there’s no pain,” said head coach Mike D’Antoni via McMenamim’s report. “I don’t think they know only because you just don’t know when the pain goes away. Now, he said it felt a little bit like the first time (he hurt it), which leads to three games, but I don’t think he knows. I don’t think anybody knows.”
While Howard is out, Gasol—who had been coming off the bench—will be starting. Gasol played very well in 37 minutes for Los Angeles against Minnesota, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
But don’t rule out Pau Gasol. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak knows how to execute a big deal, and the season-ending back injury to Celtics rookie forward Jared Sullinger makes Boston even more active in trade talks.
While the Lakers may have burned some bridges with Gasol of the last few months, they have to take Howard’s health into consideration before pulling the trigger on any trade.
Even with Howard, Los Angeles does not have a lot of depth down low. Outside of Howard and Gasol, only Antawn Jamison and Robert Sacre to play on the low post. If Howard’s out for an extended period of time and the Lakers trade Gasol that leaves Jamison and Sacre as the somewhat likely starters—and that certainly won’t cut it.
The problem is the trade deadline is approaching and Los Angeles is going to have to make a decision that it won’t be that informed about. The Lakers can trade Gasol, thinking that Howard will be fine in a few days and that he’ll re-sign in the offseason. Los Angeles could also hang onto Gasol in case Howard isn’t fine and the Lakers decide to let him walk in free agency.
In all seriousness, how much better is a torn labrum going to get without having it surgically repaired? Having a procedure like that done would likely cost Howard a couple of months and certainly millions of dollars off his next contract.
With Howard’s health still in question—as it likely will be for the rest of the year—the Lakers can’t even ponder trading Gasol. He’s much too valuable for them to give up.