LOS ANGELES — If it were Kobe Bryant, it would've been legendary.
As it was Xavier Henry, it was just pretty impressive.
Henry doesn't have nearly the body of work that Bryant does when it comes to playing well in pain and emerging victorious. But he showed a lot about himself in the Los Angeles Lakers' victory Tuesday night over the New York Knicks.
Henry came off the bench with more energy and passion than anyone in the building, blowing off the just-diagnosed torn ligament in his shooting wrist and the damaged cartilage in his knee. He had 22 points in 23 minutes and demonstrated how Henry can change the feeling in a game with his attack mentality, same as his 22 points off the bench in the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"As long as I'm strong in my mind," Henry said of the pain, "I got it."
He has to do a lot of extra work on both his wrist and knee to keep them loose. The left wrist definitely will need offseason surgery; the right knee might also, but it is unclear whether the meniscus had this abnormality already or something went bad during this season.
Henry referred to the pain from both as "bearable"—with no intention of quitting on the season unless it is "unbearable."
Henry summed up his mentality off the bench as trying to "turn it up one notch" from whatever was going on without him. It's a niche that Henry fills well given his driving scoring skills, although there is some duplication with this roster.
Nick Young, Kent Bazemore, MarShon Brooks and Jordan Farmar all can be that sort of attack-mentality player off the bench. All have been sparks at different times, but they've also caused the Lakers' flow to go more individual than team.
As the Lakers determine which players to re-sign for next season, that'll be part of the thought process. Young, Bazemore and Henry did great together without a point guard on the floor with them in the Lakers' second-quarter surge against the Knicks, but New York is particularly ill-equipped to play with pace and got suckered into the Lakers' frenetic, quick-shooting ball.
It might come down to defensive prowess as the Lakers seek improvement for next season. Henry has been inconsistent on that front, but fighting through the pain does certainly show some tenacity.
Henry also knows he's playing for his next contract, one reason he insisted on coming back despite his knee being too slow to heal.
"This game is all about opportunity," he said.
Save the Date
Here's an odd one to circle on the calendar: April 14, Lakers visiting the Utah Jazz.
It's the penultimate game of the season for the Lakers, but it could be crucial for draft positioning. The Lakers are 24-46, and the Jazz are 23-49—and the Jazz would also lock up the season-series tiebreaker with the final head-to-head victory over the Lakers.
The Lakers finish their season Apr. 16 at the San Antonio Spurs in another game that could be distinctive for not really trying. The Spurs could be resting players if their playoff seeding is set, whereas the Lakers might really need to lose their last game to lock in more draft lottery balls.
The Kaman Conundrum
Many Lakers fans don't understand Mike D'Antoni's issues with Chris Kaman. One quote from Kaman on Tuesday night pretty much sums it up:
"I just think when you have certain players who can really play the game of basketball, I think you cater to their style."
Kaman has an inflated sense of his own prowess, which is largely limited to the sort of individual scoring skill the team has from others, and he doesn't want to do things outside his comfort zone.
D'Antoni hasn't come close to convincing Kaman to do things his way.
Kevin Ding covers the Lakers for Bleacher Report.
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