Lakers have some serious injury issues

928655.jpg

Lakers have some serious injury issues

From Comcast SportsNetEL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill all will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' upcoming road trip with injuries, leaving the struggling club without its top three big men indefinitely.Howard has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Gasol has a concussion after taking an elbow in the face late in Sunday night's loss to Denver. Hill, a key backup to both starting big men, has a right hip injury.The three injuries are the latest blows for the Lakers (15-18), who still haven't meshed despite a star-studded roster, a bulging payroll and an early-season coaching change. Los Angeles has lost three straight and four of five since beating the Knicks on Christmas, falling to 11th place in the Western Conference."The NBA is unforgiving, and nobody is feeling sorry for us," Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's 29 other teams that are happy, and we've got to do the best we can do. It's kind of weird coming to work thinking you have three centers, and all three of them are hurt on the same day."The Lakers' biggest concern is Howard, who hurt his shoulder in last Friday's loss to the Clippers and aggravated it in Sunday's loss to the Nuggets while grabbing a career high-tying 26 rebounds. The six-time All-Star center said he won't need surgery, but he'll sit out for at least a week before his injury is re-evaluated."It depends on how fast I heal up," said Howard, who had a bulky wrap on his shoulder Monday at the Lakers' training complex. "I was in pain (Sunday night), and the biggest thing right now is I have to make sure I'm 100 percent. I don't want to play with my shoulder weak. I'd have a chance for more injuries. I've got to let it heal up."After canceling practice Monday, the Lakers announced Gasol and Howard are both out indefinitely. Hill will be examined by team doctors later Monday before getting a prognosis.When the Lakers open a stretch of four games in six days starting Tuesday in Houston, rookie Robert Sacre is likely to be their starting center. The final pick in last June's draft has been playing for the Lakers' affiliate in the D-League.D'Antoni will be forced to improvise with his three best post players sidelined from an already top-heavy roster. The coach said 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace could play center at times as part of the small lineups he'll be forced to use."We'll go small a lot, and we'll just have to spread the floor and get things done," D'Antoni said. "Some guys are going to have to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We'll have some little guys guarding big guys, and we'll have to be quick. We'll have to take advantage of other situations."He won't have much choice: The 7-foot Sacre and 6-foot-9 Antawn Jamison are his only players taller than World Peace, unless the Lakers sign a temporary big man. Los Angeles cleared a roster spot by waiving rookie Darius Johnson-Odom on Monday, three days before his contract would have been guaranteed for the season.Although their wealth of problems can hardly be attributed to injuries, the Lakers haven't been fully healthy for any significant stretch of the season. After Howard missed their first five preseason games while recovering from offseason back surgery, new point guard Steve Nash got a small fracture in his leg in their second game of the season, keeping the two-time NBA MVP out for seven weeks.Add in the difficulties of learning a new offense with no training camp for an older roster struggling to keep up with faster teams, and the preseason title contenders realize why they're looking up at the likes of Golden State, Minnesota and the Pacific Division-leading Clippers in the standings."It's almost like -- what's that game where you pop one of those things in the head and another one pops up?" D'Antoni said. "Whac-a-Mole? That's what we seem to be doing right now."Gasol got a concussion and an injured nose when Denver's JaVale McGee accidentally clobbered him under the basket with 1:05 to play. The four-time All-Star 7-footer has been struggling both with plantar fasciitis and the difficulty of adapting his game to D'Antoni's offense, averaging just 12.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in a trying season.Hill had been struggling with a sprained right ankle and a herniated disc in his back even before injuring his hip Sunday. He has been a consistent contributor off the bench in his second season in Los Angeles, averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds."No one is going to feel sorry for us," said Nash, who is five assists shy of 10,000 for his career. "We've got to take the challenge, embrace it, and no matter how many lumps we take, you can't feel sorry for yourself. You've got to keep battling, and if you keep battling, you give yourself a chance for good things to happen."The injuries were the most concrete news on yet another ridiculously busy day for the 16-time champions. Lakers great Magic Johnson launched yet another barrage of Twitter criticism of the franchise, while Howard and NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant both flatly denied a report of friction between them, with Bryant tweeting a photo mocking the idea they had nearly come to blows."You feel like at some point, you hit rock-bottom, and the only place you can go is up," Bryant said. "It's just been a tough year for everybody ... but when you go through a lot of adversity, it challenges you, and then it's on you, whether or not you choose to fight, or whether you choose to run away from it. I think we'll choose to fight it."

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

bruins-brandon-carlo.jpg

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players. 

Talking Points: Young Bruins 'took advantage' of opportunities

bruins_danton_heinen_092616.jpg

Talking Points: Young Bruins 'took advantage' of opportunities

GOLD STAR: Danton Heinen got off to a slow start in his first NHL preseason game, but was operating at full efficiency when he redirected a Brandon Carlo point shot early in the third period for the game-tying goal that eventually pushed the game into the shootout. Heinen finished second on the B’s with 22:10 of ice time, had four shot attempts and blocked a shot along with the goal, and had another power play chance robbed on the doorstep with a sweeping glove save from Curtis McElhinny. It’s clear from the large amount of ice time that the Bruins want to get a good look at Heinen, and that he’s got a solid chance at an NHL job based on his added development in a big time Denver college program for the last couple of seasons.

BLACK EYE: Peter Mueller wasn’t bad, but zero shots on net along with a penalty in 13:49 of ice time isn’t the kind of performance that’s going to force you to notice him. The Bruins coaching staff then put him out as the final shooter in the shootout with another chance to make a play, and the former Coyotes star forward couldn’t do anything with it before the Columbus game-winner. He clearly has skill, good size and looks like he can make things happen with the puck on his stick, but Mueller needs to make more plays leading to tangible results if he wants to earn a roster spot with so many talented young wingers around him. Both Heinen and Jake DeBrusk cracked the score sheet tonight, and Mueller did not.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Give Jimmy Hayes credit, he showed up and played well in what he hopes is going to be a giant rebound season with the Bruins. He scored the game’s first goal on a great give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk, and he was active and strong paying the price in front of the net while engaged in battles that left him with a giant fat lip after the game was over. It was from a Dalton Prout shot at the end of the second period, and it was Hayes paying the price in a game that really doesn’t matter to a veteran player like him. That’s a good sign if he’s willing to keep doing it, as was his decision to stick up for his smaller teammates when big Blue Jackets D-man Oleg Yevenko started pushing people around in the second period. Hayes finished with the goal, four shots on net and put in an honest night’s work for a team that needs it from him on a nightly basis.

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was a 5-on-3 at the end of the second period that didn’t get them a goal, but pulled the momentum of the game in their direction while getting Danton Heinen and Seth Griffith into the flow of things. Both players were robbed on the doorstep by diving saves from Curtis McElhinney, but bolstered their determination to make something happen in the third period down a goal. Only a few minutes of ice time later, Heinen was redirecting a Brandon Carlo shot past the Columbus goaltender for the game-tying goal and the B’s were on equal footing with the Blue Jackets. The power play was 0-for-5 on the night, but most of their PP possessions were actually decent considering how little they’ve practiced it this early in camp.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – the number of shot attempts for Jakub Zboril, who was more good than bad for the Bruins in the first preseason game for the Black and Gold. He set up the first initial transition pass that led to Jimmy Hayes’ goal, and was active while aggressively playing the position and showing off his skills that were very clearly worthy of a first round pick.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “There were a lot of young players in the lineup. I won’t go through all of them, but I thought quite a few of them acquitted themselves quite well. They were given opportunities to do that and some of them certainly took advantage of that.” – Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy after the 3-2 shootout loss.