Jordan Hill #27 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks over Matt Barnes #22 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first half at Staples Center on October 29, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Hill will not be available for the rematch at Staples Center on March 6, 2014.
The Los Angeles Lakers were already without Kobe Bryant, Nick Young and Steve Nash entering Thursday’s city rivalry game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but a sore right knee has added forward Jordan Hill to the ever-changing list of injured Lakers.
Hill reportedly drew interest from teams around the league at the trade deadline, but the 26-year-old out of the University of Arizona remained with the purple and gold despite not being a natural fit for Mike D’Antoni’s style of play. With no shot at the playoffs and the Lakers struggling to accumulate wins, D’Antoni recently went all-in on style over results.
Consequently, Hill played 10 minutes or less in each of the last five games, including sitting for the entire 48 minutes in the Lakers' last two games. Hill is listed as day-to-day, but the truth of the matter is that Hill’s overall health is only a minor variable in his ability to get on the floor for the remainder of the season.
Considering he averaged 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in less than 20 minutes per game to this point, Hill has likely already displayed enough ability to land a contract after this season, but that contract will likely be elsewhere—somewhere he can actually play regular minutes.
Hill aside, the Lakers will continue to evaluate talent going forward, and two players under the magnifying glass are Kendall Marshall and Xavier Henry.
Over his past seven games, Marshall is averaging only 2.0 points in 22.3 minutes per game. Although he is still averaging 8.3 assists per game in that limited time, Marshall’s turnovers have spiked to 3.1 per game over this difficult stretch.
With Jordan Farmar healthy and playing at a high level, Marshall has not gracefully adjusted to competing for playing time, and D'Antoni hinted Farmar may be starting sooner rather than later. For Thursday's game against the Clippers, Marshall will start, but that could change as early as Friday in Denver.
Henry is another player to keep an eye on. After missing two months with a knee injury, the former Kansas Jayhawk has played minutes in the Lakers’ last two games. However, the 22-year-old has not yet exploded and attacked the rim with the same vigor that had fans cheering earlier in the season.
In his last outing, Henry had his first in-game dunk since returning, and he described the feeling of slamming the ball as “weird” after the game. Against the New Orleans Pelicans, Henry finished with 12 points in 14 minutes, so he should earn more minutes come Thursday.
With the additions of Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, however, Henry has to compete for minutes at the shooting guard and small forward spots. With Jodie Meeks also playing well, the future free agents’ fight for minutes should only intensify when Young returns from his injury.
On Thursday, however, the focus will be on the Clippers. In Henry’s first game with the Lakers, he led the team with 22 points off the bench and was largely credited with leading the Lakers to an improbable victory over the hyped city rivals.
On Thursday night at Staples Center, the national audience is back, and Henry and the Lakers have the opportunity to replicate their opening night shocker.