Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers pleads for a foul call as he lies on the floor against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90 in Mike D'Antoni's first game as Head Coach.
On Tuesday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers wake up in New York.
The Brooklyn Nets are on the schedule in the evening, but the Lakers know that they face a daunting stretch of four games in the next six nights. The East Coast portion of the Grammys road trip kicks off on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Annually, the Lakers are exiled to the cold of winter as the Grammy Awards seize sunny Staples Center. The rather tall nomads wearing purple and gold are already well-traveled, having caravanned through four cities in six days before taking Monday off to rest.
On Tuesday night, the traveling Lakers kick-off the second half of the Grammys trip with another four games in six nights, and this second half of the journey includes games in Boston and Miami.
However, Tuesday’s only point of focus is the next opponent on this Lakers’ odyssey: the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets have played eight home games in 2013, and Brooklyn has won seven times. LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the world champions, were the only visitors to leave Barclay’s Center with a win this calendar year. On the season, the Nets are 18-8 at home.
The visiting Lakers have won five of their last six games and are 2-1 at the start of the road trip. However, their lone loss in Phoenix featured two troubling trends: Dwight Howard’s injured shoulder and blowing big leads.
Neither of those concerns has subsided as the Lakers have struggled to kill off games in their last two contests against Minnesota and Detroit—games that Howard was not available for.
On Tuesday morning, the Lakers received word that they would be without Howard and Metta World Peace for the game in Brooklyn.
Last season, the New York borough was rumored to be Howard’s preferred destination, but an offseason trade brought the smiling center to Los Angeles. His future in Los Angeles remains uncertain, but the Lakers’ organization has been forthright in wanting to keep the big man in LA.
Even without Howard the past couple of games, the Lakers have managed to accumulate wins via a new-look Kobe Bryant and a throw-back Pau Gasol.
Gasol recorded double-doubles in both of the Lakers’ recent Howard-less games. Gasol averaged 22.5 points and 11.0 rebounds at the center positions against Minnesota and Detroit. The Spaniard also averaged 39 minutes and shot 54.5 percent from the field without Howard in the lineup.
On the season, Gasol is averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 33.4 minutes and 45.6 percent shooting—all of which are either career-lows or close to it. Gasol, statistically and visibly, is simply a much more effective player when starting at center.
Without Howard and World Peace, Bryant and Gasol need to continue their high level of play in order for the Lakers to cross the Brooklyn Bridge with a win.