“I don’t think you can,” Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni responded when asked how the Lakers can stop Kevin Durant on Thursday night at Staples Center. “You try to not put him on the foul line, not give him anything easy, don’t let him walk into any threes, make him make the twos.”
Against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, the Lakers only have about seven and a half players fit to play. Steve Blake is that half player, and although he is scheduled to start, he is clearly handicapped by an elbow injury that kept him out of action for the better part of two months.
The other seven players aren’t exactly the best known bunch in basketball, but the Lakers don’t have any options these days. One of those seven is Shawne Williams. He will be playing the final game of his 10-day contract, and there is no guarantee of whether he will re-sign with the team after the All-Star break.
The remaining six healthy full-time Lakers include two second-year players who played limited time in their rookie seasons: Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall. Add in rookie Ryan Kelly, and the Lakers have three fully healthy ‘veteran’ players playing for Thursday’s game against the best team in the Western Conference.
Who are those three veterans? Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill provide the veteran leadership on the court. These guys are not household names, and frankly, the Lakers are up against long odds on Thursday, but that is nothing new for this team.
At Thursday’s shootaround, D’Antoni pointed out that he only had three perimeter players available: Blake, Marshall and Johnson. He's starting all three, so Kelly and Williams will be asked to guard the perimeter.
“You bring everything you got,” D’Antoni responded when asked how his team would possibly compete against the Thunder.
Unfortunately, everything the Lakers have is not all that much these days.